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Bills Beat Blog






By Joe Buscaglia


Want a QB? Better Be a 1st

The Buffalo Bills have found themselves in an interesting situation. Ask ten different people in the area whether or not they should draft a quarterback in the first round, and the results will be split for the most part.

One contingent yells for defense, the other screams for Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert.

In fact, a popular opinion I meet most times from the 'defense first' supporters is that the Bills should take a defensive playmaker with the third overall pick, then pick up the quarterback of the future in the second, third or even fourth rounds.

Well I'm here to tell you that for the most part in the NFL Draft, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Believe me, I've done the research.

I had heard Mel Kiper Jr. talking about the draft stocks of Jake Locker and Cam Newton, and he insighted that Locker is probably a second round pick at that point. From there, my idea evolved. How many times has a second round pick actually hit in the past 20 NFL Drafts?

Getting even more engrossed, I figured I'd involve the first, third and fourth rounds as well just for comparisons sake. From all that research, the results are staggering.

The way I'm breaking this down is by whether or not the draft pick was considered a 'hit.' The litmus test for all this is comparing a player to Chad Pennington, and determining whether or not you'd rather have that player quarterback your team over Chad Pennington. It's a fair player to put in that position in my opinion.

So going back and rifling through the 1990 NFL Draft all the way through 2010 NFL Draft, I've compiled every single quarterback drafted in each of the first four rounds through the past twenty years.

You're probably asking, 'So what do you consider a hit?' Fair question. Here's my criteria:

- You ask a fan of the league that pays good attention (in this case, I enlisted the help of afternoon producer Greg Bauch), and considers the player a hit in the NFL in their prime.
- The quarterback has made the Pro Bowl at some point in his career.
- He's of the same stature, or better than Chad Pennington.

Some players I considered N/A, because you haven't seen enough just yet.

Simple enough, right? So here are the results:

First Round (1990-2010)
Hits: Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Trent Dilfer, Steve McNair, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford
Misses: Andre Ware, Dan McGwire, Todd Marinovich, David Klingler, Tommy Maddox, Dave Brown, Rick Mirer, Heath Shuler, Jim Druckenmiller, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman, JP Losman, Alex Smith, Jason Campbell, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn
N/A: Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow
Hit Rate: 21 out of 46 - 45.7%

Second Round (1990-2010)
Hits: Brett Favre, Kordell Stewart, Jake Plummer, Drew Brees
Misses: Browning Nagle, Matt Blundin, Tony Sacca, Todd Collins, Tony Banks, Charlie Batch, Shaun King, Quincy Carter, Marques Tuiasasopo, Kellen Clemens, Tarvaris Jackson, John Beck, Drew Stanton, Brian Brohm, Chad Henne, Pat White
N/A: Kevin Kolb, Jimmy Clausen
Hit Rate: 4 out of 20 - 20.0%

Third Round (1990-2010)
Hits: Brian Griese, Matt Schaub
Misses: Tommy Hodson, Peter Tom Willis, Billy Joe Hobert, Stoney Case, Eric Zeier, Bobby Hoying,  Jonathan Quinn, Brock Huard, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Josh McCown, Dave Ragone, Chris Simms, Charlie Frye, David Greene, Charlie Whitehurst, Brodie Croyle, Trent Edwards, Kevin O'Connell
N/A: Colt McCoy
Hit Rate: 2 out of 21 - 9.5%

Fourth Round (1990-2010)
Hits: Scott Mitchell, Aaron Brooks, David Garrard, Kyle Orton
Misses: Troy Taylor, Cary Conklin, Scott Zolak, Donald Hollas, Bill Musgrave, Craig Erickson, Casey Weldon, Will Furrer, Chris Hakel, Perry Klein, Doug Nussmeier, Rob Johnson, Chad May, Dave Barr, Steve Stenstrom, Jeff Lewis, Danny Kanell, Danny Wuerffel, Pat Barnes, Joe Germaine, Chris Weinke, Sage Rosenfels, Jesse Palmer, Rohan Davey, Seneca Wallace, Luke McCown, Stefan LeFors
N/A: Stephen McGee, Mike Kafka
Hit Rate: 4 out of 31 - 12.9%

So what can you draw from all of this? If you're in need of a quarterback and want to go through the draft, you sure as heck better get him in the first round, that's what.

It's not a guarantee that you're going to hit on your draft pick. Some of the biggest guaranteed hits in the past twenty drafts have been misses. But if you compare the first round success to the second, third and fourth rounds, it isn't even close. With an 80 to 91 percent chance of missing on the quarterback you take in one of those latter rounds, it's almost better to not take one at all.

Sure, there's an anomaly here or there. I'm assuming the 'Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round!' guy is gearing up to fight this with that defense. But the odds for the fifth, sixth and seventh round quarterbacks to hit get even worse.

In my opinion, you play the percentages much like you do in a football game. Some teams convert on 45 percent of the time on fourth downs, so you'll often see them go for it. It's not the perfect analogy, but you get where I'm coming from I hope.

Should the Bills take Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert or anyone else in consideration? My answer at this point is this:

If they want to.

Seriously, it's that simple. If they want to take a quarterback in the first round, and deem one of those two or anyone else worthy of the third overall pick, then go for it. I'd be perfectly content if they played the game that way.

But with only two players that have won the Super Bowl in the past twenty years coming from the second round, I'd rather play the odds than keep trying to find diamonds in the rough.

It's not an argument that the Bills absolutely should take a signal caller. It's a method of reasoning that says if they want to get success out of a quarterback draft pick, they better take him in the first round.

Otherwise, as the odds show, don't bother.

Twitter: @JoeB_WGR


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