NFL Draft History: The Tremendous Risk of Drafting a QB in the First Round

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NFL Draft History: The Tremendous Risk of Drafting a QB in the First Round
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Bill Walsh was criticized for selecting Joe Montana with 82nd pick in the 1979 draft.

Montana was selected at the very bottom of the third round, but some thought he was taken far too soon. Worthy of a fifth-rounder, tops.

Also, the 49ers had pretty bad quarterback problems that year. If the 49ers had not been so stupid as to trade their first round pick to Buffalo, they could have gotten a real quarterback, like Jack Thompson.

This is when Walsh dropped his famous quote: "Few men are qualified to evaluate the quarterback position. Fewer still are qualified to coach the position."

That was his polite way of saying "you critics don't know what you are talking about." This line is frequently quoted by Michael Lombardi—one of Walsh's protégés—on the NFL Network.

Hindsight is 20/20, and the history is pretty clear. Walsh was laughing like hell at those same critics long before he died. Anybody who knows anything about NFL football ought to be laughing right along with him.

Truth be told, the scouts don't know who the good quarterback candidates are, period. They don't know this year. They didn't know last year. They won't know next year. They didn't know 31 years ago.

They can't tell the winners from the losers, period. Gambling on the scout's advice is a crapshoot at best, so shake up 'dem bones and roll'em, if you will.

How do I know this? How can I be so condemning of the NFL scout? It's pretty easy to do. All you need to do is study a little history. Perform this research project, if you like, and see what you find.

Collect all the names of all the quarterbacks selected in the first round between 1979 and 2007. Go over your list a few times and consider whether the pick in question turned out to be a success story, a bust story, or fair-to-middlin' journeyman story.

Count the number of picks in each of those categories. Divide the number of names in each category by the total number of picks, and there you have your percentages. These percentages define your actuarial table. The actuarial table tells you your odds of success when selecting a quarterback in the first round.

Being the nice guy that I am, I decided to do the research for you. The results are as follows:

67 quarterbacks were selected in the first round between 1979 and 2007

20 were ultimately successful (29.85 percent)

39 were all-out busts (58.21 percent)

Eight were middlin' journeymen quarterbacks (11.94 percent)

Want some proof? How about the entire table of first-round quarterbacks between 1979 and 2007? Would that be good enough for you?

# Name School Year Team Overall Rating
1 Jack Thompson Washington State 1979 Bengals 3 Bust
2 Phil Simms Morehead State 1979 Giants 7 Success
3 Steve Fuller Clemson 1979 Chiefs 23 Bust
4 Marc Wilson BYU 1980 Raiders 15 Bust
5 Mark Malone Arizona State 1980 Steelers 28 Bust
6 Rich Campbell California 1981 Packers 6 Bust
7 Dave Wilson Illinois 1981 Saints Supplemental Bust
8 Art Schlichter Ohio State 1982 Colts 4 Bust
9 Jim McMahon BYU 1982 Bears 5 Success
10 John Elway Stanford 1983 Colts 1 Success
11 Todd Blackledge Penn State 1983 Chiefs 7 Bust
12 Jim Kelly Miami 1983 Bills 14 Success
13 Tony Eason Illinois 1983 Patriots 15 Bust
14 Ken O'Brien UC Davis 1983 Jets 24 Success
15 Dan Marino Pittsburg 1983 Dolphins 27 Success
16 Bernie Kosar Miami 1985 Browns Supplemental Success
17 Jim Everett Purdue 1986 Oilers 3 Success
18 Chuck Long Iowa 1986 Lions 12 Bust
19 Vinny Testaverde Miami 1987 Buccaneers 1 Middle
20 Kelly Stouffer Colorado State 1987 Cardinals 6 Bust
21 Chris Miller Oregon 1987 Falcons 13 Success
22 Jim Harbaugh Michigan 1987 Bears 26 Middle
23 Troy Aikman UCLA 1989 Cowboys 1 Success
24 Steve Walsh Miami 1989 Cowboys Supplemental Bust
25 Timm Rosenbach Washington State 1989 Cardinals Supplemental Bust
26 Jeff George Illinois 1990 Colts 1 Bust
27 Andre Ware Houston 1990 Lions 7 Bust
28 Dan McGwire San Diego State 1991 Seahawks 16 Bust
29 Todd Marinovich USC 1991 Raiders 24 Bust
30 David Klingler Houston 1992 Bengals 6 Bust
31 Tommy Maddox UCLA 1992 Broncos 25 Bust
32 Dave Brown Duke 1992 Giants Supplemental Bust
33 Drew Bledsoe Washington State 1993 Patriots 1 Success
34 Rick Mirer Notre Dame 1993 Seahawks 2 Bust
35 Heath Shuler Tennessee 1994 Redskins 3 Bust
36 Trent Dilfer Fresno State 1994 Buccaneers 6 Middle
37 Steve McNair Alcorn State 1995 Oilers 3 Success
38 Kerry Colins Penn State 1995 Panthers 5 Middle
39 Jim Druckenmiller Virgina Tech 1997 49ers 26 Bust
40 Peyton Manning Tennessee 1998 Colts 1 Success
41 Ryan Leaf Washington State 1998 Chargers 2 Bust
42 Tim Couch Kentucky 1999 Browns 1 Bust
43 Donovan McNabb Syracuse 1999 Eagles 2 Success
44 Akili Smith Oregon 1999 Bengals 3 Bust
45 Daunte Culpepper Central Florida 1999 Vikings 11 Bust
46 Cade McNown UCLA 1999 Bears 12 Bust
47 Chad Pennington Marshall 2000 Jets 18 Middle
48 Michael Vick Virgina Tech 2001 Falcons 1 Middle
49 David Carr Fresno State 2002 Texans 1 Bust
50 Joey Harrington Oregon 2002 Lions 3 Bust
51 Patrick Ramsey Tulane 2002 Redskins 32 Bust
52 Carson Palmer USC 2003 Bengals 1 Middle
53 Byron Leftwich Marshall 2003 Jaguars 7 Bust
54 Kyle Boller California 2003 Ravens 19 Bust
55 Rex Grossman Florida 2003 Bears 22 Bust
56 Eli Manning Ole Miss 2004 Chargers 1 Success
57 Philip Rivers North Carolina State 2004 Giants 4 Success
58 Ben Roethlisberger Miami of Ohio 2004 Steelers 11 Success
59 J.P. Losman Tulane 2004 Bills 22 Bust
60 Alex Smith Utah 2005 49ers 1 Bust
61 Aaron Rodgers California 2005 Packers 24 Success
62 Jason Campbell Alburn 2005 Redskins 25 Bust
63 Vince Young Texas 2006 Titans 3 Success
64 Matt Leinart USC 2006 Cardinals 10 Middle
65 Jay Cutler Vanderbilt 2006 Broncos 11 Success
66 JaMarcus Russell LSU 2007 Raiders 1 Bust
67 Brady Quinn Notre Dame 2007 Browns 22 Bust
            39 20 8
            58.21% 29.85% 11.94%

In conclusion, you have a 29.85 percent chance of drafting a good quarterback if you select one in the first round. Do you like the idea of drafting a QB in the first round when the odds are put to you so bluntly?

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