First Round QBs in the NFL

With the 2011 NFL Draft approaching, a lot of the Titans chatter focuses on the QB postion.  Obviously its a lot more than who to take; its also important to note where we should take a QB.  I wanted to look at how each NFL team chose to acquire their QB, and what results that produced.

Here are a few stats to look over:

There were 14 teams in the league with records over 0.500.  Of those 14 teams, 11 of them have a first round QB at the helm.  They break down as follows:

Sanchez, Roethlisberger, Flacco, Peyton, Rivers, Vick, Eli Manning, Cutler, Rodgers, Ryan, and Freeman.

The remaining three teams had Brady, Cassel and Brees at the helm.  Just to point out, Brees was the 32nd pick of his draft, which in today's NFL would be a first round pick.  I should also note that Vick and Cutler were not drafted by their original teams, and both have had a unique career route.

There were 16 teams that were below 0.500. 

Of them, only four were quarterbacked by a first round pick: Palmer, McNabb, Bradford, Alex Smith.

Note: This total could increase to six if you include Vince Young and Matt Stafford.  I left them out of the total because they did not start the majority of their team's games.  (Young started 8, Stafford 3.)

Two teams were at 0.500: the Jags and Raiders.  Of the two, the Raiders had a first round QB running the show.

The totals:

78.5% of the winning teams are quarterbacked by first round QBs.

75% of the losing teams were not quarterbacked by first round QBs. 

Now, as many of you know, I am completely in favour of selecting Andy Dalton or another QB (like Ricky Stanzi) in the second round.  However, after looking through the teams, most teams have chosen to build their teams around a first round QB.  In fact, unless your team is coached by Bill Belichick or you acquire Drew Brees in free agency, first round QBs seem to be the way to go.

Second round QB names have been tossed around a lot lately here, and I love the idea of taking a QB in the second round mainly because a QB bust in the second round is not as bad as taking a QB bust in the first round.  The reduced risk is something I like.  Then I stumbled upon this article by Kevin of Hogs Haven:

I highly recommend the article.  It delves into the 26-27-60 rule of college QBs, and applies it to this year's draft class.  The biggest statement that I took away from it though was this nugget:

Since Drew Brees was drafted in 2001, there have been 9 Qbs drafted in the 2nd round...0 are long term starters today.

So, while teams that have taken second round QBs are reducing their risk, they are also not reaping the rewards.  Its been speculated that the percentage of first round QBs who are considered "busts" is around 50%.  That seems like a fair estimation, but I have not crunched the numbers.  If you consider the above statement from Kevin though, it seems like the chances of getting a franchise QB in later rounds are even lower.  Plus, if there is a 50% bust rate on QBs, it would make sense to gamble on a more talented QB than a less talented QB. 

Let's look at the Miami Dolphins, for example.  In 2008 they held the top pick in the draft and opted for a safer pick in tackle Jake Long, as opposed to selecting QB Matt Ryan.  Jake Long is an outstanding left tackle for the team and it was certainly a good pick.  In the second round they chose their QB of the future in Chad Henne.  The Falcons, at third overall, were able to scoop up Matt Ryan.  Three years later, the Dolphins are in the market for another QB of the future (recent reports has them targeting Kevin Kolb).  The Falcons meanwhile have found a franchise QB and with that the security that their franchise should remain competitive for several years.  Now, obviously hindsight is 20/20.  Its easy to look back and say this franchise should have taken this player instead of this player and so on.  So let's consider the alternative for the Falcons if Matt Ryan was a bust.  Now three years later, they would either be hoping he'd turn it around or looking for another QB of the future.  The Dolphins and Falcons would be in roughly the same spot even if Ryan had turned out poorly (except they would be out several more millions of dollars.  With a rookie wage scale this wouldn't be much of an issue for us).  Now, perhaps if Henne had turned out to be spectacular this argument would be easily shot down, but when you're drafting a second round QB, the 'ceiling' for that player isn't as high as a first rounder's.  Even if he had developed into a good QB the Dolphins would be an average to slightly above average team with him.  Their current state has them in No Man's Land.  They're not great and they're not really Super Bowl contenders, but they are also not an NFL weakling. 

So, we have a choice. 

We can take a large risk in the first round and receive either greatness or futility.

We can take a smaller risk in the second round and receive slightly above average or below average.

In three years, we'll either have a very young and talented QB at the helm or we'll be in the same place we are today.

Step up to the table and place your bets.

(Please do not misinterpet me.  I'm not saying we should absolutely take a first round QB regardless of the seven picks ahead of us, but I am saying that if a guy we like is there, I will not oppose rolling the dice on him.)

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