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  • Quarterback Success By Round

    I realize this article is about a week and a half late, but I did a statistical analysis of quarterbacks based on where they were drafted. I included all QBs whose first year was 1990 or later.

    Methodology
    I am a big believer in putting stats in context. I will explain the methods I used in gathering these stats for those of you might want to do something similar and/or want to question the validity of my findings. Anyone who is not an uber-geek will want to skip straight to the table.

    I pulled all of my stats from pro-football-reference.com. I started with their draft finder. Searching for all quarterbacks drafted '90-'07 (I went to '07 because I felt I should only use players with 4+ years of experience). I copied the table, pasted it into an Excel spreadsheet, manually added Super Bowl appearances and wins and imported that into an Access database. I did the same thing for all undrafted quarterbacks that came into the league from '90-'07. After much internal debate, I decide to include Warren Moon and Bobby Hebert, 2 undrafted players who entered the league in '90, but had played professionally before that.

    Statistics
    Broken into 2 tables for the sake of legibility. 1st table is career length, 2nd is success.

    Round Total Avg Years No Comp 4+ Years 7+ Years %Years Starter
    1 42 7.52 0% (0) 88.1% (37) 64.7% (22/34) 56%
    2 18 7.66 0% (0) 83.5% (15) 61.5% (8/13) 43.5%
    3 22 5.54 9% (2) 81.8% (18) 37.5% (6/16) 19.6%
    4 31 4.74 19.3% (6) 61.3% (19) 39.3% (11/28) 17.0%
    5 20 3.3 35% (7) 40% (8) 21.4% (3/14 22.7%
    6 31 3.7 41.9% (13) 41.9% (13) 21.4% (6/28) 37.7%
    7 37 2.7 35.5% (13) 32.4% (12) 9% (3/32) 13.1%
    8 8 5.25 37.5% (3) 50% (4) 50% (4/8) 28.6%
    9 6 4.8 50% (3) 33% (2) 33% (2/6) 34.5%
    FA 53 5.66 3% (2) 60% (32) 46.7% (21/45) N/A
    Round Total Rating TD>INT ProBowlers ProBowls Y/PB SB App SB Wins
    1 42 80.00 45.2% (19) 35.7% (15) 45 7.0 13 6
    2 18 80.02 33.3% (6) 22.2% (4) 18 7.7 3 2
    3 22 77.0 27.2% (6) 13.6% (3) 3 40.7 1 0
    4 31 75.6 32.3% (10) 3% (1) 1 147 0 0
    5 20 76.8 20% (4) 5% (1) 3 22 0 0
    6 31 81.0 25.8% (8) 16.1% (5) 13 8.8 5 3
    7 37 73.2 16.2% (6) 5% (2) 2 49.5 0 0
    8 8 79.7 37.5% (3) 25% (2) 3 14 0 0
    9 6 81.0 33.3% (2) 16.6% (1) 2 14.5 1 1
    FA 53 80.8 37.7% (20) 11% (6) 20 15 4 1

    Glossary
    No Comp = Percentage of players that have 0 career pass completions
    4+ years/7+ years = Percentage of players that played at least 4 or 7 years
    TD>INT = Percentage of players with more career TDs than INTs
    Y/PB = Years per Pro Bowl. Total years played divided by total pro bowls
    SB App/SB Wins = Super Bowl appearances and wins as a starter

    Everything else should be self explanatory, just ask if you have any questions.

    Undrafted Players
    The numbers for undrafted quarterbacks are going to be a little skewed. Unlike drafted QBs, they only show up in the study if they had some statistics. A 'camp arm' type player that was cut before he ever played an NFL down won't show up if he wasn't drafted. I also did not have access to the numbers of years as primary starter for undrafted players.

    Rating
    The fact that the ratings only vary from 73 to 81, and 1st round QBs have only an 80 rating is going to surprise some people, but it actually makes sense. If a player doesn't have better than a 75-80 career rating, he won't get enough playing time to have any real impact on the overall rating for his draft group. 1st round QBs are going to take a hit because teams will play a 1st round QB before he's really ready to win games, where non-1st round QBs have to be ready to play before they're given their shot.

