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Are Starting QB Pedigree Demographics Changing? (1 Viewer)

Bob Magaw

Footballguy
This question was prompted by a recent observation elsewhere* that in the decade prior to this season, 2003-2012, only four starting QBs from 2013 weren't first rounders from those ten draft classes (if you look at all 32 starting QBs, including ones from draft classes more than ten years ago, the number goes to ten).

When i looked at the data more closely, i noticed that in that decade span, there are zero remaining non-first round starting QBs from the first eight years (2003-2010). All four came from 2011-2012, and if we include the two non-first round starting QBs from 2013, that makes six in the last three seasons, since 2011.

I think there are seven first round starters in the same last three draft classes time frame.

So 7-6*.

The last three years seem unusual in comparison to the 2003-2010 time frame (not trying to cherry pick the time frame, but just to recap, the original one used elsewhere was 2003-2012, after which i noticed all the four non-first round starters were in last two years, than added the two from this year).

Is this just historical randomness at work.

Or could it possibly be a trend, and if so, what might some possible causes and explanations of them be?

Is the league getting better at identifying potential starters outside the first round?

Are more college QBs playing in pro style offenses, expanding the pool of pro ready prospects outside of the more typical first round?

* The best non first rounders from the past three classes seem to be Wilson, Kaepernick and Dalton, than Pryor (third - supplemental) and Geno.

We all know Warner and Romo were UFAs, and Brady was a sixth, but those are rare cases. But before the last two to three years, there weren't a lot of third, or second round QBs, even. Brees was a second and Schaub was a third, but they were exceptions that proved the rule. For a while, it seemed like there were a string of second round busts, names like Kolb and Drew Stanton come to mind. Are we seeing a change in this pattern?

Russell Wilson is an interesting case. Obviously if NFL teams knew how good he would be, he might have gone third overall last year. But without foreknowledge, and with his lack of height not fitting the mold for prototypical size, it is easy to see how he dropped out of the first (and even second) round last year. But with his success, it might inspire more teams to take a chance on QBs lacking certain prototypical measureables (and maybe not graded as first rounders for that), but strong in most other areas (like arm strength, accuracy, mobility, etc.), including intangibles.

* Thanks to CalBear and Bri for prompting this offshoot of their exchange.

 
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EBF

Footballguy
If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably just a random blip more than anything.

There might be more to it than that though. The success of Wilson, Luck, Kaep, Newton, Griffin, and Pryor suggests that the ability to move around in the pocket and also threaten teams with the possibility of a scramble could be a great equalizer in terms of allowing relatively inexperienced QBs to be effective immediately. That's not to say those guys can't pass the ball, but they all have very good mobility relative to a pocket statue like Manning or Bledsoe. Even though most of those current young QBs were high draft picks, it's possible that the NFL was undervaluing mobility in the draft. Certainly Kaepernick, Wilson, and Pryor look like relative bargains in hindsight. With the NFL being a fairly efficient marketplace, I would expect teams to maybe start taking chances on mobile QBs even higher than they have been. That means you'll still get the Luck/Griffin/Tannehill types going high, but raw projects like Pryor and Kaepernick might not slide like they did.

Another variable is the country's rising population. There are more people than ever before. With a larger population to choose from, you're going to get a higher population of freak athletes. That means you're going to see a higher number of people who have rare quarterbacking skills in addition to rare athletic skills. Of course, that's going to apply to all of the other positions as well. QBs are getting bigger and more athletic, but so too are defensive ends and linebackers. It might ultimately cancel out. Or maybe QB will reap a lopsided fraction of the bounty because it's the prestige position and probably the #1 spot you would put your most talented athlete provided that you thought he had the ability to thrive anywhere. For example, Cam Newton might have the athletic talent to play TE or DE, but given the choice a coach would much rather utilize him at QB because it's the position with the most impact on the game.

Thus QB gets "first dibs" on the top athletes and all of the other positions pick up the scraps.

 
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Bob Magaw

Footballguy
I think a random blip could well be it, and there is no underlying reason.

Another thought that occurred to me is there is more pressure to start young QBs, even second rounders, if they were drafted as potential starters (like Dalton and Kaepernick).

I can remember years ago, front offices and coaching staffs could be bad for a lot longer than two-three years (the current cycle), so they could bide their time developing QB talent. With the faster hire-fire cycle, if you don't do well fairly quickly (or at least show signs of progress and competitiveness), maybe ineffective vets aren't tolerated for as long as they used to be, and there is more pressure to churn in the hopes of hitting on a rookie or a young prospect. But just thinking out loud.

