Mid-to-Late Round QBs and the Modern NFL

Even the most casual NFL fan probably knows the story of Tom Brady, the most famous of the late round QBs. With the Broncos selection of Dysert in the 7th, I wanted to know how often do QBs taken in the 4th or later "succeed" in the NFL. I'm going to look back at the last 22 NFL season (1990-now) and look at some numbers as well as tell some of the stories of these guys. You'll see that there is a precedent for a guy like Dysert succeeding in the NFL but the odds are long. So unless you are like Han Solo, read on, because I am going to tell you the odds511twefuajl


Since 1990 there have been 162 QBs taken in the 4th round or later - 8 of them were taken this year, 4 in the 4th and 4 in the 7th. By round the numbers break down like this

4th 39 (+4 in 2013)
5th 31
6th 44
7th 48 (+4 in 2013)

The distribution is pretty even with the largest percentage being in the 7th round. These late round QBs are not just limited to the smaller school prospects either as many of the QBs taken late have come from BS programs. So now let's look at what % of QBs drafted in each round actually appeared in an NFL game and had a year as the teams main starting QB - again parsed by round

Round Total No appearances % Dud % 1yr Starter % Multi-yr Starter
4th 35 3 9% 24% 17%
5th 31 9 29% 13% 6%
6th 44 13 30% 23% 14%
7th 48 12 25% 4% 6%

The % dud is just the % of the QBs taken in that round who never appeared in an NFL game (e.g. for 5th rounders 9 of 31 QBs - 29% - never appeared in an NFL game). You can see that a 4th rounder at least has a better chance of appearing in a game than a QB taken in the 5th or later where 3 out of 4 never take an NFL snap. The other two columns are pretty self-explanatory. There is one QB who is credited with being a starter for one year who was taken in the 4th round, but he didn't start at QB - Brad Smith. So I counted him as half of a starting QB for the %. I was surprised to see that 1 in 7 QBs taken in the 6th since 1990 have gone one to be a milt-year starters. I would have thought that number would be much lower. There are some familiar names in among these guys as you will see below when I go into more depth on a few of the multi-year starters - and I am not going to bother discussing Brady who is likely to be the only Hall of Fame QB in this group.

The 4th round QBs

There have been 6 guys drafted in the 4th who have gone on to be multi-year starters at QB in the NFL (# of year as a starter): Scott Mitchell (5), Rob Johnson (2), Danny Kanell (2), Aaron Brooks (5), David Garrard (5), Kyle Orton (4)


I sincerely doubt that either Garrard or Orton will ever be a starter again so these numbers are not going to change unless Kirk Cousins or one of the 4th rounders from this year secure a spot - Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones. The slide of the the golden child from the U. of Spoiled Children, Matt Barkley, has been well chronicled, but he has the potential to end up with a Kyle Orton-like career. Statistically, one of those five will be a multi-year starter. My money is on Barkley because I think Kelly will realize that he is the best QB on the Eagles roster and mold the offense around him.There are a lot of similarities between Orton and Barkley. They are both cerebral QBs who aren't going to scramble. They both can make all the throws accurately but do not have cannon arms. They both enter (or entered) the NFL with a legitimate shot at getting the starting job as rookies. Orton started 15 games a rookie for the 2005 Bears despite the presence of the oft-injured first round QB, Rex Grossman, on the team. Barkley enters a situation where Foles started the games at the end of the season after Vick started the first 10. The QB battle in Philly will be interesting to watch and living so close to Philly I will be forced to hear about.

The 5th round QBs

The 5th round has been a wasteland in terms of starting QBs. There have only been two multi-year starters drafted since 1990 and one of them only started for two years: Mark Brunell (11), Craig Erickson (2). Brunell was a 3 time pro-bowler. Brunell had a decent career, but a career record of 78-73 along with his general lack of playoff success meant that he won't even sniff the Hall of Fame. Erickson has a very odd story. He played at the more well-known Miami in the late 80s/early 90s when they were still a football power. He quarterbacked the Hurricanes to the 1989 national championship and was rewarded with the Johnny Unitas Award (best college QB) for his efforts in 1990. Here's where it get's strange. He was drafted both in 1991 and in 1992. He is one of the few NFL players to be drafted twice by an NFL team. He was drafted in the 5th round by the Eagles in 1991 and then in the 4th round by the Bucs in 1992. The reason, if I recall correctly, is that he didn't want to play for the Eagles and he thought he was worth more than a 5th round pick. I don't remember exactly how it all went down, but he ended up being a two year starter for the Bucs starting 29 games for them in 3 seasons.

