In the 2016 Draft, the Jets selected Christian Hackenberg with the 51st pick. It was a curious move, given Hackenberg’s underwhelming college career; the book on him, though, is that he needs some time to be “rehabilitated” as a quarterback, whatever that means.1
But how much time will he get? On average, how many games until a 2nd round quarterback starts his first game? There were no quarterbacks drafted in the second round in 2015, while in 2014, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were selected. Carr started his first game as a rookie, while Garoppolo will get his first start in the 33rd team game of his career, thanks only to a Tom Brady suspension.
In 2013, only one quarterback was drafted in the 2nd round…. and it was Geno Smith. The Jets didn’t exactly hand Smith the job, but he won a quarterback competition with Mark Sanchez by default when Sanchez suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of the team’s third preseason game against the Giants.
The Jets don’t plan on starting Hackenberg in 2016, but they didn’t plan on starting Geno Smith as a rookie, and they didn’t plan on starting Ryan Fitzpatrick last year, either, until Smith was on the receiving end of a, um, training camp injury. Smith or Fitzpatrick is the likely week 1 starter for the 2016 Jets, and even Bryce Petty probably has better odds than Hackenberg of starting the opener. But with New York, strange things tend to happen.
The table below shows how many team games it took until a player started. For non-16 game seasons, I pro-rated them for 16 seasons, to make that applicable to modern times. So, for example, a 53 (like next to Ken Stabler) means a player started in the 5th game of his 4th year (i.e., after 48 games had passed), regardless of the actual facts.
|2016||Christian Hackenberg||51||Penn State||NYJ|
|2014||Derek Carr||36||Fresno State||OAK||1|
|2014||Jimmy Garoppolo||62||Eastern Illinois||NWE||33|
|2013||Geno Smith||39||West Virginia||NYJ||1|
|2012||Brock Osweiler||57||Arizona State||DEN||58|
|2010||Jimmy Clausen||48||Notre Dame||CAR||3|
|2009||Pat White||44||West Virginia||MIA|
|2007||Drew Stanton||43||Michigan State||DET||47|
|2007||John Beck||40||Brigham Young||MIA||10|
|2006||Tarvaris Jackson||64||Arkansas; Alabama State||MIN||15|
|1998||Charlie Batch||60||Eastern Michigan||DET||3|
|1997||Jake Plummer||42||Arizona State||ARI||8|
|1996||Tony Banks||42||Mesa CC (AZ); Michigan State||STL||4|
|1992||Tony Sacca||46||Penn State||PHO|
|1991||Brett Favre||33||Southern Mississippi||ATL||20|
|1991||Browning Nagle||34||West Virginia; Louisville||NYJ||17|
|1989||Mike Elkins||32||Wake Forest||KAN|
|1989||Billy Joe Tolliver||51||Texas Tech||SDG||8|
|1982||Oliver Luck||44||West Virginia||HOU||27|
|1982||Matt Kofler||48||San Diego Mesa J.C.; San Diego State||BUF||60|
|1981||Neil Lomax||33||Portland State||STL||2|
|1980||Gene Bradley||37||Arkansas State||BUF|
|1976||Mike Kruczek||47||Boston College||PIT||6|
|1973||Gary Huff||33||Florida State||CHI||12|
|1973||Ron Jaworski||37||Youngstown State||RAM||46|
|1973||Gary Keithley||45||Alvin CC; Texas; Texas-El Paso||STL||13|
|1970||Dennis Shaw||30||Mount San Antonio J.C.; USC; San Diego State||BUF||3|
|1970||Bill Cappleman||51||Florida State||MIN|
|1969||Terry Hanratty||30||Notre Dame||PIT||6|
The best measure of average here is probably through the median; for all 2nd round quarterbacks since 1967, that number is 20, or the 4th game of his second season. If we only go back to 1978, the median jumps to 18; go back to 1990, and the median is at 17.5. Go back to 2000, and the median is 19.
In other words, it’s pretty consistent: September 2017 is a good bet for when Hackenberg would start his first game for the Jets. There are, of course, other measures of average. The mode — i.e., the most common team game for a second round quarterback to start — is actually shared among two numbers. Derek Carr, Geno Smith, Andy Dalton, and Quincy Carter all started their team’s opener as rookies. But, for whatever reason, four quarterbacks also started in game 3 of their rookie year: Jimmy Clausen, Charlie Batch, Jack Trudeau, and Dennis Shaw. After that, a trio of quarterbacks got their first start in game 6 and another trio in game 20. Of course, there were also 8 quarterbacks who never started a game at quarterback in their careers, too.
Since 1967, four teams — the Bills, Raiders, Dolphins, and Cardinals — have drafted four quarterbacks in the second round. But only one has done it five times. That team would be the Jets, and New York hopes that the fifth time will be the charm. Through 2016, the first four Jets quarterbacks drafted in the second round have a career 23-47 record as a Jets starter.