* Sometimes starting a young QB could seemingly (and maybe counterintuitively) BUY a regime more time, which could provide a powerful incentive in that direction. I'm not sure how much of the decision to start Geno was actually Rex Ryan's, it appeared to be heavily influenced by, and have the fingerprints of the GM all over it. I actually like Geno by the way, not sure if he will be a long term viable starter, but imo he has probably already done more than was expected of him at this stage. But what if Sanchez had been the starter, though, and languished with no discernible progress (if the Jets hadn't drafted Geno, or if he tore his ACL in the preseason)? Maybe Rex would have been more vulnerable in a same old, same old scenario. But with Geno already leading several fourth quarter combacks and engineering some game winning drives (albeit peppered with some typical bonehead rookie decisions and multi-INT clunker games), the future seems brighter (maybe some Jets fans would say that is because it IS brighter), which is good for Rex's future.

 
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lod01

Footballguy
Reason #1. QBs aren't allowed to be hit. It's much easier to play QB when you don't have to be worried about being planted into the ground. Also receivers can't be mugged like the old days.

On top of that when you run, all you have to do is slide before contact and you can't be hit. So there are less starters injured. Disregard Vick, he's hurt putting on his uniform.

Rule changes have just made it easier than it has ever been to play one of the toughest positions in pro sports.

 

Bob Magaw

Footballguy
GordonGekko said:
Or could it possibly be a trend, and if so, what might some possible causes and explanations of them be?

Is the league getting better at identifying potential starters outside the first round?
I think this is an interesting question Magaw.

I suspect you have to look at this from a developmental perspective and from a resource management perspective.

From a resource management perspective ( no matter how you shake it out, each team has only so much cap space, so many roster slots and so many draft picks each year), the new CBA, and the fallout from the last labor war is four year rookie contracts. For some inexplicable reason, I'm one of the few people who bring up the four year contracts when discussing cap concerns and impact on the general roster of most NFL franchises.

Whether you are an elite 1st rounder or you are a 2nd rounder like Kapernick or Dalton, if you are going to be the QBOTF, you need to be starting by Year 2, have the franchise determine what kind of leap you make in Year 3 ( as many players make a big leap, or regression in their sophomore campaign), then have the franchise lay the ground work for a long term extension in the Year 3 off season, so as to try to get a relatively decent home town discount in exchange for buying out the last rookie year via a nice signing bonus on a 2nd contract.

Where you are drafted as a rookie via round means less than the demarcation point between Years 3 and 4, when critical decisions must be made on your long term future ( or non future) with the franchise. As an added bonus, a young QB with the new slotted rookie scale means more cap available for other positions on the roster. Because Kapernick isn't making Elite QB1 money, the Niners can keep both Willis and Bowman. And this is already a team that had to thin out depth at backup O line, let Goldson go and signed mediocre stopgaps like Asomungha and Dorsey because they had to let depth go for cap considerations.

Resource management also means discontinuity along the offensive line. I've said this for the past couple of years, and I've heard Bitoni say it as well, it's not just the talent along your line, it's the unit cohesion and chemistry built over time that establishes an effective blocking unit. With the advent of free agency and salary cap, the cost of O linemen has gone up, but teams are lucky to keep even 3 out of their 5 starters from the year before on the roster. Revolving door on the line means and lack of unit cohesion means more mistakes, more pass rushers getting through and more times your QB1 gets hit. The trend towards mobile QBs is in part ( not the complete reason) because a QB1 who can compensate for a mediocre O line is seen as a much stronger value than a traditional pocket passer or a walking artillery piece like a Mike Glennon.

From the developmental side, you have

- More incentive for talent in the college coaching ranks to stay in college. This means elite football factory schools can get coaches with pro experience and some cream of the crop instruction and training

- Technology, medicine, the Internet, training, nutrition - All these things have made drastic leaps in terms of knowledge, information and resources for even the average lower level football player. When I spent some time in Texas, the son of a woman I knew was a high school QB who had already been to 5-6 QB mini camps starting at the middle school level. While I realize not every area and state is as fanatical as Texas High School football, you have much more access to better coaching and training. You can even look on YouTube to learn some basic football concepts

- Video games/simulations - I've said this for years, but it seems no one cares or considers it an issue. When you have a complex video game/simulation that can take an 11 year old, and have them thrown against Cover 2 concepts, Zone Blitzes, then have to manage a roster, injuries, run 2 minute drills, decipher a players strength and weaknesses, you are ultimately training them to process football information as a faster rate. Mentally, you have kids as a younger and younger age, processing concepts that they would not normally see until college football generations ago. Pick up the latest and greatest football video game and look at the staggering amount of plays, offensive and defensive concepts and hyper realism. What is the safety doing? Is the base defense a 3-3-5 set with a hybrid safety/corner as the nickel? Is the defense doing a good job of disguising their schemes? Even our military sees the value of using video game/simulations as a training tool.

