Which Round is it Best to Draft a QB?

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Quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best in the league, and he checks in at 6-foot-5, 241 pounds. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is also part of that elite class, despite being just 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds. New England’s Tom Brady is the best of the lot, and he’s somewhere in between at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.

They can also come from all sorts of places, and that’s evident even from these three players. Roethlisberger went in the first round (pick No. 11) in the 2004 draft out of the lesser-known of the Miami schools (Ohio). Wilson went to North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin, and ended up going in the third round of the 2012 draft — most likely due to concerns about his size. Brady went to the well-known Big Ten school Michigan, but is arguably the greatest find in NFL Draft history, as he was picked in the sixth round (No. 199 overall) by the Patriots in the 1999 draft.

With all that said, there’s a clear statistical advantage to taking a quarterback in the first round. The average quarterback taken in the first round — as noted in the chart — starts around 100 NFL games, or roughly six full seasons worth of games. Contrarily, the average quarterback taken in the third round — like Wilson was — starts roughly 50 games on average, while quarterbacks taken in the sixth — while still oddly averaging more than their fifth-round counterparts — average only about 30-35 starts under center in the NFL.

That’s not meant to confuse correlation with causation. In the last 10 years alone, there have been plenty of first-round busts who have come nowhere near that 100-start ledger, like Johnny Manziel, E.J. Manuel, Brandon Weeden, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and even Tim Tebow — and those are just in this decade. Each of those quarterbacks drags down the average, while a player like Peyton Manning — who had 265 career starts — lifts the collective sea level for two or three of those guys to keep that 100-start average afloat.

It’s not hard to pick out some of the anomalies on the list. Brady is pretty far and away the top of the line as far as sixth-round picks are concerned, while Brett Favre brings up the average with a stellar performance as a second rounder. Also interesting is seeing the eighth round included; the NFL draft has been just a seven-round affair since the 1994 draft, and went as many as 12 rounds as recently as 1990.