Around this time of year, fans of teams in the bottom of their respective divisions dream about the prospect of the next top quarterback being drafted to their team. Each year, there are several quarterbacks that fall well short of the expectations. They often find themselves out of the league only a few years after being one of the top quarterbacks in their class. For any of the 32 teams, the NFL Draft is a lottery and just like with any drawing, there are odds of success and greater odds of failure. What are the odds of drafting a good QB?
This article will take a look at every quarterback drafted in the first round of the last ten Drafts, assigning whether each player was a bust, a quality starter, or a franchise quarterback. Some of the quarterbacks have not played long enough to merit a declaration and so they will be labeled “unknown.”
The core criteria will be a simple question: “what did that player do for the team that drafted him?” Aside from this main question, each player will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. At the end of the article, the totals of each category will be turned into a percentage and that percentage will become the odds that a team drafting a quarterback in the first round will end up with a corresponding type of quarterback.
For example, if it turns out that 40% of the players are franchise material while 30% are starters and 30% are busts, the odds that a team will draft a true franchise quarterback will be 40%. Without further ado, here are all of the first-round quarterbacks of the last ten years.
The Odds Of Drafting A Good QB: 2008-2017
Mitchell Trubisky – No. 2 Overall – Chicago Bears
The first quarterback drafted in 2017 had a lackluster rookie season, throwing seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, with changes in Chicago occurring, starting with the firing of head coach John Fox and the signing of Allen Robinson, the future looks brighter for the young quarterback. He could have a bounce-back second season but it is too soon to tell.
Patrick Mahomes II – No. 10 Overall – Kansas City Chiefs
Arguably the least proven quarterback of the 2017 first round draft class, Mahomes played in the season finale against the Denver Broncos and helped win the game. However, his stats were not too impressive, with no touchdowns and one interception. To be fair, he played against one of the best defenses in the league in his first NFL game and managed to not lose. Head coach Andy Reid is sold on the young signal-caller but the world is a long way from seeing what this kid can do.
Deshaun Watson – No. 12 Overall – Houston Texans
Watson took the NFL by storm, throwing 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games, breaking several rookie records in the process. Unfortunately for Watson, he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. All in all, he has been dominant in his time in the NFL but after suffering a torn ACL, there are questions as to whether he can be the same. Also, teams will now have a sizable sample of game tape to study before Watson’s second season. Watson has had a great start but is he for real?
Jared Goff – No. 1 Overall – Los Angeles Rams
During his rookie season under head coach Jeff Fisher, Goff threw a measly five touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, he turned it around under rookie head coach Sean McVay, throwing a whopping 28 touchdowns to seven interceptions. After the 2017 season, it is safe to say that the Rams have their quarterback of the future. Many quarterbacks have a rough opening season but never progress. Goff was able to take that next step.
Conclusion: Franchise Quarterback
Carson Wentz – No. 2 Overall – Philadelphia Eagles
Much like Goff, Wentz was able to take a big step forward in his second season after his rookie season. He improved from 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2016 to 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2017. The numbers alone indicate that Wentz is the quarterback of the future in Philadelphia. However, he is currently rehabbing an ACL injury sustained near the end of the regular season. Like Watson’s injury, there are questions as to if Wentz can return to form. Also, the biggest hole in Wentz’s resume is his lack of experience in the playoffs. There are plenty of quarterbacks that light it up in the regular season and struggle in the playoffs. Wentz’s future still looks bright and he is still expected to be the man in Philly for a long time to come.
Conclusion: Franchise Quarterback
Paxton Lynch – No. 26 Overall – Denver Broncos
Lynch’s career has been just as long as that of his draft mates, but his stat sheet is nowhere near as full. He’s only thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions in five games and four starts. The reason for this is that he never could convince the coaching staff that he was “the guy,” losing back-to-back quarterback competitions to former seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian in both seasons. Overall, he has been a disappointment and has proved to be nowhere near as useful as a first-rounder should be.
Jameis Winston – No. 1 Overall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s thrown 69 touchdowns and 44 interceptions in his career, not the best numbers for a first-overall pick. He has not been to the playoffs yet in the NFL, although the team did come close in 2016. In the end, he has some upside but still leaves plenty to be desired.
Marcus Mariota – No. 2 Overall – Tennessee Titans
With 58 touchdowns and 34 interceptions, he is almost sitting at a 2:1 ratio. However, he did take a step back this year in his third season, throwing only 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2017 as compared to 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016. In fairness, Mariota was playing through injury for much of 2017. Despite his struggles, the third-year quarterback led his team to a playoff victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, with an 18-point second-half comeback. Mariota is in a strange place, somewhere between a franchise-caliber quarterback and a mere starter but it is not clear yet where he falls.
Blake Bortles – No. 3 Overall – Jacksonville Jaguars
The only quarterback from the 2014 Draft that started in 2017, Bortles has thrown 90 touchdowns and 64 interceptions in his career. While he led the Jaguars to an AFC Championship game last season, he was arguably the weakest link on offense. During this offseason, there were many rumors and speculation that the Jaguars were going to move on from Bortles. Then, in a surprising move, Jacksonville signed Bortles to a contract extension. He will be the starter in 2018 but it was a tough decision for a team fresh off of an AFC Championship appearance. Overall, he leaves a lot of room for improvement but he will be a starter going forward.