The other two guys drafted in the 5th who are listed as being one year "starters" are A.J. Feeley and Dan Orlovsky. I'm pretty sure that neither guy began an NFL season as a starting QB. Feeley started 8 games for the Fins in 2004 (going 3-5) and Orlovsky started 7 for the horrible 2008 Lions (going 0-7). Orlovsky also quarterbacked the Colts to their only 2 wins in the their "suck-for-Luck" year.

The 6th round QBs

There are six QBs taken in the 6th since 1990 who have become multi-year starters(years as a starter): Jeff Blake (8), Jim Miller (2), Matt Hasselback (10), Tom Brady (11), Marc Bulger (8), Derek Anderson (3). With the exception of Jeff Blake, all of these guys played for BS automatic qualifier schools. Blake went to East Carolina. The four guys who only started for one year are John Friesz, Craig Whelihan, Brooks Bollinger and Bruce Gradkowski. Gradkowski is still in the league and backed up Dalton in Cincy last year. He could still end up as the Bungals starter if Dalton goes down, but he is never going to be anyone's starter barring injury. Gradkowski has probably the most parallels to Dysert since they both played in the MAC (Gradkowski at Toledo). He stepped in as the starter for the Bucs as a rookie in 2006 after Chris Simms was atrocious in the first three games of the season (1 TD, 7 INT). Gradkowski started 11 games for the Bucs as a rookie, but has only started 9 since - 8 of those for Jokeland (3-5 record). Gradkoswki finished his college career with 85 TDs and only 27 Ints while completing 68% of his passes. All of his college numbers are better than Dysert's except passing yards which Gradkowski would have eclipsed if he started for 4 years at Toledo (he only started 3).


The 7th Rounders

The have only been two guys who were one-year starters: Tim Rattay and Tyler Thigpen. Rattay played at the BS level, but in a non-AQ conference (La Tech); Thigpen played at the FCS level (Coastal Carolina). Rattay started 9 games for the 2004 49ers (going 1-8) that finished the season 2-14 and drafted Alex Smith #1 overall the next year. Thigpen similarly started 11 games (going 1-10) from the 2008 Chiefs who finished the season 2-14. The Chiefs "upgraded" to another 7th round QB the following year, Matt Cassel. He has worked out really well for them (lol).

There have been three multi-year starters drafted in the 7th since 1990: Gus Frerotte (5), Matt Cassel (5) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (5). Frerotte (Tulsa) and Fitzpatrick (Harvard) both played at lower level college football schools. Cassel "played" at the U. of Spoiled Children where he backed Heisman winning QBs for 4 years. Frerotte is probably the closest overall parallel to Dysert in that they both played BS but at lower level (non-AQ). Size-wise they are also comparable (Frerrote was/is 6-3, 237 lbs). Gus actually started 4 games as a rookie in the middle of the season for the 94 Skins (games 8-11). He played 15 NFL seasons and started 93 games at QB (46 for the Skins, 7 for the Broncos). He finished with a career win/loss record of 45-47-1. He was actually the main starting QB for the Vikings during his final NFL season - 2008 - when he started 11 games (going 8-3) for a Vikings team that finished 10-6 and made the playoffs. Gus was injured in the 11th game and never took another NFL snap.


So what does all this history mean?

The point of this fanpost is to show that there is a precedent for a long-term starting QB to be found in the mid-to-late rounds, but the odds are strongly against it. When Peyton finally hangs up his cleats, the starting QB for the Broncos could be Zac Dysert, but the odds are strongly against it. Were I a betting man, I might wager a few bucks on it now (assuming someone in Vegas would actually take the bet) since it would be a huge payout (100 to 1 or more) should it occur in three or four years.

The other interesting thing to note is that a handful of these guys have been showcased and then dealt to other teams for draft picks - buy low, sell high. Hasselback, Feeley, Cassel and Flynn (7th rounder) were all turned into significant value after very minimal draft capitol was invested in them:

Hasselback netted the Packers an extra 3rd round pick in 2001.

Feeley netted the Eagles an extra 2nd round pick in in 2005.

Cassel netted the Pats an extra 2nd round pick (#34 overall) in 2009.

Flynn netted the Packers an extra 3rd round compensatory pick in 2013. He was also traded from the Seachickens to the Raiders for a 2014 5th round pick and a conditional 2015 pick.

Dysert could be used that way if he unseats Oz as the #2 guy behind PFM, particularly if he is able to showcase his talent in a meaningless end-of-the-regular-season game (ala Flynn) where we are resting PFM.


Everyone be safe during the true off-season for the NFL.

Go Broncos!

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Mile High Report

You must be a member of Mile High Report to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mile High Report. You should read them.

Join Mile High Report

You must be a member of Mile High Report to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mile High Report. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.