Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why Do Teams Draft Quarterbacks?

Truly is there really any good reason to use a high pick on a quarterback?

Sure, I know some teams have to do it, but when you look at the quality quarterbacks that are available year in and out for cheap, and compare them to the quarterbacks who emerge from the first round it is hard to see the justification.

So today, we have a resolution of the Donovan McNabb saga. Or at least something of a resolution, as the Jason Campbell saga just descabbed. But anyway, Washington picked up McNabb for a bit more than the bargain basement price that the Eagles were demanding, trading #37 and a pick between #60 - #120 next year. They also have McNabb's $11M contract and probably are going to have to back up the truck to keep him.

This is a distinctly Redskinesque deal. Even with Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan supposedly calling the shots now, this has the taint of Daniel Snyder's stinkfinger all over it. With Washington desperately needing to get younger and to add depth, they trade for a guy who will provide immediate dividends for about three weeks, until the most porous offensive line in the NFL gets him killed.

But of course, this isn't about that.

Getting back to the quarterback thing, in the last ten years now we have seen Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Chad Pennington and Matt Schaub change teams and excel. Only Schaub cost more than the price of his contract. We've seen a 6th round pick win 3 Super Bowls, a 10th rounder win another. Only the Mannings and Roethlisberger won Super Bowls as first rounders with their drafting organization (Eli, yeah I know. Don't be pedantic), I guess you could give Drew Bledsoe a half credit for the Pats first win, so call it 4 1/2 total wins.

Meanwhile, between 1993 and 2007 35 quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. So far, 31 have come up empty with 11 of those out of football altogether (and a bunch more on life support).

So given the choice, is it better to pay less and take a flyer on a guy with a bum arm like Brees, or is it better to commit $50M (or whatever) to a guy that - if history is a guide - has a 10% chance of taking his drafting team to a Super Bowl?

The thing that kills me - truly - is that every year or two there are quarterbacks like this available. Often more than one. They won't all succeed of course, but it is hard to imagine that their hit rate would be any worse than you get out of a first round quarterback. The added benefit is that you aren't tying an anvil to your neck with these guys.

The Jets traded a 3rd rounder for Favre. Was he worth it? Hard to say, but it was only a 3rd rounder. The Dolphins a 2nd rounder for Culpepper a few years ago. Definitely not worth it, but only a one year thing. These teams weren't tied to their bad decisions, and forced by politics and payroll to struggle and flounder with players who the team knew weren't prepared to help them win.

Do you think maybe Mike Nolan regrets chaining his career to Alex Smith? How about Matt Millen to Joey Harrington, and Steve Mariucci who got Harrington jammed down his throat? The list just goes on and on. Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Brady Quinn, Jamarcus Russell. Coach killers all.

San Diego got a lot of credit for their deft maneuvering in 2004 to land Philip Rivers. What people appear to forget is that they were in that position after failing with Ryan Leaf (#2OA in '98) and then giving up on Brees (#32OA). So Rivers was really the equivalent of 3 first round picks. He's terrific. He might even be worth it, but the Chargers would have been ahelluvalot better off not drafting those other guys then.

So yeah, my fantasy NFL team only ever drafts linemen and corenerbacks in the first couple of rounds. They take flyers on 5th round quarterbacks or run with these freebies that are on the market every winter.


  1. Truly.

    My draft goes
    [extra picks follow of DL, RB and LB/S]


  2. I mostly agree with you although I would bump CB a bit.

    The one caveat though is that if I needed a RB I would definitely invest a 2nd rounder in one. A lot of terrific RBs come out of the 2nd. Last year McCoy (and Green w/pick #1 in the 3rd). The year before Forte and Rice. '07 was a bust year but '06 with LenDale White and MJD. '05 Gore went #65. '04 Julius Jones. None in '03. '02 Portis, Betts and Maurice Morris.

    The hit rate from #32 - #70 is 10/17. From '02-'08 it is 14/22 for first rounders.

  3. Yeah, obvs if I had a good team with a 'need' they would move up, esp RB/DBs who can step in and start. I'm not passing on Deion or McCoy if I need them.

    I meant more starting a franchise from scratch, but either way.


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