NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock addressed a conference call of media members prior to this week’s start of the annual Scouting Combine. As would be expected, much of the topic centered on quarterbacks – always the “sexiest” position in the draft in terms of mobilizing a fan base around the Next Big Thing.
Mayock provided an analysis of the last 10 years of quarterbacks selected in the first round – which number at 26 – including two that are currently on the Minnesota Vikings roster (Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater).
Mayock put a caveat on quarterbacks taken in the last two drafts, because it is far too early to project how they will mature as NFL quarterbacks, although he ominously omitted Rams first-overall selection Jared Goff.
“In the last 10 years, there have been 26 first-round quarterbacks drafted,” Mayock said. “I'm going to discount the last two years, just because it's not fair to grade those kids yet. Although, like most people, I'm kind of bullish on [Jameis] Winston, [Marcus] Mariota and Carson Wentz. But if you look at the last eight years beyond that – in other words, '07 through , there have been 21 first-round quarterbacks. Out of that group, there are either four or five franchise quarterbacks. There's Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and if you want to put Joe Flacco in there.”
Depending on one’s overall view of Flacco, that represents a success rate of, whether you exclude or include Flacco, 19 or 24 percent. Simply translated, your odds of landing a franchise quarterback are minimal and, considering that three of the four (or five) QBs listed as true franchise were the No. 1 overall pick, if you didn’t have the first pick when you selected a QB, your odds of getting a franchise quarterback were, again, whether or not you want to include Flacco, are either 1-of-18 or 2-of-18 – 5.6 percent of 11.1 percent.
The other first-round picks have been much more miss than hit, including several blue-chip QBs – including Bradford, the No. 1 pick in 2010. Shockingly, of the “other 21” QBs taken in the first round over the last decade – a list that includes current Viking Bridgewater and former Viking Christian Ponder – almost half aren’t even in the league anymore.
“After that, there are nine first-round kids not even in the league anymore,” Mayock said. “Then, as far as starting quarterbacks go, you've got [Blake] Bortles, [Ryan] Tannehill, [Sam] Bradford and Flacco. Again, depending on what category you want Flacco in. Then there are four back-ups, or Teddy Bridgewater, who has been hurt, E.J. Manuel, RG3 [Robert Griffin III] and [Mark] Sanchez. So it gives you a pretty good feel for the hit rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round.”
If anything has been learned from this, it’s that quarterback talent is more a blend of talent and opportunity to find success. Some of the league’s better quarterbacks have been selected after Day 1 of the draft.
While sixth-round pick Tom Brady and undrafted Tony Romo remain the template of a QB chance that struck gold, in recent years we have witnessed a handful of quarterbacks outside the first round who have enjoyed better-than-expected success.
“Beyond the first round, there has been Derek Carr in the second, I'd throw Garoppolo in there as a potential quality starter in the second, Russell Wilson in the third, Kirk Cousins in the fourth and Andy Dalton in the second,” Mayock said. “So, five potential quality starters outside of the first round.”
The bottom line is that, as the draft nears, the stock of quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer will likely be on the rise.
But, for those who are looking for franchise salvation early in the opening night of the draft, Mayock cautions that, while some of them will become the stars of tomorrow, the smarter approach may well be to keep throwing darts at quarterbacks in the later rounds and hope you unearth a diamond in the rough.
“The numbers aren't real good,” Mayock said. “The four franchise guys out of 21, five, if you include Flacco, you're looking at about a 20 percent chance of drafting a franchise quarterback for the first-round pick. And my message to NFL teams would be you've got to keep trying. You've got to keep swinging. Like (Seattle’s) Pete Carroll and John Schneider did, they signed [Matt] Flynn to the big free-agent contract, and they still that same year went out and drafted Russell Wilson in the third. And by the way, they have been doing that for several years, kind of looking for a quarterback.”