Most experts and analysts will tell you that drafting quarterbacks with a high pick is important because offensive signal callers are the most vital piece to building a winning franchise. Yet, history tells us the exact opposite; Tom Brady, the passer with the most rings was drafted in the sixth round. Joe Montana was drafted in the third round, and yes, Terry Bradshaw was drafted number one overall but even he would tell you he wasn’t the reason those Steelers teams had success. It was all built on defense and running the ball.
There are actually a few success stories of teams that hit on a quarterback early in the first round and where able to turn that good fortune into a Super Bowl win. Think Jim McMahon for instance. He was drafted 5th overall in 1982 and became one of the big personalities behind what many consider the best team of all time, the ’85 Bears. However, for every story like that, there’s one about a guy like Trent Dilfer, who cost the Tampa Bay Buccaneers their sixth overall pick but wasn’t actually successful until he landed on a Baltimore Ravens team who was stacked on defense and had a power running game.
Neither of those quarterbacks where extremely skilled at their position but both knew what to do to make sure they didn’t lose the game for their teams. They fit well into the scheme and played their roles as well as they could. If you know anything about the history of football and the Super Bowl, teams that are built like that turn out to be the most dominant squads. Teams that don’t rely on a quarterback to win games but instead use him to navigate the offense. Sometimes they even win in spite of their star quarterback. Think Peyton Manning in his win with the Denver Broncos.
That’s exactly why General Managers in any draft should be focused on building up their defense and running games in the first few rounds and looking for a game managing quarterback with a high ceiling in later rounds. Instead, they waste valuable picks in the first few rounds looking for a passer who will grab headlines and fill seats but after he sputters for a few years, they are back in the same position and the league as a whole suffers as we wait for those teams to retool and emerge again.
The Eagles finally learned their lesson last year. After mortgaging their future on a quarterback who wasn’t even on their active roster during their Super Bowl run this year, they cut ties with a few offensive players in the off-season and loaded up on defense. Even they are beginning to realize where their bread is actually buttered.
Think about how far the Raiders were set back by putting so many eggs in the Jamarcus Russell basket. Not only did he not work out for them but the team was guilted into starting him way too long because of the amount of money he was getting paid. This stunted the growth of the team for a long time until they found a franchise quarterback in the 2nd round. They still haven’t fully recovered from the damage that was caused by gambling on a quarterback with the first overall pick.
Yet, we still wonder why we see the same teams struggling at the bottom of the league for so long and a lot of times it’s because they overbid on a quarterback who didn’t pan out. Sure, Manning is the biggest exception to that rule, but he only brought his original team one ring and didn’t win it until nine years after he was drafted.
The most recent success story for a young quarterback drafted high and probably the main reason so many quarterbacks will get drafted early in 2018, Carson Wentz, watched a third round quarterback win a ring for him. The Eagles bargained the future on a signal caller while they had a future Super Bowl MVP riding their bench. What a waste. Imagine what an even better position that team would have been in if they had just chosen to ride with Foles and been able to use the draft picks they traded to fill their own needs. They may be winning now but how long will they be able to maintain that clip?
As fans, we all know that defense wins championships and that winning starts in the trenches but drafting a quarterback sells tickets. So we see a handful of players who would probably be drafted in the second or third round if they had the same amount of talent at any other position, being touted as first rounders. People claim that it is the most vital position but try to tell that to a Minnesota Vikings team who was led by an adrenaline driven journeyman last year who was just having fun like a kid on a playground.
The most common formula for breaking down the best way to know when a player should go during a draft is; first rounders and early second rounders are players that should benefit your team immediately. Late second rounders, third, fourth, and fifth rounders are role players or guys you can develop into stars, and sixth and seventh rounders are gambles that you hope some day could surprise you and turn into key players. In my opinion, none of the quarterbacks in this draft are ready to help improve their new team immediately, thus, none of them should even hear their name called until at least the late second round.
Many will disagree with me wholeheartedly and some will even argue until they are blue in the face. Before you do, just ask Aaron Rodgers if he would trade places with Alex Smith as the number one overall pick and sputter on a losing team while his actual team, the Green Bay Packers, ride off to a Super Bowl.