NFL Draft: Round-by-Round QB Study (1994-2016)
by Scott Kacsmar
"You can get a quarterback later in the draft."
Three seasons have passed since the last time we did this study, and that little phrase is not going to go away after Dak Prescott, a late fourth-round pick, won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year for the 2016 season. While some teams traded a mint to move to the head of the queue to grab Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the Cowboys simply used their fourth-round compensatory pick to take Prescott. The performance they got from Prescott was arguably the greatest rookie quarterback season in NFL history. Prescott deserves high praise, but FO readers surely know that these are not the normal expectations for a fourth-round pick. Even at the top of the draft, a performance this good is tough to find at the game's most crucial position.
Should he continue his success over a long career, Prescott will stand as a great outlier among late-round quarterbacks. His Dallas predecessor, Tony Romo, already is a great outlier among undrafted quarterbacks, but neither fans nor NFL executives view the large, undrafted talent pool as a reasonable method of finding a franchise quarterback. The data supports that stance as well, but it also paints a gloomy picture of what the late rounds produce.
Still, we can count on a decent quarterback prospect to slip in the 2017 draft, a class that does not have an obvious Andrew Luck-like No. 1 pick, but does have a lot of "developmental quarterbacks" not expected to contribute right away. Some team will champion the thought that they got a real steal. Some writer (on another site) will put together a slideshow to rank which late-round quarterbacks are most likely to duplicate Prescott's historic 2016 results.
The truth is that teams still have to consider the top 40 picks as the most probable spot to land a quarterback of Prescott's caliber. His success keeps the dream alive that a quarterback can be found later, but it's just not the reality of the NFL. Every NFL draft now comes with a reminder that Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, yet among the 92 quarterbacks drafted in the fifth round or later since 2001, only three have thrown at least 1,000 passes: Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. That trio's "success" is driven mostly by their hard-to-explain continued employment rather than the actual success of their passes.
Teams are desperate to find a quarterback, but will Prescott's instant success really change anything in that process? The last few years suggest it won't if we use Russell Wilson as a direct comparison. Not only do they have a comparable playing style, but Wilson and Prescott are the only quarterbacks not drafted in the top 40 since 1978 to start all 16 games as rookies.
Height brought the 5-foot-11 Wilson down in the draft despite some stellar projections for pro success. A total of 47 players have been drafted since 2013 (post-Wilson) to play quarterback in the NFL, and only three were shorter than 6-foot-2. That includes 5-foot-11 B.J. Daniels, a 2013 seventh-round pick by the 49ers who went to Seattle where he was eventually converted to wide receiver -- the only player among the group of 47 switched to another position. The other two shorties were both chosen by the Browns: the troubled Johnny Manziel (6-foot-0) and 2016 rookie Cody Kessler (6-foot-1). Similar things can be said of the Buffalo Bills, but they have been starting Tyrod Taylor (6-foot-1) the last two seasons, and he is very much in the Wilson mold of being a magician at quarterback. He has also provided the team with some of its best passing numbers since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired, yet the Bills still waffled this offseason on bringing Taylor back for 2017. (However, if Taylor starts for the entire 2017 season, he will join the Anderson-Cassel-Fitzpatrick trio as a late-round pick with 1,000 career pass attempts.)
[ad placeholder 3]
None of the 12 highest-graded quarterbacks at NFL.com in this year's draft are shorter than 6-foot-2. A lack of other short quarterbacks post-Wilson would make perfect sense if there were no viable prospects out there at that height. However, that has not been the case. Former Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams earned some supporters during last year's draft process, but no one took a chance on the 5-foot-11 quarterback in the draft. Seattle was the first team to give him a tryout before he headed to the CFL. Seattle did add TCU's Trevone Boykin, another Wilson-esque player who only stands at 6-foot-0, as an undrafted free agent. Bowling Green's Matt Johnson (6-foot-0) struck out despite some high praise, only earning a rookie mini-camp tryout with the Bengals. So it's basically been Seattle or bust for short quarterbacks trying to make it in the NFL.
