Drafting a Franchise QB - A Historical Perspective

With all the talk lately about the QB position and what many believe is the need for a franchise signal caller.  Many fans have declared the only way we will find the next franchise QB is to do so in the first round of the draft.  So this got me thinking about the success and failure rate of QBs drafted in all rounds of the NFL draft. 

Now success and failure has a tendency to be subjective, so I have tried to simplify it as much as possible.  I based my findings off of players who were starters for 5 years or more, HOFers, or All Pro selections.  I used a 5 year rule because that seemed to be a good measuring stick when it came to weeding out the busts.  I didn't use Pro Bowls because I wanted to rule out one hit wonders, so I used All Pro selections instead.  I've also combined all rounds from the 8th round and later due to there only being 7 rounds now.  I've also excluded the players drafted from 2005-2010 from the 5 year starter percentages, as the majority have not been in the league long enough to accumulate the time needed to qualify.


Total QBs drafted in the NFL:  961

% drafted in the 1st round:  16% (155)            5 year starters:  41% (65)  HOFers:  13  All Pro:  10

% drafted in the 2nd round:  7% (74)               5 year starters:  16% (12)   HOFers:  0   All Pro:  5

% drafted in the 3rd round:  8% (82)                5 year starters:  14% (12)  HOFers:  3    All Pro:  4

% drafted in the 4th round:  8%  (79)                5 year starters:  6% (5)       HOFers:  2   All Pro:  2

% drafted in the 5th round:  7% (69)                 5 year starters:  5% (4)       HOFers:  1  All Pro:  0

% drafted in the 6th round:  10% (104)            5 year starters:  8% (9)       HOFers:  0   All Pro:  1

% drafted in the 7th round:  8% (85)                 5 year starters:  2% (2)       HOFers:  0   All Pro:  0

% drafted in the 8th-34th round:  32% (313)   5 year starters:  5% (18)    HOFers:  5   All Pro:  2


So what to make of all this?  It's pretty clear that a team has a greater chance of finding a decent starting QB in the first round than in any other round.  Please keep in mind this only means that the player was the primary starter for 5 years or more.  That doesn't necessarily mean they were a good player, just that the team either couldn't find anyone better, or didn't try.  As for finding the next Marino, the percentages actually even out between the 1st and 3rd rounds.  Even though the first round has produced a much higher number of HOFers, the All Pro percentages are very similar to the 2nd and 3rd rounds.


Another thing I would like to point out is what many might believe is the bust rate.  Using the first round as an example you would probably get an accurate number.  41% of 1st round draft picks became 5 year or more starters.  So one could assume that 59% either busted out of the league or became career backups.  But it's expected of a 1st round pick to become a starter at some point in their career.  The same can't always be said about players drafted from the 2nd round and lower.  So to assume 84% of 2nd round QBs are busts wouldn't be as accurate.  While there is a higher expectation of a 2nd round QB compared to a 3rd or 4th and so on.  It doesn't hold nearly the same as a first.  So probably one of the most surprising numbers here is the fact that almost 10% of 6th round QBs have become 5 year starters.  I think we could all agree that 6th rounders aren't drafted with the expectations they may one day be leading your franchise for 5+ years.  Please don't take that as me advocating we draft a 6th round QB.


None of us really know what is going to happen during the draft.  I will however give you my personal opinion on what I believe we should do.  I believe we should trade down in the first and try to recoup our second rounder.  We then take the best OL left on the board or Ingram with the late first round pick (I think it's very likely Ingram could fall to the end of the 1st).  Use the 2nd-4th round picks to address the best players available at OL, RB, and WR.  5th to 7th rounds would be to address depth on the OL and project players.  The reason I don't see them even drafting a QB is because this FO's job security is hanging by a thread.  Their jobs depend on Henne becoming the franchise QB.  They don't have the luxury of drafting a rookie and taking the time to develop him.  Another 7-9 or worse season, and this FO is most likely on the unemployment line.  With the new FO coming in and probably dismantling the whole offense.


The last thing I'm going to touch on is the trend of the NFL and the value put on QBs in the draft.  I broke the drafts down into three time periods (1932-1944, 1945-1978, and 1979-2010).  I came to these based on the leaders in passing yards and passing yards per game.  Before 1945, passing for more than 150 yards per game was not the norm.  Before 1979, passing for more than 4000 yards and 250 per game was not the norm.  These are the numbers based on those 3 time periods:

QBs drafted in the first round 1932-1944:  7          5 year starters:  4              10 year starters:  4

QBs drafted in the first round 1945-1978:  66        5 year starters:  32            10 year starters:  16

QBs drafted in the first round 1979-2010:  77        5 year starters:  31            10 year starters:  13

So while there have been more first round QBs taken in the final time period, it's not as great a shift as some may think.  Not to mention the quality of those drafted has gone down.  So it would be really hard to argue that the quality of scouting has gotten better over the years.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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