Every labor war requires some concessions on both sides. The tipping point to change in how current QB1 prospects are valued will be via roster expansion. The players union will want more jobs or need more rank and file votes and when rosters expand, the cap goes up, the ability to specialize goes up, the level of depth goes up, and you will probably see increased and improved O line play, which will translate into a more forgiving situation for the older traditional pocket passer. If every team right now had 15 practice squad slots, and could roster up 8 prospect O linemen for development, you'd see better replacement/reinforcements to crippled O lines and you would be less reliant on the wheels of Terrelle Pryor to get himself out trouble because the Raiders lost their best LT prospect to some injury.

You know Bob, the last accusation/rumor in the FFA is that you and I are the same person. Imagine how hardcore of a sportswriter you would be if that was actually true.
I like your resource management perspective, GG...I'm going to let some of your other thoughts percolate before responding more fully...

edit/add - some related or additional thoughts.

it is a copy cat league. with nearly half of the starting QBs since 2011 taken after the first round (6 of 13), and at least three of them not just stopgap starters, but well established (Wilson, Kaepernick and Dalton), it wouldn't be a surprise if more teams follow suit.

there a few reasons to recommend that strategy, some already mentioned.

1 - the salary cap savings that can be allocated to other positions (at least until the second contract comes due). if Wilson had been making $15-20 million like the top QBs, that might have made the Harvin trade impossible.

2 - sometimes the non-first rounder is straight up better than the first rounder (if MIN had a do over, they would have taken one of the QBs that ended up dropping to the second, Dalton or Kaepernick, not Ponder).

3 - with Wilson succeeding at a high level despite lacking prototypical height (and in retrospect, his compensating factors were severely underrated, including textbook, picture perfect, over the top mechanics effectively giving him the release point of a 6'4" QB with a three quarter delivery like Rivers, and his uncanny ability to find openings and seams in the OL/DL battlefield congestion to fit his passes, ala Brees), that leads to wondering how many more like him might have been in college, but went undrafted? how many are on rosters right now, but not getting reps, because their height doesn't fit in with narrow preconceptions and formerly limited templates or success stories. or maybe Wilson is just a once in a decade or two mutant or anomaly, and it would prove to be a wild goose chase to find that kind lightning in a bottle any time soon?

4 - while not 5'10" like Wilson, it is still probably easier to find body types likes Dalton and Geno (listed 6'2" 220) than the kind we would purpose build in a bioengineering lab (Palmer and Luck).

* I saw a recent thread in the FFA, but not that allusion, which is funny for a few reasons.

like Elvis and JFK, e. e. cummings is still alive and well on a hidden island in the Bermuda triangle.

also the fact that you don't employ a stream of consciousness style with ellipses blows that theory up.

 
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EBF

Footballguy
Hard to say Rodgers was "horrific" for Green Bay when he wasn't playing. We don't (and never will) know how he would've responded if he had been handed the reins immediately. Having watched him a good amount at Cal, I'd say a lot of the talent was innate. He was always a gamer with insane accuracy and clutch ability. I think he would've succeeded anywhere.

 

Long Ball Larry

Footballguy
I barely understand what question is being asked here, but overall, this just seems like cherry-picking stats based on some recent abnormalities.

Look at how many non-first rounder QBs were taken who amounted to nothing in the past 5 years. Dozens. So if teams are getting better, it would seem to be at a very small rate.

I could be wrong, but none of the non-first-round picks currently started was necessarily considered to be the starter when drafted (maybe Geno), so it's not necessarily that teams are identifying these guys as their starters.

 

Long Ball Larry

Footballguy
We all know Warner and Romo were UFAs, and Brady was a sixth, but those are rare cases. But before the last two to three years, there weren't a lot of third, or second round QBs, even. Brees was a second and Schaub was a third, but they were exceptions that proved the rule. For a while, it seemed like there were a string of second round busts, names like Kolb and Drew Stanton come to mind. Are we seeing a change in this pattern?
I doubt it.

