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NFL Draft: "Get Your Franchise QB Late!" or "Let's Not Get Jobs, Let's Play the LOTTO!"

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F#CK YOU TOM BRADY!

There, now that we've got that settled, we can get to the heart of the issue. Brady was pick 199 and he's probably the best, or at least the most accomplished, quarterback of the last decade. Quarterbacks in history will be measured by Super Bowls before anything else, and Brady has three wins and a fourth appearance in the big game. He's like the Tommy Maddox of the NFL.

He will also be measured by the fact that he was drafted in the sixth round, 16 picks after Spergon Wynn and 3 picks before Todd Husak, and therefore has become the go-to example everyone brings up when they say "You don't need to draft a quarterback early. You should draft a quarterback late because Tom Brady was taken in the sixth round!"

Which is sort of like saying, "You don't need to work. Seriously, my buddy Sclark slipped in a Wal-Mart and broke his back. He hasn't worked in two years."

It is true that Brady exists. It is true that he's one of the greatest. It is true that he was the seventh quarterback taken in 2000. However, just because stars align once in awhile, it doesn't mean that the earth has now shifted off of it's axis. The fact remains that if you want to get a franchise quarterback, your odds of success increase based on how highly regarded that player is coming into the league.

Brady and Tony Romo can't be seen as the rule. They are the exception to the rule. If I based all of my life decisions off of exceptions to rules, then I would watch every show on ABC only because they had Modern Family. This would cause me to curl up in a ball every night at the edge of my bed, rocking back and forth, repeating to myself "Why did they make 'Work It'? Why did they make 'Work It'?" and that's no way to live.

For those of you that say "Let Josh Portis compete for the job in 2012! Don't get another QB!", all I have to say in return is that I can't prove he's not a quality starter in the making any more than you can prove he will even make the roster next season.

We simply do not know. Maybe Pete Carroll knows. Maybe John Schneider has a really good feeling one way or the other. But you? Me? We do not know. Josh Portis was an undrafted free agent in 2011, not a second round pick. The odds that he would be a good NFL quarterback in 2012 fall somewhere between Chipwrecked winning an Oscar and me taking over for Tony Kornheiser on PTI.

Some of the best undrafted quarterbacks in history are Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, and Tony Romo. The average age of their first season as a starter in the NFL? Just shy of 28. Romo was the youngest of the bunch to become a full-time starter, and he was 26.

Portis will be 25 next season, which means if he even started half-of-the-season and was even halfway decent, he'd have a great jump-start on Hall of Famers like Moon and Warner. Those players also got a lot of time refining there skills in other football leagues, not serving on the practice squad.

To say that Portis has even a minor shot at leading this team next season, is to completely ignore history. I mean, to completely and utterly forget history ever happened. History happens. Watch Pawn Stars.

Not to harp on Portis anymore, because I want to start this other history lesson about drafting quarterbacks late, but let me finish by saying a few things. First of all, I like Portis. I like his size, his athleticism, and his projection if everything breaks absolutely right. But second of all, do you know how many career passing attempts he has in Division I college football? 14. He had eleven at Florida back in 2005 and three at Maryland in 2008. He did not play at Cal in Berkley. He played at California of Pennsylvania, a division II school. Portis is a stupendously interesting prospect, and that's why he's on an NFL team at all even though he went to a small school and completed 57% of his passes against weak competition, but he's so very far from playing in the NFL. I think we should put that to bed.

Something that I won't put to bed (besides a girl tonight) is the idea of drafting a QB this year, no matter round it is. Do I have an issue with drafting a QB in the first? Not if it's the right guy. Do I have an issue with drafting a QB in the sixth? Not if it's the right guy. Do I have an issue with going to a baseball game with a friend of a friend? Not if it's the right guy.

The most important thing for us to do as fans though is properly set our expectation levels. There's a major difference between what you expect from a first round QB and a sixth round QB. You don't say "I REALLY like so-and-so in the fifth round! He's going to be a stud!" Just because Brady happened does not mean that it's common. It's very uncommon. How uncommon?

Let's look.

Here is a list of every QB drafted per year, starting with 2000:

2000qb_large

This was a very interesting year, not just because of Brady, but because Chad Pennington was the only QB drafted in the first two rounds. That was only the second time that had happened since 1988, with the other time being Tony Banks in 1996. (In '88, no QBs were drafted before round three.)

