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Re-Analysis of Quarterback Success Based on Draft Spot

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We recently posted an article detailing the relationship between a quarterback’s success (as measured by Pro Bowls) and the round in which he was drafted.  A few of the conclusions we drew were:

  • Among all first-rounders, there is a 32% chance of making a single Pro Bowl.  That number actually rises to 38% among first round quarterbacks.
  • Second-rounders of all positions have a 15.3% chance of making a single Pro Bowl.  Among quarterbacks, that number soars to 32%.
  • Perhaps the best draft strategy for quarterback-needy teams is to bypass the position in the first round and secure a potential Pro Bowl signal-caller in round two.

A reader pointed out that, while we may be correct in assuming the disparity between first and second round quarterbacks is not as great as conventional wisdom may suggest, we must not overlook the fact that first round quarterbacks tend to get selected higher (within the round) than quarterbacks in other rounds.  Thus, they are more likely to go to a poor team, meaning they will have a more difficult time making a Pro Bowl.

The theory made sense, so we analyzed the draft spots of all quarterbacks taken in either the first or second round from 1980-2005.  The results are listed to the left.  Notice that, as the reader presumed, first round quarterbacks tend to get selected near the top of the round.  Of the 53 quarterbacks selected from 1980-2005, the mean draft spot was 10.5, with 35 of those 53 (66.0%) being drafted with the 12th or higher selection.

Meanwhile, 25 quarterbacks were drafted in round two during the same time period, with an average draft spot of 16.9.  Only 8 of the 25 (32.0%) were drafted with the 12th or higher selection.

Ultimately, first round quarterbacks do tend to get drafted higher by (generally) worse teams, lessening the likelihood that they make a Pro Bowl.  This could (partially) explain why the percentage of Pro Bowl quarterbacks from the first round (38%) is not much greater than those from the second round (32%).

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4 Responses to Re-Analysis of Quarterback Success Based on Draft Spot

  1. Vince Grey says:

    Well, since I think I’m the cause of all this extra work and effort, I feel obligated to post a comment, but in this case I actually have something to add that may be relevant.

    Based on my thought that QB’s are over-valued in the draft, I posed the question to myself: Why?

    Part of the reason is obvious. QB is the most important position on an NFL team. A great one can take an average team to a SB, while not having a good one can sink an otherwise very talented team.

    The rest is obvious as well, if one thinks about it. Follow the logical progression:

    Bad teams generally have poor quarterbacking.

    Bad teams draft high.

    Bad teams are desperate for better quarterbacking, and thus focus on available QB’s in the draft. Flaws, either physical or psychological, are diminished or ignored, and a QB who would likely grade out as a much lower selection is “pushed” to the top of the draft.

    This isn’t always the case, of course. A Peyton Manning, Elway, or Aikman, is a no-brainer by any measure or standard, but it’s clear that often a college QB is vaulted to elite status merely by the wants and needs of the league’s teams.

    A QB is drafted, often much higher then he should have gone, to bad team, and usually thrown into action before he’s ready.

    Is it any wonder so many fail miserably?

    It is, in many ways, an odd and self-prophesying cycle. A creature that feeds on it’s own tail, so to speak.

  2. Great analysis. That is actually worthy of being put in an article I couldn’t agree more, Vince.

  3. Vince Grey says:

    Many thanks. If you can use it in an article, feel free to do so.

  4. Thanks Vince. I’ll keep that in mind.

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