These are the other guys picked in the 2nd and 3rd rounds in 2007-2012 (leaving out Mallett and Osweiler, because they really have had no chance):

Foles

Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy

Pat White

Chad Henne

Kevin O'Connell

Brian Brohm

John Beck, Trent Edwards, Kolb, Stanton

So that's what, 6 out of 17 that are legitimate starters?

These are the First-round picks

Luck, Griffin, Tannehill

Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder

Bradford, Tebow

Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman

Ryan, Flacco

Russell, Quinn

So that's probably 6 out of 16 (Luck, Griffin, Newton, Stafford, Ryan, Flacco)

You can quibble about some of the distinctions of quality, but it seems about the same.

And this is cherry-picking, too, so sure there could be some kind of trend, but I don't see anything at all based on the data presented thus far in the initial post.

 

benjaminbarker

Footballguy
it's mostly just variance

but it's more to do with league wide parity and the ability to turn teams around quickly these days changing fan expectations and the traditional league norms

qbs dont get a long time out there anymore if you dont produce you're out for the most part and they're moving on looking for the next guy

a lot of young qbs have had recent success so teams are just more apt to move on and try a new young guy than they used to be

 

Bob Magaw

Footballguy
I barely understand what question is being asked here, but overall, this just seems like cherry-picking stats based on some recent abnormalities.

Look at how many non-first rounder QBs were taken who amounted to nothing in the past 5 years. Dozens. So if teams are getting better, it would seem to be at a very small rate.

I could be wrong, but none of the non-first-round picks currently started was necessarily considered to be the starter when drafted (maybe Geno), so it's not necessarily that teams are identifying these guys as their starters.
the question asked is are we seeing more non-first round starting QBs on a percentage basis than in recent years (looking through the lens of the 2013 league landscape).per above, the genesis of the question was when somebody noted only four current starters from the 2003-2012 drafts were non-first rounders (and I think the first round starting QBs came to about 18 - again, if you look at all 32 QBs, including those drafted more than ten years ago, the number of non-first round starters increases to 10)... since I noticed all four came from the last two years of that decade, and I would have set the timeframe through this past draft anyways, from which there were another two, I thought it was interesting that with a twist of the data kaleidoscope, the state of affairs went from four in ten years before this one... to six in the past three years.

so not cherry picking in the sense I didn't propose the time frame (just brought it up to date by shifting the decade one year forward)... I didn't go in with a theory I was looking for data to fit it to, like the beds in the inn kept by procrustes (where unfortunate travelers alternately had their legs chopped or stretched to fit the beds)... just wanted to follow the numbers where they led, and see if they suggested a trend. the first post acknowledged it may just be variance... I was interested in seeing if others were able to uncover possible, plausible reasons for a recent trend or shift in SOP, or through a collaborative process of scrutinizing the idea more closely, suggest they are spurious attempts to make historical connections and inferences where they don't exist and aren't warranted.

I think Dalton was drafted with the intention of starting, Kaepernick, too (if not immediately).

 
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Bri

Footballguy
IIRC Calbear's post, I'd like to snip out the 1.1 to 1.4 picks and see how it looks.

It did seem the very top QBs were a good bet to have productive careers and I was wrong there. After that point, I'm curious.

 

Bri

Footballguy
5,6,7th rounds...I don't really like anyone.

Gradkowski...some, Troy Smith I'll admit to liking some, even Ken Dorsey and Zac Robinson were intriguing as a prospects.

2005 seems like the only year to be at all pleased with those rounds.

I still think Brad Smith was the best QB in his class.

There's a good amount of QBs drafted this late. We don't expect greatness, but they are also messing up the view here.

2005+Gradkowski, otherwise they all are yuck in these rounds.

 

Bob Magaw

Footballguy
We all know Warner and Romo were UFAs, and Brady was a sixth, but those are rare cases. But before the last two to three years, there weren't a lot of third, or second round QBs, even. Brees was a second and Schaub was a third, but they were exceptions that proved the rule. For a while, it seemed like there were a string of second round busts, names like Kolb and Drew Stanton come to mind. Are we seeing a change in this pattern?
I doubt it.

