Labriola On

Labriola on drafting the next franchise QB

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • The concept, the notion of spending something other than a No. 1 draft pick on a quarterback who then is developed by his team into a quality starter in the NFL is a popular one among fans, and especially at this time of year when talking heads and draft "analysts" fill fans' heads with propaganda about "sleepers."
  • With Ben Roethlisberger having cast some doubt in the immediate aftermath of last January's AFC Championship Game loss with regard to how long he is interested in continuing to be the team's franchise quarterback, Steelers fans have started guzzling this Kool-Aid by the gallon.
  • As they drink it, they have visions of Tom Brady and Marc Bulger and Dak Prescott dancing in their heads, but history shows what their favorite football team is more likely to end up with, should it pursue a quarterback at any point during the third day of an NFL Draft, is Spergon Wynn or Ingle Martin or Kliff Kingsberry. Or Tee Martin.
  • Starting with the 1998 NFL Draft that offered up Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf as the first two picks – to Indianapolis and San Diego, respectively – there have been 128 quarterbacks picked in Rounds 4-7 in the 19 NFL Drafts leading up to the 2017 version of what officially is known at NFL headquarters as the Annual Selection Meeting.
  • Of those 128, only five deserve to be recognized as legitimate NFL starting quarterbacks: Matt Hasselbeck, a fifth-round pick in 1998; Bulger and Brady, both sixth-round picks in 2000; Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012; and Prescott, a fourth-round pick in 2016. Of those five, only two – Bulger and Brady – deserve to be recognized as franchise quarterbacks.
  • There are six more who served stints as their team's starters, or who are expected to serve stints as their team's starters in 2017, but what's most certain about David Garrard, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Tom Savage, and Trevor Siemian is that the majority of fans would prefer those guys weren't starting for their favorite teams.
  • And while it's admittedly premature to discount all of the Day 3 quarterbacks picked last April, here's a quick rundown of the names (excluding Prescott), and you can decide for yourself: Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, Kevin Hogan, Nate Sudfield, Jake Rudock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, and Brandon Doughty.
  • Oh, and a team deciding on using one of its Friday draft picks on the position wasn't guaranteed a great deal more success than the teams that waited until Saturday, because there were 45 more quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 2-3 from 1998-2016 – 20 in Round 2 and 25 in Round 3 – and only three of those deserve to be recognized as franchise quarterbacks.
  • Drew Brees was the first pick in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Seattle used its third round pick in 2012 on Russell Wilson, and Derek Carr was picked by Oakland in the second round in 2014.
  • The rest? Marvin Lewis might argue that Andy Dalton is a franchise quarterback, and Jim Harbaugh is on record as saying Colin Kaepernick will end up being a great NFL player. But as of today Dalton is 0-fer in four playoff starts with a combined passer rating of 57.8 in the postseason, and Kaepernick is below .500 as a starter and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes in the NFL.

The best photos of QB Ben Roethlisberger from the 2016 season.

  • Then it's a bunch of backup types – Charlie Batch, Matt Schaub, Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton, Ryan Mallett; some journeymen – Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Josh McCown, Nick Foles, Tarvaris Jackson, Chris Simms; a few unknowns – Mike Glennon, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Christian Hackenberg, Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler; and a bunch of busts – Quincy Carter, Kevin O'Connell, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, Geno Smith, Garrett Grayson, Sean Mannion, Armanti Edwards, Brian Brohm, John Beck, Trent Edwards, Anthony Watson, Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, David Greene, Dave Raggone, Chris Redman, Giovanni Carmazzi, and Brodie Croyle.
  • Remember, the guys listed in the previous paragraph were drafted in the second and third rounds.
  • And it's not as though all of the busts were picked by bad teams with no-nothing front offices. Yes, the Patriots were smarter/luckier than every other NFL team because they only passed on Brady five times while most of the rest of the teams passed on him six times, but Bill Belichick also has his name on drafting Ryan Mallett, Kevin O'Connell, Kliff Kingsbury, and Rohan Davey.
  • Bill Walsh is legendary for recognizing and developing quarterback talent, and after his stint as the coach of the 49ers, he also worked in the team's front office for a period during which the team drafted Cody Pickett, Ken Dorsey, Brandon Doman, and then it was Jim Druckenmiller on the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft.
  • But it was in 2000 when Walsh, then the team's Vice President/General Manager, and Steve Mariucci, then the 49ers coach, proved that drafting quarterbacks from college and projecting them into the NFL is anything but an exact science. Steve Young's career was over, and Jeff Garcia was seen as a stopgap at the position. The 49ers went into the 2000 NFL Draft looking to pick their quarterback of the future.
  • With only Chad Pennington among the draft-eligible quarterbacks off the board, the 49ers used their No. 3 pick, 65th overall, on Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra. This is the guy Walsh, who drafted and developed Joe Montana, and Steve Mariucci, who worked with Mike Holmgren and coached Brett Favre, tabbed as their franchise's quarterback of the future.
  • "This is Scouting 101," said Mariucci many years later about the reasoning behind the pick. "Gio was a Rhodes Scholar (candidate), did really well in the Wonderlic (intelligence test). Was a point guard on the basketball team. He was a captain. He was very athletic. He had a very strong arm. He ran a 4.7 40 (yard dash) ... My point is he had all of the measurables academically with intelligence and he had all of the measurables athletically."
  • In the 49ers' preseason opener some months after the pick, the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, the 49ers got their first look at their prized rookie. "It wasn't good in person, and it was just as bad on film," remembered Mariucci of Carmazzi's performance. "Guys were coming off the field saying, 'Gio is so nervous ... He can't spit out the formations and plays.' We could tell right away that it wasn't a fit. Something went way wrong when Gio entered a professional huddle. He didn't know how to handle it."
  • So, to all of those Steelers fans who think it's a good idea to spend a late-round pick on a quarterback the team can develop, the numbers strongly suggest that what is most likely to be developed, if anything, is a backup. Hopefully, a backup. And the analytics people will tell you that even using a second-day pick (Rounds 2-3) on a college quarterback would give you an 8.9 percent chance (4-out-of-45) of turning him into a quality NFL starter.
  • The numbers show categorically that the most likely path to replacing one franchise quarterback with a prospect who will become the team's next franchise quarterback is to spend a No. 1 pick, and only a No. 1 pick, toward that end. Unless, of course, you select Tim Couch, or Joey Harrington, or Patrick Ramsey, or Kyle Boller, or Rex Grossman, or J.P. Losman, or Jason Campbell, or Matt Leinart, or Brady Quinn, or Josh Freeman, or Brandon Weedon, or E.J. Manuel …
  • Or better yet, Steelers fans, try this: instead of worrying about what comes next, spend your energy on appreciating what you have now.
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