Few Quarterbacks Drafted After 1st Round are Worthy of Building Around

By Chris Malumphy

Over the past ten years, 130 quarterbacks have been drafted, nearly a quarter of whom were selected in the first round. Although there are the occasional exceptions, quarterbacks drafted later than round one typically don't get much playing time or have much of a positive impact on the game. Thus, the notion that you can take a developmental quarterback in the later rounds with plans of coaching them up into a viable starter is pretty much a pipe dream. During the past ten drafts, we have yet to see another Tom Brady or even much of a challenger to the likes of a Matt Hasselbeck, taken late in the draft. Every now and then some team gets lucky, but just like in a casino, most such high hopes are quickly flushed down the drain.

The following table shows the combined career statistics of the quarterbacks drafted since 2008 by round. It includes the number of quarterbacks drafted and the number of seasons any of those quarterbacks attempted 300 or more passes (which is a good indicator that they started a significant portion of the year).

Naturally, quarterbacks taken early tend to do better than those drafted in later rounds. The extent to which they dominate, however, is rather astounding. If your favorite team is in need of a passer, and fails to grab one of the top two or three in any draft, but decides to wait to pick one in the later rounds, don't get your hopes up. The odds are decidedly against them.

Of the 130 quarterbacks drafted since 2003, 31 (24%) were taken in the first round. No other round had more quarterbacks selected. As might be expected, the first rounders have dominated all siginificant statistical categories, usually by wide margins. First round quarterbacks have had 92 (75%) of the 122 seasons in which a quarterback threw at least 300 passes. With 366,594 total yards passing, the 31 first rounders have thrown for more than twice the combined yardage of the other 99 draftees. They have thrown 2,222 (71%) of the 3,143 touchdowns. First rounders have averaged more yards per attempt, more yards per completion, and a higher combined quarterback ranking than quarterbacks drafted in any other round. They also get sacked less frequently.

Quarterbacks drafted even one round later, don't fare nearly as well. Quarterbacks taken in the second round over the past 10 years, for instance, get sacked more frequently, amass nearly a half yard less per attempt and per completion, and have thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns. Quarterbacks drafted in the third round have done slightly better than second rounders, primarily due to the success of Matt Schaub, and more recently, Russell Wilson. The falloff becomes sharpest during round four, where teams don't even seem to bother considering to draft a quarterback with only 8 selected of the past 10 drafts. The number of quarterbacks drafted rises again in round five, but not a single one of the 19 quarterbacks drafted in the fifth round over the past 10 years has thrown 300 passes in a season. A few quarterbacks drafted in rounds six and seven have had a modicum of success in terms of getting onto the field to play, but they have not done particularly well. Certainly, none of them has approached the status of a playoff caliber quarterback.

Passing Statistics for Quarterbacks Drafted Since 2003 by Round
Round Number 300+ Att
Att C Pct Yds Avg
Int Int
Sacked Pct
519  1848100854.5117066.311.6512.8673.61628.168.0