These are the other guys picked in the 2nd and 3rd rounds in 2007-2012 (leaving out Mallett and Osweiler, because they really have had no chance):

Foles

Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy

Pat White

Chad Henne

Kevin O'Connell

Brian Brohm

John Beck, Trent Edwards, Kolb, Stanton

So that's what, 6 out of 17 that are legitimate starters?

These are the First-round picks

Luck, Griffin, Tannehill

Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder

Bradford, Tebow

Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman

Ryan, Flacco

Russell, Quinn

So that's probably 6 out of 16 (Luck, Griffin, Newton, Stafford, Ryan, Flacco)

You can quibble about some of the distinctions of quality, but it seems about the same.

And this is cherry-picking, too, so sure there could be some kind of trend, but I don't see anything at all based on the data presented thus far in the initial post.
I'll add a few more points about how to interpret the question... and maybe by clarifying some things, better questions can be suggested...

taking stock of where all the current starters came from pedigree-wise is a different question than crunching the numbers on historical bust rates for different rounds... the latter may be more important, but maybe they can be complementary... the use of one method doesn't preclude the use of another/others... maybe in combination, they can be more valuable than either one by itself. for example, if I noticed in the past 15 years, not a single position X selected in round 7 ended up starting in the first two years, I might be disinclined to draft such a position/round intersection, or spend much time scouting the position, if later rounds involve increasingly diminishing returns.

another way with which to breakdown the data which I used during the earlier exercise imported here, but I neglected to mention in the first post due to an oversight, is to make an attempt to see if we are seeing an increase of QUALITY (defined loosely as the top half of 32 starters that give their teams a better chance to win than the bottom half), long term, good/great non-first round starting QBs (should have put quality or good, and long term in the title, but than would have been even more unwieldy). does it represent a trend? maybe even qualify it up front as probably not, but waiting to look at it more closely before ruling it out.

by my recollection, for a "while" prior to the past three years, brees and schaub were the best examples of long term successful starting QBs from the second and third round. I can't think of a lot of others in recent years... now we have three in Dalton, Wilson and Kaepernick just since 2011 (too early to tell with Pryor and Geno, imo).

as noted, there could be quibbling over what constitutes cherry picking, instances of statistical jerrymandering, and whether different historical demarcation lines point to possible non-trivial trends or shifts, or not. even if unlikely, it is possible, if such a trend was real and not merely variance, that it has become more pronounced for some factors still to be identified... are there any timing-related clues or factors that might coincide with the three year span posed as possible sign of a trend? I think if it exists it probably involves other factors, but GG mentioned one (among others). the league's new CBA labor contract signed in 2011.

I'm also interested in sub-dividing the first round into approx thirds to see if there are any detectable patterns in the past decade, or not. since the first round was formerly more important than all the other rounds combined, it might be worthwhile to break it down more in depth.

i think something that MIGHT be going on here, and may be an artifact of the way i'm looking at this and the way i am asking questions, may have to do, in part, with first round QBs tending to keep their jobs longer than non-first rounders (in some cases that could be because they are more talented, but also in some instances due to factors other than merit). i just looked at the 2013 league-wide 32 starting QB landscape. i didn't look at the first round and non-first round starting QBs who were starting in 2004, 2005, etc., but are no longer starting (or possibly out of the league). if i HAD looked at it that way, maybe i would have seen closer to an approximately similar number of starting QBs from round two and three for each given one season time slice across the decade?

not sure if some of the new points (and not posing the question as well as i could have earlier) might have led to different lists and breakdowns you did... I came up with a smaller number in first list (and more importantly, I think Wilson, Kaepernick and Dalton will prove in the long run to be better than any of the QBs on that list), larger in the second one, but that is expected. as you alluded to, this is somewhat of a subjective exercise, without universally agreed upon definitions.

 
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Bob Magaw

Footballguy
IIRC Calbear's post, I'd like to snip out the 1.1 to 1.4 picks and see how it looks.

It did seem the very top QBs were a good bet to have productive careers and I was wrong there. After that point, I'm curious.
the way I broke it down, of the 14 first round starters from 2013 I put in the good/great category (and not in average/incomplete or bad), 10 were picked between 1.1 and 1.4... the other four were Roethlisberger and Cutler (1.11), Flacco (1.18?) and Rodgers (1.24?)...

when in turn I broke down first round in approx thirds, whether first group was top 10 or 12 (32 doesn't divide into thirds as a whole number), I think it was about a 70-75% hit rate... the middle and bottom thirds dropped off more on the order of percentages like a one third or one quarter hit rate, but I need to double check those numbers, they are from memory.

 
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