Aside from a few grammatical errors (I’m sure you will find more today), Vince Young slotted at 1 overall, and one QB attributed to another team, my article on the “uphill climb” of first round QB’s was, picked apart. You can read that article here and judge for yourself. Today, aside from “Happy Mothers Day” to all of you Mom’s out there, I want to take a look at the success rates of QB’s in other rounds.
Now, when you read this, you must understand my thinking here. Yes, I realize that more QB’s are taken in later rounds than the first rounds so the numbers may be skewed because it’s difficult to compare the rates of 10 players to four. I am not trying to say that the success rates of later round QB’s is better than first round QB’s. Only that there is a higher margin of “bust” labeling to first round picks where those players are expected to become franchise players. Simply put, a player drafted in round 1 is expected to become a franchise QB whereas a player drafted in subsequent rounds are more often than not, considered to be developmental players.
So what defines success in the NFL? Number of Pro-Bowls, number of Super Bowls, longevity, statistical accomplishments? All of it? The point is that some of that success is determined by opinion. It’s easy to debate who was the better pure QB, John Elway or Dan Marino but depending on what team you support more, your opinion is going to be more slanted.
I should state my opinion of what I believe determines a bust, a success, or a franchise QB. First, I don’t take into account Pro-Bowls all that much. It’s a popularity contest at best. Take Vince Young for example. NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 Pro-Bowls, and the cover of Madden. Yet, to me, the guy is a bust for a number 3 overall pick. Did he become a franchise QB? No. Did he elevate his team to another level consistently? No. Where is he now? In my opinion, if the Dolphins would have drafted him, I would label him a mistake.
On the other side of that coin is Michael Vick. I am still out on his draft label overall. To a Falcons fan, they likely label him a bust. A wasted pick at the top of the draft. His prison sentence, his off-field issues, the lack of longevity. In Philly, he is working to resurrect his career but it’s likely he will never become the talent that the NFL thought he would be for a number one overall selection. I would also argue if he has ever truly become a “franchise” QB. Time of course will tell.
With that being said, before I dive into the names and numbers, I will only be looking at the drafts from 1984 to 2003 as the draft classes first round QB’s following the 2004 season are mostly still employed by their respective teams. I will say this again, this is not an argument that teams can or will find better success in round outside of the first for QB’s in the NFL Draft. It’s only to point out, as my first article was trying but ultimately seemed to fail to do, is show that a first round QB has a higher degree of success or failure given their drafting positions compared to players drafted later who do not hold the same boom or bust associated label going into their NFL careers.
1984 – In the regular draft no first round QB’s were taken. Steve Young was drafted one overall by the Buc’s in the USFL placement draft. He was labeled a failure in Tampa Bay and was traded to the 49’ers of course where he landed in the HOF. It’s safe to say that no one will recall his draft status in general conversations. In the 84 draft, Boomer Esiason and Jeff Hostetler were both taken in round 2 and found success in the NFL. In round 4 the Redskins drafted Jay Schroeder who had a decent if unremarkable career. A total of 15 QB’s were taken in that draft. Only two other names stand out and both were taken late. Blair Kiel and Kyle Mackey who were taken respectively by the Buc’s and Cardinals. Realistically, this draft class provided two players who had better than average careers.
1985 - Again no first round QB’s. In the second round, Randall Cunningham was taken and it’s safe to say he became a franchise QB. Frank Reich never became a franchise QB but his value to the Bills was un-measurable. Reich spent most of his career as a back-up to Jim Kelly but he led the team on several occasions to huge victories in support of the Bills 4 Super Bowl runs. A total of 11 QB’s were taken on draft day with Doug Flutie selected in round 11. Today, he would have been an un-drafted free agent. The fact that Flutie found any success in the NFL at all after being drafted so late is reason to mention his name as having a successful NFL career. He will never make the HOF but Flutie never quit. It should be mentioned that Bernie Kosar was taken in the first round of that years supplemental draft.
1986 – Jim Everett went in round 1 and the only two out of the remaining QB class that made themselves decent careers was Mark Rypien and Steeler QB Bubby Brister. Jack Trudeau was taken by the Colts in round 2 and never lived up to his draft standing.
1987 – 4 QB’s were taken in round 1, Vinny Testeverde, Chris Miller, Jim Harbaugh, and Kelly Stouffer. In my first article, I didn’t apparently give enough credit to Harbaugh and while I may have been off a little bit I would still argue that two players taken outside of round 1 had better NFL success than the first round class of this year. Rich Gannon and Steve Beuerline. Gannon led the Raiders to a Super Bowl while Beurline played for several teams both as a back-up and a starter finding his most success with the Carolina Panthers. Other notables in the 87 draft were Don Majkowski of the Green Bay Packers who was the teams long time starter until the arrival of Brett Favre and Mark Vlasic who developed into a reliable back-up. Majkowski was taken in the 10th round, Vlasic, Gannon, and Beuerline were all taken in the 4th.
1988 – There were not QB’s taken in round 1 but that isn’t overly surprising. In the entire 88 draft, only a few QB’s ever truly made any name for themselves. Tom Tupa and Chris Chandler in round 3, and Stan Humphries and Scott Secules in round 6. Although, outside of Miami, most NFL fans would likely not know Secules.