Meanwhile, tall human beings Brock Osweiler (6-foot-7) and Mike Glennon (6-foot-6) were drafted higher into the NFL than Wilson and Prescott were. Osweiler and Glennon were also both given contracts in excess of $15 million per year despite very few career achievements to that point. Having ESPN's Jon Gruden fawn over how tall you are is not an achievement. Even if they look like Gumby and Big Bird having a "who can throw it the farthest?" contest, Glennon and Osweiler still look the part of what many have been engrained to view as the traditional NFL quarterback: tall, strong arm, and if we're being completely honest here, white. That's not to accuse any teams of being prejudiced in their team building. However, even if it's only subconsciously done, there still may be some teams who view a Glennon as a more "coachable" player, and avoid taking a chance on an athlete who may go off script more often simply because he has the physical tools to do so. If a DVOA dynasty like Seattle is one of the only teams willing to be forward thinking enough to gain a competitive advantage by trying out different athletes, then more power to them.
Not to toot our own horn, but our college projection systems have always loved Wilson ("The Asterisk"), and last year's QBASE outlook had Prescott with the second-best DYAR projection among quarterbacks in his draft class. (The caveat there is that QBASE is supposed to be used only on the top 100 picks, and Prescott ended up falling lower than that.) Osweiler has the lowest QBASE of any top-100 drafted quarterback since 1997, and Glennon is fairly close to the bottom. The early signs suggest that Christian Hackenberg (fifth-worst projection since 1996) going 84 spots ahead of Prescott in the draft is another case of perception failing. The only eye test a quarterback should need to pass is whether or not he can effectively move the offense on a consistent basis. If he can do that, then the attributes that the player has no control over should be irrelevant.
So when your team drafts a quarterback in the fourth round next month, please do not expect him to be Prescott. If anything, he is more likely to be Cardale Jones, the Ohio State quarterback who five of our staff members (including myself) predicted back in September 2015 would be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. He actually went 139th, four spots after Prescott, to Buffalo.
No one has ever said that finding a quarterback was supposed to be easy.
The Updated Quarterback Draft Study (1994-2016)
I collected data for all 272 quarterbacks* drafted in the NFL from 1994 to 2016. The 1994 draft is a pivotal one since it's the first of the salary cap era and features the current seven-round format. This still presents the common problem in draft studies of including active players with incomplete career data, but I think that's suitable for this. In theory, the NFL quarterback climate should always consist of some old veterans with huge career numbers, some guys in their prime with the best rate stats, mediocre compilers, unproven youngsters, and a few guys destined for the clipboard (or Cleveland). Here we also have plenty of averages and rate stats to consider instead of just focusing on raw totals.
(*Note: In my draft database, Pat White and Joe Webb are quarterbacks. Webb in particular has bounced around from wide receiver back to quarterback to kick returner in Carolina, so none of his statistics since 2013 are included here. Brad Smith, Reggie McNeal, Isaiah Stanback, and B.J. Daniels are considered wide receivers. Steve Bellisari (2002) was converted to safety.)
|NFL Draft: Quarterback Games (GP) and Games Started (GS) for 1994-2016|
|Round||#QB||1+GS||0 GP||GP||GS||Record||Pct.||PO GS||PO Record||Pct.|
Our first table looks at game appearances, which are obviously skewed towards quarterbacks in the first three rounds getting many more opportunities to play than the later-round quarterbacks. Out of 110 quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds, only Giovanni Carmazzi, David Greene, and second-rounder Christian Hackenberg failed to play in a regular-season game. However, Hackenberg was just a rookie last season and he should get a chance eventually. Pat White, the athletic running quarterback from West Virginia, is still the only second-round quarterback in this study who retired without starting a game. He was really more of a fool's gold pick for the Dolphins after they had some success with the Wildcat in 2008.
The first round has produced 953 more starts than the other six rounds combined. Even the winning percentage dips after the second round, but of course we see a huge upswing in the sixth round thanks to Tom Brady and the Patriots. In fact, Brady has as many playoff starts (34) as the other 214 quarterbacks drafted in rounds two to seven have playoff wins (34) since 1994. We'll get to the sixth round later, but it should be noted that 43.8 percent of the quarterbacks drafted in rounds six or seven failed to play in a game.
