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NFL Draft: Do Quarterbacks Bust More Than Other Positions?


"Quarterbacks usually bust."

"Quarterbacks are too risky, let's take the sure thing."

"Going with a quarterback isn't the safe pick."

These are comments frivolously thrown around the NFL Draft community. Spend enough time on an NFL Draft forum, and you're bound to run into posts containing those words in between reading about how great/awful Tim Tebow is.

It's only natural. Everyone remembers David Carr's deer-in-the-headlights look every time he played under center.

Everyone remembers JaMarcus Russell's hidden Skittles pouch and "do you tink so" interview.

Everyone remembers Joey Harrington's obsession with caviar and pianos.

Everyone remembers Alex Smith's fumble-itis and microscopic hands.

Everyone remembers Tim Couch's barrage of injuries.

Everyone remembers Ryan Leaf's tirade against a poor sportswriter. So, It's understandable that no fan wants to see their draft pick become the next guy on that list.

But what if I told you that other positions, deemed "safer" by the NFL Draft community, bust just as much as quarterbacks? Would most people think I was just making stuff up? Absolutely.

Well, that's why I did some research. With all of the talk going on between Ndamukong Suh, Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford being No. 1 overall selections this year, I felt it was important to look at the hit and bust rates of both the quarterback and defensive tackle positions to see if the former was actually the riskier pick.

Below is a chart of all of the quarterbacks and defensive tackles selected in the top 16* of each NFL Draft from 1993** to 2009.

* Why top 16? I wanted to cover the top half of the first round, and anything below that gets distorted. For example, if a No. 20 overall quarterback starts and plays well (but not on a Pro Bowl level) for only 4-5 seasons, is he considered a bust? A top-16 quarterback would be, but a guy who is taken No. 20 isn't expected to be a perennial Pro Bowler or anything.

** Why 1993? I didn't want to go beyond 15 years because scouting has really changed since then. But then again, I also wanted to include Dan Wilkinson (the last defensive tackle to be drafted No. 1 overall). I also wanted to add in some quarterback busts like Rick Mirer and Heath Schuler. Overall, I thought going back to 1993 would give us an accurate and large enough sample size to work with.

Quarterback
Draft No.
Year
Hit, OK or Bust
Comment
Matthew Stafford
1
2009
TBA
JaMarcus Russell
1
2007
Bust
If he eats his way out of the league, perhaps he can do ads for Skittles.
Alex Smith
1
2006
Bust
He's playing OK now, but he's a bust for a No. 1 overall pick.
Eli Manning
1
2004
Hit
Some will argue how great Eli Manning is, but he's a top-12 NFL quarterback and a Super Bowl winner. The Giants paid him a ton of money for a reason.
Carson Palmer
1
2003
Hit
David Carr
1
2002
Bust
Michael Vick
1
2001
Hit
Was a Pro Bowler; sold tons of tickets; reached NFC Championship; exciting player before drowning dogs.
Tim Couch
1
1999
Bust
Peyton Manning
1
1998
Hit
Drew Bledsoe
1
1993
Hit
Donovan McNabb
2
1999
Hit
Ryan Leaf
2
1998
Bust
Rick Mirer
2
1993
Bust
Matt Ryan
3
2008
Hit
Vince Young
3
2006
OK
Certainly not a bust, but not great or anything.
Joey Harrington
3
2002
Bust
Akili Smith
3
1999
Bust
Steve McNair
3
1995
Hit
Heath Shuler
3
1994
Bust
Philip Rivers
4
2004
Hit
Mark Sanchez
5
2009
TBA
Certainly looks like a hit, but still early.
Kerry Collins
5
1995
Hit
Trent Dilfer
6
1994
OK
Byron Leftwich
7
2003
Bust
Matt Leinart
10
2005
Bust
Jay Cutler
11
2006
Hit
One of the most talented QBs in the NFL; had no running game, receivers, offensive line or defense in Chicago.
Ben Roethlisberger
11
2004
Hit
Daunte Culpepper
11
1999
Hit
Cade McNown
12
1999
Bust




