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Drafting QBs is a coin flip, but giving up is not a viable option

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Kirwan (Getty Images)  
Kirwan (Getty Images)  

Teams have to keep trying to find a franchise quarterback. Failure to select a good QB can't stop a team from continuing the search in the first and second round of the draft. For example, if the Lions were scared off by the Joey Harrington selection in 2002, or the second round selection of Drew Stanton in 2007, they never would have grabbed Matthew Stafford in 2009. The problem is this: finding a quarterback who can win over a long period of time is worse than a 50-50 proposition.

Since 2000 there have been 51 quarterbacks selected in the first or second round. 36 players in the first round and 15 more in the second round. It's easy to say a number of the first-round selections weren't much better than a second-round talent and the second-round selections closer to third and fourth round talent, but teams are willing to take the risk of a 'reach' pick, and so we have a high mortality rate at the position.

1st-rounders, starts
QB starts
David Carr 79
Joey Harrington 76
Jason Campbell 70
Vince Young 50
Byron Leftwich 49
Rex Grossman 47
Kyle Boller 47
J.P. Losman 33
JaMarcus Russell 25
Patrick Ramsey 24
Matt Leinart 18
Brady Quinn 12
Jake Locker 0

25 of the 32 NFL teams have taken a shot at a first round QB since 2000, and another two different teams used the second round. In total, 27 of the 32 NFL teams have drafted a QB in the first or second round since 2000, but with more than mixed reviews. The only teams to avoid a first- or second-round QB selection since 2000 include the Patriots, Texans, Chiefs, Saints and Seahawks, and there are mixed reviews there as well.

How much of a crap shoot is taking a quarterback in the top two rounds? Excluding the class of 2012, since they haven't played a game yet, only 41.3 percent of the quarterbacks taken since 2000 are starters (19 of 46). Eleven of the quarterbacks are no longer in the NFL and 16 are backups with little chance to play barring injury.

The numbers are also eye-opening if you take out the last four years, because the players are restricted and -- Tim Tebow aside -- usually stick with their original team. But look at the quarterbacks taken from 2008 back to 2000 and among a pool of 34 signal callers only seven are still with the team that drafted them. There's only a 20.5 percent probability that the quarterback your team drafted to build the team around will end his career with the team.

Expectations are very high for first- and even second-round quarterbacks when they are drafted. Since 2000 only four of the 46 quarterbacks have led their team to a Super Bowl victory (Ben Roethlisberger(2), Eli Manning(2), Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers).

Ability to break into the lineup, durability and maturity also play into the equation. Only four quarterbacks have even gotten to 100 starts. Consider 19 quarterbacks were taken between 2000 and 2005, which means they were all eligible for 100 plus starts and only Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger cracked the century mark. What are the chances of your top draft pick getting 100 starts in his first 116 games as a pro? The unfortunate answer is 21 percent for a first-round pick and a .07 percent chance for a second-round pick.

Take a look at this list of first round picks and their career starts that should bring back interesting memories. David Carr (79), Joey Harrington (76), Patrick Ramsey (24), Byron Leftwich (49), Rex Grossman (47), Kyle Boller (47), J.P. Loseman (33),Jason Campbell (70), Matt Leinart (18), Vince Young (50), JaMarcus Russell (25), Brady Quinn (12), Jake Locker (0).

When you look specifically at the second round it is all about Drew Brees and Andy Dalton. Brees has 153 starts and Dalton started all 16 as a rookie last year. The rest of the second round picks include 12 players with 152 total career starts with the most experienced starters being Tavaris Jackson and Quincy Carter with 34 each. Remember these famous second-round picks? Marquis Tuiasosopa (Oakland), John Beck (Miami), Pat White (Miami). Drew Stanton (Detroit), Brian Brohm (Green Bay), and Jimmy Clausen (Carolina) managed 25 starts between them and only two are still in the league.

Finally, the reality of achieving success for early draft picks is not what you would hope it would be, but at least the pay scale is under control and there will be no more JaMarcus Russell stories. But there may not be many Eli Manning or Drew Brees stories either. Soon it will be time to start tracking Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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