It is one thing to play in a game, but how about the performance in those games? Here are the passing stats for the average quarterback by draft round:
|Average Quarterback's Passing Stats by Round (1994-2016)|
For a lot of these numbers, we see a general pattern where they are best in the first round and then taper off as you advance a round, with the fifth round being the worst (more on that later). But then the numbers go back up in the sixth round (again, strong Brady factor) and down for the final round.
I collected rushing data too, but it was not worthy of a table. The first-round quarterbacks again have the best production, shocking no one. Great athletes are always going high in the draft and players such as Cam Newton, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Robert Griffin III have certainly boosted those rushing stats.
Speaking of rushing, I was able to collect total DYAR (rushing and passing) for every quarterback's career. I also calculated a weighted average for passing DVOA. Citing the average DYAR or especially average DVOA of a sixth-round quarterback can be more misleading than other metrics. It's not so problematic for the earlier rounds, since most of those quarterbacks play. Without playing, a quarterback really has no DYAR/DVOA, which of course can have a negative value for poor performance. So crediting quarterbacks who don't play with zero DYAR or DVOA and using that in the average would result in an inaccurate measure of the quality of the group, when you consider that 16 ranked quarterbacks had negative DVOA in 2016 alone. Even if Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton were not statistical marvels in 2016, they still had more value than Jeff Driskel and Brandon Doughty (late-round rookies who did not play).
Technically, a quarterback who never throws a pass does not have a completion percentage either, but we can still calculate his round's completion percentage with him omitted. We have to omit him from DVOA too, however. We can't just assume he would be replacement level (roughly -13.3%) since we're weighing things by number of plays -- something these quarterbacks have none of. On a small sample size, which is expected of a poor, late-round quarterback, the DVOA can be frighteningly bad.
For example, Joe Hamilton was a seventh-round pick in 2000. He had one career dropback, on which he was strip-sacked on fourth-and-8 in the red zone. Granted, it was at the two-minute warning with Tampa Bay leading 27-7, but his career passing DVOA is minus-2,167.2%. This does get weighed based on the number of plays (one in this case), but players like that are why we need to take a different approach for the following table.
The solution was to weigh all players in the round equally. This can raise eyebrows for the early rounds where the first pick has much different expectations than the 32nd pick, but first-round quarterbacks were not the problem since almost everyone plays. In the later rounds, it's really just a marginal difference at best in value, so that should not be a problem. To get the average passing DVOA by round, I weighed each round's quarterbacks with at least one pass play equally to get the average DVOA.
For example, the sixth round has 48 quarterbacks, but only 26 had a dropback and calculated DVOA. I divided each quarterback's DVOA by 26, and the sum of those figures was the sixth round's DVOA (-29.8%). That is more accurate then weighing by number of attempts, which would be skewed so heavily by Brady. I also collected the Weighted Career Approximate Value (AV) from Pro Football Reference for every draft pick.
|Total DYAR and Passing DVOA by Round|
|Round||#QB||AVG CarAV||AVG Total DYAR||Total DYAR/Game||AVG PASS DVOA|
This makes the seventh round look really terrible, but it's hard to disagree with that conclusion. Also, Hamilton still brings the DVOA down dramatically since the round would be -28.0% with him excluded. The closest thing to a notable seventh-round quarterback with a positive DVOA was Steve Matthews, who only had 44 pass plays in his career.
While the average first-round quarterback's DVOA (minus-11.1%) would rank 25th in 2016, there's no denying where most of the best quarterbacks of the last two-plus decades come from. Here's a weighted career passing DVOA leaderboard of the top 20 quarterbacks drafted in the NFL since 1994 (also included Total DYAR):
|Leaders in Weighted Passing DVOA (1994-2016)|
|Only includes QBs drafted since 1994 (min. 1,000 passes)|
No real surprises, right? The cream really rose to the top here, and 13 of the top 20 quarterbacks were first-round picks. We'll spend the second half of our draft study by going over some of the drafting dynamics in each round.
