Debunking the Myth of the First-Round Savior

ED NOTE:  Quality Post about drafting a first round QB in the NFL, with great commentary in the comments section.  Ted...


First off- somebody had better rec’ this (redacted).  (ED Note--How about we put it on the front page instead?) I’m not one to normally toot my own horn in such a fashion but as soon as people hopefully see how much work I put into this they’ll understand why I start off saying that. :P


I’ve read a lot recently, and I know I will read a lot more in the offseason, particularly coming up to the draft, about how necessary it is for the Vikings to draft a franchise QB aggressively early on- especially in a draft which looks to be QB heavy this year. I’m not arguing the point that the Vikings need to get a franchise QB- G-d knows it’s high time. What I want to break down though is the myth of the first-round savior. There are several articles out there- and have been for some time- debunking the theory that a high round draft pick is going to solve your problems. I’ve decided to write a detailed one myself, seeing as how it’s a potential issue facing our beloved Vikes in the near future.  I’m going to do this two ways: the detailed way for people who are analytical and want it all broken down, and the simplified way, for those who just want me to get to the point.

The Detailed Breakdown


I’m going to do this first by illustrating my point with a few lists. What do the following have in common?-


Terry Bradshaw

Jim Plunkett

Steve Bartkowski

John Elway

Vinny Testaverde

Troy Aikman

Jeff George

Drew Bledsoe

Peyton Manning

Tim Couch

Michael Vick

David Carr

Carson Palmer

Eli Manning

Alex Smith

JaMarcus Russell

Matthew Stafford

Sam Bradford


That there is a list of first pick quarterbacks in the history of the NFL draft, starting with the common draft post-merger. Now here’s a second, related list:


Terry Bradshaw

Jim Plunkett

John Elway

Troy Aikman

Peyton Manning

Eli Manning


And that there is a list of those above gentlemen who have won a Super Bowl. Very quickly, let’s be fair to Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford- these guys haven’t had the full opportunity to join that list just yet, and Vick may in just over 6 weeks. Of course, the side note to that (and one we’ll look at more in depth in a bit) is that should Vick win, it won’t be with the team that drafted him. But that aside, that means that out of the 18 quarterbacks taken with the very first pick, only 6 have won Super Bowls- you have a 66% chance of drafting, as it stands now, a quarterback with the first pick who will never win that all important prize. Furthermore, unless you drafted a quarterback whose last name is Manning, no team has drafted a Super Bowl winning QB with the first pick since Troy Aikman.


Now… let’s look at the other side of the coin. Which quarterbacks HAVE won a Super Bowl?


Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers - SB I, II

Joe Namath, New York Jets - SBIII

Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs - SB IV

Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts - SB V

Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys - SB VI, XII

Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins - SB VII, VIII

Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers - SB IX, X, XIII, XIV

Ken Stabler, Oakland Raiders - SB XI

Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders - SB XV, XVIII

Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers - SB XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV

Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins - SB XVII

Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears - SB XX

Phil Simms, New York Giants - SB XXI

Doug Williams, Washington Redskins - SB XXII

Jeff Hostetler, New York Giants - SB XXV

Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins - SB XXVI*

Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys - SB XXVII, XVIII, XXX

Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers - SB XXIX

Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers - SB XXXI

John Elway, Denver Broncos - SB XXXII, XXXIII

Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams - SB XXXIV

Trent Dilfer, Baltimore Ravens - SB XXXV

Tom Brady, New England Patriots - SB XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX

Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - SB XXXVII

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers - SB XL, XLIII

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - SB XLI

Eli Manning, New York Giants - SB XLII

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - SB XLIV


*While Mark Rypien is listed for this SB, it was in reality Doug Williams who played and won that game.


And now, let’s breakdown where these various quarterbacks came in the draft.


Bart Starr (17) 200

Joe Namath (1) 12

Len Dawson (1) 5

Johnny Unitas (9) 102

Roger Staubach (10) 129

Bob Griese (1) 4

Ken Stabler (2) 52

Joe Montana (3) 82

* Joe Theismann (4) 99

Jim McMahon (1) 5

Phil Simms (1) 7

Doug Williams (1) 17

Jeff Hostetler (3) 59

**Mark Rypien (6) 146

Steve Young - First signed with USFL, then was than #1 in 1984 Supplemental Draft

Brett Favre- (2) 33

Kurt Warner- Undrafted

Trent Dilfer- (1) 6

Tom Brady- (6) 199

Brad Johnson- (9) 227

Ben Roethlisberger- (1) 11

Drew Brees- (2) 32


And then again…

Terry Bradshaw (1) 1

Jim Plunkett (1) 1

John Elway (1) 1

Troy Aikman (1) 1

Peyton Manning (1) 1

Eli Manning (1) 1


*Was drafted by Miami but never played; later won for the Redskins, who picked him up out of the CFL

** Again, did not play in Super Bowl (Doug Williams filled in)


So- of the 22 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who were not first draft picks, 9 were at least in the first round, including Steve Young’s selection as first draft pick in the 1984 supplemental draft. (You could argue that he therefore should count as a first pick, but since it was not straight out of college, I’m choosing not to do so here.) So- quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round but not with the first pick make up 41% of the big winners- and, to combine first picks with the other first rounders, 15 out of 28 Super Bowl winning QBs were from the first round, giving first round picks a 54% share of the Super Bowl winners. At least we’ve broken the 50/50 mark, but it’s still not exactly as impressive as one might have thought.


