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More research on the QB draft position question

A good friend introduced me to a fun, new phrase today: "no Po-mo." It's used sort of like one would say "no homo," except with overly pretentious and "post-modern" things instead of in matters of sexual preference. Example: "No po-mo, but Jersey Shore makes me really wonder about the future of television." Well, I'm gonna call "no Po-mo" for now as I tackle the question of whether or not to draft a QB in the first round.

There has been plenty of talk on BCC about first round QB's. Articles have been written insisting that a first round QB is the only safe way to find somebody you can count on at the QB position. People on the site have done their research, and I found it all very interesting, but I was curious to do some reading of my own. So what I've done is taken a look at the last 7 NFL drafts and sifted through the nobodies to pull out all the current starters and recognizable names. I ended up with a list of 35 QBs taken from every round and I've looked into how many of them are hits and misses based on 1) Draft position, 2) number of starts, and 3) if they are considered their team's starter.

I was fairly surprised by what I saw.

First off, of the 35 QB's on the list, 19 of them were first rounders, and 16 of them were from other rounds. The list includes a total of 19 out of 32 starting QB's. This means there are 13 starting QBs who have been in the league longer than 7 years. Anyways, here are the lists:

First rounders: Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jamarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisburger, J.P. Losman.

Other rounds: Jimmy Clausen (2), Colt McCoy (3), John Skelton (5), Pat White (2), Brian Brohm (2), Chad Henne (2), Kevin Kolb (2), Trent Edwards (3), Tavaris Jackson (2), Charlie Whitehurst (3), Bruce Gradkowski (6), Charlie Frye (3), Kyle Orton (4), Derek Anderson (6), Ryan Fitzpatrick (7), Matt Cassel (7)

I'd consider this a pretty good "who's who" of quarterbacks taken in the last 7 years of drafts. I tried to include only players who have been given legitimate opportunities to start, and not players who will be career backups. This sort of situation could be claimed for Brian Brohm (behind Aaron Rodgers) and Kevin Kolb (behind Michael Vick), but I'll let that slide for the purposes of this experiment, because I see them as potential quality players. I'd also like to point out that there is some uncertainty over starting QB's on teams like Arizona, Minnesota, and Tennessee who essentially have starting QB's for lack of a better option. There is also the unique case of Oakland who has two QBs who could both easily turn out to be the starter come next year. I actually decided to call Campbell and Gradkowski each "half a starter" for the purposes of this experiment.

Anyways, for first rounders, 10.5 out of the 19 (55+%) are starting. That number is slightly skewed, because it doesn't take into account that Cutler and Campbell (among others) were moved from their original teams and their services were not retained. Still, that means that one can expect about a 50-60% success rate with a first round QB.

For non-first round QB's, my assessment was that there were 6.5 legitimate starters, 2 starters in name only (Jackson and Skelton), 6 not starting (including Kolb), and Charlie Whitehurst who probably won't start next year but might. All things considered, that leaves us with: Clausen, McCoy, Skelton, Henne, Kolb, Gradkowski, Fitzpatrick, Jackson (yuck!), Cassel, and Orton who I could consider starters. That's 8.5 (since I'm considering Gradkowski a half starter, and Kolb doesn't start), or 53+% of the 16 later round players who were given a shot to start who are their team's starting quarterback.

Obviously, the jury is still out on some of these players including first rounders as well as non-first rounders, but what I'm beginning to see is that plenty of players picked in later rounds have performed just fine when given the chance. The way I've somewhat fudged these numbers, 50-60 percent of players drafted to be starters in the first round are starters, and about 50 percent of later round players given the opportunity are starters. That's pretty close to even. Orton (4) and Fitzpatrick (7) put up surprisingly strong numbers while on bad teams last year, and guys like Kolb (2), Cassel (7), and Henne (2) can be considered respectable starting QBs.

It seems to me that what is more important than draft location is opportunity. EVERY first round player was given at least two or three years as the leader of their offense. The backups only get sparing opportunities, and the 15 later round QB's listed here make up maybe one fifth of all QB's taken in those rounds. If later round players were given the 2nd and 3rd chances the first rounders received, who knows how many of them would have caught on. As it stands, of the QB's drafted in the last seven years, 55% of first round picks are starting, and 53% of "quality" later-round players are starting. Those numbers get bogged down when you include players like Casey Bramlet or Jim Sorgi, but it didn't take too much number-fudging work to show that, when given a legitimate chance, late-round draftees can perform just as well as first rounders.