Why You Don’t Pass On First Round Quarterbacks

So you think that the Rams would be better served by going after Suh than one of the two top quarterbacks this year or Seattle would be better served picking McCoy instead of Clausen if both were available at number six? I would have thought that one of the defensive tackles would have been the safer pick if nothing else but a study done by WalterFootball has opened my eyes and brought something into focus that I’ve often articulated about quarterbacks but never had the research to back it up.

WalterFootball went back to 1993 and looked at both defensive tackles and quarterbacks taken at pick 16 and higher from then until now. The players were rated as hits, busts, or OK meaning that they weren’t busts but neither were they any great shakes at the position (think Dilfer). Surprisingly, it turned out that taking a defensive tackle turned out to be a bigger risk than a quarterback. I know most fans would tell you that the quarterback position is the riskiest of all positions to draft but it’s not true.

Here’s the sumarization of the results of the study:


There were 29 quarterbacks selected in the top 16 of the NFL Draft since 1993…

Hits: 13
Busts: 12
OK: 2
TBA: 2

Defensive Tackles:

There were 33 defensive tackles selected in the top 16 of the NFL Draft since 1993…

Hits: 15
Busts: 15
OK: 2
TBA: 1

Now, let’s look at the hit and bust rates for each position:

Quarterback Hit Rate: 48.2%
Defensive Tackle Hit Rate: 46.9%

Quarterback Bust Rate: 44.4%
Defensive Tackle Bust Rate: 46.9%

I find it very interesting that according to this data, quarterbacks have higher success rates and lower bust rates than defensive tackles, yet defensive tackle is generally perceived to be the safer route.

It’s a small sample size, but the disparity is even larger in the top five. In that area, only one defensive tackle has panned out of five opportunities, whereas five of 10 quarterbacks have been “hits,” and only four of 10 quarterbacks have been busts.

Considering how important the quarterback is in relation to the defensive tackle, if a team is deciding between the two positions, the “risk” factor should not sway them away from taking a signal-caller. In fact, it’s actually riskier to take a defensive tackle.

You can read all the detail here including all the players that were evaluated in the study and how they were rated. Press Read more to continue.

In another part of WalterFootball’s website, they say that second round quarterbacks have a bust rate of over 90%.

Also, second-round quarterbacks have a 90.9-percent bust rate (I’ll be exploring this soon). Excluding Drew Brees and possibly Chad Henne, name one successful Round 2 quarterback in the past decade. Don’t try, because there are none. Believe it or not, the next best guy is Tarvaris Jackson (Kevin Kolb and Chad Henne being unknowns right now).

A lot of guys are saying that Seattle should wait and take a quarterback in the second or fourth rounds or even later rather than risk picking one in the first round. If you believe the work done at WalterFootball and facts are facts, you have to ask yourself if you would be better off picking the most important position on the team in the first round and have a 1 in 2 chance that he’ll become a hit or wait until the second round and select a quarterback at 1 in 10 odds. I would suspect that the odds go down from there in each successive round.

The Rams are talking about drafting Suh again instead of one of the two so called franchise quarterbacks. They have passed on three potential franchise quarterbacks in the last four drafts (Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, and Mark Sanchez) preferring to make a “safe pick”. The Rams have won 6 games in the last three seasons. Maybe they would have fared better with Ryan, Cutler, or Sanchez under center than Tye Hill the shutdown corner (he hasn’t been), or Chris Long the defensive end who was supposed to be a dominant defensive lineman like Suh is projected to be (he hasn’t been either), or Jason Smith who now looks as if he has severe concussion syndrome that may not allow him to ever live up to his potential. The Rams have done what many are saying Seattle should do. Pass on potential franchise quarterbacks unless they see a sure thing like Peyton Manning or wait for Jake Locker next season. Bad philosophy according to these statistics.

First of all, you’re not going to get a Peyton Manning or Jake Locker unless you own one of the top two or three picks in the draft. To get to number one or two this season even from number six  would require almost our whole draft if you figure the points. How would we get there from outside the top ten? I don’t think Carroll has plans to remain a team picking in the top ten for long. The Rams have shown us the model for ignoring quarterback needs and bypassing franchise quarterback prospects waiting for who knows what but Suh isn’t going to make the Rams a winner by himself but Bradford or Clausen might. And the quarterback is the less risky pick too.

I think Seattle has to take a hard look at either of the elite quarterback prospects if they are available to them with the number six pick. Unless there is a red flag that the coaching and scouting staff know about, they need to look at where we’ll be with no viable quarterback on the team versus having another top talent at another position. Can Berry affect the game like a franchise quarterback could? Can Haden? How about McCoy? We might not get a shot at a top rated quarterback for years. If we go 7 – 9 next year or better, we’ll be drafting out of the top ten and at 8 – 8 somewhere in the middle of the draft. Forget getting a sniff at a top rated quarterback there and forget having enough ammunition to move up unless we want to get rid of a top player and lots of draft choices.

Those of you who would summarily pass on Bradford or Clausen without even doing a proper evaluation or considering the risk/reward elements of picking one of them at number six are looking at putting the team into the same hole the Rams are in. If, after doing such an evaluation, there are some reasons to pass on either candidate, that’s a different story but we can’t just dismiss the idea out of hand no matter who is also on the board at the time.

I hear some of you Addicts saying that we’ve got Hass for at least a couple more years so we’re really not needing a quarterback yet anyway. That’s a fallacy coupled with wishful thinking. Hass has been hurt significant portions of the last two seasons. What makes anyone think he won’t miss games again this season? Also, who really thinks he will re-sign with Seattle and spend his last year or two on a rebuilding team perhaps tutoring a new quarterback who is being groomed to take his place? I think you have to consider that Hass may not play this whole season and is most likely gone afterwards in free agency. If you don’t plan for that, you are taking a huge risk unless you really don’t care about winning. I would say that risk is greater than the 50% you’re looking at in picking a franchise quarterback out of the first round.

OK Addicts, quarterback has been a big controversy this off-season. What about the revelation that the quarterback position isn’t the most risky pick? Can we afford to just ignore Hasselbeck’s injury history or bank on him re-signing with the team and being able to play effectively for a couple more years? Do we want to lower our odds from 50% to 10% or less when searching for a quarterback by being afraid to take a chance on a good one with a high pick? How many years are we willing to devote to the search if we’re going to try the low odds approach? How many more chances will we get to pick a top ten quarterback where the highest odds are? Think about it.