Rolling the Dice on Drafting Quarterbacks - EDITED

I have been seeing a few mock drafts that have the bills taking a QB with their #9 pick.  Having just read an interesting article about the difficulty in picking a successful QB I wondered what the facts were.  Do QBs drafted high do better than ones taken later?  Success might be defined by entering the Hall of Fame, winning (or even playing) in a Superbowl, or playing in the Probowl.  As information on the first two was easiest to find I started there.  I used to find information on HOF QBs, Superbowl QBs, and QBs drafted every year.  The graphic below shows the average round and overall position a SB or HOF QB was drafted at, and a by round percentage.

  Superbowl QBs  Hall of Fame QBs
  Winners (44) Losers (46) (30)
Round 3 4 4
Player 54 59 39
Round 1 58% 44% 50%
Round 2 7% 7% 3%
Round 3 9% 16% 10%
Round 4 2% 4% 7%
Round 5 0% 2% 3%
Round 6 9% 7% 0%
7 and below 12% 13% 17%
UD 2% 7% 10%

The Superbowl data shows that while the average QB was drafted in round 3, the majority were drafted in round 1.  This indicates that a few outliers (such as Bart Starr drafted in 1956, Round 17, or Tom Brady in 2000, Round 6) might be skewing the average.  More importantly is that the size and number of the rounds has changed.  Because of this player position might be a more accurate measure.  For this statistic we have HOF winners falling near the beginning and SB QBs falling near the end of a modern round 2.

This would seem to support a hypothesis that teams need to take a risk on a QB early on.  However, simply picking high is not enough.  While 50% (15) of the HOF QBs were picked in the first round, only 6 were the first QB picked.  If you were to take into account that there were multiple HOF QBs drafted in some years (and so it would be impossible to take all of them first) we would expect an average of 0.4 QBs selected before a HOF QB.  The actual figure is 2.4 QBs selected before each HOF QB, or 2 after normalizing it.  I did not analyse the data from the Superbowl, but I would expect similar or higher results given the higher draft position results.

The results indicate that while good QBs get selected high, it is likely you will select poorly.  Of course 'good enough' can be as useful as good, but it is worrying how misjudged QB talent can be.  This information indicates that selecting an NFL QB is something of a crapshoot in which you roll the dice on a player that was successful in college.


Given some of the comments I thought I would tease out a bit more information from this data.  So I looked at all QBs drafted and compared that to how many made the SB or HOF. The lead time required to enter the HOF (an average of 23 years) means that HOF caliber players playing recently are not included, so I bracketed my sample population to at 1989, the last draft year of a HOF inducted QB.  Likewise, I limited my SB sample population to 1955, the first  year a SB QB was drafted.

Having said that,  the data does indicate that there is a strong correlation between a successful QB and being picked in the first round.  Interestingly, the stats jump in the third round as well.

# of QBs Picked (post-1955) Average Player # # in Superbowl % in Superbowl
Round 1 119 8 45 38%
Round 2 60 40 6 10%
Round 3 67 67 11 16%
Round 4 71 93 3 4%
Round 5 50 133 1 2%
Round 6 83 161 7 8%
7 and below 395 257 11 3%
# of QBs drafted (pre-1989) Avg Player # # in HOF % in HOF
Round 1 90 7 15 17%
Round 2 42 32 1 2%
Round 3 44 56 3 7%
Round 4 39 80 2 5%
Round 5 52 136 1 2%
Round 6 46 136 0 0%
7 and below 333 257 5 2%


Finally, I looked at the idea that QBs drafted in the top 50 picks (regardless of rounds) were the most successful.  The results indicate that just over 1 in 10 of top 50 QBs make it to the HOF, and 1 in 3 make it to a SB.  However, some QBs went to the SB multiple times. In terms of players, only 17% of Top 50 QBs make it to the SB.

Picked in Top 50 HOF (until 1989) SB  (after 1955) Unique SB Appearances
20 53 32
Total Picked  156 185 185
% of total 13% 29% 17%


And because I can't let a job go half done, I also calculated how many QBs were selected before a Superbowl playing QB was drafted.  This averages out to 2.8 for Superbowl winners and 3.1 for Superbowl losers, higher than for HOF QBs.  This makes sense, as you do not have to have the best QB to play in the Superbowl, but a good QB alone is not enough to guarantee a spot.  Add to that the fact that QBs tend to go faster in the earlier rounds, it means that poor teams are likely to pick up good QBs as they select first.  Finally, you would some of the qualities of a future HOFer to be more apparent.   However the fact remains that HOF QBs have an average of 2 QBs selected before them.  This indicates that our judgement of what indicates a HOF QB are poor.


And with that, I think I am done editing this post!  Sorry for the gaps, the program gets angry when you try to put new spreadsheets on top of the old and you can't delete the space!

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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