Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater were selected in the first round of the 2014 Draft. The Jaguars seem intent on giving Bortles a redshirt year, but it seems likely that the Browns and Vikings will hand their rookie quarterbacks the reins at some point early this fall.
From the first common draft in 1967, until 2013, there were 96 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft.1 Today’s post looked at how long it took each quarterback to start his first game. For each quarterback, I assumed 16 game seasons for all seasons where the quarterback sat on the bench. Two quarterbacks, Jim Kelly and Aaron Rodgers, sat three full seasons before starting in week 1 of their 4th year; that means both players get an estimated first start of game 49.2 Twenty-eight quarterbacks (29% of our sample) started their team’s first game in the year they were drafted; as a result, those quarterbacks get an estimated first start of game 1. The graph below shows how long it took each quarterback to start his first game; the X-axis represents draft year, and the Y-axis estimated number of games.
Here’s the same graph, but with identification labels.
What stands out to me is how random the graph appears. For all the talk about how impatient NFL teams are now, such a “win now” strategy is hardly a new phenomenon. Only 20 of the 96 quarterbacks drafted in the first round during this 47-year period failed to start a game during their rookie seasons. And seven of those 20 quarterbacks were drafted in the last ten years: Jake Locker, Brady Quinn, Rodgers, Jason Campbell, Philip Rivers, J.P. Losman, and Carson Palmer. And of the 22 quarterbacks drafted in the first round from 1967 to 1979, just three didn’t start a game as rookies: Don Horn, Jerry Tagge, and Steve Pisarkiewicz.
The table below shows the data for all 96 quarterbacks:
Five quarterbacks were drafted in the first two rounds of 2012 and 2013; all five started in week 1 for their teams, the first time five straight first round quarterbacks were immediate starters. But in general, there is no crazy trend towards pushing young quarterbacks on to the field before they’re ready. To the extent that’s happening, well, it’s happened for at least five decades, if not longer.