What does it take to play quarterback in the NFL? Aside from not being drafted by the Browns or Raiders, is there a certain formula for success?
Is there reason why Peyton Manning and JaMarcus Russell, while both former No. 1 overall picks, are traveling down slightly different career paths?
What about guys who were complete afterthoughts on draft day: Guys like Tom Brady (sixth round) and Tony Romo (undrafted)? All of this varied success got me wondering if there is any kind of method to the madness. Let’s explore.
Currently, of the 32 starting NFL quarterbacks (injured players like Chad Pennington and Matt Stafford are still counted as starters), 16 were drafted in the first round. Half the league right there.
Of those 16 quarterbacks, five were the No. 1 overall pick (Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, JaMarcus Russell and Matt Stafford).
To break that down even further, the NFC West is currently the only division in football that does not have a first-round pick starting at quarterback. Although, there are plenty on the benches, including former top pick Alex Smith, Kyle Boller, and Matt Leinart.
Conversely, two divisions have three former first round picks starting; the NFC East and the AFC North. In fact, if Eric Mangini’s leash had been just a tad bit longer (or I’d written this article a few weeks earlier), the AFC North would have been the only division in football to have all four teams starting a first-rounder (had Brady Quinn not been benched).
The rest of the teams are made up of quarterbacks from the later rounds or who were undrafted. Here’s the complete breakdown.
First Round: 16
Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Jason Campbell, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Kerry Collins, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers, JaMarcus Russell, Mark Sanchez, and Chad Pennington
Second Round: Two
Third Round: Two
Matt Schaub and Trent Edwards
Fourth Round: Two
Kyle Orton and David Garrard
Fifth Round: One
Sixth Round: Four
Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson and Tom Brady
Seventh Round: One
Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, Shaun Hill, and Jake Delhomme
Quite frankly, I found this information to be very surprising. Not only does it appear that rounds three-five have been completely void of quarterback talent, but that round six is packed full of it.
In fact, every starting quarterback drafted in the sixth round has played in a Pro Bowl!
Surely, this doesn’t take into account coaching, supporting cast, college development, and overall personal skills, but it was interesting to compile the data.
Drafting a quarterback is always risky business, especially drafting one who is expected to come in and play right away. Careers can be made by gaining confidence with a few rookie wins (Roethlisberger, Ryan, Sanchez, etc.) and destroyed by poor play and being jerked around by the coaching staff (Russell, Quinn, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, Alex Smith, etc).
I, like many, think that there is no tougher position in sports to succeed at than NFL quarterback. I think it takes a combination of many factors in order to do this but following this trend…you’re better off being a first-round pick.
Or a sixth-round pick…
Or not drafted at all….