Johnny Manziel – No. 22 Overall – Cleveland Browns
He’s thrown seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in his brief and controversial career. After being on top of the world pre-draft, Manziel publicly battled issues with drugs and alcohol. He has now been out of the league for two years but has sobered up and is attempting to resurrect his football career.
Teddy Bridgewater – No. 32 Overall – Minnesota Vikings
In a roller coaster of a career, Bridgewater has thrown a pedestrian 28 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. After bringing the Vikings to the playoffs in 2015, Bridgewater put the team in position to upset the red-hot Seattle Seahawks with a short field goal attempt with less than 30 seconds to play. What followed was one of the most infamous plays of the 2010s when kicker Blair Walsh missed the 27-yard field goal, sending the Vikings home in the wild card round.
Bridgewater’s misfortune did not end there as during the following offseason he suffered a catastrophic non-contact, season-ending injury that would sideline him for the rest of 2016 and most of 2017. Bridgewater could have been a franchise quarterback or a starter, but since Minnesota shipped him to the New York Jets this offseason, the Vikings have effectively declared him a bust.
EJ Manuel – No. 16 – Buffalo Bills
The only quarterback taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Manuel has had a rough career with just a 20 touchdown to 16 interception ratio. After his rookie year where he started ten games, he has been a backup ever since. He stayed with the Bills from 2013-2016 and joined the Oakland Raiders in 2017.
Andrew Luck – No. 1 Overall – Indianapolis Colts
Since his draft date in 2012, Luck has shown his capabilities, throwing a 132 touchdowns to 68 interceptions, almost a 2:1 ratio. His numbers are strong but his health has created serious concern for Colts fans. He missed 2017 due to an injury to his shoulder and still cannot throw a football comfortably.
If he could have returned in 2017, he would be a franchise-caliber QB. However, his future in the NFL remains a mystery. If he were to never play football again, his career would always be a question of “What if?” He’s given the Colts three playoff victories but no Super Bowl appearances.
If he was able to have one Super Bowl appearance then he would be considered franchise-caliber, even with a shortened career. In the end, if he did not miss all of 2017 and continue to have his career in jeopardy, he would be a franchise quarterback. Instead, he is the strongest starter there could possibly be.
Robert Griffin III – No. 2 Overall – Washington Redskins
One of the biggest examples of why a rookie year is not indicative of career performance, Griffin started his career with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, guiding the Redskins to a playoff appearance. However, his career hit a brick wall as he was injured in that playoff game against the Seahawks and he was never the same.
He played the next year, finishing with a disappointing 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The following year, his playing time dwindled and soon he was without a job. Griffin spent two of the next three years without a contract in 2015 and 2017, only able to land in Cleveland for one year in 2016. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason on a one-year deal to be a backup.
Ryan Tannehill – No. 8 Overall – Miami Dolphins
Tannehill has thrown an uninspiring 106 touchdowns and 66 interceptions in his career. He was responsible for bringing the team to the playoffs in 2016 but he did not play in the game due to an injury. Speaking of injuries, he missed the entire 2017 campaign due to a torn ACL. Tannehill has had his ups and downs but he has been good enough to be the unchallenged starter since 2012.
Brandon Weeden – No. 22 Overall – Cleveland Browns
Weeden is the definition of a bust. He has thrown a rough career record of 31 touchdowns and 30 interceptions and after his first season, he has been a career backup that has bounced around from the Browns to the Cowboys, Texans, and Titans.
Cam Newton – No. 1 Overall – Carolina Panthers
Newton’s thrown a decent 158 touchdowns to 94 interceptions in his career, meaning that for about every 10 touchdowns he throws, he throws six picks which is not a bad ratio at all but not a stellar one, either. He was at his height when he almost pulled off a perfect season at 15-1, an MVP award, and an appearance in Super Bowl 50. All three accomplishments doing enough to push him into the “franchise material” category.
Conclusion: Franchise Quarterback
Jake Locker – No. 8 Overall – Tennessee Titans
Mariota’s predecessor, he’s thrown 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his injury-plagued time in the NFL. With a history like that, it is not surprising to learn that he has not been in the league since 2014.
Blaine Gabbert – No. 10 Overall – Jacksonville Jaguars
Gabbert, who would necessitate a return to the Draft for the Jaguars at quarterback just three years later, is currently sitting at a ghastly 44 touchdowns and 43 interceptions in his career. After being the starter in 2011 and 2012, Gabbert has become mostly a career backup for teams such as the 49ers, Cardinals and now Titans. Hardly the expected career of a top-ten draft pick.
Christian Ponder – No. 12 Overall – Minnesota Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater’s predecessor, Ponder had a brief and rough time in the NFL, throwing 38 touchdowns to 36 interceptions and has not played in an NFL game since 2014.