Pennington has had a not-unsuccessful, not great NFL career. For being the 18th overall pick, I would say that 5 seasons as a capable starter makes him a good selection. Being drafted 18th overall doesn't set the expectation level at "star" to me. Around there, I'd say the expectation level is only "starter" not "star" which brings me to where I set my expectation levels:

Pick 1-10: "Star. Pro Bowl QB"

Rest of 1st round: "Starter. Potential to be a star. Maybe has 1 or 2 outstanding seasons."

2nd round: "Potential to be a starter. High upside."

3rd round: "Potential to be a starter. Don't expect it though. Expect to be no less than a good backup. Upside for more."

4th-7th round: "Either has upside to be a star but is very raw, or has low upside but I believe he can stick as organizational depth like Bruce Gradkowski. Any player drafted with idea that he can turn into a star is done so with the expectation that it's a 3-year project at least."

Undrafted: "No expectations. A total flier. Not even likely to debut with team that originally signed him"

Why limit only the top 10 to be QBs that are expected to be a star? Because there are not enough teams in the top 10 of a draft that are set at QB to ever let a player with those expectations fall out of the top 10. Teams were split on Aaron Rodgers, otherwise he would have never fallen that far.

As for 2000, we see that no quarterback was expected to be a star, but there were plenty of guys with that kind of upside. There were 12 quarterbacks drafted that year and they have combined for nine Pro Bowl appearances: Seven for Tom Brady and two for Marc Bulger.

Pennington enjoyed an incredibly efficient 2002 season, completing 68.9% of his passes and throwing only 5 interceptions, but injuries derailed his career and we'll never know what he could have done if he stayed healthy. He led the NFL in QB rating that year.

If you take out the two exceptions taken after the first round (Brady and Bulger) then the other nine players combined for 1,406 pass attempts. Giovanni Carmazzi never played in an NFL game. None of Tee Martin, Todd Husak, JaJuan Seider, Jarious Jackson, and Joe Hamilton attempted more than 22 passes in their careers, which would be like one NFL game at most.

Chris Redman has turned into the perfect example of a backup quarterback, never starting more than six games in one NFL season, but he is still on an NFL roster today. Tim Rattay enjoyed eight seasons in the NFL, beating out Carmazzi in San Francisco, with 18 career starts.

I want to make some statistics here for "Successful Career" but how to do so? How about a set of qualifications?

A successful QB has either 3 seasons as a starter OR 1 Pro Bowl Appearance OR 6 seasons in the NFL?

I think this sets the bar low enough to not piss anyone off to say "Why isn't 'player X' considered successful?!?! YOU IDIOT!" because it's just better to include than to exclude sometimes.

The 2000 draft had:

5 successful QBs - Pennington, Redman, Bulger, Brady, and Rattay. (41%)

3 successful QBs drafted after round 3 (33%)

1/1 successful QBs drafted in the first round

0 QBs drafted in 2nd round

1/2 successful QBs in 3rd round

There was one "Superstar QB" and he was taken in round 6 and one other "Very Good" QB (Bulger) also taken in round 6.

Conclusion:

The 2000 draft was rare in that it had no great QB prospects and a run on QBs in round 6. The two best were taken in that round, while Pennington became a good QB that lasted 11 years in the NFL with five years as a starter. Though Brady and Bulger worked out, and Rattay had moderate success, the rate of successful QBs after round 3 was one in three.

2001

2001qbs_large

In another interesting year, only one quarterback was taken in the first round (though Brees was the first pick in the second.) There were five QBs taken in the first round in 1999 and three taken in the first round in 2002, but only two combined in 2000 and 2001.

That's also important to note, something I was talking about previously on Field Gulls in regards to the 2012 draft. Though it would have made a difference if Matt Barkley and Landry Jones had declared, remember that the run on quarterbacks in last seasons draft means that there are fewer teams looking for a QB this season. It's too soon for most of those teams to spend another high pick on a QB which means that there is less competition for a quarterback this season. In 1999, beyond the five players taken in the first, Shaun King went to Tampa Bay in the second and Brock Huard went to Seattle in the third. This effect may have caused one of those teams to reach on a player like Chris Redman in the second round instead of the third, but they didn't feel it necessary.