    Tom Brady effect
    6th round QBs clearly outshine all but 1st and 2nd round picks in rating, Pro Bowls and Super Bowls. Brady is of course a big part of that, particularly the Super Bowls (owning 4 of the 5 appearances and all 3 wins). Without Brady, 6th round QBs' rating drops to 76.6, similar to the other rounds. But the non-Brady 6th round QBs still have more Pro Bowls (7), career TDs (634, not on the chart. 3rd rounders have 527) and years as primary starter (34 to 25 for 3rd rounders) than QBs drafted in the 3rd, 4th, 5th or 7th rounds. Clearly 6th round QBs make a up a disproportionate percentage of mid-level QBs (Matt Hasselbeck, Jeff Blake, Marc Bulger, Derek Anderson).

    4th round Pro Bowls
    If you only drafted QBs in the 4th round, you could expect a Pro Bowl once every 147 years. You would be better off buying Cubs World Series tickets.

    Super Bowls
    Players taken in the top 33 picks of the draft (the only 2nd rounders with Super Bowl appearances are Drew Brees, 32nd pick, and Brett Favre, 33rd pick) have accounted for 16 appearances and 8 wins, while all others combined have 11 appearances and 5 wins. The vast majority of those coming from 2 players (Tom Brady 3-for-4, Kurt Warner 2-for-3). That leaves 4 appearances and 1 win by the others (win for D9 Brad Johnson. 1 appearance each for FA Jake Delhomme, D3 Neil O'Donnell and D6 Matt Hasselbeck). No QB drafted in the 4th, 5th or 7th round since 1990 has led a team to a Super Bowl.

    Total At least 1 Super Bowl Appearance At least 1 Super Bowl Win
    Top 33 51 23.5% (12) 13.5% (7)
    All Others 273 2.2% (6) 1.1% (3)

    Comments 33 Comments
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Very Nice Andy. Love how you get us good stats and numbers treats; Bein a Numbers guy, this is real Cool. I think the 8th round in the first table is very key. I think that 50% speaks volumes about the same round that crowns "Mr. Irrelevant". For the second table, I think the "Tom Brady" round is a Cool stat. It is chilling to hear that he told Bob Kraft that he would be the best investment he'd make and then he was/still is. The Lil' guys in the later rounds when they step on the field show they deserve their place too.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Very Nice.

      I think if you did a "ProBowlers" for all players by round, it would group round 1 and 2 pretty close, and then fall off for 3,4,5.

      It' clear for QBs their heightened value pulls the good ones into the first 33 picks. Which is why you never take a Round 2 QB.

      It is interesting to note that longevity >7 years is 62% and ProBowling is only 31%, so half the Round 1-2 Veteran starters never make it to a probowl. Should we be nuking them earlier?
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Question:

      Not understanding longevity %. For Round 1 you have for 7+ years 22/34, but werent there 42 QBs drafted in Round 1?
    1. Ragar's Avatar
      Might want to think about using All-Pro selections instead of Pro Bowls...we know how ridiculous Pro-Bowl voting is, at least All Pro voting has a semblance of worth.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Andy, are you using Pro Bowl appearances or selections?

      Ragar raises a valid point. All-Pro means you are considered to be the best at your position (granted by a bunch of writers). But it's a singular achievement. With the Pro Bowl, the fourth or fifth best guy at a position could make an appearance.
    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by darvon View Post
      Question:

      Not understanding longevity %. For Round 1 you have for 7+ years 22/34, but werent there 42 QBs drafted in Round 1?
      Sorry, I should have explained that. For 7+ years I drop out all the QBs that haven't were drafted less than 7 years ago.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Just did a quick analysis of the distribution of Years Starting for Rnd 1 QBs 1980-2000 for those QBs not playing in 2010 (i.e. not active).

      Years Starting (Career) # of QBs

      0 / 9
      1 / 6
      2 / 4
      3 / 3
      4 / 0
      5 / 4
      6 / 0
      7 / 4
      8 / 0
      9 / 3
      10 / 3
      11 / 1
      12 / 2
      13 / 0
      14 / 0
      15 / 1
      16 / 2

      Median is 3 years starting. Using the 1990-2007 numbers and accounting for the actives at 203 years starting, gives the median a little higher at 4 years. We have gotten a little smarter at picking QBs in Round 1.

