You know John Elway, Dan Marino, and Troy Aikman, right? Of course you do. But I bet you know JaMarcus Russell, Jeff George, and Todd Marinovich too. They have one thing in common – They were Quarterbacks drafted in the 1st Round. That’s about it.
In earlier articles I have written about the importance of the Quarterback position. It’s the most critical in all of sports. I still stand by that.
I do have a question though. Is it absolutely critical to get your franchise Quarterback in the 1st Round of the Draft? Common sense would tell you that the best ones would be picked in the 1st Round, right? To prove that’s the mindset of NFL teams, of the 32 starting Quarterbacks in Week 2 of this NFL season, 21 of them were drafted in the 1st Round. That’s 66%, a significant percentage. But history has shown us that our 1st Rounders aren’t necessarily the best.
There has been 53 Super Bowls up to this point. Of those 53 Super Bowls, 24 of them have been won by a Quarterback not drafted in the 1st Round. Almost half. Those numbers can be skewed by a Quarterback winning multiple Super Bowls, so we can take it a step further, and only focus on the number of Quarterbacks that have won Super Bowls. There are 34 Quarterbacks that have won a Super Bowl, and 14 of them were not drafted in the 1st Round. About 40%. A lot higher percentage than many would expect. Chore for you – Look at every Draft since 2005. There is a total of 1 Super Bowl winning Quarterback drafted in the 1st Round. ONE!!! That man is Joe Flacco by the way.
If you don’t like the Super Bowl winners as the criteria, we can use the Hall of Fame instead. There is actually a stronger argument to be made here. There are currently 29 Quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume there are 7 more coming. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and (whether you like it or not) Eli Manning. That’s 36 Hall of Fame Quarterbacks. There may be a couple others that sneak in, and there are some young guys that eventually will be in, but for now, there are 36 sure-fire Hall of Famers.
Of those 36 Hall of Fame Quarterbacks, you know how many of them were drafted in the 1st Round? 18. Exactly half of them. So even though half were drafted in the 1st Round, that also means that half were not. Some of these names include Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, and Johnny Unitas. Not a bad list. If you take the average Draft Round of these 36 guys, it comes out to be about the middle of the 3rd Round. (Note – Both Warren Moon & Kurt Warner were undrafted, so I assigned their Draft “Round” to be 1 round after last round that particular year. So 9th Round for Moon, 8th Round for Warner).
Fun facts. I looked at the records for EVERY Quarterback selected in the history of the NFL Draft. Here is what I found. The overall winning percentage of 1st rounders is 50.8%. Juuust above average. Quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 2 through 6 – 49.8%. A whopping 1% difference! Ooh wee. Going back (much) further, back in the day, there were upwards of 30 rounds in the Draft (currently there are 7 Rounds, has been since 1994). The overall winning percentage of Quarterbacks drafted between the 8th and 30th Rounds…51.4%. Higher than 1st Round Draft picks. Odd, but true.
It seems now that when a team is looking to draft a new franchise Quarterback, it’s an absolute necessity that they get him in the 1st Round. But is it? I will reiterate that an elite Quarterback is critical, but you don’t have to find this guy in the 1st Round. I guess your chances are higher, but marginally. Worth considering, since those 1st Rounders are given significantly more money, they are usually given a longer timeframe and more opportunities to make it work, as the teams have a larger investment in them. Quarterbacks (and all players for that matter) not drafted in the 1st Round are often times not given that same level of leeway, as the financial commitment is much less. But there are almost always diamonds in the rough…Brady, Favre, and Montana quality players, that when given the opportunity, can be just as good as many of these 1st Round picks.
I am not saying this should be treated like Fantasy Football, where the Quarterbacks aren’t touched until the 3rd Round or later. But it can be an formidable option. Yes, there are several Hall of Fame Quarterbacks drafted in the 1st Round, but for every Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly, and Steve Young, there are even more Andre Ware, Rick Mirer, and Heath Shulers that have set a franchise back for the better part of a decade. Drafting your Quarterback in the 1st Round guarantees you nothing.