There were 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2001, with one in the first and three in the second.

Michael Vick was considered a player with superstar potential and Atlanta traded up to get him. Four Pro Bowls and several playoff appearances later, he has to be considered a success.

Drew Brees was the next best QB available and slipped to the second round because of his height, among other things, but clearly had that "Potential to be a star" that I talked about. He's the best of the draft, obviously.

After Brees, there were nine quarterbacks drafted and they combined for 0 Pro Bowl appearances and four seasons as a "starter." A.J. Feeley, sixth round pick, has the most attempts of all the other QBs with 762 and is still in the league as a backup. Four of those nine quarterbacks qualified as successful for "years played" but none of them would be considered quarterbacks that could be "franchise" though at one time, Feeley, Quincy Carter, Marques Tuiasospo, Chris Weinke, and Sage Rosenfels were given chances and failed to hold onto those jobs.

The 2001 draft had:

6 successful QBs (54.5%)

3 successful QBs drafted after round 3 (42%)

1/1 successful QBs drafted in round 1

2/3 successful QBs drafted in round 2

0 QBs drafted in round 3

There were 2 superstar QBs, drafted in rounds 1 and 2 (the two best QB prospects of 2001)

Of the 9 next-best QBs, 0 of them turned into anything other than a career backup

2002

2002qb_large

The 2002 draft had two QB prospects that were considered to have Star potential: David Carr and Joey Harrington. I suppose this is where "successful" tag sort of gets convoluted. Yes, they were both starters for significant time, and stayed in the league for a significant amount of time, but they fell way short of expectations. So, a caveat?

If you are drafted in the top 10 and fail to make 1 Pro Bowl appearance (arbitrary I know, but it's fair to say that a Star would make a Pro Bowl) then you are unsuccessful. It's low expectations for a top 10 pick to say he makes 1 Pro Bowl.

A player drafted in the latter half of the first round that makes a Pro Bowl, I would say has exceeded my expectations.

There were 15 quarterbacks drafted in 2002, significantly more than the previous two years. Yet, all 15 QBs combined for 1 Pro Bowl appearance: David Garrard, a fourth round pick.

Patrick Ramsey was drafted in the same position as Drew Brees, but with Houston now in the league, was in the first round. What would be considered a success for a player drafted in the first round but not in the top 10? Well, I don't EXPECT a player like that to be a Pro Bowler, but I did say I expect him to be a starter. How about 3 years as a starter as a caveat? (A starter being that he starts at least half of the season)

Garrard was by far the most successful QB taken in 2002, enjoying five seasons as a starter in Jacksonville with 1 playoff appearance and 1 Pro Bowl.

There is a steep drop-off in QB quality after Garrard was taken; out of 10 QBs taken, 10 guys with upside or potential to be a backup, only two of them stayed in the league for longer than three seasons. Eight out of ten quarterbacks drafted after Garrard in 2002 were out of the league by 2005.

They combined to appear in (mind you, only APPEAR in) 43 games. That's 4.3 appearances per QB and 17 of those were by J.T. O'Sullivan, a player who was also once thought to maybe have a chance to be a starter after having pre-season success in New Orleans, but ultimately couldn't do it.

If you take into account the caveats presented above then

2002 had:

4 successful QBs - Josh McCown, Garrard, Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan (26%) Three of those guys considered successful because they stayed in the league for six or more years. Garrard being the only good player taken out of 15 (6%) while Carr has found a successful career as a backup, he was drafted as a franchise QB.

0/3 QBs in round 1 were successful

0 QBs taken in round 2

1/1 QB was successful in round 3

3/11 QBs successful in rounds 4-7 (27.2%)

There were 0 superstar QBs out of 15 and 1 "Very Good" player, taken in round 4.

2003

2003qb_large

There were 13 QBs drafted in 2003 and four went in the first round. (Fun fact: There were 0 quarterbacks taken in the second round between 2002 and 2005) Out of 13 quarterbacks, only Carson Palmer made a Pro Bowl appearance, making two of them.

Palmer and Byron Leftwich were drafted to be franchise quarterbacks, while Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman had very high upside and taken in the latter half of the first. Everybody else taken either had high upside or looked like they might at least be able to stick around as backups. Drew Henson is the classic example of a very raw project that seemed like he could be a star, he just hadn't played football in so long. At one time, he would have been an easy first round pick.

