When Should NFL Teams Draft Their Next Franchise Quarterback?
In the 1980s, four quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks in the draft. That number jumped to 10 quarterbacks in the 1990s and 2000s. And from 2010 to the present, we’ve seen teams spend even more draft capital on passers.
In this decade, teams have already used 10 top-three picks on signal-callers. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen (pictured above), Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson could all go in the first round. After Thursday night, NFL teams this decade (2010 to present) will likely have used the most top-three, top-10 and top-15 picks on quarterbacks of any decade in history.
The most important building block on a football team is the quarterback. For most teams, the only way to find a franchise QB is through the draft. Since 1994, when the NFL draft was shortened to seven rounds, there have been 286 quarterbacks selected, with 60 of those selections made in Round 1. The first round can be a crapshoot, but is it a team’s best chance to find a Pro Bowler?
Using data from Pro-Football-Reference, here are the numbers of quarterbacks to make a Pro Bowl by round since 1994:
Of the quarterbacks taken in the first round, 40% earned at least one Pro Bowl nod. Not great, but far better than any other round.
It seems like every year a team finds a diamond in the rough, a quarterback taken after the first round who turns into a Pro Bowler. The Cowboys got Dak Prescott in the fourth round in 2016, the Raiders selected Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft and the Seahawks nabbed Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012. Those are the exceptions to the rule. If a team wants to draft a Pro Bowler, its best chance of finding a franchise quarterback is in the first round.