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Updated June 9, 2010
Part of growing as a Draftnik is learning from your hits and misses, and it is extremely important to remember your misses as much as your hits.
I am revising this article in my NFL Draftology series because I made a huge mistake prior to the 2008 NFL Draft and 2008 NFL season, and I've completely changed my mind.
In that article, I believed quarterback was a very overrated position in the NFL Draft. I thought the Atlanta Falcons should have taken Glenn Dorsey at No. 3 overall; not Matt Ryan. The Baltimore Ravens traded up for Joe Flacco, and I thought they made a huge reach.
Flacco and Ryan both had very positive impacts on their team in the 2008 season, and I realized that I couldn't have been more wrong in saying that the quarterback position is overrated.
From May to the Super Bowl, the media and fans obsess over the quarterback position. Who wins the starting quarterback job on the crappiest teams in the NFL is a bigger story than 95 percent of all the reports out there.
All everybody talks about on ESPN and NFL Network all year is the quarterbacks. When the experts analyze the game, the quarterback play is heavily scrutinized.
However, something changes once we get into Draft-mode - the quarterback position isn't as important any more. Why draft a quarterback in Round 1 when you can take one in Round 3? If the first-round quarterback doesn't pan out, he sets your franchise back years.
These are the types of stereotypical comments by the people who have absolutely no clue what they are talking about.
Quarterback is without a doubt the most important position in football, and it really isn't even close. If you don't have a good starting quarterback, then your team is simply highly unlikely to make the playoffs, and it is nearly impossible to do it in a tough division. Super Bowl aspirations - please don't make me laugh.
Let's take a look at the 12 starting quarterbacks of the teams that made the 2009 playoffs: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Tony Romo, Mark Sanchez, Kurt Warner, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer. Notice a trend? All of these quarterbacks listed are either damned good or they are highly talented - Flacco and Sanchez haven't been established as upper-echelon starters yet, but they were both first-round picks and their careers look highly promising.
Now, let's take a look at the past 18 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger (2x), Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady (3x), Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Kurt Warner, John Elway (2x), Brett Favre, Troy Aikman (3x), and Steve Young.
The two names here sticking out like sore thumbs are Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer. Dilfer was a quarterback of a team with a defense that is regarded by some as the best in NFL history - that's what it took to get Dilfer a ring as a starter. Yes, if you have one of the best defenses in the history of the league then you have a chance to win a championship with any quarterback, but Dilfer is an exception - not the rule. Baltimore's defense was a once-in-a-generation type unit and you can't expect to build that in a draft. As for Johnson, We could also say that Tampa's 2002 defense was also possibly one of the 10 best of all-time, but Johnson still threw for more than 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns with only six interceptions in his Super Bowl season, not to mention torching the Eagles defense for 259 yards in the freezing Philadelphia weather in the NFC Championship.
The bottom line is if you want to build a team that is consistently competing for a diviosional title or as a serious Super Bowl contender, then you can't do it without a good starting quarterback, and my definition of "good" is one of the top 15-20 in the league. Ideally, you want an extremely good quarterback, which is all the more reason to invest in the position.
Since we know how vital the quarterback position is to winning, why do Draftniks and the media completely change gears once the NFL postseason ends and the NFL Draft preseason begins?
Can you find a top 15 quarterback in free agency? Absolutely not - it doesn't happen. Teams don't let these types of players go. You might get lucky in free agency, but you can't pray to get lucky. Some teams have gone decades without good quarterback play - so you have to make a conscious effort to do something if you want to build a winning team.
The only way to get a top 15 quarterback is to draft one
, and as Scott Wright points out in his article, quarterbacks after the first round rarely pan out
Sure, we have quarterbacks who were drafted late and they panned out like Tom Brady, but for every Brady there are 40 Tom Brandstaters. The success rate for quarterbacks in the later rounds is extremely low. Honestly, why would you play the lottery when it comes to building a winning team and finding a position that is so vital?
Let's assume that the most talented and complete quarterbacks are drafted in the first round - this isn't always the case because scouting isn't perfect, but it is a true generalization. If quarterback is by far the most important position in football, then wouldn't you want to draft the best possible one to lead your team - one selected in the first round?
If you are going to make an investment, you might as well make it a good one. The success of a franchise is so important - coaches stay hired, fans stay inspired, everybody is happy, and teams make more revenue when they are winning rather than losing. If you want to have a successful franchise and you don't have a top 15 quarterback, then you better draft one in the first round.
Now, when I say "take a quarterback in the first round," I don't mean just draft anybody in the first round just to do it. He has to be of adequate value and talent; you don't take a backup in the first round. I'm saying if you believe a quarterback is good enough to start and be one of the top 15-20 in the league, then you HAVE to pull the trigger.
Let's take the Detroit Lions for instance over the past few seasons. Calvin Johnson is a beast, however, the Lions have only won a total of two games in the past two years. One player can't take a team to the next level unless he is a quarterback.
Arizona was a pretty mediocre franchise even when they had Larry Fitzgerald, but Kurt Warner turned it around in 2008 the team made the playoffs, even reaching the Super Bowl.
There is no point in drafting any player in the first round if you are passing on a potential top 15-20 quarterback in the league and you don't have a good starter in place. So what if Player X pans out (non-quarterback)? As long as your team doesn't have a passing game, it is going to be extremely difficult to win games and make the playoffs.
The argument to this is that if you draft a quarterback in the first round and he doesn't pan out, then he sets your franchise back years.
My counter-argument is if you never would have had a capable quarterback in the first place, then it doesn't matter because your team never would have been any good.
The only way to find that franchise quarterback is to draft one relatively high - preferably one in the first round since it comes with the highest success rate.
Teams like the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and Minnesota Vikings elected not to take a certain quarterback in the first round and instead hope they can find one in the future. These teams didn't want to take a risk. However, by not taking a risk on a quarterback, these teams risk even more than that because if they never find a quality starter then they will never be anything better than mediocre.
American author Erica Jong once said that, "If you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
This holds true in the NFL and the Draft. Generally, good teams have good quarterbacks, and bad teams have bad quarterbacks, and if the only way to find a good quarterback is by drafting one in the first round, then it should be a no-brainer - it's a risk you have to take if you want your team to be successful.
NFL Draftology 101: Introduction to NFL Draftology
NFL Draftology 112: Need Versus Value
NFL Draftology 205A: Positional Demand
NFL Draftology 205B: Positional Impact
NFL Draftology 205C: Positional Impact Continued
NFL Draftology 234: The NFL Positional Value Pyramid
NFL Draftology 320: Dissecting the Trade Value Chart
NFL Draftology 321: Revising the Trade Value Chart
NFL Draftology 378: The Safest Pick Myth
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