I also remember that Chris Simms was drafted with much excitement, seen as a "slip" to the third round because of his fathers status and his college football success. The Seahawks struck the most gold after round 1 however, snagging Seneca Wallace, a very good BACKUP quarterback, in round four.

Near-Mr-Insignificant Ken Dorsey also enjoyed some success as a backup in the NFL.

Leftwich has to be considered a bust after only lasting as a starter for three years in Jacksonville until losing his job to the aforementioned Garrard when Leftwich failed to stay healthy or successful. People seem to have this idea that Leftwich had some success in the NFL, but during his best season he completed 57.9% of his passes for 2,123 yards, 15 TD, 5 INT over 11 starts. That's not 7th overall pick kind of success.

I don't want to add another caveat, so I just won't do it and I'll count Kyle Boller as a "success" because he had four years as a "starter" in the NFL since the Ravens don't have high expectations for quarterback play since they rely on great defense, but even as the 19th overall pick (in which I only expect you become a starter) he was a bust. He is a pretty bad quarterback in relevance to the NFL, and even his qualifications as a backup are shaky considering how bad he was during his one start with the Raiders this season. Boller has attempted 32 passes over the last two seasons and thrown four interceptions.

The 2003 draft had:

8/13 successful QBs - Palmer, Boller, Simms, Wallace, Brian St. Pierre, Brooks Bollinger, Dorsey. Out of those, I don't feel good about putting Boller there, but I have to stick by my rules, Simms still disappointed in his time in Tampa, St. Pierre, Bollinger and Dorsey are mostly just successful because of how long they stuck as backups in the NFL. Palmer and Wallace would be the most successful based on expectation levels. Grossman has still only started two seasons in the NFL, even counting this year.

2/4 successful QBs in round 1 - damn it Boller

0 QBs taken in round 2

1/2 successful QBs in round 3

5/7 successful QBs taken after round 3

1 "Superstar" or "Very Good" QB taken in this draft and it was the number one overall pick. None of the other 12 could hold an NFL job. Most of the success came in teams finding capable backups after the third round.

2000-2003

After a sample size of 4 drafts and 51 drafted quarterbacks, here is our conclusion of "Success"

23/51 (45%) Quarterbacks found some semblance of success based on expectation and I set a pretty low bar.

1st Round - 3/9 (33.3333333333333%)

2nd Round - 2/3 (66.66666666666666666666%)

3rd Round - 3/5 (60%)

4th Round - 4/6 (66.67%)

5th Round - 3/8 (37.5%)

6th Round - 4/12 (33.3%)

7th Round - 2/8 (25%)

The Best of the Best: Brady, Vick, Brees, Palmer. 6th, 1st, 2nd, 1st.

Next Best: Pennington, Bulger, Garrard. 1st, 6th, 4th.

There were 39 quarterbacks taken after round 3 and one of them turned into a Superstar (2.5%) and two of them turned into good, starting quarterbacks (5%) which is a 1 in 20 shot that you land a good starting quarterback, or if you take all three into consideration that's 1 in 13, which is a little less than 1 per draft. (Only counting taken after 2nd round.)

Take out Brady, Bulger, Brees and Garrard and just focusing on good backups: 14 out of 42 players drafted after the first round turned into good backups or players that could either start when called upon or stick around on an NFL roster for at least six seasons, which is 33%.

Five quarterbacks were drafted in the top 10: Vick, Carr, Harrington, Palmer, Leftwich, which gives you two players that lived up to expectations and three players that turned into backups, which we found is only a 33% success rate for quarterbacks drafted after the second round. While they were all busts based on expectations, all three stuck around for awhile. How much of that has to do with name recognition? Greater than zero, but impossible to know. Carr, Harrington, and Leftwich all had some small levels of success.

Trying to find Tom Brady or a very good "Franchise" QB over this four year sample size showed that while it's a FACT that you can find Brady in round 6, it's easy to forget just how many quarterbacks are drafted every year. How can one be sure that they are drafting the next QB? How can one be sure that Brady would have matured the same at all under someone other than Belicheck? How can Eminem have so many followers on Twitter when he never tweets anything?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions but I had fun finding some answers and fleshing out my thoughts into actual numbers.

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