Statistical Analysis of QBs by Round Drafted

 

Why Pinning the Eagles hopes on Drafting a Mid-Round Quarterback to Develop  Into a Future Starter is Fools Gold. 

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

There is a trendy argument floating around on #EaglesTwitter that goes something like this: the Eagles don’t need to use a high draft choice on a quarterback because they can just target one in later rounds and develop him into a future starter.

It’s easy to understand the allure of this argument, like a mouth seduced by a flame, many are tricked into believing this approach is valid when when they see the likes of Tom Brady (6th round), Russell Wilson (3rd round), and Tony Romo (undrafted) performing at high levels.

But this argument is the functional equivalent of planning your retirement based on winning the lottery. Ok, perhaps the odds are not that far fetched, but you get the idea. Because for every Brady, Wilson or Romo, there are literally hundreds of mid-to-late round quarterbacks that don’t even play a single snap in the NFL.

In other words, planning to get your franchise quarterback after the first round is the rare exception to the rule: a generational lucky roll of the dice that cannot be relied upon with any degree of certainty.

To figure out just how improbable this is, I relied on three data sets: one that I compiled, one compiled by the venerable FootballOutsiders.com, and one from NumberFire.com, an analytically inclined website known more for its fantasy advice.

To pacify my ego, let’s start with the simple data sets that I compiled: Super Bowl appearances and best single seasons based on Pro-Football-Reference.com’s approximate value metric.

Super Bowl Appearances By Round

Using Super Bowl appearances, we can determine which round is most likely to produce Super Bowl quarterbacks. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect statistic: Super Bowl winning teams are more than a byproduct of quarterback play. But it is a telling stat nonetheless.

Starting in 1990, here are the quarterbacks that have played in the Super Bowl and the round in which each quarterback was drafted:

Year                     QB (Round)                                   QB (Round)
1990 J Hostletler (3) J Kelly (1)
1991 J Kelly (1) M Rypien (6)
1992 T Aikman (1) J Kelly (1)
1993 T Aikman (1) J Kelly (1)
1994 S Young (1)* S Humphries (6)
1995 T Aikman (1) N O’Donnell (3)
1996 B Favre (2) D Bledsoe (1)
1997 J Elway (1) B Favre (2)
1998 J Elway (1) C Chandler (3)
1999 K Warner (Undrafted) S McNair (1)
2000 T Dilfer (1) K Collins (1)
2001 T Brady (6) K Warner (Undrafted)
2002 Brad Johnson (9) Rich Gannon (4)
2003 T Brady (6) J Delhomme (Undrafted)
2004 T Brady (6) D McNabb (1)
2005 R Grossman (1) P Manning (1)
2006 B Roethlisberger (1) M Hasselbeck (6)
2007 E Manning (1) T Brady (6)
2008 B Roethlisberger (1) K Warner (Undrafted)
2009 D Brees (2) P Manning (1)
2010 A Rodgers (1) B Roethlisberger (1)
2011 E Manning (1) T Brady (6)
2012 C Kaepernick (2) J Flacco (1)
2013 R Wilson (3) P Manning (1)
2014 R Wilson (3) T Brady (6)
2015 C Newton (1) P Manning (1)
That’s 26 games and 52 quarterbacks. The breakdown of appearances by round is as follows:
  • 1st: 28 (54%) (!)
  • 2nd: 4 (7%)
  • 3rd: 4 (7%)
  • 4th: 1 (2%)
  • 5th: 0 (0%)
  • 6th: 9 (17%)
  • 7th: 0 (0%)
  • Undrafted: 4 (7%)
The 6th round aberration can be explained by two words: Tom Brady. Otherwise, there is a very clear separation between first round quarterbacks and everyone else.
Best Single Season Based on Approximate Value
Have a gripe with evaluating quarterback play based on team success? Fair enough. Even if we focus on the best single seasons that have occurred from 1990-2015, based on Pro-Football-Reference.com’s approximate value, we see the first round picks carrying the day yet again:

