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Decision Making 101: Drafting A Quarterback

We can do an interesting study of drafting QBs by looking at the average draft pick of starting QBs in the NFL today. If we go by starting QBs and where they were drafted we come up with the following:

1st Round (18 total; 56%)

Mark Sanchez – NY Jets
Joe Flacco – Baltimore
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh
Carson Palmer – Cincinnati
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis
Vince Young – Tennessee
Philip Rivers – San Diego
Jason Campbell – Oakland
Eli Manning – NY Giants
Donovan McNabb – Washington
Michael Vick – Philadelphia
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay
Jay Cutler – Chicago
Matthew Stafford – Detroit
Matt Ryan – Atlanta
Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay
Alex Smith – San Francisco
Sam Bradford – St. Louis

2nd Round (4 total; 13%)

Chad Henne – Miami
Brett Favre – Minnesota
Drew Brees – New Orleans
Jimmy Clausen – Carolina

3rd Round (1 total; 3%)

Matt Schaub – Houston

4th Round (2 total; 6%)

David Garrard – Jacksonville
Kyle Orton – Denver

6th Round (3 total, 9%)

Tom Brady – New England
Derek Anderson – Arizona
Matt Hasselback – Seattle

7th Round (2 total; 6%)

Ryan Fitzpatrick – Buffalo
Matt Cassel – Kansas City

Undrafted Free Agents (2 total; 6%)

Jake Delhomme – Cleveland
Tony Romo – Dallas

As you can see, the best bet to find your starting QB is in the 1st round. It’s certainly possibly to strike gold later on (see Tom Brady in the 6th) & the 2nd round isn’t completely out of the question, but for the most part teams look for their QBs in the 1st & maybe the 2nd round.

The other side of this coin is the boom/bust potential for taking a QB in the first round. Here are the 1st round QBs taken in the NFL Draft starting in 1998 when Peyton Manning was taken.

1998: Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf
1999: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown
2000: Chad Pennington
2001: Michael Vick
2002: David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey
2003: Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman
2004: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, JP Lossman
2005: Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell
2006: Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler
2007: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn
2008: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco
2009: Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman

That’s 33 1st round QBs in 12 years. I think you could argue that 16-18 turned out well depending on how you view guys like Vince Young & Josh Freeman. So basically the place to take your franchise QB is in the first round, but you have about a 50% chance of getting the call right.

Who Needs A Quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft?

The point of his exercise to really take a look at decision making by an NFL franchise. When the San Diego Chargers took Ryan Leaf in the 1998 draft, they were coming off a 4-12 season in 1997. The 1998 season wouldn’t be much better with the Bolts finishing 5-11. The 1999 Chargers would finish 8-8, but interstingly enough Ryan Leaf was injured for the entire season. Jim Harbaugh would QB that San Diego team to a .500 record as he started 12 games & played in 14. Ryan Leaf would be back in 2000 & the Chargers would finish 1-15! Leaf was gone after 2000 & San Diego brought in Doug Flutie for the 2001 season. San Diego would improve to 5-11 in 2001, but they got pretty lucky in the 2001 draft when they landed Drew Brees with the 1st pick of the 2nd round.

Brees would take over in 2002 & lead the Chargers to an 8-8 season. Brees wasn’t so hot in 2003 though leading SD to a 5-11 mark and prompting the Chargers to draft Eli Manning which they flipped to the Giants for Philip Rivers. Oddly enough, Drew Brees would lead the Chargers to a 12-4 season in 2004, but a 9-7 finish in 2005 wasn’t to San Diego’s liking. Rivers was already the franchise QB in the wings & thus San Diego went with Rivers. It wasn’t all bad though. Rivers led the Chargers to a 14-2 record in his first year as a starting QB in 2006.

The point of course is that drafting Ryan Leaf was a big mistake in the 1998 draft. The Chargers were bad in 1997 which prompted the Leaf pick to begin with, but the Chargers decline into being just another NFL team started in 1996 and didn’t end until Brees took them to a 12-4 mark in 2004. The era from 1996-2003 marked a depressing time in San Diego history and some of that is certainly traceable to drafting Ryan Leaf in 1998 and the residual effects from blowing a 1st round draft pick on a QB. So who are the teams that need a QB?

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are the poster child for QB disasters. They tried 1st round picks on both Tim Couch & Brady Quinn to no avail. There was some thought that Cleveland might take Jimmy Clausen in the first round of the 2010 draft. Instead Cleveland went with CB Joe Haden. When Clausen was available in the 2nd round, Cleveland passed yet again and went with S TJ Ward. In the 3rd round Cleveland finally pulled the trigger on Colt McCoy but from all accounts so far, the Browns didn’t exactly find their franchise QB. That means they could be in line for a QB in the 2011 Draft and will probably have their pick.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills were another team in need of a QB that many thought Jimmy Clausen might wind up with. Instead the Bills selected C.J. Spiller in their desperate search for play makers in an attempt to upgrade their overall team athleticism. Like Cleveland, Buffalo passed on Clausen again in the 2nd round when they took DT Torrell Troup. The Bills tried to make Trent Edwards into a franchise QB, but that didn’t work out well as Edwards was released by the Bills today. Ryan Fitzpatrick certainly isn’t the answer so Buffalo is certainly in need of a QB in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Oakland Raiders: Who really knows what’s going on with Oakland. They got Jason Campbell but they’ve already benched him in favor of Bruce Gradkowski. Gradkowski wasn’t the answer to begin with so the Raiders really don’t trust Campbell if they’ve already put him behind Gradkowski on the depth chart. Oakland is the latest victim of a 1st round QB draft pick gone bad in JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders have had 7 straight losing seasons since their Super Bowl appearances in 2002. If you have to build your team through a franchise QB then Oakland has to get on it. Given how Kansas City has played thus far, the Raiders should definitely come in last place in the AFC West & most likely will wind up with a top-5 or top-10 draft pick.

