clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The "Science" of Drafting a Quarterback in the NFL

About a week ago, in one of the comments sections, there was a conversation about where quarterback value can be found in the draft. Someone pointed out that both Dan Marino and Aaron Rodgers were taken within a couple selections of the #25 pick that Seattle currently holds, which led to me looking at the landmark 1983 draft* that produced Marino, which in turn made me look at the five QBs taken in front of him, which in turn-- great googaly-moogaly, how is selecting a quarterback anything but dumb luck?

For reference, the first-round quarterbacks in the 1983 draft looked like this:

1.) John Elway
7.) Todd Blackledge
14.) Jim Kelly
15.) Tony Eason
24.) Ken O’Brien
27.) Dan Marino

Like buns in a Big Mac, Hall-of-Famers Elway, Kelly, and Marino hold this juicy group together, with Eason and O'Brien providing edible enough filler. Unfortunately, the already disgusting sandwich metaphor I'm using isn't complete without Todd Blackledge's secret sauce soggying everything up.

The trio of HOFers make this draft historic, but Eason and O'Brien also had very productive careers and lived up to their first-round billing. Five out of six ain't bad, and the case can be made that talent evaluators did a good job in rating these QBs before the draft, but all it takes is for one GM to choose Todd Blackledge 7th overall and all arguments about what makes for a good NFL quarterback go out the window.

It's a trend that continues throughout the history of the NFL draft. Alex Smith goes 1st overall in the same year that Aaron Rodgers goes 24th and Matt Cassel goes 230th. Chad Pennington gets picked 18th one day before Tom Brady gets picked 199th. Our own Matt Hasselbeck was taken 127 picks after Charlie Batch, and the list goes on. I mean, remember when THIS was the hottest debate in sports?

My point is that we hear a lot of noise regarding quarterback prospects before each draft: this guy won't fit a pro system; this guy has character concerns; this guy never took snaps from under center; this guy's too short; this guy's too tall; this guy smells funny, etc. Everyone's got an expert opinion as to why one guy will succeed and another will fail. Ultimately though, when it comes to drafting a quarterback, it's just really damn difficult to nail down what will make a guy successful.

Drafting a quarterback is as exact a science as Hungry Hungry Hippos is. We all know this, but just to highlight what a crapshoot it can be, I've compiled all the quarterbacks taken in NFL drafts since 2000, sans commentary. They are listed in order, with their selection round in parentheses.

* Side note -- As I was perusing the careers of the '83 quarterbacks, something occurred to me: if it hadn't been for Elway's final two seasons, this would have been an outrageously under-performing group of Super Bowl QBs, at least in terms of record. Everyone knows about Kelly's four consecutive SB losses; but between those, Elway's three, Marino's one, and Eason's historically-bad one, the group was a combined 0-9 in the Big Game between 1985 and 1994, and were outscored 359-139 in those contests.

On to the list. Keep it in mind as you draw conclusions about QBs the Seahawks may take this year.

Chad Pennington (1st)
Giovanni Carmazzi (3rd)
Chris Redman (3rd)
Tee Martin (5th)
Marc Bulger (6th)
Spergon --haha, "Spergon"-- Wynn (6th)
Tom Brady (6th)
Todd Husak (6th)
Tim Rattay (7th)
Jarious Jackson (7th)
Joe Hamilton (7th)

Michael Vick (1st)
Drew Brees (2nd)
Quincy Carter (2nd)
Marques Tuiasosopo (2nd)
Chris Weinke (4th)
Sage Rosenfels (4th)
Jesse Palmer (4th)
Mike McMahon (5th)
AJ Feeley (5th)
Josh Booty (7th)
Josh Heupel (7th)

David Carr (1st)
Joey Harrington (1st)
Patrick Ramsey (1st)
Josh McCown (3rd)
David Garrard (4th)
Rohan Davey (4th)
Randy Fasani (5th)
Kurt Kittner (5th)
Brandon Doman (5th)
Craig Nall (5th)
JT O'Sullivan (6th)
Seth Burford (7th)
Jeff Kelly (7th)
Ronald Curry (7th)
Wes Pate (7th)

Carson Palmer (1st)
Byron Leftwich (1st)
Kyle Boller (1st)
Rex Grossman (1st)
Dave Ragone (3rd)
Chris Simms (3rd)
Seneca Wallace (4th)
Brian St. Pierre (5th)
Drew Henson (6th)
Brooks Bollinger (6th)
Kliff Kingsbury (6th)
Gibran Hamdan (7th)
Ken Dorsey (7th)

Eli Manning (1st)
Phillip Rivers (1st)
Ben Roethlisberger (1st)
JP Losman (1st)
Matt Schaub (3rd)
Luke McCown (4th)
Craig Krenzel (5th)
Andy Hall (6th)
Josh Harris (6th)
Jim Sorgi (6th)
Jeff Smoker (6th)
John Navarre (7th)
Cody Pickett (7th)
Casey Bramlet (7th)
Matt Mauck (7th)
BJ Symons (7th)
Bradlee Van Pelt (7th)

Alex Smith (1st)
Aaron Rodgers (1st)
Jason Campbell (1st)
Charlie Frye (3rd)
Andrew Walter (3rd)
David Greene (3rd)
Kyle Orton (4th)
Stefan LeFors (4th)
Dan Orlovsky (5th)
Adrian McPherson (5th)
Derek Anderson (6th)
Matt Cassel (7th)

Vince Young (1st)
Matt Leinart (1st)
Jay Cutler (1st)
Kellen Clemens (2nd)
Tarvaris Jackson (2nd)
Charlie Whitehurst (3rd)
Brody Croyle (3rd)
Ingle Martin (5th)
Omar Jacobs (5th)
Bruce Gradkowski (6th)
DJ Shockley (7th)

JaMarcus Russell (1st)
Brady Quinn (1st)
Kevin Kolb (2nd)
John Beck (2nd)
Drew Stanton (2nd)
Trent Edwards (3rd)
Jeff Rowe (5th)
Troy Smith (5th)
Jordan Palmer (6th)
Tyler Thigpen (7th)

Matt Ryan (1st)
Joe Flacco (1st)
Brian Brohm (2nd)
Chad Henne (2nd)
Kevin O'Connell (3rd)
John David Booty (5th)
Dennis Dixon (5th)
Josh Johnson (5th)
Erik Ainge (5th)
Colt Brennan (6th)
Andre Woodson (6th)
Matt Flynn (7th)
Alex Brink (7th)

Matthew Stafford (1st)
Mark Sanchez (1st)
Josh Freeman (1st)
Pat White (2nd)
Stephen McGee (4th)
Rhett Bomar (5th)
Nate Davis (5th)
Tom Brandstater (6th)
Mike Teel (6th)
Keith Null (6th)
Curtis Painter (6th)

Sam Bradford (1st)
Tim Tebow (1st)
Jimmy Clausen (2nd)
Colt McCoy (3rd)
Mike Kafka (4th)
John Skelton (5th)
Jonathan Crompton (5th)
Rusty Smith (6th)
Dan LeFevour (6th)
Joe Webb (6th)
Tony Pike (6th)
Levi Brown (7th)
Sean Canfield (7th)
Zac Robinson (7th)

It was fascinating to look back over these drafts. I'm extremely interested in all y'all's thoughts, so lend me your observations in the comments section. Just keep in mind that whenever you think you've got it figured out, remember that a well-paid professional once chose this guy directly ahead of four Pro Bowlers at the same position.