Name

Year

AV

Round

Tom Brady

2007

24

6

Aaron Rodgers

2011

23

1

Steve Young

1993

23

1

Steve Young

1994

23

1

Steve Young

1992

22

1

Tom Brady

2011

21

6

Daunte Culpepper

2000

21

1

Peyton Manning

2004

21

1

Aaron Rodgers

2014

21

1

Drew Brees

2011

20

2

Daunte Culpepper

2004

20

1

Rich Gannon

2000

20

4

Jeff Garcia

2000

20

Undrafted

Peyton Manning

2006

20

1

Cam Newton

2015

20

1

Kurt Warner

2001

20

Undrafted

Steve Beuerlein

1999

19

4

Randall Cunningham

1990

19

2

Randall Cunningham

1998

19

2

Peyton Manning

2013

19

1

Warren Moon

1990

19

Undrafted

Cam Newton

2011

19

1

Philip Rivers

2009

19

1

Aaron Rodgers

2009

19

1

Kurt Warner

1999

19

Undrafted

14 of the top 25 single seasons were produced by first round picks. Undrafted quarterbacks produced the next highest total (4), thanks in part to Kurt Warner. Unsurprisingly, the second round had the next highest total (3), followed by Tom Brady holding down the 6th round (2), which tied with the 4th round.
In other words, 56% of the best single seasons were produced by a first round pick, only 2% points off the percentage of first round quarterbacks that have played in the Super Bowl during that same time period.
Football Outsiders Study:
Football Outsiders tackled this very question back in 2013, measuring quarterback success for all quarterbacks from 1994-2013. While the data is three years old, we haven’t seen anything to suggest that the data is unreliable to date.
It’s an exhaustive study worth reading, but I wanted to focus in on three relevant findings: win/loss record, playoff success, and leaders in single season weighted passer DVOA.
Wins/Loss Records
Below is the win/loss record of quarterbacks by round drafted:
  • 1st round: 1724-1614-5 (.516)
  • 2nd round: 440-413 (.516)
  • 3rd round: 196-246-1 (.44)
  • 4th round: 157-224-1 (.412)
  • 5th round: 33-60 (.355)
  • 6th round: 317-266 (.544)
  • 7th round: 124-195-2 (.389)

Again, we see a sharp decline after the first two rounds, lending credence to the idea that drafting a quarterback is a certifiable crapshoot after the second round. Heck, it’s even a crapshoot drafting quarterbacks in the first two rounds, but I digress.

And we see a spike in the 6th round, which — yet again — we can easily explain with two words, (say it with me): Tom Brady.

And before we get too excited about finding the next Tom Brady, consider this: 86 quarterbacks were drafted in rounds six and seven. 43.0 percent (37) of the quarterbacks have played zero games. So for every one Tom Brady you find, 37 more don’t even play a single snap.

Playoff Success:

Different metric, largely the same result. Quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds were much more likely to have success in the playoffs than their counterparts taken in rounds three through seven:

Rounds

1-2

3-7

Number

71

166

Playoff Games

Started

201

116

Playoff Wins

101

50

On Average Starts

2.83

.69

On Average Wins

1.38

.30

Without Tom Brady:

Average Starts

.54

Without Tom Brady:

Average Wins

.16

In other words, every quarterback drafted in the first two rounds produced, on averaged, 2.83 playoff starts, compared to .69 for quarterbacks drafted in rounds three through seven. The win totals were equally disparate, with the top rounds producing an average of 1.38 wins per quarterback drafted, compared to .30 for the later rounds.

And those latter statistics were inflated by the presence of — you guessed it — Tom Brady. If we removed him from the equation, the numbers are even less inspiring: .54 starts per quarterback and .16 wins per quarterback, respectively.

