Year after year of following the draft there are always these guys who you think can develop into starting quarterbacks in the NFL. They'll usually have some of the main tools you look for in the quarterback but lack in other areas. Some will have a cannon arm but their footwork and mechanics are atrocious. Some will have a great knack for making plays, but the system they played in isn't really conducive to the NFL. Time and time again you'll see fans of teams clamor for the team to pass on a first round quarterback with the notion that they can draft one of those aforementioned types of quarterbacks and develop them into a starter.
I get this comment a lot, especially last season when the Jacksonville Jaguars were interested in Mark Sanchez and now this season with the outside chance that Jimmy Clausen could fall to the Jaguars. I decided to do some research and see just how often a quarterback of worth could be had after the 1st round. My frame of reference? 2000 to 2009.
Since and including the 2000 NFL draft, there have been 129 different quarterbacks drafted by NFL teams. That's an average of 13 (12.9) drafted every year. That number alone should tell you how much of a crap shoot the quarterback is in the draft, and that's not even including undrafted players who stick on rosters. Thanks to fellow blogger bwfull, who wrote about a similar topic a few months ago we know that only 10 of 32 (31%) starting quarterbacks last season were picked outside of the first round, and that number should decrease this season with guys like Kurt Warner retiring and Sam Bradford being drafted. This doesn't necessarily mean that the 22 of the 32 1st round picks starting are any good, however.
Out of those 129 quarterbacks drafted since 2000, only 26 of those were taken in the first round. That means the remaining 103 quarterbacks were selected in the 2nd round or lower. Now, how many of those 103 quarterbacks managed to turn into something? Only 11, and that's if you count Kyle Orton, Derek Anderson, Trent Edwards and Matt Cassel. Those 11 even include soon to be Eagles starter Kevin Kolb. That puts the mark at just 10.6% on hitting on even a serviceable starter beyond the 1st round.
Here is the full list of 11:
- Marc Bulger, 6th Round, 2000
- Tom Brady, 6th Round, 2000
- Drew Brees, 2nd Round, 2001
- David Garrard, 4th Round, 2002
- Matt Schaub, 3rd Round, 2004
- Matt Cassel, 7th Round, 2005
- Derek Anderson, 6th Round, 2005
- Kyle Orton, 4th Round, 2005
- Trent Edwards, 3rd Round, 2007
- Kevin Kolb, 2nd Round, 2007
- Chade Henne, 2nd Round, 2008
If you really wanted to, you could also add guys like Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Johnson, or Kellen Clemens, all whom have had a cup of coffee as NFL starters, but obviously were nothing long-term. Even adding those players to the previously mentioned 11 quarterbacks, that still only puts the hit rate up to 15.5%. Given that 103 quarterbacks were drafted beyond the first round from 2000 to 2009, that means an average of 10 quarterbacks were drafted each year in round 2 through 7. If there are 10 guys drafted each season and the hit rate is 15.5% (being generous), what are the odds you'll hit on one?
Not very high. I'm not a statistics savant, but just looking at the fact that you're hitting on late round QB's on a 15.5% clip with an average of 10 being drafted each season since 2000, it's not very high. If you want to get down to the nitty gritty of it, of the 16 quarterbacks I listed as being at least a servicable starter, I would only consider 4 of those 16 "good" players. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Marc Bulger (before his injuries), and Matt Schaub. That knocks the percentage of "servicable" quarterbacks down from 15.5% to 3.9% for what's considered at least a "good" quarterback. Even if you want to include David Garrard in that list, which a lot of Jaguars fans would, it only bumps it up to 4.9%.
If you want to break it down even further, here is how it stacks up round by round:
Round 1: 14 "hits"
Round 2: 5 "hits", and that's if you count Kolb, Clemens, and Henne.
Round 3: 2 "hits", if you count Trent Edwards.
Round 4: 2 "hits".
Round 5: 1 "hit", if you count Josh Johnson.
Round 6: 2 "hits", if you count Bruce Gradkowski.
Round 7: 1 "hit", if you count Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It also looks even worse when you compare it to the success rate of quarterbacks taken in just Round 1 from 2000 to 2009, which sits at 53.8% (14 out of 26). That's even counting players like Jason Campbell (ridiculous circumstances), Byron Leftwich (winning record, injury problems), Brady Quinn (unproven), and Matt Leinart (unproven) as full blown busts. So in just one round the success rate of hitting on a quarterback is nearly 5 times greater than a combined 6 rounds and a pool of 103 players.
While it's nice to have late round players that you think can develop into starters, the reality of it is that very rarely do these players pan out in the long run, especially at the quarterback position. Most of them go off into the sunset and are never really heard from, but it goes unnoticed by most fans because they do not come in with much fan fare to begin with. People often forget just how many late round "developmental" quarterbacks are drafted year in and year out that wind up being nothing more than a camp arm or a back up. The main point here is, unless you're extremely lucky, you've got to get your quarterback early in the draft.
It's great to imagine the amount of picks you can get if a quarterback falls to you in the first round of the NFL draft, but the reality is it's more beneficial to draft that quarterback and take your chances. Especially if the quarterback you have on your roster isn't the long-term answer and you're currently in a rebuilding mode. Unless a team blows you away with future first round picks or multiple second round picks, you've got to weigh the fact that you're giving up a possible franchise quarterback with the chance you may not be in position the next season to take one, without giving up the picks you just got.
This isn't to say Jacksonville should target a quarterback early or they have to target one early, just pointing out how unlikely it is a team finds a starting quarterback beyond the first round of the draft. It still helps teams to use those later picks on quarterbacks on the outside chance they do develop into something more than a camp arm. Teams shouldn't however, bank on it. Teams like the Green Bay Packers made a living off of it in the 1990's. They seemingly drafted a quarterback every year and wound up trading them off for picks. Green Bay took guys like Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasslebeck, and Aaron Brooks in the 1990's and turned them all around for draft picks in the future. The Packers however, had the luxury of having Brett Favre at the helm. They weren't looking for a quarterback of the future. Incidentally enough, when the Packers were looking for a quarterback of the future, they went after one in the 1st round of the draft.
While I'm a big fan of guys like Dan Lefevour, Tony Pike, Jarrett Brown, and Andy Schmitt... fact of the matter is the chances one of those guys develops into the kind of starter NFL franchises are looking for is very rare and unlikely.