If you believe in the efficient market theory, this means Bortles is the most likely of that group to wind up being the top quarterback from this year’s draft. But I wanted to look at other drafts where the top quarterback was selected very early but the next quarterback wasn’t drafted in quick succession (like say, Andrew Luck and RG3).
That leaves 12 drafts where (a) a quarterback was drafted really, really early, and (b) no other quarterback went off the board for awhile (at least 14 picks between the quarterback selections in all 12 cases). Some further slicing, however, is required if we really want to do an apples-to-apples comparison. In six of those cases, a quarterback was selected with the number one overall pick, and based on research conducted by Jason Lisk, it doesn’t seem appropriate to compare quarterbacks not selected with the top pick to number one overall selections.3 I’d also throw out the 1973, 1976, and 1981 drafts, as the number two quarterbacks were all drafted after pick 30.
Okay, we are obviously at risk of creating a sample size so small that is is useless. To recap, we are looking at all drafts since 1967 where:
- A quarterback was selected in the top 6, but not 1st overall
- The next quarterback was drafted in the 13-30 range range
Unfortunately, the concern here is pretty real. Bortles/Manziel are just the third pairing to meet those criteria.
In 2008, the Dolphins selected Jake Long with the first overall pick and the Rams drafted Chris Long at number two, allowing Matt Ryan to fall to the third pick. That means, like in 2014, at least a couple of teams thought no quarterback was worthy of the first pick.4. Then, after Ryan, it wasn’t until pick 18 that the next quarterback was drafted – Joe Flacco. At the risk of inviting trouble in the comments, I think Atlanta’s decision holds up pretty well in retrospect, and this seems to be a bit of pro-Jaguars evidence. Of note: Jaguars GM David Caldwell was the Falcons director of college scouting in 2008.
In 1992, the Bengals drafted David Klingler with the 6th overall pick. The next quarterback off the board was Tommy Maddox with the 25th pick. This was a terrible draft for quarterbacks, with Jeff Blake (pick 166) and Brad Johnson (pick 227) being the top passers from that class.
Again, we can’t take much from two examples. We know the general idea here — there was one quarterback rated really highly by one team, and no other team felt compelled to spend a top 20 pick on any other quarterback. But we only have two examples, and in one of them, all the early quarterbacks were terrible. In the other, both quarterbacks selected in the first round were successful.
Widening the sample
If we include the first overall picks and only require that the next quarterback be drafted in the top forty,5 we also add:
- the Rams drafting Sam Bradford over Tim Tebow (25th overall) in 2010
- the Raiders drafting JaMarcus Russell over Brady Quinn (22nd overall) in 2007
- the 49ers drafting Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers (24th) in 2005
- the Falcons drafting Michael Vick over Drew Brees (32nd) in 2001
- the Cowboys drafting Troy Aikman over Mike Elkins (32nd) in 1989
- the Packers drafting Rich Campbell over Neil Lomax (33rd) in 1981
- the Colts drafting Bert Jones (all of the above quarterbacks went first overall; Jones was second) over Gary Huff (33rd) in 1973
Bradford/Tebow probably gets marked as a pro-Bortles argument, but not by much. Nobody was a winner with Russell/Quinn, which is this generation’s Klingler/Maddox. Smith over Rodgers looks bad in hindsight, even with Smith’s late-career renaissance. Vick over Brees is even worse, and Campbell/Lomax falls along similar lines (albeit Lomax isn’t a HOFer).
On the other hand, Aikman/Eklins and Jones/Huff go the other way. Tally it up (including the ’92 and ’08 drafts), and it looks like a 4-3-2 record to me for the team that selected the quarterback first. I wouldn’t say this is good evidence of the efficient market theory, as you’d probably expect a better “record” given the picks used on the quarterbacks involved. Frankly, the sample size is too small to tell us much of anything, other than scouting quarterbacks is really, really hard.
- Why the top 6 and not the top 5? Only once was the top quarterback drafted with the fifth overall pick, but in three other drafts prior to 2014, the first quarterback went off the board at number six (and never was the first passer selected at seven, eight, nine, or ten). Plus, since the Jaguars were rumored to be considering a trade down to #6 to draft Bortles, it seemed to make sense to use 6 as a cut-off. [↩]
- Why top 12? In none of these drafts was the 2nd quarterback selected with the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, or 17th picks, which made 12 seem like a good cut-off. [↩]
- In reality, the number one picks in this sample were pretty underwhelming: Sam Bradford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Michael Vick, Troy Aikman, and Steve Bartkowski are the six quarterbacks who would have otherwise made the cut-off. [↩]
- Ironically, the Rams were again involved this year, as were a defensive end (Jadeveon Clowney) and offensive tackle (Greg Robinson). [↩]
- This cut-off only excludes Mike Kruczek, drafted 47th in 1976 (Richard Todd went 6th) and Gary Sheide (64th in 1975), who never played in the NFL. That year, Steve Bartkowski went first overall. [↩]