1989 - Troy Aikman was the creme’ of the draft class. The only selection in round 1. The talent level was marginal at best and only Rodney Peete taken in round 6, Billy Joe Toliver in round 2, and Erik Wilhelm in round 3 ever made remote impact in their careers.
1990 – Jeff George and Andre Ware were the first rounders but I would argue that more success came from the other rounds, albeit only two names. In round 3 Neil O’Donnell and in round 4 Scott Mitchell. Mitchell never lived up to his free agent hype after leaving Miami but he still found decent success in Detroit. George had all the tools to be great but never became close to a franchise QB. Ware was also a bust.
1991 – Two QB’s were taken in round 1 of 91, Dan McGuire and Todd Marinovich. Other notable names, Scott Zolak and Browning Nagle. Both selected in rounds 4 and 2 respectively. Oh, and some guy named Brett Favre was taken in round 2. Ironically, the start of his NFL career mimicked his final years. He was traded from Atlanta to GB where of course he found the most success and status as a future HOF QB.
1992 – Tommy Maddox and David Klingler were this years first rounders. Brad Johnson taken in round 9 had more success statistically. Jeff Blake was taken by the Jets in round six and in round 9 along with Johnson, Ty Detmer was drafted. Detmer had a decent if unspectacular career as a back-up and proved he was able to come in off the bench to lead his team to wins. Maddox of course however was part of the Super Bowl Steeler team and after bouncing around both the NFL and XFL finally settled in Pittsburgh. It was Charlie Batch however that really drove the team during Ben Roethlisberger’s absence.
1993 – Drew Bledsoe became a franchise QB from the first round. Later in the same draft however, Elvis Grbac, Trent Green, Alex Van Pelt, and Mark Brunnel all found some degree of success. Rick Mirer, Bledsoe’s first round draft peer did not reach the talent level transition to the NFL as the four mentioned above.
1994 – The first round supplied the NFL with two starters in Heath Shuler and Trent Dilfer. Dilfer led the Ravens to their first Super Bowl while Shuler found decent success with the Redskins. The later rounds turned out Gus Frerrote and Jim Miller. Both decent for their draft positions.
1995 – While Steve McNair and Kerry Collins were first round talents, this year draft only produced marginal talent after that. Kordell Stewart and Todd Collins found some success in the NFL. Stewart, also known to Pittsburgh fans as “Slash” for his ability to play both QB and WR had the most success in the later rounds but eventually, his inability to play in a normal pocket style offense ended his career.
1996 – 1997 – Outside of Tony Banks in round 1 of the 1996 draft, no other QB drafted comes close to recollection of even a marginal NFL career. Bobby Hoying of the Eagles and Danny Kanell of the Giants found back-up roles. In 1997, Jim Drunkenmiller was a first round draft bust while Jake Plummer found NFL success from round 2. Plummer had all the tools to be great but was far too inconsistent. He signed with the Broncos as a free agent but fell out of favor in his final NFL season after being benched for rookie Jay Cutler. He was traded to the Buc’s in 2007 but refused to join the team and abruptly retired. The Bucs sued him for the signing bonus they were on the hook for. Plummer payed back the 3.5 mill a year later but never took the field for the Bucs or anyone else. Danny Wuerffel was taken in round 4 while Ty Detmer’s brother Koy was drafted in round 6 by the Eagles.
1998 – Yes, the best player was Peyton Manning. Ryan Leaf was a bust. The rest of the draft however produced solid NFL players. Charlie Batch and Brian Griese had decent success in the NFL while Matt Hasselbeck who was drafted in round six by the Packers turned out to be a steal…after his short stint backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay.
1999 – Daunte Culpper and Donavan McNabb headlined the success of the first round. In total, 5 QB’s were taken in the first round. The latter rounds produced only marginal or below marginal back-ups. Shaun King and Brock Huard. While some would argue that Cade McNown found decent success as a first rounder, he never came close to his draft slot in production. Both Tim Couch and Akili Smith were busts as well.
2000 – Chad Pennington was the only first round QB. He had a solid career with the Jets despite injury issues that ended his career after a stint in Miami. Bulger was taken in the sixth round. It should be noted that after Bulger signed his extension with the Rams, a 65 million dollar deal, he eventually would be replaced by Trent Green and finish his career in Baltimore. Of course Tom Brady was taken in the 6th round as well.
2001 – Michael Vick was the only first round QB talent taken and his status as a “franchise” QB is still up in the air. It’s hard to want to call him a bust considering his first overall drafting. In Atlanta I don’t think you can call him anything but a bust however he is working to change that label in Philly despite the mess the team was in last year. In the later rounds, Chris Weinke and Sage Rosenfels found NFL success to varying levels. In addition, despite the 2nd rounder spent by the Dolphins on him, AJ Feeley found decent success as an NFL back-up. The Hall of Fame QB from this class was taken in round 2. Drew Brees.
