NFL Draft Countdown
Articles

Do We Know How to Evaluate Quarterbacks?

Quarterbacks

Do we actually know how to evaluate quarterbacks? It is a fair question. Because draft media like myself and the NFL at large all seem to be really bad at it. Not a year goes by where we prop up quarterbacks who should be successful in the NFL. Then ultimately, those players fade into oblivion.

But why does this keep happening? And why does this keep happening at an alarming rate?

Several people have tackled this subject recently, so let’s look at it from several angles.

Do We Know How to Evaluate Quarterbacks?

THE NUMBERS GAME

For this exercise, we will go back ten years to 2014. Because if you draft a passer in the first round, you are hoping he will still be leading your franchise a decade later. In the last ten years, a full first round’s worth of quarterbacks have been selected…32. Of those 32 passers, how many are still with their original drafting team? A whopping 13. And three of those were drafted last year. And another, Daniel Jones, is having his replacement sought after by the New York Giants.

So, if you exclude the 2023 draft picks, we end up with 10/29 for a whopping 34% success rate in round one.

Now not all of the quarterbacks taken in that group have failed in the NFL. Some have gone on to have success with other teams. Jared Goff led Detroit to the NFC title game this year a few years after being moved from Los Angeles. Baker Mayfield had success with Tampa Bay this past season after bouncing around multiple spots after his Cleveland departure. 

But those examples are few and far between.

WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?

LACK OF HELP

To me, it boils down to multiple factors. With the NFL Draft being set up the way it is, the absolute worst NFL teams get the first crack to select these quarterbacks. And because the coaching staff and front offices are fearful for their jobs in most cases, they have to play the passers in a situation that isn’t conducive to success. Be it a poor offensive line, a dearth of weapons on offense, or a combination of both, the newly drafted quarterback has zero chance for success. This is what may be the demise of Bryce Young in Carolina if the Panthers don’t fix it soon.

NOT OUR GUY

And when they ultimately fail, the staff is fired, a new one is brought in, and they have no connection to that quarterback because he isn’t “their guy”. There have been multiple instances of this. Josh Rosen and Arizona come to mind. A recent example of this is Justin Fields and Chicago. He was shipped off to Pittsburgh for the draft equivalent of a ham sandwich last week. GM Ryan Poles didn’t draft him and neither did HC Matt Eberflus. But they almost assuredly will be drafting “their guy” in Caleb Williams (Southern Cal) in four weeks.

WELL IT WORKED WITH MAHOMES

The dawn of the YOLO quarterback came about because of the success of the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes. Watching his college tape, I thought no way he could translate that to the NFL. Multiple Super Bowl titles later and I can admit I was wrong on that one. The Bills have been able to somewhat replicate that success with Josh Allen. Though they haven’t reached the pinnacle. The Jets attempted it with Zach Wilson and the 49ers with Trey Lance. That hasn’t worked out.

CFB CHANGED…THE NFL HASN’T

These quarterbacks are less seasoned in what we consider pro tendencies from high school, into college, and ultimately into the NFL. They don’t have to make NFL reads in the college game and almost never go under center. Should the NFL adapt more to make it easier for quarterbacks to acclimate? Perhaps.

THE ROOKIE CAP

Honestly, this may be the biggest factor players aren’t hanging around with their drafting teams anymore. If a quarterback doesn’t have early success (first or second season), then the drafting team is kicking them down the road. Before the rookie cap was put in place in 2011, a team would have to be more prudent in who they draft at quarterback or see their franchise decimated because they spent all their money on an abstract failure. Looking at you Raiders and Jamarcus Russell. 

Now a team can just cut bait, draft another, and move on with life.

CAN IT BE FIXED?

It depends. The NFL may have to do some deep soul-searching on how they approach the draft. Are they willing to ease the transition along? Are they willing to do a better job of setting these players up for success? Because if not, this wheel of ineptitude is going to keep on spinning. They also need to do a better job of development. The NFL would be well advised to monetarily support a league like the UFL to aid in developing not only QBs but offensive linemen as well.

Most NFL teams have set draft picks on fire in the last few years. With 19 quarterbacks drafted between 2021 and 2022. Only two of them are projected to start in week one of the ’24 season.

Those failures came on the heels of the 2020 NFL Draft. Where the first five quarterbacks are all still leading their respective teams and have had great success thus far. Three of the five (Joe Burrow/Bengals, Justin Herbert/Chargers, Jalen Hurts/Eagles) have all had their contracts extended. Burrow and Hurts have led their squads to a Super Bowl appearance. Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) and Jordan Love (Packers) both led their teams to the playoffs in ’23 and should see fat extensions coming soon also.

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO THE 2024 CLASS OF QUARTERBACKS?

We are expecting a minimum of four passers to go in round one this year with an outside chance of a fifth. The expectation is that three will go in the first three overall selections. As I mentioned earlier, Caleb Williams to Chicago is inevitable. Washington shipped off ’22 draft pick Sam Howell and New England bailed on ’21 first-round pick Mac Jones. So, it is reasonably expected that they will take either LSU QB Jayden Daniels, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, or perhaps even J.J. McCarthy of Michigan. 

The quarterback thirst this year seems to be real. Outside of the three teams mentioned, the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, and New Orleans Saints all seem like they could be in the rookie quarterback market. And those are just the ones with an immediate need. Others could be in the backup/eventual starter market.

With what we know from history, there is a good chance several of these guys are going to fail. Some will fail due to their talents or injury, but most will get dealt a hand like a nine-deuce when if a team did the work correctly they could start with an ace-king in the hole.

Related posts

Draft Countdown on YouTube

Brian Bosarge

Pigskin Paul’s College Power Rankings

Pigskin Paul

2023 NFL Draft: Who are My Guys?

Brian Bosarge