Defensive Tackle
Draft No.
Year
Hit, OK or Bust
Comment
Dan Wilkinson
1
1994
Hit
The last defensive tackle to go No. 1.
Darrell Russell
2
1997
Bust
Two great years in 1998 and 1999 - then out of the league a couple of seasons later.
Gerard Warren
3
2001
Bust
Dewayne Robertson
4
2003
Bust
Glenn Dorsey
5
2008
Bust
Some will say it's too soon, but I haven't seen anything out of him in two years. Two career sacks from the guy who was supposed to be the next Warren Sapp.
Johnathan Sullivan
6
2003
Bust
Ryan Sims
6
2002
Bust
Richard Seymour
6
2001
Hit
Plays end now, but came into the league as a defensive tackle.
Corey Simon
6
2000
OK
Had a few dominant years, but then ate himself out of the league.
Sedrick Ellis
7
2008
Hit
Bryant Young
7
1994
Hit
Sam Adams
8
1994
Hit
B.J. Raji
9
2009
TBA
Kevin Williams
9
2003
Hit
John Henderson
9
2002
Hit
Amobi Okoye
10
2007
Bust
He's still young, but three years of mediocre production thus far.
Dan Williams
11
1993
Bust
Haloti Ngata
12
2006
Hit
Jimmy Kennedy
12
2003
Bust
Wendell Bryant
12
2002
Bust
Damione Lewis
12
2001
Bust
Warren Sapp
12
1995
Hit
Adam Carriker
13
2007
Bust
Ty Warren
13
2003
Hit
Marcus Stroud
13
2001
Hit
Brodrick Bunkley
14
2006
Hit
Tommie Harris
14
2004
Hit
Jason Peter
14
1998
Bust
Albert Haynesworth
15
2002
Hit
Booger McFarland
15
1999
Hit
Ellis Johnson
15
1995
OK
Justin Harrell
16
2007
Bust
Travis Johnson
16
2005
Bust


My fingers are about to fall off after typing up those two tables in HTML. So, let's not waste any time and see what we can take from these two long tables:

Quarterbacks:

There were 29 quarterbacks selected in the top 16 of the NFL Draft since 1993...

Hits: 13
Busts: 12
OK: 2
TBA: 2

Defensive Tackles:

There were 33 defensive tackles selected in the top 16 of the NFL Draft since 1993...

Hits: 15
Busts: 15
OK: 2
TBA: 1

Now, let's look at the hit and bust rates for each position:

Quarterback Hit Rate: 48.2%
Defensive Tackle Hit Rate: 46.9%

Quarterback Bust Rate: 44.4%
Defensive Tackle Bust Rate: 46.9%

I find it very interesting that according to this data, quarterbacks have higher success rates and lower bust rates than defensive tackles, yet defensive tackle is generally perceived to be the safer route.

It's a small sample size, but the disparity is even larger in the top five. In that area, only one defensive tackle has panned out of five opportunities, whereas five of 10 quarterbacks have been "hits," and only four of 10 quarterbacks have been busts.

Considering how important the quarterback is in relation to the defensive tackle, if a team is deciding between the two positions, the "risk" factor should not sway them away from taking a signal-caller. In fact, it's actually riskier to take a defensive tackle.


***

One more thing - I wanted to see how these two positions translated into winning and losing on the football field. I took all of the "hit" players listed in the two tables, and looked up how their initial franchise fared while they were on the roster:

Hit Quarterback Original Team Record: 828-593 (.583)
Hit Quarterback Average Years on Original Team: 6.9
Hit Quarterback Average Playoff Years on Original Team: 3.8

Hit Defensive Tackle Original Team Record: 966-745 (.565)
Hit Defensive Tackle Average Years on Original Team: 6.4
Hit Defensive Tackle Average Playoff Years on Original Team: 3.1

No one should be shocked that teams with hit quarterbacks were more successful than teams with hit defensive tackles. I actually thought there would be more of a disparity until I realized that the numbers are skewed; after all, did the Patriots win three Super Bowls because of Richard Seymour and Ty Warren (two of the hit defensive tackles that affected these numbers), or because of Tom Brady? Brady is the correct answer just in case you have Bucky Brooks Syndrome and inexplicably hate quarterbacks.

At any rate, I'm going to look into the hit and bust rates of the other positions soon. But with all of these facts and numbers in mind, hopefully the notion of taking a quarterback won't be seen as risky too much longer. In fact, the real risk is passing up on a franchise quarterback.







NFL Draft History Archive:

NFL Draft History
Ten Reasons Why the Detroit Lions Must Draft Russell Okung - 4/5/10
How Often Do Offensive Tackles Bust? - 4/5/10
Are Safeties Worth a Top Five Draft Pick? - 3/27/10
Do Quarterbacks Bust More Than Other Positions? - 2/28/10
Do Defensive Coaches Draft Offensive Players? - 2/15/10
Top Three NFL Draft Pick History - 2/15/10
New Regimes Mean New Quarterbacks - 2/15/10
Andy Reid's NFL Draft History - 2/15/10
NFL Draft Quarterback Busts: How to Spot Them
Linebacker Draft History




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