Since a simple "bust/success rate" can be so largely subjective, once again we will use a tier format of how I view these quarterbacks as of March 2017.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 57 First-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Undecided||The Mediocre||The Ugly||The Winning Ugly|
|Peyton Manning||Blake Bortles||Byron Leftiwch||Akili Smith||Mark Sanchez|
|Aaron Rodgers||Carson Wentz||Jason Campbell||Blaine Gabbert||Rex Grossman|
|Ben Roethlisberger||Jameis Winston||Jay Cutler||Brady Quinn||Tim Tebow|
|Philip Rivers||Jared Goff||Kerry Collins||Brandon Weeden||Trent Dilfer|
|Matt Ryan||Marcus Mariota||Ryan Tannehill||Cade McNown||Vince Young|
|Andrew Luck||Paxton Lynch||Sam Bradford||Christian Ponder|
|Eli Manning||Teddy Bridgewater||David Carr|
|Steve McNair||The ALEX||EJ Manuel|
|Chad Pennington||Alex Smith||Heath Shuler|
|Matthew Stafford||J.P. Losman|
|Donovan McNabb||Jake Locker|
|Carson Palmer||JaMarcus Russell|
|Daunte Culpepper||Jim Druckenmiller|
|Cam Newton||Joey Harrington|
|Joe Flacco||Johnny Manziel|
|Michael Vick||Josh Freeman|
I placed 16 quarterbacks in The Good heap here, and that number could certainly rise with so many recent picks still needing to prove their worth. That may not sound good out of 57 players (28.1 percent), but we're only giving 19 quarterbacks a "Good" designation in the final six rounds combined, for a success rate of 8.8 percent. Matt Ryan is the fifth first-round quarterback listed to win an MVP award. The other six rounds have produced one MVP winner in this period (Brady).
When it comes to The Undecided, Blake Bortles is really one more lousy season away in Jacksonville from sliding over to The Ugly pile. Marcus Mariota looks to be trending in the right direction, and hopefully he will recover well from his broken leg. Unfortunately, Teddy Bridgewater's career could be over after two seasons after his significant injury last summer.
Alex Smith could arguably fit into any category here, so I gave him his own suitable tier. He's certainly had his share of The Winning Ugly days where he leaned on the rest of his team to carry the load. Those quarterbacks all had winning records in the NFL and will be hard to forget for observers of this era. That's much different from The Ugly collection of 22 quarterbacks, including a lot of major busts. Robert Griffin III and Josh Freeman could probably deserve one-year wonder tags, but the failure to pick their careers back up makes it feel right that they belong where they are.
Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill are hard to place since we're still hearing annual excuses for why next year will be the breakout year that never comes. They absolutely belong in The Mediocre, as does Jay Cutler after 11 seasons.
The second round has been the least utilized round for getting a quarterback, with only 25 selections since 1994.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 25 Second-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Average||The Failed Replacements||The Ugly||The Drowned Dolphins|
|Drew Brees||Charlie Batch||Brian Brohm||Brock Osweiler||John Beck|
|Colin Kaepernick||Kevin Kolb||Drew Stanton||Chad Henne|
|Andy Dalton||The Future?||Quincy Carter||Geno Smith||Pat White|
|Jake Plummer||Jimmy Garoppolo||Tarvaris Jackson||Jimmy Clausen|
|Kordell Stewart||Todd Collins||Kellen Clemens|
|Derek Carr||Him?||Marques Tuiasosopo|
|Christian Hackenberg||Shaun King|
Most of the successes here were drafted in the range of 32 to 42, including Derek Carr (36th) in 2014. If Carr can sustain his success for a couple more years, he'll be the second-best quarterback behind Brees here. Charlie Batch (1,199) actually had more total DYAR than Kordell Stewart (700) in their careers, but Stewart will always be remembered more fondly for his 1997 and 2001 seasons. Well, at least up until he imploded at home in two AFC Championship Game losses, but he was better at his peak than Batch, who was a really solid backup for the Steelers for a long time after escaping Matt Millen's mess in Detroit.
Still, the messiest thing here might be Miami failing on three straight second-round picks with John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White from 2007 to 2009. The Jets may not look so hot either if Christian Hackenberg doesn't work out so soon after Geno Smith, who is now a backup for the other New York team.
