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2009 NFL Draft: The Importance Of Drafting A First Round Quarterback

With the NFL Draft this weekend, the focus is on the Lions.  Can Matt Stafford (he's already signed a contract ) do a Matt Ryan for Detroit?  Or would it have been safer to take a defense star?

I wanted to see just how important the draft was to the quarterback position, so I went through the entire league and listed how each team acquired their starting QB.  In some cases (Cleveland, San Francisco, etc) I had to make an educated guess on who the starting QB will be.


Team Starting QB How Acquired?
BAL Flacco Draft (Round 1)
BUF Edwards Draft (Round 3)
CIN Palmer Draft (Round 1)
CLE Quinn Draft (Round 1)
DEN Orton Trade
HOU Schaub Trade
IND P. Manning Draft (Round 1)
JAX Garrard Draft (Round 4)
KC Cassel Trade
MIA Pennington Free Agent
NE Brady Draft (Round 6)
NYJ Clemens Draft (Round 2)
OAK Russell Draft (Round 1)
PIT Roethlisberger Draft (Round 1)
SD Rivers Draft (Round 1)
TEN Collins Free Agent
ATL Ryan Draft (Round 1)
ARZ Warner Free Agent
CAR Delhomme Free Agent
CHI Cutler Trade
DAL Romo Free Agent
DET Culpepper Free Agent
GB Rodgers Draft (Round 1)
MIN Jackson Draft (Round 2)
NO Brees Free Agent
NYG E. Manning Draft (Round 1)
PHI McNabb Draft (Round 1)
SF Hill Free Agent
SEA Hasselbeck Trade
STL Bulger Free Agent
TB Griese Trade
WAS Campbell Draft (Round 1)


Here are the totals:

Draft:             17  (53%)

Free Agent:  9  (28%)

Trade:           6  (19%)


More than half of the starting QBs in the NFL arrived on their teams via the draft.   As if that didn't show the importance of the draft, here's a breakdown of where those 17 QBs were taken:

Round 1:                12

Round 2 or 3:        3

Round 4 or later:  2

Wow.  More than a third of the starting QBs in the league were drafted by their teams in the first round.  And that understates the value of first round picks a bit, as another FOUR starting QBs (Cutler, Pennington, Culpepper and Collins) were also first round picks, but weren't drafted by their current teams.  That makes half of the league that has a first round QB starting for them.

It's easy to remember the historic first-round busts like Akili Smith and Ryan Leaf.  It's easy to laugh at the underachievement of first rounders like Kyle Boller and David Carr.  But for all those mistakes, the success of first-round quarterbacks is about as close to a sure thing as you're going to see in the draft. 

First rounders Chad Pennington and Kerry Collins were widely considered to be washed up two years ago.  Last year they led their teams to a combined 24-8 regular season record.   Out of the last ten starting Super Bowl QBs, six of them were first round picks.  The last four  -- four in a row! -- Super Bowl-winning QBs (Roethlisberger, E. Manning, P. Manning, Roethlisberger again) were first round QBs.

I can understand why teams want to avoid the pressure of making a bad decision (Todd Marinovich!) by avoiding a QB (Dan McGwire!) in the first round.   But for those franchises who need to rebuild -- not just improve, but completely and totally rebuild -- it's hard to see a better way.