A Look At The Numbers: The First Round Quarterback.

A Look At The Numbers: The First Round Quarterback.
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The First Round Quarterback- how do they fare?

It’s that time of year again, as the playoff picture begins to clear so does next years draft order. As always the quarterbacks are the “bells of the ball”, getting most of the early draft attention. Rightly so; the Quarterback is the most important position in this sport, maybe all sports.

Trevor Lawrence is the nearest thing to a “sure thing” according to most scouts, including our college expert Owain Jones. But no one comes with a guarantee. For every hit, there’s a miss.

We’ve looked at the 20 drafts between 1998 and 2017 to see what we can learn from those picks at QB. What can they teach us prior to the 2021 draft?

Who’s included on our Quarterback list?

We looked at the 55 Quarterbacks drafted in the first round between 1998 and 2017. Why those years? Recent enough that we have a decent “sample size” and not to recent that there’s too little data. You’ve had a great year Justin Herbert but you were drafted too soon for this, sorry!

Our crop begin with Peyton Manning, the first selection in the 1998 draft by the Colts. With a Superbowl ring for each hand that’s a great start. Next up was pick 2 Ryan Leaf, who only managed 25 career games and didn’t make it to his 4th season. Not so great. Unfortunately for Leaf he’s the definition of a draft “bust”.

Peyton and Eli Manning, both number 1 picks, have 4 Superbowl wins between them. They’re the only number 1 picks drafted since 1998 to win a Superbowl. Image from USAToday

From Leaf and Manning we go through to Trubisky, Mahomes and Watson in 2017. 55 Quarterbacks in all. Here’s what we’ve looked at and what we found.

What are we looking at?

  • Games: Easy one – you want a Quarterback who plays games for you.
  • Seasons: How many seasons did they play in the NFL?
  • Games/Season: You want a durable quarterback with plenty of games in the tank.
  • Superbowl Appearances: Ideally you want to win it, but even just making it to a Superbowl is an achievement.
  • Superbowl Wins: The big one. Doesn’t require an explanation surely?
  • Probowl Appearances: Not always the most accurate measure of a player but usually give a good indication of whether a player has impressed the fans, players and media that season.

Quarterback production: The Findings

Games: 14 (25.5%) of the 55 failed to play more than 38 games in the NFL. Notable “low gamers” include 2016 Paxton Lynch who managed a measly 5 and 3 Browns picks; Johnny Manziel (14 games, picked 2014), Brady Quinn (24, 2007) and Brandon Wheedon (35, 2012).

Seasons: Of the 36 players who are no longer in the league, 16 (44.4%) failed to make it to their 7th Season, the equivalent of mid way through their second contract. 10 (27.8%) failed to make it past 4, their rookie deal! This includes the Raiders number one overall pick from 2007 JaMarcus Russell who lasted 3 seasons and College phenom Tim Tebow. The Florida QB, drafted number 25 by the Broncos also failed to get past his 3rd season.

Where its possible (drafted on or before 2011) 15 (38.5%) of 39 had a career of 10 years or longer. Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger lead our lot with 17 seasons.

Games/Season: More than half (52.7%) 29 of 55 averaged 11 or fewer games/season. Of those 29 Rex Grossman, the 22nd pick in the 2003 draft for the Bears, was the only player to make a Superbowl appearance. Unfortunately for Rex and the Bears, they lost.

Joe Flacco is 1 out of our 6 Quarterbacks to win a Superbowl. He’s the only one of those 6 never to make the Probowl. Image from APNews.com

A Little more detail

Probowl Appearances: 26 (47.3%) of these QBs made the Probowl. Between them there’s 87 appearances, Peyton Manning leading the field with 14 selections in his 17 year career.

Superbowls: of the 55 QBs in question 10 (18.2%) have made Superbowl appearances, with a total of 16 appearances between them. Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Patrick Mahomes each have one ring. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli and Peyton Manning have two each.

First Overall picks: In 16 (80%) of the 20 drafts observed QBs were drafted first overall. Of those 16 the majority, 13 (81.3%) made it to a Probowl but only 3 (18.8%) made it to the Superbowl.

Cam Newton, one of only 3 first overall picks to make the Superbowl. Cam is the odd one out, both Peyton and Eli won Superbowls, Cam was the Quarterback that didn’t. Imagine from sportingnews.com


Drafting a QB isn’t easy. But you already knew that!

There’s a reason teams draft players in the first round; they’ve got the most talent or potential, or both, coming out of college. That goes for all positions not just Quarterback. But it’s always going to be a crap shoot. Regardless of this; there’s going to be 4/5 taken in the first round next year.

Your chance of drafting one who’ll last more than 7 years, average more than 12 games a season and make a Probowl appearance? Recent history says you’ve got a 27.7% chance of getting that with your first round pick. Happy hunting!

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