      So if a Round 1 QB doesn't start for 4 years nowadays, he is a flop. However 5 years is a success.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Actually with the Probowl isn't it normal to go about 8-9 QBs deep out of 32?
    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      Andy, are you using Pro Bowl appearances or selections?
      I don't know, how's that for invalidating all data. I went with whatever pro-football-reference uses.

      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      Ragar raises a valid point. All-Pro means you are considered to be the best at your position (granted by a bunch of writers). But it's a singular achievement. With the Pro Bowl, the fourth or fifth best guy at a position could make an appearance.
      I have 1st position all-pro in the database, but went with pro bowls for a larger dataset.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Ragar View Post
      Might want to think about using All-Pro selections instead of Pro Bowls...we know how ridiculous Pro-Bowl voting is, at least All Pro voting has a semblance of worth.
      That may be too stringent. Of the 42 1st round QBs there is only 1 that made 1st Team All-Pro any year.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by darvon View Post
      That may be too stringent. Of the 42 1st round QBs there is only 1 that made 1st Team All-Pro any year.
      Who?
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Some guy in Indy.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      OK. Using All-Pro would seriously limit the sample size. Bad call by me.
    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      OK. Using All-Pro would seriously limit the sample size. Bad call by me.
      No problem, everybody gets one.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      And everybody wants some.

    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      And everybody wants some.
      I want my two dollars!!!
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Ragar View Post
      Might want to think about using All-Pro selections instead of Pro Bowls...we know how ridiculous Pro-Bowl voting is, at least All Pro voting has a semblance of worth.
      Especially for QBs because they never want to play in the Pro Bowl. I have to admit, I haven't watched the Pro Bowl much lately, they don't play very hard anymore.
    1. Ragar's Avatar
      Good points on All-Pro being possibley too restrictive, it's just we should accept that the Pro Bowl is a useless metric. Not only do to many players "make it", you have players like Mike Alstot listed at fullback when he was utilized as a 1-back halfback his entire career, yet has the most fullback Pro Bowl appearances.

      And I also agree, there really isn't any other better metric out there...time to brainstorm something for QB's...maybe something from Football Outsiders, however that isn't in any good table format or easily indexable.
    1. Jerry Jones's Avatar
      Andy,
      Thanks for a very nice piece of work. I know that it must have taken a lot of time to pull it together.
      I've tinkered with all sorts of charts on this subject and did find a rough correlation between success and round selection. It works pretty well in a general population of draftees but it is very difficult to take it into specific positions and get reliable results.
      It's also difficult to do something like this without including some sort of team success factor - but- then you are stuck with a question, is he a winner because of the team or is the team good because of him? The line of separation is very blurry.

      For the FP number addicts - Dan Shonka, a longtime friend who runs Ourlads scouting service (ourlads.com), has a guy on his site (Joe Landers) who does some pretty esoteric stats studies on this topic. His stuff on 2-deep rosters is very interesting.
    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Ragar View Post
      Good points on All-Pro being possibley too restrictive, it's just we should accept that the Pro Bowl is a useless metric. Not only do to many players "make it", you have players like Mike Alstot listed at fullback when he was utilized as a 1-back halfback his entire career, yet has the most fullback Pro Bowl appearances.

      And I also agree, there really isn't any other better metric out there...time to brainstorm something for QB's...maybe something from Football Outsiders, however that isn't in any good table format or easily indexable.
      It isn't the definitive measure by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly wouldn't call it useless, especially in this case. I think we can all agree that a Pro Bowl player is almost always in among the best 50% of players. Over the last 20 years, only one 4th round QB has made the Pro Bowl, and he (David Garrard) only made it once. That's significant. There have only been 9 Pro Bowl seasons combined by players drafted in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th rounds. I certainly wouldn't use it as a blind stat to label a specific player as better than another, but in this case, as more of an 'among the best' trend and when the differences are so big, I think it's very useful.