2002 - Aside from Patrick Ramsey who was decent at times after being drafted as the last pick in round 1, the rest were busts. Joey Harrington and David Carr. Carr for his part was never really supported with the expansion Texans. Still, when viewed as a whole, you can’t label him anything but a bust given his draft status. The later rounds produced Josh McCown and David Garrard.
2003 - Carson Palmer was taken one overall and has had solid success in the NFL despite the fact he was saddled with a Bengals team and owner who couldn’t support the team’s offense with a solid defense and Rex Grossman took the Bears to the Super Bowl despite and otherwise average career thus far. The later rounds only provided Seneca Wallace but Tony Romo was an undrafted rookie free agent.
As I stated earlier, I cut the dates of discussion to 2004 considering most of the first rounders are still playing at varying levels of success. This, along with the first article is not an effort to say that QB’s taken in later rounds are more successful than first rounders. I know that the first article may have implied that was the purpose. The purpose actually is that in my opinion, a player in round 1 stands to be labeled a bust far more easily than a player taken in round 2 and beyond. There are far higher expectations for QB’s drafted in the first round than in later rounds where teams will take “fliers” on players that they normally wouldn’t consider.
A player drafted in subsequent rounds are not normally drafted to take over teams immediately but instead with the hopes of becoming solid contributors as needed back-ups or players that may develop into future stars or franchise players. Players drafted in round one as QB’s are expected to start in year one or two at the latest and both media and fans do not normally give those QB’s the same timetable to develop or adjust to the NFL. Teams will normally give them more time but that also could be a related to the invested dollars in that player.
In my original article I pointed out that it’s and uphill climb for this years firs rounders to succeed and that hasn’t changed. It’s an uphill climb for all players taken in the NFL. I still believe that it is harder for a first round QB to find success in the NFL than a player, including QB’s taken in any other round. Later rounds may not find franchise QB’s or Hall of Famers, but they find less genuine busts given the lower expectations of their draft slots.
In these two articles, the first round has produced between 1984 and 2003 two Hall of Fame QB’s. Troy Aikman and Steve Young taken in the USFL draft. Peyton Manning and perhaps someday Drew Bledsoe will be HOF QB’s as well. In subsequent rounds, the NFL has no HOF QB’s already enshrined. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre are considered to be locks. Kurt Warner who was not drafted and Matt Hasselbeck will get considerations for election.
Here are some general numbers to digest, that neither disprove or support my assertion that first round QB’s have a harder time finding success at the NFL level. Again, my argument is that they have more pressure to succeed than later picks.
To look at the Super Bowls from 1987 to this past year, 27 starting QB’s were first round pick. Of those 27, 15 different first rounders made an appearance more than once. Outside of round 1, 23 QB’s have led their teams to the Super Bowl with 16 of those being different QB’s.
Here are some NFL statistics: In total passing yards, 7 of the top 25 players (only drafted in our above time period) are from players taken in the first round. Of those 7, 4 are in the top 10 including Manning, Testeverde, Bledsoe, and Kerry Collins at 10. Only Manning is till active. Brett Favre is the only player in the top 10 from these dates not drafted in round 1. Drew Brees and Tom Brady will both likely crack the top 10 in the next two seasons. When looking at only “active” or otherwise not yet retired officially, the number is split five and five.
In total TD’s for active players only, the split is even at 5 and 5. When allowing for retired players of the same time frame, only two players from our focus group of 1984 to present are in the top 10. Peyton Manning and Vinny Testeverde. Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees represent non-first rounders in the top 10.
When looking at career passer ratings, five of the top statistically were not first round selections. Four of the top 10 were first round picks. The odd man out is Joe Montana who was drafted outside of round one but is not in our focus period. When comparing only active players, the top 10 is split 50/50.
When looking at Pro-Bowls from 1984 to present, four first round selections of won MVP honors. Six MVP’s were drafted outside of round 1. Since 1997 50 first round QB’s have been named and/or started to the NFL’s Pro-Bowl. (I did not break down repeat players). In that same time frame, 63 QB’s drafted outside of round 1 have been named and/0r started the Pro-Bowl. As with the first rounders, I did not break that into how many different QB’s have been named to the game. In other words, perennial PB players such as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were counted more than once. It should also be noted that replacements for voted in starters were also counted for both sides as well.
The numbers really do not mean anything, especially the Pro-Bowl figures as it concerns success or failure. When it comes down to projecting draft “Busts”, to me, it’s a matter of including numerous factors as they relate to draft position. There is no clear statistic that says a first round QB will find more success than a subsequent round, only that players in round 1 are held to a higher standard of readiness given their contract figures and the amount of expectations that surround that draft pick.
So as I said in the other article, it’s an uphill climb for any player at any position to find success in the NFL and given that only 32 QB’s start in the league, it’s harder for QB’s to find success. Due to the surrounding expectations, it’s my opinion and my opinion alone that first round QB’s have a better chance of finding themselves tagged with bust nameplates than QB’s who enter the league with lower expectations for success.
The good news is that in today’s NFL, scouts and player personnel directors are doing much better jobs of finding successful QB’s in round 1. Of course with the new rookie pool, the financial risk of missing on a first round QB is a lot less than in past years. Perhaps in another 10 years we may redefine our own reasons for labeling players busts if salary considerations are no longer relevant.