Why is it so hard to recruit a QB? Even if you look at first round picks over the years, the success rate is just terrible.
I recently started playing with the numbers for every first round QB selection since 1990, and I found some interesting things.
In this game, I don’t care if one of the QB choices is good or not good or better than another QB. I’m more concerned about whether this choice was a good decision for the team at the time, whether the choice of QB had a positive outcome for the team and brought them closer to winning the Super Bowl, or whether they misjudged their position as an organization and their ability to get and develop that QB at the time.
The threshold for this analysis is 2016, as this year is a clear differentiator. That’s because all 1st round QBs from 2009-2016 are no longer on the roster of the team that drafted them. Matt Ryan (2008), Aaron Rodgers (2005) and Ben Roethlisberger (2004) are the only QBs who played in the 1st round from 1990-2016. They were drafted in the second round and are still active with the team they were drafted for.
So why stop at 1990? Why don’t we go back to 1980 or 1970? I stopped here because of the 1987 and 1983 strikeouts that caused the difference in games per season, and also because of the 14 game schedule before 1978.
I first looked at how many games each QB started for the team that used him. The team wouldn’t have kept the QB year after year if there were better options or if they didn’t think he was getting better. A QB who has started more than 90 games for the team for which he was drafted is considered to have reached Level 1 in that category. The threshold was set at 90 games because that means he started at least 5 1/2 seasons, or after a rookie contract. Only 13 of the 65 QBs in this analysis made 90+ starts.
It shows the number of times a team made the playoffs with a QB, and it shows, in part, his team’s ability to make the playoffs. A QB who has played in more than 8 playoff series for the team he was drafted for is considered a Tier 1 player in that category. A QB who wins more than 4 playoff games with the team he was drafted for is also considered to have reached Level 1. The average quarterback who started more than 90 games for the team that drafted him ended up starting 179 games for that team. That’s about 11 seasons with more than 8 playoff appearances and more than 4 playoff wins. Only 10 of 65 QBs won in the playoffs by more than 8 points against the host team, and 13 QBs won in the playoffs by more than 4 points.
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This is the ultimate goal here. If you have a QB in the 1st. The vision is of him holding the Lombardi trophy. A QB who was a starter in more than two Super Bowls for the team he was drafted for is considered a Tier 1 player in this category. This statistic was included to give the QB credit for reaching the Super Bowl, win or lose. A QB who wins more than two Super Bowls against the team for which he was drafted is considered to have reached Level 1.
To qualify as Level 1, a QB does not have to meet all of these criteria. Their level must be lower than 1.5 on average. The lowest level assigned to the two Super Bowl categories is Level 3, to prevent someone like Rivers from hitting too hard. The lowest level for playoff wins is level 4 to keep Stafford from hitting too hard.
- Started games for the Ravens: 163 (Level 1)
- The playoff games have begun for the Ravens: 15 (Level 1)
- Ravens win the playoffs: 10 (Level 1)
- Super Bowl begins for Ravens: 1 (Level 2)
- Super Bowl victories for the Ravens: 1 (Level 2)
- AVERAGE ANIMAL : 1.4 (Level 1)
- Only 5 of 65 QBs assembled between 1990 and 2016 (8%) achieved Level 1 status. (8%) achieved level 1 status. On average, they were selected in 11th place.
- The main differentiator between Level 1 and Level 2 is winning the Super Bowl. Any QB who wins the Super Bowl is considered a Tier 1. This could be because teams are extremely loyal to QBs who have won Super Bowls for them, whether they perform consistently or not (e.g. Joe Flacco).
- This group of QBs started an average of 205 games for the team that used them, with a 62% win rate.
- They played an average of 18 playoff games, won 10 playoff games and 1.8 Super Bowl games.
- Four of the five QBs with Level 1 status were drafted in good situations (50% or better winning percentage). The team’s average winning percentage in the two years before these QBs were drafted was 47.5%.
- The only QB to reach the first level with a drafted team that did not have a winning percentage of 50% or better in the two years prior to being drafted is Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. In the two years prior to the Colts draft, the winning percentage was 18.8%.
- 7 of 65 QBs assembled between 1990 and 2016 (11%) achieved Level 2 status. (11%) achieved level 2 status. On average, they were selected in second place.
- All but two quarterbacks who make it to the Super Bowl are considered Level 2 or higher. While only two QBs who have reached Level 2 status have not made it to the Super Bowl (Rivers/Luck).
- Generally, these QBs are seen as guys who can consistently meet expectations and invest in teams to make them better.
- They were quality franchise players, but could never meet the ultimate challenge of winning the Super Bowl.
- Drafting these quarterbacks has usually proven to be the right decision for their teams, as it has led to success even if they didn’t win the Super Bowl.
- This group of QBs started an average of 148 times for the team that used them, with a 57% win rate.
- They started the playoffs with an average of 9.6 while winning 4.4 playoffs, 0.7 Super Bowls and 0.0 Super Bowls.
- The average level 2 QB was recruited in poor conditions. The team’s average winning percentage in the two years before attracting these QBs was 33.9%.
- None of the Tier 2 QBs were selected in a good situation (50% or better win rate). Only two of those QBs were drafted in bad situations (win percentage below 30%). I wonder if these guys could have gotten Tier 1 status if they were drafted in a better situation.
- 12 of 65 QBs composed between 1990 and 2016. (18.5%) received third-line status. On average, they were chosen 6th.
