Jameis Winston is widely expected to be the first player chosen in the NFL draft April 30, and it’s easy to see why. As a freshman, he set the FBS record for touchdown passes with 40, won the Heisman Trophy and led Florida State to the national championship in an undefeated season.
After Winston’s freshman season, he had little room to improve his statistics. But when compared with what Winston did in 2013, history suggests his accomplishments his sophomore season might be a reason for concern for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have the first selection in this year’s draft.
Winston’s Total QBR in 2014 (74.5) was nearly 15 points worse than it was in 2013 (89.4), when he led FBS quarterbacks in that metric.
As the projected No. 1 pick, Winston will be the seventh quarterback since 2008 to be drafted in the first three rounds whose college QBR regressed from his first season as a starter to his last. The other six quarterbacks have not have success in the NFL, to put it lightly.
Marcus Mariota, the consensus choice as the second quarterback to be drafted, improved his Total QBR in each season at Oregon, culminating in an FBS-leading 90.9 QBR in 2014.
Nine quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds since 2008 improved in QBR while logging at least one elite season (defined as having a QBR of 80 or more). They have a .543 career winning percentage in the NFL and a combined 25 playoff starts. Those nine quarterbacks include Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
History indicates success for both is hardly guaranteed
In the common draft era (since 1967), two quarterbacks have been selected within the first 10 picks a total of 21 times.
In four of those 21 instances have both quarterbacks started a Super Bowl and/or been elected to the Pro Bowl. Rather than both quarterbacks meeting either of those standards, the most common outcome has been that one of the two finds such success (14 instances).
It’s not just accolades separating the two when there is a disparity. The successful quarterback has made 111 more career starts on average.
The biggest difference has been between Peyton Manning (256 career starts) and Ryan Leaf (21 career starts).
Even when both quarterbacks have made a Super Bowl and/or a Pro Bowl, there hasn’t been unanimity about their entire careers. Kerry Collins (1995) is one, as is Robert Griffin III (2012), who has received mixed reviews since his rookie season.