The Patriots will have some interesting decisions to make with Jimmy Garoppolo, but he could actually just be Tom Brady's successor. What's interesting here is how many of these players were supposed to be successors to notable quarterbacks, but that did not pan out. Todd Collins wasn't a Jim Kelly in Buffalo, nor was Quincy Carter able to make people forget about Troy Aikman. Kevin Kolb was out of Philadelphia not long after Donovan McNabb was traded. Brian Brohm was a rare misstep by the Packers at quarterback in a 2008 bridge year between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Brock Osweiler could go under a few categories here. He was insurance for Peyton Manning's neck in Denver in 2012, but he was not the true successor after taking the money from Houston last offseason. The Texans already made a salary-cap dump trade to the Browns this offseason to unload Osweiler after one miserable season.
Warning: a really short and a really tall quarterback are about to be discussed again.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 28 Third-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Tall One||The Ugly||The Patriots|
|Brian Griese||Mike Glennon||Andrew Walter||Kevin O'Connell|
|Matt Schaub||Bobby Hoying||Ryan Mallett|
|Nick Foles||The Cockroach||Brock Huard||Jacoby Brissett|
|Russell Wilson||Josh McCown||Brodie Croyle|
|Chris Simms||The Browns|
|The Decent Backup||Dave Ragone||Eric Zeier|
|Chris Redman||David Greene||Charlie Frye|
|Giovanni Carmazzi||Colt McCoy|
|Clipboard Jesus||Jonathan Quinn||Cody Kessler|
|Charlie Whitehurst||Stoney Case|
|Captain Checkdown||The Future? Meh|
|Trent Edwards||Garrett Grayson|
With the third round we get to the point of the draft where teams are not necessarily looking for a starter, but just a future plan or a competent backup. Garrett Grayson does not seem to be on track to be Drew Brees' successor in New Orleans, which makes that look like a wasted pick in 2015 when defenders such as Jordan Hicks (Eagles) and Danielle Hunter (Vikings) were still on the board. Likewise, with Jared Goff in Los Angeles, Sean Mannion is not likely to do anything of value for the Rams in his career. Of course, no quarterback has done anything of value for the Rams in the last decade.
[ad placeholder 4]
The far right has a group of players drafted by the Patriots and Browns. Ironically, Eric Zeier was a third-round pick in 1995 when Bill Belichick was calling the shots in the swansong for Cleveland 1.0. In New England, Kevin O'Connell and Ryan Mallett were not the wisest choices when Tom Brady was still obviously in his prime. Now last year's selection of Jacoby Brissett made more sense with Brady inching towards 40, and Brissett even started two games while Brady was suspended.
The Browns 2.0 have used their picks to try finding cheap starters without any real success so far. Charlie Whitehurst and Josh McCown also played for Cleveland last year, but which teams haven't they played for yet? The world could go to nuclear war and Whitehurst would still resurrect his playing career somewhere while McCown would survive with the cockroaches. We couldn't even finish this study without McCown picking up a deal for $6 million with the Jets.
The last time we did this study, the 2014 Buccaneers were choosing between McCown and Mike Glennon as their starting quarterback. McCown got the nod and led a bad offense as was predicted, and the Buccaneers ended up getting Jameis Winston with the No. 1 pick in 2015. Glennon showed enough in his first two seasons to deserve a shot at more playing time, but it was really a huge surprise to see Chicago so amped up to dump Jay Cutler to sign Glennon to a three-year deal for $45 million this offseason. Even if it is really a one-year audition, the thought of Glennon throwing to the likes of Eddie Royal, Kevin White, Cameron Meredith, and Markus Wheaton does not sound like an imposing offense. Glennon is also not going to a notable offensive system in the way that some other third-round successes did.
We threw some nicknames out for fun for these third-round picks, but the fact is that only Russell Wilson has really been a consistently strong starter for a good period of time. Brian Griese and Matt Schaub had their moments in that Mike Shanahan-Gary Kubiak style of offense, and Nick Foles really took advantage of Chip Kelly's system in 2013, but none of those players have ever had a five-year stretch of success like Wilson has started his career with. He truly is The Asterisk.
