Excited about that late-round QB your team drafted? Don't be
Think Tom Savage or AJ McCarron or Logan Thomas could be the long-term answer for the teams that drafted them? Think again. History suggests they're almost certain to fall short.
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Don't expect much from those quarterbacks selected on Day 3. We might as well get that out of the way early.
Yes, you can be optimistic and try to talk yourself into thinking the fifth-round QB your team selected was a steal ("There were mock drafts that had him going in the first round!"), or you can be realistic and accept that fact that, in general, quarterbacks taken in Rounds 4-7 have short, low-impact NFL existences.
By the time the 2014 NFL Draft had played out, 14 quarterbacks had been taken, nine after the third round:
- Round 4, pick 120: Logan Thomas, Cardinals
- Round 4, pick 135: Tom Savage, Texans
- Round 5, pick 163: Aaron Murray, Chiefs
- Round 5, pick 164: AJ McCarron, Bengals
- Round 6, pick 178: Zach Mettenberger, Titans
- Round 6, pick 183: David Fales, Bears
- Round 6, pick 194: Keith Wenning, Ravens
- Round 6, pick 213: Tajh Boyd, Jets
- Round 6, pick 214: Garrett Gilbert, Rams
Several of the names that went on Day 3 were, at various times this spring, considered second-round picks at worst, and possibly even first-rounders.
Pittsburgh's Tom Savage and Alabama's AJ McCarron are two examples of how media-driven mock drafts can skew the reality of how NFL scouts, coaches and general managers actually feel about a prospect. Both were mentioned as likely second-rounders, and neither heard their names called until the draft's final day. Savage went in the fourth round to the Texans and McCarron went a round later to the Bengals.
In Cincinnati, the knee-jerk reaction went something like this: "Andy Dalton should be concerned. He's in the last year of his rookie deal and if he struggles in 2014, McCarron could be the Bengals' fallback plan."
More likely, as Cincy offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said earlier this week, via the Cincinnati Enquirer: "This is not about Andy Dalton. ... Andy Dalton is our quarterback and we stand by him 100 percent. ... Obviously he is the leader of our football team. I think he has a bright, bright future ahead of him."
You're probably still unconvinced, especially if you watched Dalton stumble his way through the postseason the last three seasons. The problem: Quarterbacks drafted after the third round have a dismal track record in the NFL.
(Unless noted otherwise in the chart below, median values were used because former sixth-round juggernaut Tom Brady skews the average values. Also: CarAV, which stands for career approximate value and was created by pro-football-reference.com, is a means for measuring how productive a player has been throughout his career. You can read the details of here.)
Pretty sobering, but it gets worse when you break it down by Rounds 4-7. The later a quarterback is drafted, the less productive he becomes, which makes sense; NFL teams spend months scouting a player and they have a good idea for what they're getting.
There are exceptions, of course, but they're not as frequent as they seem; Brady is the most prominent example, but we've included in the table below the most productive NFL quarterbacks based on their CarAV.
In retrospect, it's easy to call David Garrard (4th round) overrated, or claim that neither Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Matt Cassel (7th rounders) are legit NFL starters, but when you compare their career stats with the median value for QBs taken in their respective rounds, and then compare that with what you'd expect from the top five percent of quarterbacks taken in Rounds 4-7, what they've accomplished is wholly impressive.
Click on the table below to enlarge.
From the perspective of May, it's perfectly reasonable to be excited that your team will be the one to unearth the next Tom Brady with that late-round pick. But history suggests that that quarterback taken on Day 3 will, on average, play two NFL seasons, never be his team's primary starter, will sport a 2-5 career record (if he's lucky), complete 54.7 percent of his passes and throw 3 touchdowns against 6 interceptions.
Put another way: Be careful what you ask for, Bengals fans.
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