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History dictates teams must find QBs early

I shared with you recently that an NFL scout related to me his opinion that any team hoping for a good chance at finding a starting quarterback should think of accomplishing that goal early in the draft, certainly not much later than the first round.

Well, the folks at draftmetrics.com are putting statistical weight behind that opinion now.

In studying the NFL drafts of 1991-2010, draftmetrics has come up with the astonishing fact that over 48 percent of quarterbacks starts the past 20 years were made by players selected in the first round (selections 1-28), which is nearly twice as much as the average for all positions.

There have been 241 QBs selected by NFL clubs from 1991-2010 and a whopping 68.2 percent of the ones picked within the first 13 picks of the draft became five-year starters.

Let that marinate for a moment.

The NFL draft is, in my opinion, a 50-50 proposition. Bill Parcells famously said, "they don't sell insurance for this."

Yet nearly 7 of 10 QBs picked between No. 1-13 overall were good enough to be starting for their teams for a long time. That is impressive.

The draftmetrics folks also bust the myth that drafting a quarterback must necessarily be an exercise in patience because 30 QBs over the past 20 years of drafting have started at least eight games in their rookie seasons.

Why am I sharing this you?

Well, if you think the Dolphins can find a five-year starter with the No. 15 overall selection in the coming draft, this study suggests the chances are much better if Miami could trade up a couple of spots to get a higher rated player.

It tells you that if you are convinced the Dolphins cannot find a 2011 starting quarterback in this draft, you are not recognizing facts because 30 rookies did exactly that since 1991.

If you are advocating the Dolphins trade back -- rather than up -- to add a pick and take a lesser rated QB, history is saying you're making a bad deal. Consider that while 68.2 percent of QBs picked by the 13th overall pick become five-year starters, only 14.3 percent of QBs picked between selections 49 and 74 accomplished the feat and only 6.7 percent of QBs selected from 74-114 overall accomplished the feat.

Point is teams maximize their chances of success with QBs by getting them earlier. And the ones that come late are typically not going to solve your QB issues.

Yes, there are exceptions. Tom Brady was the 199th player selected. Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent.

But exceptions are rare.

The top quarterbacks, the quarterbacks that start right away and last for at least five years as starters go early in the first round, according to the 20-year study.

So what does this mean in today's real world?

Well, it means that Blaine Gabbert, likely the first quarterback off the board in 2010 and likely a Top 10 pick, has a very good chance of being a success according to the history.

It means that JaMarcus Russell's failure was the exception and not the rule.

It means that quarterbacks teams rate as later prospects are more likely to become Brady Quinn than Tom Brady.

All of this should give teams pause. And it does. I know for a fact teams conduct similar studies of past drafts to maximize their chances of success.

So say, for example, the Dolphins have Nevada's Colin Kaepernick on their board as the No. 49 rated player ... Well, the historical probability of him becoming a five-year starter for Miami?

14.3 percent.

Think about that.

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