Dak Prescott is not even the first NFC East quarterback from the fourth round to shine in recent years. Kirk Cousins may have been insurance to Robert Griffin III back when Washington drafted both in 2012, but he has proven to be the superior quarterback in the NFL. Cousins is set to play on the franchise tag for the second year in a row and has been on a pretty strong run of play over the last season and a half. Can he be frustrating at times? Sure, but given what Washington is used to at the position, Cousins has been an excellent fourth-round pick.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 34 Fourth-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Wait and See||The Ugly||The Fun||The Bachelor|
|Aaron Brooks||Bryce Petty||Chad May||Landry Jones||Jesse Palmer|
|Dak Prescott||Cardale Jones||Chris Weinke||Luke McCown|
|David Garrard||Connor Cook||Danny Kanell||Matt Barkley|
|Kirk Cousins||Tom Savage||Danny Wuerffel||Rob Johnson|
|Kyle Orton||Dave Barr||Sage Rosenfels|
|Doug Nussmeier||Seneca Wallace|
While Prescott's lack of mistakes was one of the hallmarks of his rookie campaign, many of the others in this group loved to have fun on the field. Who can forget this backwards pass from Aaron Brooks? Rob Johnson never turned down a sack from any defender. Seneca Wallace was like an early prototype for Russell Wilson, right down to being manufactured in Seattle. Slingin' Sage Rosenfels threw 30 touchdowns to 29 interceptions in his career, and took one memorable flight on the Rosencopter. Josh McCown wasn't the only McCown brother to have improbable longevity in this league. And who can forget Jesse "The Bachelor" Palmer?
The 2013 draft was an interesting one for the four fourth-round choices. We once thought Matt Barkley was going No. 1 overall instead of 98th to Philadelphia. In 2016, Barkley had an intriguing season for the Bears with a high ALEX and the third-lowest failed completion rate since 1989. Ryan Nassib was once thought to go as high as No. 8 to Buffalo in the 2013 draft. He went 110th to the Giants and led the greatest irrelevant comeback in NFL history, helping to erase a 26-0 deficit in the fourth quarter of a 2014 preseason game against the Colts. Tyler Wilson had some good tape, but never caught on in the NFL. Then there is the case of Landry Jones, whom general manager Bill Polian thought would be the best quarterback in this draft class. Jones' first snap in his rookie preseason involved running into his own running back in the end zone for a safety. Last preseason, Jones managed to throw four interceptions in one half against the Eagles. He still might be more serviceable than Bryce Petty or Tom Savage, but time will tell.
The fifth round has been so shockingly barren that it makes sense to just post all of the quarterbacks with their stats together again.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 32 Fifth-Round Quarterbacks Since 1994|
|2003||Brian St. Pierre||33||15||45.45||185||5.61||2||3||45.6||0||-150||-88.8%|
|2008||John David Booty||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||0||-||-|
This is a round where even the "notable" quarterbacks are remembered for the wrong reasons. Dan Orlovsky is famous for his unintentional safety. A.J. Feeley is probably best remembered for some epic games in prime time against the Patriots in 2004 and 2007. T.J. Yates is the only fifth-round quarterback to win a playoff game in the salary-cap era. Mike McMahon might be remembered for somehow being worse than Joey Harrington. Tee Martin is still used in irrational arguments against Peyton Manning for his time at the University of Tennessee.
Kevin Hogan saw the field some for Cleveland last year, and may have had the most improbable 100-yard rushing game in NFL history when he rushed for 104 yards off the bench against the Bengals in his debut game. That will likely be his career highlight. Brett Hundley is also a current backup project for Green Bay, but he hasn't taken his garbage-time opportunities as seriously as Craig Nall once did.
The last hope here is really Cincinnati's AJ McCarron. He started three games in 2015 when Andy Dalton was injured, and also nearly led a 15-point fourth-quarter comeback win over the Steelers in the wild-card round. When backups are floated around as trade bait, McCarron's name will be high on that list, or he could just take over in Cincinnati should something drastic happen with Dalton's career path. In all likelihood, McCarron, a typical game manager who never threw the ball more than 35 times in a game for loaded Alabama, is not going to be some franchise's long-term answer at quarterback. However, he at least still has a chance at relevancy, which puts him ahead of the pack in this round.
