The 2017 NFL draft begins this Thursday, which means every sports channel is devoting hours and hours dissecting the careers of college athletes preparing to go pro. The quarterbacks are always the most talked about position in any draft class. The 49ers, Bears, Browns, Jets and possibly the Jaguars all have picks in the top 10 and all could be looking to upgrade their QB options.
They better wait until after the first round.
Signal-callers taken in the first round have a mixed track record. From 1999 to 2015, 45 quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Of those 45, only 17 won a playoff game and only 16 have winning records as starters during the regular season.
That doesn’t mean quarterbacks in the first round always end up becoming busts. A study by Football Outsiders showed that first round quarterbacks tend to outperform their counterparts taken in later rounds. But they also found that quarterbacks taken in the second round produced the same winning percentage as those drafted in the first.
The issue in this year’s draft class is there doesn’t seem to be any standout quarterback prospects. DeShaun Watson led Clemson to two straight national championship games and is a two-time Heisman finalist, but he also threw a lot of interceptions. On top of that, a lot of people wonder if the Clemson system and talent helped bolster his stats.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Trubisky has a big arm and all the physical skills scouts like in quarterback prospects, but he only started one year at North Carolina.
After those two, the rest of the QB class is filled with lots of flawed prospects who either didn’t overly impress in college (DeShone Kizer), were in a super pass-friendly system (Patrick Mahomes II), or were just straight up on bad teams (Davis Webb).
While the quarterback class for this year’s draft isn’t great, it’s extremely deep at other positions. The amount of defensive talent in this year’s draft is incredible, and it seems like experts are projecting anyone taken in the first 15 picks could be an all-pro level player.
If a team decides to take a risk on a flawed quarterback prospect, it means they’ll also pass on a possibly great player. The 49ers and Bears both need quarterbacks, but are they going to risk passing on a Jamal Adams or Marshon Lattimore, two defensive backs who could really help improve their terrible defenses?
Obviously, the quarterback position is important. But if a team is ignoring their other issues to draft a QB because there’s a perception that every team needs “a franchise guy,” then they’ll end up like the Jaguars putting Blake Bortles behind center every game just to lose.
Unless a team is convinced Watson or Trubisky or one of the other quarterback prospects is a can’t-miss talent, they’re probably better off addressing one of their other needs early. There are 22 players on a football field on every play. There’s no need to mortgage your future on just one player.