Weighted DVOA By Round:

FootballOutsiders.com also compiled a list of the top rated single seasons based on its advanced metric, DVOA. While there are slight differences with PFR’s approximate value ranking highlighted above, the end result is still the same: first round quarterbacks dominate:

Leaders in Weighted Passing DVOA (1994-2013)
Rk Quarterback Round Total DYAR PASS DVOA
1 Peyton Manning 1 25,299 32.5%
2 Tom Brady 6 17,498 26.9%
3 Aaron Rodgers 1 7,693 23.1%
4 Drew Brees 2 14,827 20.3%
5 Philip Rivers 1 8,772 20.0%
6 Tony Romo UFA 7,809 19.1%
7 Matt Ryan 1 6,381 17.1%
8 Ben Roethlisberger 1 8,065 14.9%
9 Chad Pennington 1 4,581 14.8%
10 Kurt Warner UFA 7,151 14.4%
11 Jeff Garcia UFA 6,404 11.8%
12 Matt Schaub 3 4,886 11.1%
13 Steve McNair 1 7,764 10.5%
14 Carson Palmer 1 6,779 9.9%
15 Daunte Culpepper 1 4,919 7.0%
16 David Garrard 4 2,859 4.0%
17 Byron Leftwich 1 1,608 3.4%
18 Matthew Stafford 1 2,478 3.3%
19 Donovan McNabb 1 6,229 3.1%
20 Eli Manning 1 4,698 2.5%
21 Marc Bulger 6 2,864 2.0%
22 Cam Newton 1 1,689 1.5%
23 Brian Griese 3 2,527 1.5%
24 Andy Dalton 2 1,410 0.6%
25 Jay Fiedler UFA 1,581 0.6%
Only includes QBs who debuted since 1994 (min. 1,000 passes)

As with PFR’s metric, 14 of the 25 top single seasons since 1994 came from first round picks. We are getting beyond the point where we can write this off as a statistical fluke, folks.

 NumberFire.com’s Study:
I am at the point at which the dead horse has been thoroughly beaten.
But for the sake of comprehensiveness, let’s top this off with another study done by NumberFire.com.
NumberFire uses an advanced metric called Net Expected Points, which essentially measures how much more value a player adds on a single play compared to what the historical average is for that very play. Taking it out of the abstract, here is a helpful example from NumberFire.com’s website:
The Chiefs may be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a third-and-two on the 50-yard line. That’s a ton of variables, but luckily, numberFire has data from the past dozen years of every single play, so most situations have come up at least once. According to our data, an average team may be “expected” to score 1.23 (estimated number) points on that drive. However, Jamaal Charles reels off a 32-yard run to bring the Chiefs into the red zone, increasing the “expected” point value of the next play to 4.23 (still an estimated number) points. Jamaal Charles then gets credit for the difference, in this case 2.96 points, as his NEP total.
Get it? Got it? Good.
NumberFire compiled all of the quarterbacks drafted out of the first round since 2000 that have finished in the top 10 of Total NEP in at least two seasons. Here is the list:
Quarterback Year Drafted Round Drafted Years in Top 10
Tom Brady 2000 6 9
Marc Bulger 2000 6 3
Drew Brees 2001 2 11
Tony Romo 2003 UDFA 6
Matt Schaub 2004 3 3
Russell Wilson 2012 3 3

136 quarterbacks had been drafted in rounds two through seven since 2000. Only five, or 3.6%, had produced top 10 seasons more than once. Only one undrafted quarterback — Tony Romo — fits the bill.

Needless to say, those are staggering odds.

NumberFire also found that of all the quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round from 2005-2011, not one ranked in the top 10 in Total NEP more than once.

Conclusion

To be clear: this is not to say that a team should never draft a quarterback after the first round or two. That’s nonsensical. But this is to say that a team should not plan on finding its franchise quarterback in the middle or tail end of the draft.
Drafting a quarterback is a lot like buying a suit. Sure, you can get a quarterback at a discount in the 5th round, just like you can go to Joseph A Bank and get a buy one suit get 18 free deal. But odds are the quarterback sucks as much as those cheap ass suits.
So buy the good suit, and draft the good quarterback. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.
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2 thoughts on “Statistical Analysis of QBs by Round Drafted

  1. Pingback: Neglecting the QB Position Forced The Eagles into this Trade | Eagles Rewind

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