- There are actually two groups of QBs in this series that I want to highlight. The first group are players who were drafted by teams that were in a good position to draft a starting QB, and didn’t achieve their goal, while finding quality production with solid numbers (e.g. Sanchez, Goff, Grossman). The second group are guys who got into bad situations and did well, but they could never make up for the lack of talent or the lack of quality of their team’s coach or front office during their time there (Palmer, Stafford, Vick, Smith).
- Only two of the QBs who made it to the Super Bowl are considered Level 3. Those two QBs are Jared Goff and Rex Grossman.
- This group of QBs started an average of 76 games for the team that used them, with a 50.6% winning percentage.
- They have started in the playoffs an average of 3.6 times and have won in the playoffs 1.6 times, in the Super Bowl 0.2 times and in the Super Bowl 0.0 times.
- The average third reserve QB was drafted in a bad, but not terrible, situation. The team’s average winning percentage in the two years before these QBs were drafted was 37.8%, slightly better than the second-tier players.
- Three Tier 3 QBs were recruited in good situations (win rate of 50% or more). But six of those QBs were drafted in terrible situations (winning percentage below 30%).
- 18 of the 65 QBs assembled between 1990 and 2016 (27.7%) achieved Level 4 status. Of the 65 QBs assembled between 1990 and 2016, 18 (27.7%) achieved Level 4 status. On average, they received a 9 as an overall score.
- No QB who makes it to the Super Bowl is considered a level 4.
- These QBs are generally considered quality backups for weak starters in the NFL. They are not the type to elevate the play of others around them, but they can be good enough when surrounded by very capable actors. Eventually, the team that had entered them found that they were fatal and decided to move on.
- These teams ended up making poor decisions when selecting these players because the team never had consistent success with them under center.
- Ryan Tannehill qualifies here because he only counts his time with the Dolphins before resuming his career with the Titans.
- This group of QBs averaged 51 starts for the team that received them, with a 43.5% winning percentage.
- On average, they started the playoffs with 0.6, won the playoffs with 0.1, started the Super Bowl with 0, won the Super Bowl with 0.
- The average fourth-line QB was drafted in a bad, but not terrible, situation. The team’s average winning percentage in the two years before drafting these QBs was 39.2%, slightly better than the third stringers.
- It should be noted that this number does not include the three QBs that were drafted by expansion teams, all of which are in Level 4.
- Five Tier 4 QBs were drafted well (winning percentage of 50% or more). Only four of those QBs were drafted in bad situations (win percentage below 30%).
- 23 of 65 QBs collected between 1990 and 2016. (35.4%) received Level 5 status. On average, they received an overall score of 14.
- No QB who makes it to the Super Bowl is considered a level 5.
- Generally, these QBs are guys who left the league, came back as backups, or didn’t report to the team that drafted them due to a team change early in their career (Cutler). These QBs were taken by a team that drafted them pretty quickly.
- You could argue that these teams made bad decisions by picking these players because the team was never close to success with these QBs in control. Maybe they had little talent around the QB, a lot of turnover in the coaching and front office, disarray in the locker room, other internal problems, or maybe they just lacked a pick that was too based on needs.
- This group of QBs started an average of 19 games for the team that used them, with a 33.5% winning percentage.
- None of these QBs ever made the playoffs for the team they used.
- The average QB in the 5. Levels was recruited into a decent situation. The team’s average winning percentage in the two years before attracting these QBs was 44.2%.
- Eight Tier 5 QBs were drafted in good situations (50% or better winning percentage). Only four of those QBs were drafted in bad situations (win percentage below 30%).
- Between 1990 and 2016, a total of 65 QBs were drafted in the 1st round. Lapdraft.
- Average QB winning percentage in the 1st half. The first round pick was a team with a 40.8% winning percentage in the previous two years.
- Those QBs started an average of 66.7 games for the team that played against them (4.2 seasons), with a 44.2% winning percentage.
- QBs have started an average of 3.2 playoff games in the first half. Round with 1.6 playoff wins, 0.25 Super Bowl wins and 0.11 Super Bowl wins.
- None of the five QBs selected by teams with a two-year win percentage greater than 65% have reached Tier 4 or Tier 5 status. Only one of those QBs (Culpepper) even made it to level 3. It surprised me, but maybe it’s the pressure on the starting QB to win right away, or the fact that a QB doesn’t have to make a difference.
- Teams identified 15 QBs with a win rate between 50% and 64%. Four of those QBs reached Level 1, but none reached Level 2. Maybe it’s because these teams were ready to win, but adjusted their QB selection based on their composition. This left less room for QB development. QBs get what they need, and at this point it all comes down to scouting and selecting the QB.
- Any QB who achieved Level 2 status was drafted by a team that had a win percentage of less than 45% in two years. Six of the seven QBs who made it to the second level were drafted by a team with a winning percentage of less than 40%.
- Level 2 QBs had the largest increase in winning percentage after they were starters compared to the two years prior to their arrival. I think these QBs would be at level 1 if there was better coaching and front office solutions to improve their situation.
- Are we seeing the best group of QBs to enter the NFL in recent years? In the last four years, we’ve seen Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Justin Herbert, all of whom are third round picks. Level or better. Many of them see at least one level 2 projection. Or is it not that uncommon for many players to choose to quit after their first few years (e.g. Wentz, Goff). I’d say it’s about looking forward.
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