Minnesota Vikings: There is no way Brett Favre is coming back after this season which means the Vikings are going to be stuck with Tavaris Jackson. Despite their 1-2 start, the Vikings still have a solid chance at making the playoffs which means they won’t have a high draft pick. Unless a top flight QB drops pretty low, Minnesota probably won’t take a QB although they should at least consider the possibility given the talent on the offense which will need a solid QB.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Some people thought the Jaguars might take Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 draft because of the hometown hero effect. Instead the Jags took DT Tyson Alualu in the first big surprise of the draft. The Jaguars wouldn’t get a chance to draft a different QB in the first 4 rounds as they had only 2 picks & used them both on defensive tackles. David Garrard isn’t bad right now, but he’s never been a championship caliber QB and now age is starting to catch up with him a bit.

Arizona Cardinals: Now with Matt Leinart gone, the Cardinals are left with Derek Anderson who the Cleveland Browns didn’t think was any good. I think the Cardinals got pretty lucky finding Kurt Warner who led them to a Super Bowl, the first in Cardinals history. Leinart was supposed to be the man this year but was horrifying in training camp and now he’s a backup with the Texans. Warner isn’t coming back, so Arizona needs to find it’s next franchise QB in a jiffy.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have no real franchise QB in waiting when Matt Hasselback goes down. Hasselback can still be a heckuva QB when he’s healthy, but those instances are starting to be far & few between. I don’t think a successful Seahawks future includes Charlie Whitehurst. You have to figure too that at some point Pete Carroll is going to want his guy under center. Given how bad the NFC West has been so far, there is at least a decent shot Seattle makes the playoffs which means they won’t have a high draft pick.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith isn’t the guy. There is no way the 49ers should be 0-3 right now with the team they’ve assembled. When you look up and down that roster, the 49ers should easily be the best team in the NFC West yet they are in dead last with the worst record in the division. Even the Rams have a win! There does seem to be just a tinge of indication that Mike Singletary may have lost the team. The guy seems pretty paranoid at this point. San Francisco still has a shot to pull themselves out of the muck if they can get a guy under center who can utilize the talents around him. I think the Niners are too good to compete with Buffalo & Cleveland for worst record in the NFL, but stranger things have happened.

Potential 1st Round Quarterbacks for the 2011 NFL Draft?

There really are 3 QBs considered top shelf talent for the 2011 Draft. They are Stanford Andrew Luck, Washington’s Jake Locker & Arkansas’s Ryan Mallett. Another guy to keep an eye on is Blaine Gabbert of Missouri. It’ll be interesting to see how Gabbert does against Nebraska and some of the other big time Big XII teams to see if he’s really considered a 1st round talent. Locker’s stock has taken a beating so far this season, but I’m guessing there will be enough hype around his physical capabilities that somebody probably will be willing to take a chance on him. At 6’7, Ryan Mallett might be too tall to be an NFL QB which leaves Stanford’s Andrew Luck as the clear cut #1 QB in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The statistics & trends basically show that you need to get your franchise QB in the first round. It also says you have a little bit better than a 50% shot at that player actually panning out. If there are only 3 QBs that are legit first round talents then the smart money is on Andrew Luck of Stanford.

So who gets Luck? The Browns are at best going 2-14 this season. Their schedule is brutal and the only games they can potentially win are against Carolina & Buffalo. They get the Panthers at home but Buffalo on the road so who knows. A 2-14 season probably costs Eric Mangini his job & my guess is that the Browns will want to build around a franchise QB that Mike Holmgren hand selects. The Bills are screwed too. They get the Lions & Browns at home, but that puts them at best 2-14 if they win those games. I suppose if both they & Cleveland wind up 2-14 then the winner probably gets the #1 pick. I think Oakland can win 5-7 games so they aren’t nearly as bad as Cleveland or Buffalo. The Lions are a non-issue because they already have Matt Stafford. I also think the 49ers won’t be a problem for Andrew Luck. They still can win 6-8 games even after starting 0-3.

So it basically comes down to Cleveland & Buffalo for Andrew Luck. I think the decision to draft Luck is an easy one, but the really interesting part is who doesn’t get him. Remember that it’s basically a 50/50 proposition when it comes to 1st round QBs. If Buffalo takes Luck & Cleveland gets stuck with either Locker or Mallett then Cleveland could be going down another dead end road like they did with Tim Couch & Brady Quinn. If Buffalo winds up with Mallett or Locker then they could be on the dead end road that they already went down with Trent Edwards.

Maybe Ryan Mallett & Jake Locker pan out, but my money is on Luck which begs the question: If 8 NFL teams potentially need franchise QBs & only one can take Luck in the first round, do the other 7 teams pass on taking a QB in the 1st round in the hopes of striking gold in the 2nd or 6th rounds?

There has to be value attached to each draft pick so a team drafting a QB in the first round that busts is definitely behind the 8-ball when that pick doesn’t pan out on a multitude of levels. If you truly believe that Andrew Luck is the guy, then Mallett & Locker have better than 50% shots at busting at the NFL Level. The value for them wouldn’t be in the 1st round, but maybe in the 2nd. Neither player will make it out of the 1st round, but what team wants to be the ones to roll the dice?

That is the interesting question with far reaching consequences.

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September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Andrew Luck, Decision Making, Quarterbacks

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