But I’d like to even further look at another trend here. Remember how I mentioned that if Vick won a Super Bowl, it would not be with the team that spent a first round draft pick on him? Let’s see just how often that happens.


Len Dawson

Johnny Unitas

Joe Theismann*

Doug Williams

Steve Young

Brett Favre

Trent Dilfer

Brad Johnson

Drew Brees


*Was drafted by Miami but never played a game, opting instead to go to the CFL. Was later taken out of the CFL by the Redskins.


Regardless of their draft position, 9 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks didn’t even win with the team that drafted them. (I am counting Eli Manning as having won with the team that drafted him despite the fact that technically it was the Chargers who actually picked him, due to the fact that it was done with a previous deal in place to immediately trade him to the Giants.) Now- out of 28 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, having only 9 who didn’t win for the team that drafted them isn’t bad. Of course, in that mentality, we should push the number to 10 based off of the fact that Kurt Warner never was, in fact, drafted. Therefore, in the legions of quarterbacks drafted in the NFL, only 18 came from the draft to win their team at least one Super Bowl.


But let’s go back to one of the original points of this post- really, the value in getting a quarterback aggressively early in the draft. We’ve covered the ‘elite’ first draft overalls. Of the few who were drafted in the first round and actually won a Super Bowl, three of them- Len Dawson, Doug Williams, and Trent Dilfer- did not even do so for the team that spent that first round pick. So instead of even saying that 15 out of 28 quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl were taken in the first round, we should look at it almost as 12 out of 28, seeing as three didn’t do so for the team that drafted them. So, of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, 43% were first rounders who won for their drafting team. We’re back under 50/50 here.


So we’ve covered that drafting a quarterback with the first pick of the draft gives you a 33% chance of that pick quarterbacking you to the big prize. (All the first draft picks who did win a Super Bowl did so for the team that drafted them.) And we’ve looked over how the first round in general is not a sure sign of success. I won’t bother you with another list as it would be the longest yet, but there have been 86 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft since the merger. Of that, 12 have won the drafting team a Super Bowl. So- draft a quarterback in the first round, and you now have a 14% chance of that quarterback winning you a Super Bowl!!!


And let’s look at another oddity we might see in the list above: the further back you go, the higher the success with first rounders. Why? Because college football and the NFL have been gradually growing apart. The sports were once far more similar than they are today, and this affects a team and scouts’ general ability to asses potential talent in the big league.


The Simplistic Breakdown


So- let’s review. Since the merger, there have been 86 quarterbacks taken in the first round. Also since the merger, 12 of those picks have won a Super Bowl for the team that drafted them. And as far as first overall goes, since the merger 18 quarterbacks have been taken first overall, with 6 winning a Super Bowl (all with the team that drafted them). That means spend a first pick overall on a quarterback and you face a 33% chance of success, or, for the pessimists, a 66% chance of failure. Pick a quarterback first round regardless of actual pick, and you have a 14% chance of success- or- an 86% chance of failure.


And keep in mind- just like you might kick yourself for not drafting Peyton Manning, you might also kick yourself for drafting JaMarcus Russell. And let us not soon forget the Kurt Warners, Tom Bradys, and Drew Breeses of the NFL world. The ragged misfits, ya know. We haven’t even debated the values and impacts of the Brad Johnsons and Trent Dilfers, and whether or not they won their teams Super Bowls or rather the team won Super Bowls with them tagging along for the ride.


So, as we all accept the reality that the Vikings’ quarterback situation has been in shambles pretty much since Fran Tarkenton (with a brief respite during the Culpepper era- say what you will but for a large part, those were decent years with lots of promise), and in particular right now and going into the offseason, let’s temper our debates over the Mallets, the Lucks, the Newtons, and etc. with the realization that going wild in the draft and scoring a high pick QB is statistically not going to solve our problems as a team. With our issues in the O-line and the secondary, quarterback is not our only concern, and we cannot approach the draft like it is. We’ve already crapped away a third rounder. Trading a key player like Jared Allen or Percy Harvin (or even Sydney Rice… let’s not make ‘wide receiver’ another issue again) for a chance to move up, or even trading lower round draft picks to move up, is probably not a move that will make our team stronger.


Yes- we need a quarterback. A franchise quarterback who might give us more than one good year would be nice. And yes- the draft is in fact one of the places where you might find just such a quarterback. But keep in mind above all else, before going nuts over the issue, that statistically shown, the first round of the draft is absolutely no guaranteed spot to find them, either.


And since I worked very hard on this, I will be linking to it every time I comment on a post regarding our draft prospects for quarterback, and I will repost this when the draft nears. I don’t care if that’s a flagable offense, I’m doin it anyways. :P And someone please rec this- I want a good discussion to come out of this, not for it to just get buried behind the next ten posts on whatever craziness is going to happen next! LOL!

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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