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

David LeonCorrespondent IApril 1, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame watches drills after deciding not to participate  during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
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?

1Jack ThompsonWashington State1979Bengals3Bust
2Phil SimmsMorehead State1979Giants7Success
3Steve FullerClemson1979Chiefs23Bust
4Marc WilsonBYU1980Raiders15Bust
5Mark MaloneArizona State1980Steelers28Bust
6Rich CampbellCalifornia1981Packers6Bust
7Dave WilsonIllinois1981SaintsSupplementalBust
8Art SchlichterOhio State1982Colts4Bust
9Jim McMahonBYU1982Bears5Success
10John ElwayStanford1983Colts1Success
11Todd BlackledgePenn State1983Chiefs7Bust
12Jim KellyMiami1983Bills14Success
13Tony EasonIllinois1983Patriots15Bust
14Ken O'BrienUC Davis1983Jets24Success
15Dan MarinoPittsburg1983Dolphins27Success
16Bernie KosarMiami1985BrownsSupplementalSuccess
17Jim EverettPurdue1986Oilers3Success
18Chuck LongIowa1986Lions12Bust
19Vinny TestaverdeMiami1987Buccaneers1Middle
20Kelly StoufferColorado State1987Cardinals6Bust
21Chris MillerOregon1987Falcons13Success
22Jim HarbaughMichigan1987Bears26Middle
23Troy AikmanUCLA1989Cowboys1Success
24Steve WalshMiami1989CowboysSupplementalBust
25Timm RosenbachWashington State1989CardinalsSupplementalBust
26Jeff GeorgeIllinois1990Colts1Bust
27Andre WareHouston1990Lions7Bust
28Dan McGwireSan Diego State1991Seahawks16Bust
29Todd MarinovichUSC1991Raiders24Bust
30David KlinglerHouston1992Bengals6Bust
31Tommy MaddoxUCLA1992Broncos25Bust
32Dave BrownDuke1992GiantsSupplementalBust
33Drew BledsoeWashington State1993Patriots1Success
34Rick MirerNotre Dame1993Seahawks2Bust
35Heath ShulerTennessee1994Redskins3Bust
36Trent DilferFresno State1994Buccaneers6Middle
37Steve McNairAlcorn State1995Oilers3Success
38Kerry ColinsPenn State1995Panthers5Middle
39Jim DruckenmillerVirgina Tech199749ers26Bust
40Peyton ManningTennessee1998Colts1Success
41Ryan LeafWashington State1998Chargers2Bust
42Tim CouchKentucky1999Browns1Bust
43Donovan McNabbSyracuse1999Eagles2Success
44Akili SmithOregon1999Bengals3Bust
45Daunte CulpepperCentral Florida1999Vikings11Bust
46Cade McNownUCLA1999Bears12Bust
47Chad PenningtonMarshall2000Jets18Middle
48Michael VickVirgina Tech2001Falcons1Middle
49David CarrFresno State2002Texans1Bust
50Joey HarringtonOregon2002Lions3Bust
51Patrick RamseyTulane2002Redskins32Bust
52Carson PalmerUSC2003Bengals1Middle
53Byron LeftwichMarshall2003Jaguars7Bust
54Kyle BollerCalifornia2003Ravens19Bust
55Rex GrossmanFlorida2003Bears22Bust
56Eli ManningOle Miss2004Chargers1Success
57Philip RiversNorth Carolina State2004Giants4Success
58Ben RoethlisbergerMiami of Ohio2004Steelers11Success
59J.P. LosmanTulane2004Bills22Bust
60Alex SmithUtah200549ers1Bust
61Aaron RodgersCalifornia2005Packers24Success
62Jason CampbellAlburn2005Redskins25Bust
63Vince YoungTexas2006Titans3Success
64Matt LeinartUSC2006Cardinals10Middle
65Jay CutlerVanderbilt2006Broncos11Success
66JaMarcus RussellLSU2007Raiders1Bust
67Brady QuinnNotre Dame2007Browns22Bust


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?