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Better Odds Than The Lottery

Credit: Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports

If teams want to find a successful quarterback, GM’s shouldn’t be afraid to pick one early in the draft.


When news hit early Sunday afternoon that Sam Bradford‘s make-or-break season was done before it even began, the noise from commentators and football fans could be summed up in one word — bust. Bradford never won more than seven games in a season and missed fifteen starts over the last four seasons, and will raise that number to 31 at the end of this season. On the surface, Bradford failed to live up to the 6-year, $78 million dollar contract he signed before ever taking a snap in the NFL

Quarterback is by far the most important position in football. Finding one to lead your team to the Super Bowl is very difficult and, usually, if you pick incorrectly, you and your entire staff lose their jobs.  More often than not, the easiest solution to finding a great quarterback is to pick one first overall. Below is a list of quarterbacks selected number one overall since the 1998 draft who are currently starters.

YearTeamPlayer
2012Indianapolis ColtsAndrew Luck
2011Carolina PanthersCam Newton
2009Detroit LionsMatthew Stafford
2005San Francisco 49ersAlex Smith*
2004San Diego ChargersEli Manning**
2003Cincinnati BengalsCarson Palmer*
1998Indianapolis ColtsPeyton Manning*
* No longer starting for the team that drafted them.

** Draft day trade to the New York Giants.

Of these seven quarterbacks, only one, Matthew Stafford, has failed to make the Pro Bowl in at least one season. Eli Manning and Peyton Manning won three combined Super Bowls. All seven led their teams to the playoffs, and Alex Smith has led two teams to the playoffs. If you look back even further in history, many of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game were selected first overall. Drew Bledsoe, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Jim Plunkett, and Terry Bradshaw all were selected number one overall. Even guys that did not win a Super Bowl went on to have long successful careers, like Vinny Testaverde who played for 21 seasons!


Sure, those quarterbacks made it in the NFL, but what about all the guys who are no longer starting?

YearTeamPlayer
2007Oakland RaidersJaMarcus Russell
2002Houston TexansDavid Carr
2001Atlanta FalconsMichael Vick
1999Cleveland BrownsTim Couch

Four quarterbacks make this list, but when you look at their careers they were not total failures. When you look at the guys who are no longer starters, only Tim Couch and JaMarcus Russell had careers shorter than 10 years. Michael Vick went on to have a very solid career, and he is one injury away for Geno Smith to being the starter for the New York Jets. David Carr was sacked 76 times his rookie season for the expansion Houston Texans, but still threw for over 14,400 yards in his career. And a look back in history reveals that none of the other quarterbacks drafted number one since the merger played less than 10 seasons.

Teams talk themselves every year out of selecting quarterbacks early and end up waiting to find a gem later in the draft. But the numbers once again agree that you should draft a quarterback as early as possible. Of the 31 starting quarterbacks in the NFL (not including St. Louis), 17 of them were drafted in the 1st round. Of those 17 quarterbacks, only three have failed to make it to the post-season (EJ Manuel, Ryan Tannehill, and Jake Locker) and all three players have been in the league for three seasons or less. If we look at all the quarterbacks who were taken in the first round since 1998, over half of them took their teams to the playoffs.

Quarterbacks are portrayed as hit or miss every season with doubt creeping in as draft day draws near. With the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle, draft profiles change by the second, and teams can sometimes overthink what should be an easy decision. The stories of fool’s gold and guys like Sam Bradford and JaMarcus Russell should not deter general managers from using top picks on quarterbacks. When given the confidence and support of a franchise, first round quarterbacks are worth the gamble.

Edited by Sam Wittenstein.

SQuiz
What team drafted Vinny Testaverde?
Created 8/25/14
  1. Miami Dolphins
  2. Cleveland Browns
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Dallas Cowboys

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