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Success rates of drafted quarterbacks

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What’s in a draft pick when it comes to a quarterback?

NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

One of the topics that sprung from the latest round of MHR QB debating, was the success rate for drafted QBs and how that changes by round in which they were drafted. In order to analyze this we first need to set our time-frame (I chose 1990 to present) and then define “success”.

Defining a successful pick at QB is difficult because success varies based upon draft position, but if you are drafted in the first half of the first round, you are expected to start immediately in the modern NFL (this changed around 2007 roughly) and you are only a successful pick if you are multi-year starter at QB for the team that drafted you. You could argue that you are not a successful pick at QB in the top 16 unless you are a multi-year starter on a winning team, but I will not make that argument (feel free to do so in the comments).

So let’s look first at the 47 QB’s taken in the top 16 picks since (and including) the 1990 draft.

Year Pick Name Pos Tm From To AP1 PB St CarAV G GS QBrec
1998 1 Peyton Manning QB IND 1998 2015 7 14 17 177 266 265 186-79-0
2004 1 Eli Manning QB SDG 2004 2016 0 4 12 109 201 199 108-91-0
1993 1 Drew Bledsoe QB NWE 1993 2006 0 4 12 103 194 193 98-95-0
2003 1 Carson Palmer QB CIN 2004 2016 0 3 11 106 175 174 89-84-1
2005 1 Alex Smith QB SFO 2005 2016 0 2 9 81 141 136 79-56-1
1990 1 Jeff George QB IND 1990 2001 0 0 9 65 131 124 46-78-0
2001 1 Michael Vick QB ATL 2001 2015 0 4 7 93 143 115 61-51-1
2009 1 Matthew Stafford QB DET 2009 2016 0 1 7 75 109 109 51-58-0
2011 1 Cam Newton QB CAR 2011 2016 1 3 6 84 93 92 51-40-1
2002 1 David Carr QB HOU 2002 2012 0 0 5 44 94 79 23-56-0
2010 1 Sam Bradford QB STL 2010 2016 0 0 5 42 78 78 32-45-1
2012 1 Andrew Luck QB IND 2012 2016 0 3 4 59 70 70 43-27-0
1999 1 Tim Couch QB CLE 1999 2003 0 0 4 30 62 59 22-37-0
2015 1 Jameis Winston QB TAM 2015 2016 0 1 2 24 32 32 15-17-0
2007 1 JaMarcus Russell QB OAK 2007 2009 0 0 2 6 31 25 7-18-0
2016 1 Jared Goff QB LAR 2016 2016 0 0 0 -2 7 7 0-7-0
1999 2 Donovan McNabb QB PHI 1999 2011 0 6 11 107 167 161 98-62-1
1993 2 Rick Mirer QB SEA 1993 2003 0 0 5 32 80 68 24-44-0
2012 2 Robert Griffin QB WAS 2012 2016 0 1 2 35 42 40 15-25-0
2015 2 Marcus Mariota QB TEN 2015 2016 0 0 2 22 27 27 11-16-0
2016 2 Carson Wentz QB PHI 2016 2016 0 0 1 10 16 16 7-9-0
1998 2 Ryan Leaf QB SDG 1998 2001 0 0 0 1 25 21 4-17-0
1995 3 Steve McNair QB HOU 1995 2007 0 3 10 100 161 153 91-62-0
2008 3 Matt Ryan QB ATL 2008 2016 1 4 9 111 142 142 85-57-0
2002 3 Joey Harrington QB DET 2002 2007 0 0 6 30 81 76 26-50-0
2006 3 Vince Young QB TEN 2006 2011 0 2 4 33 60 50 31-19-0
2014 3 Blake Bortles QB JAX 2014 2016 0 0 3 28 46 45 11-34-0
1994 3 Heath Shuler QB WAS 1994 1997 0 0 2 6 29 22 8-14-0
1999 3 Akili Smith QB CIN 1999 2002 0 0 1 1 22 17 3-14-0
2004 4 Philip Rivers QB NYG 2004 2016 0 6 11 128 180 176 97-79-0
1995 5 Kerry Collins QB CAR 1995 2011 0 2 11 81 198 180 81-99-0
2009 5 Mark Sanchez QB NYJ 2009 2016 0 0 5 34 77 72 37-35-0
1994 6 Trent Dilfer QB TAM 1994 2007 0 1 6 51 130 113 58-55-0
1992 6 David Klingler QB CIN 1992 1997 0 0 1 11 33 24 4-20-0
2003 7 Byron Leftwich QB JAX 2003 2012 0 0 3 33 60 50 24-26-0
1990 7 Andre Ware QB DET 1990 1993 0 0 0 5 14 6 3-3-0
2012 8 Ryan Tannehill QB MIA 2012 2016 0 0 5 50 77 77 37-40-0
2011 8 Jake Locker QB TEN 2011 2014 0 0 1 15 30 23 9-14-0
2011 10 Blaine Gabbert QB JAX 2011 2016 0 0 3 12 43 40 9-31-0
2006 10 Matt Leinart QB ARI 2006 2012 0 0 1 12 33 18 8-10-0
2004 11 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT 2004 2016 0 5 13 113 185 183 123-60-0
2006 11 Jay Cutler QB DEN 2006 2016 0 1 9 84 139 139 68-71-0
1999 11 Daunte Culpepper QB MIN 1999 2009 0 3 5 86 105 100 41-59-0
2011 12 Christian Ponder QB MIN 2011 2014 0 0 3 22 38 36 14-21-1
1999 12 Cade McNown QB CHI 1999 2000 0 0 0 7 25 15 3-12-0
2013 16 EJ Manuel QB BUF 2013 2016 0 0 1 10 28 17 8-11-0
1991 16 Dan McGwire QB SEA 1991 1995 0 0 0 2 13 5 2-3-0

Nine of these 47 QB’s were not starters for more than one season in the NFL. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz would make that number 11, but they will most likely be their team’s starting QB in 2017. Those 9 guys are names that you probably remember because of how ridiculed each franchise was for taking that QB: Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, David Klingler, Andre Ware, Jake Locker, Matt Leinart, Cade McNown, EJ Manuel and Dan McGwire.

