Inside Slant: QB drafting is 50-50

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
12:15
PM ET
Quarterback movement has loomed large during the first quarter of this season. So as the dust settles, it's worth considering a big-picture verdict on acquiring talent at the position.

The bottom line: Over the past 10 years, drafting a quarterback in the first round has been about a 50-50 proposition in terms of finding a long-term starter.

The most recent transition has come for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose messy soap opera has engulfed Josh Freeman, the No. 17 overall pick in 2009. Freeman joins '09 classmate Mark Sanchez as former starters who are unlikely to take another snap for the team that drafted him.

The chart shows the 31 quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past 10 years. Of that group, 16 are starters -- including 14 for their original teams. (Or, in the cases of Eli Manning and Philip Rivers in 2004, the team that ultimately acquired them on draft day.) Two others are on track to resume starting when they return from injuries. Five are backups and seven are out of the league, while Sanchez likely is sidelined for the season by injury.

We are in an unprecedented era of quarterback desperation. In the 10 drafts from 1993-2002, NFL teams selected 19 quarterbacks in the first round. That means there was a 37 percent uptick in using first-round picks on QBs from 2003-12.

You would like attribute that trend to a better talent pool, but I think we know otherwise. Restraint is no longer an option at quarterback. I would be stunned if we ever see another year like 1996, when the class was so weak that no quarterback was drafted until the second round at No. 42 overall (Tony Banks) and then not again until the third round at No. 85 (Bobby Hoying).

That makes it easier to understand the failure rate over the past 10 years. Call it the QB Desperation Factor. Details in the individual cases vary, however.

Certainly there were risks, from the Denver Broncos' selection of Tim Tebow in 2010 to the Cleveland Browns' decision to trade up to select Brandon Weeden in 2012. In some cases, as my ESPN colleague Mike Sando has pointed out, quarterbacks are displaced not because they were mistakes but because their teams hired new coaches and/or general managers who wanted to start fresh. That happened to Jay Cutler in Denver, resulting in his 2009 trade to the Chicago Bears, and has also played a role in the Freeman drama.

What does this mean moving forward? Quarterbacks and more quarterbacks, I would guess. The most recent Scouts Inc. evaluation of the 2014 draft revealed five quarterbacks among the top 32 players.

Given the QB Desperation Factor, how many can we expect to be selected? The Monday Morning Quarterback predicts nine in the first round! That makes sense. In this era of 50-50 success rate, you draft nine to get five.


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