Among the nine quarterbacks drafted in the sixth round since 2014, only Zach Mettenberger and David Fales have appeared in a game so far. I came down pretty hard on Mettenberger after his rookie season, and the Titans rightly drafted Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick in 2015. Still, Mettenberger remains one of the few notable quarterbacks in this list, and was last seen as a backup in Pittsburgh, which is exactly what Bruce Gradkowski has been lately, and what Jim Miller was in the 1990s.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 48 Sixth-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Member Berries||The 2016 Gang||The Forgotten|
|Tom Brady||Derek Anderson||Brandon Allen||Andre Woodson||Jordan Palmer|
|Marc Bulger||Jim Miller||Jeff Driskel||Andy Hall||Josh Booty|
|Matt Hasselbeck||Bruce Gradkowski||Jake Rudock||Brooks Bollinger||Josh Harris|
|Tyrod Taylor||Zach Mettenberger||Nate Sudfeld||Chuck Clements||Josh Heupel|
|Colt Brennan||Keith Null|
|Craig Whelihan||Keith Wenning|
|Curtis Painter||Kliff Kingsbury|
|Dan LeFevour||Mike Cawley|
|David Fales||Mike Cherry|
|Drew Henson||Mike Teel|
|Garrett Gilbert||Rusty Smith|
|J.T. O'Sullivan||Ryan Lindley|
|JaJuan Seider||Spence Fischer|
|Jeff Smoker||Spergon Wynn|
|Jerry Colquitt||Tajh Boyd|
|Jim Sorgi||Todd Husak|
|Joe Webb||Tom Brandstater|
|John Dutton||Tony Pike|
While Brady continues to widen the gap between his success and the rest of his round's production, we have seen one other competent quarterback step up here. Tyrod Taylor was Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore, but he was largely relegated to preseason action since Flacco never missed any time in his first seven seasons. Taylor went to the Bills in 2015 and has thrown 37 touchdowns to 12 interceptions so far. He's a .500 starter with only one 300-yard passing game in 28 starts, but he has been good at protecting the ball and running a run-heavy offense. He also hasn't had much luck with the health of his skill players or adequate defensive help over the last two years. Taylor is not quite up to the level of a Marc Bulger or Matt Hasselbeck when it comes to being a consistent passer, but for what we're used to from the sixth round, he looks like a gem. Some fans in Baltimore probably wish the team would have just paid him cheaply these past two years given what the Ravens are getting from the expensive Flacco. Taylor is a rare case of a quarterback riding the bench for four years before finally showing he can handle a starting job.
Only two quarterbacks have gone in the seventh round of the last three drafts, but one has at least made a bit of a name for himself.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 48 Seventh-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Notable||The Who?|
|Gus Frerotte||Alex Brink||James Kilian||Moses Moreno|
|Matt Cassel||B.J. Coleman||Jarious Jackson||Ronnie McAda|
|Matt Flynn||B.J. Symons||Jay Walker||Scott Covington|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick||Brad Sorensen||Jeff Kelly||Sean Canfield|
|Tim Rattay||Bradlee Van Pelt||Joe Hamilton||Sean Renfree|
|Trevor Siemian||Brandon Doughty||John Navarre||Seth Burford|
|Casey Bramlet||John Walsh||Steve Matthews|
|Chandler Harnish||Jon Stark||Tony Corbin|
|Chris Greisen||Ken Dorsey||Tony Graziani|
|Cody Pickett||Koy Detmer||Tyler Thigpen|
|D.J. Shockley||Kyle Wachholtz||Wally Richardson|
|Gibran Hamdan||Levi Brown||Wes Pate|
|Glenn Foley||Matt Mauck||Zac Dysert|
|Greg McElroy||Michael Bishop||Zac Robinson|
Who ultimately replaced Peyton Manning in Denver? It wasn't Brock Osweiler like what was once planned, nor was it the insufferable Mark Sanchez. Instead the job went to Trevor Siemian, an underdog story out of Northwestern. Siemian started 14 games last season, and while the team drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round and has flirted with Tony Romo this offseason, Siemian was at least adequate as far as seventh-round picks go. He is likely not the long-term solution in Denver, but if Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick can find more than a decade of work in this league, then Siemian should be fine too. You can already make the argument that Siemian is a top-five quarterback in this group of seventh-round quarterbacks, but it's not like we have a "good" category here.
Of course, there's one other place to get a quarterback: free agents left over after the draft. In a second article later this week, we'll look at the search for the next Kurt Warner or Tony Romo.