Sam Bradford – No. 1 Overall – St. Louis Rams
Bradford has had his ups and downs in his time in the league, currently sitting at 101 touchdowns and 57 interceptions which is not a bad ratio but it is not an exciting one either. Unfortunately for the Rams, none of his ups came during the four years that Bradford was with his first team. Since he left the Rams, he has found starting gigs for the Eagles, Vikings, and now Cardinals. All in all, Bradford shouldn’t call his NFL career a bust, but the Rams should count him as one.
Tim Tebow – No. 25 Overall – Denver Broncos
Tebow finished his brief career with 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a playoff victory, not a bad stat line but it does not tell the whole story.
It was the guidance of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy that Tebow was able to find any success at all. He struggled to read the field and his throwing mechanics were not at an NFL-level.
In response to Tebow’s skill set, McCoy developed an offense in which Tebow rarely had to throw the ball and when he did, the play was designed to be as easy as possible. This new offense was good enough to bring the Broncos to the playoffs and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card Round.
However, as soon as that game ended, Tebow’s time in the NFL quickly evaporated and after a brief stint with the New York Jets, tryouts with the Patriots and Eagles, Tebow found himself out of the league and pursuing other careers in broadcasting and baseball.
Matthew Stafford – No. 1 Overall – Detroit Lions
Stafford currently rocks an impressive 216 touchdown-to-118 interception career statline. Entering his 10th NFL season, he is still a Lion. He is now the third-highest paid quarterback in NFL history, only passed up by quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. He has taken the Lions to the playoffs three times, although the Lions have yet to win a playoff game with him. The problem has not lied with Stafford but rather the absence of true talent around him. All in all, Stafford is a franchise quarterback that the Lions are proud to have.
Conclusion: Franchise Quarterback
Mark Sanchez – No. 5 Overall – New York Jets
Sanchez’s career numbers include 86 touchdowns and 86 interceptions, an unusable ratio for any team trying to make the playoffs.
His defining moment came on a quarterback draw in a game against the New England Patriots when Sanchez ran into the backside of his own lineman, the collision forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The “butt fumble” as the play is known as, stands as one of the most infamous plays in NFL history.
Sanchez spent four years with the Jets and then served in mostly backup roles with the Eagles, Cowboys, and Bears.
Josh Freeman – No. 17 Overall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Freeman finished his career with 81 touchdowns and 68 interceptions. He ended up playing a little over four seasons with the Buccaneers, including leading the team to a 10-6 campaign in 2010, which stands as the team’s best record since. After four-plus seasons in Tampa Bay, he has signed contracts with the Vikings, Giants, Dolphins, and Colts. He was not on an NFL roter in 2017.
Matt Ryan – No. 3 Overall – Atlanta Falcons
In his career, Ryan has over a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio at 260 touchdowns and 126 interceptions. His best accomplishments include an appearance in Super Bowl LI and an MVP award in the same year. Ten years after being drafted, he is still in Atlanta and is not expected to leave anytime soon. It is safe to say that Ryan is the definition of a franchise quarterback.
Conclusion: Franchise Quarterback
Joe Flacco – No. 18 Overall – Baltimore Ravens
Flacco currently boasts a solid 200 touchdown to 130 interception resume. He was at his zenith when he brought the 2012 Baltimore Ravens from a wild card berth all the way to a Super Bowl victory, including a double-overtime divisional round win over the Denver Broncos.
However, Flacco and the Ravens have not been to the big dance before or after, despite making the playoffs five other times during the quarterback’s career. This interesting piece of information has caused many fans to call him Joe “Fluke-o.” Nevertheless, he has been the clear starter since his debut in 2008 and has delivered a Super Bowl Championship and six playoff berths. All three accolades make him a clear franchise quarterback.
Conclusion: Franchise Quarterback
What Are The Odds?
In the end, 27 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round of the last ten drafts. In total, four quarterbacks’ places in the NFL are still unknown. Additionally, 13 drafted quarterbacks were busts that did not deliver for their first team. Also, four quarterbacks are still decent and are currently starting for their first team. Finally, six quarterbacks are franchise quarterbacks.
At the end of the day, when looking at first-round quarterbacks taken between the years of 2008 and 2017 with settled conclusions, 57% of draft picks were busts, 17% of draft picks were decent starters and 26% of draft picks ultimately became franchise quarterbacks.
For those teams thinking about getting a quarterback in the first round in 2018, realize that the odds of getting a starting quarterback sit at a lowly 43%. If a team is trying to get a franchise quarterback, those odds drop to 26%.
Alternatively, some might think that it is still too early to crown Goff or Wentz as franchise quarterbacks. If those become unknown, then as of right now there are only four franchise quarterbacks that were drafted in the first round of the last ten drafts. With this slight change, the odds become as follows: 19% are franchise quarterbacks. 19% are starters and 61% are busts. Meaning, the odds of getting a quality quarterback sit at a risky 38%.
The draft is a lottery and it seems that when it comes to first-round quarterbacks, the odds are not in the picker’s favor. Looking at the draft class of 2018, it is expected that as many as five quarterbacks might be first-round picks. Mathematically speaking, that means that only about two will pan out: one franchise quarterback and one decent starter. Who will they be?