Mid-Round QBs May Have The Best Value

Remember when Kevin Kolb was the next great thing? Kolb, along with players like Matt Cassel and Green Bay's Matt Flynn were mid to late round picks who outperformed their Draft status. It just goes to show u why some of this year's hopefuls offer tremendous value.

   When the Houston Texans tabbed T.J. Yates with the 152nd overall selection in last year's draft, team executives had no inkling that the fifth-round afterthought from North Carolina would end up starting the final five contests of the regular season, along with the club's first-ever playoff appearance.

   "But it's a good reason for why you try to make every pick count," Houston general manager Rick Smith acknowledged.

   Especially if those choices are at quarterback.

   In the past five drafts, 38 of the 61 quarterbacks selected were chosen in the fourth round or later, and 24 are still on NFL rosters.

   Even in a league where the number of draft picks that make rosters in some fashion as first-year players (including injured reserve) has increased significantly the past decade or so, that 63.1 percent success rate is pretty admirable, even if most of the late-round quarterbacks are currently No. 3 on their respective teams' depth charts.

   Indeed, the batting average for quarterbacks who were chosen in the fourth round or later, and who earned roster spots as rookies, isn't significantly less than that for all players chosen after the third round in the same period.

   The eventual washout rate is definitely less.

   That might be because teams are more willing to wait on later-round quarterbacks to develop.

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   But no matter the reason, it bodes well for 2012 middle- and late-round signal-caller prospects such as Russell Wilson of Wisconsin, San Diego State's Ryan Lindley, Nick Foles of Arizona, Tennessee-Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman, and a few others.

   Wilson is a good example of a player who, while less than six feet tall and possessed of only modest arm strength, figures to be worth a late-round choice next week. He is bright on and off the field, decisive, resourceful and has a knack for making timely plays with both his feet and his arm. The bet among scouts is that, despite physical shortcomings, he will find a way onto someone's depth chart as a No. 3 guy. The bigger and stronger-armed Lindley has gotten plenty of looks over the past couple of weeks from a number of teams.

   One can project that if a guy like Michigan State's Kirk Cousins slips beyond the third round, the former Spartans' standout, whose toughness and leaderships skills are much admired, will be a coveted prospect

   Over the past five years, there have never been more than 14 quarterbacks selected in the draft, and never more than seven in the top three rounds. That leaves plenty of slots for quarterback candidates in the final four rounds. Over the past three years, 22 quarterbacks have been picked after the third round and, while this year's draft could dramatically reshape depth charts, eight of them are currently listed as the primary backups for their respective franchises.

   "Usually, when a team takes a quarterback," said Wilson, "there's something to it. You take nothing for granted. Being drafted doesn't guarantee you a (roster) spot. But it's a good sign a team has a plan for you."

   And, sometimes, unexpected events occur and the plans just make themselves.

   The Green Bay Packers picked Matt Flynn in the seventh round in 2008, and he won only one game in four seasons with the team, but became one of the hottest free agents in the NFL this spring. Green Bay didn't get anything in return for Flynn when he signed a three-year, $19 million contract with Seattle this spring, but the Packers' propensity for identifying and choosing serviceable quarterbacks late in the draft -- even if they end up playing for someone else (Matt Hasselbeck originally was a sixth-rounder for the team and Aaron Brooks was a fourth-round choice) in the league -- was extended.

   John Skelton, a fifth-round pick by Arizona in 2010, ended up winning five games for the Cardinals in 2011. The highly-touted Kevin Kolb, who cost the Cardinals corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a trade with Philadelphia and then a five-year, $63 million contract, won three games.

   Of the 32 projected starting quarterbacks for the 2012 season, seven entered the NFL having been chosen after the third round. Flynn is the lone one taken in the past five drafts, but that won't make teams reluctant to grab up quarterbacks on the third day of the lottery.

   For the first time since 1999, quarterbacks will occupy the first two spots in a draft. But that leaves plenty of slots open for other quarterbacks. And if history holds true, many of them will be chosen in the final four rounds, and end up making teams.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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