Their teams combined to go 42-104 in their starts during their career. That’s a 29% winning percentage, IOW the Cleveland Browns. So this means that if 19% failed - 81% succeeded- right? Well, now we’ve walked into this gray area about what determines success if you are a QB taken in the first 16 picks? If these guys were or are average to below average starters are they considered a successful pick? IOW, do they need to be “franchise QB’s” to be considered a successful pick if they are taken that high in the draft? I don’t have a good answer for that, so I am going to stick with my initial definition of a successful draft pick at QB - multi-year starter in the NFL.

So now we get to the table showing the the success rate by round - and I have broken the 1st round into high (1-16) and low (17-32).

QB's drafted 1990-2016
pick success %
1-16 81%
17-32 65%
2nd round 48%
3rd round 25%
4th round 13%
5th round 6%
6th round 16%
7th round 6%

So there were 18 QB’s taken with picks 17-32 and six of them were failed picks: Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, Todd Marinovich, Tim Tebow, Jim Druckenmiller and Patrick Ramsey.

Paxton Lynch is not in that group because he has only been in the league one year so he has not had a chance yet to be a multi-year starter. Of course you should all be asking yourselves this question by now: If Paxton Lynch develops into a good, but not elite QB, was that a successful draft pick by the Broncos? I’m almost certain that will get debated in the comments, so I leave that for there.

For the second round picks it gets easier to name the successes than the failures: Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Jake Plummer, Andy Dalton, Tony Banks, Colin Kaepernick, Kordell Stewart, Charlie Batch, Derek Carr, Chad Henne, Geno Smith, Kellen Clemens, Quincy Carter and Tarvaris Jackson.

Here’s where my definition starts to falter. Would you consider Geno Smith a successful pick? Most people wouldn’t, but he was a multi-year starter for the Jets. The same could be said about Charlie Batch, Kellen Clemens, Quincy Carter and Tarvaris Jackson. I did a double take when I read this, but Quincy Carter had a winning record as a starting QB in the NFL (18-16).

For the third round picks the success rate drops way off. Here are the successful QB picks from the 3rd in the past 27 NFL drafts: Neil O'Donnell, Matt Schaub, Russell Wilson, Josh McCown, Brian Griese, Nick Foles, Colt McCoy and Trent Edwards.

That’s 9 successes out of 32 picks.

The success rate continues to fall in the 4th and 5th rounds and then goes up slightly in the 6th round. The 4th round saw 4 successes out of 44 QB’s (Dak Prescott will make 5 of out 45 next season): Aaron Brooks, Scott Mitchell, Kyle Orton, David Garrard, Kirk Cousins and Danny Kanell,

The 5th round had only two out of 35: Mark Brunell and Craig Erickson.

The 6th round had 7 out of 52 successes: Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck, Jeff Blake, Marc Bulger, Derek Anderson, Jim Miller and Tyrod Taylor.

The 7th round has seen 3 out of 50: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gus Frerotte and Matt Cassel. Should Trevor Siemian be the starter for the Broncos (or any other team) this year or in the future he will join a very small group of multi-year starting QB’s who were drafted in the 7th round in the modern NFL.

Here we have another point of contention. Since Trevor Siemian has had a season as the primary starter for an NFL team, doesn’t that make him a wildly successful pick? The odds of 7th round picks making an NFL roster, much less becoming a starter are staggeringly low (but that’s a topic for another article). So should we credit the Broncos (Siemian), Rams (Fitzpatrick), team in DC (Frerotte) and the P*ts (Cassel) for finding and “developing” starters at QB in the 7th round more than we credit the Cowboys, for example, for finding a starter in the 4th round? I don’t have a good answer for that.

What I saw is that by becoming a starter in the NFL Trevor Siemian has already joined a small group of men who I called successful “afterthought quarterbacks” last year. Think about this, of the 51 QBs who have been selected in the 7th round since 1990, 31 of them (61%) never started an NFL game, 20 of them (39%) never appeared in an NFL game and 17 of them (33%) never made an NFL active roster.

The Chris Harris Jr's, Terrell Davis's, Shannon Sharpe's, Tom Brady's of the world are RARE... SUPER RARE and they get more rare with each passing year as scouting gets better and internet makes knowledge more accessible. As you can see, late late late round gems that will be Hall of Famer’s just don't come often anymore. Even Tom Brady (most recent with respect to CHJ) were pre-internet ya know? Or internet in it's infancy. You just don't see that shit anymore cause of the volume of info readily available. -Pete Baron

Poll

Who will be a multi-year starting QB in the NFL

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Paxton Lynch
    (188 votes)
  • 14%
    Trevor Siemian
    (135 votes)
  • 13%
    Chad Kelly
    (126 votes)
  • 13%
    Lynch and Siemian
    (130 votes)
  • 33%
    All three will be - we’ve struck a QB gold mine!
    (317 votes)
  • 4%
    None of them will be - I’m gonna Sloter you
    (41 votes)
937 votes total Vote Now