When drafting a quarterback, what's good?

February 21, 2018

In 2009 the Detroit Lions picked Matthew Stafford first overall in the draft. Using Weighted Career Approximate Value -- Pro Football Reference's method of ranking players all time -- Stafford not only was the best quarterback selected that year, he was the best player. The Lions didn't have to trade up; Detroit finished 0-16 in 2008, changed coaches, and kicked off a new era with the consensus best player available in the draft.

As stated, Stafford's career (CarAV 85) ranks higher to date than any other '09 draft pick's does. (LeSean McCoy, pick 53, ranks second at 78; Josh Freeman, pick 17, ranks second among quarterbacks at 38, just ahead of the fifth pick, Mark Sanchez). Stafford has started every one of the 125 NFL games in which he's appeared, including the last 112. He's just shy now of 35,000 passing yards, where he ranks 29th all time.

In nine seasons Stafford has been named to one Pro Bowl team (2014). He and the Lions have been to the playoffs three times, all as wild-card teams that went on the road in the first round. They lost all three games.

Stafford was paid more than $110 million by the Lions before last summer signing a new contract that made him the highest-paid player in the league. If Stafford plays out his new deal he'll have grossed more than $262M by the age of 35.


In 2012 eight quarterbacks were selected in the first four rounds. They were, in order: Andrew Luck (pick 1, Indianapolis), Robert Griffin III (2, Washington), Ryan Tannehill (8, Miami), Brandon Weeden (22, Cleveland), Brock Osweiler (57, Denver), Russell Wilson (75, Seattle), Nick Foles (88, Philadelphia) and Kirk Cousins (102, Washington). 

Three of the eight have Super Bowl rings already. Foles, who was re-acquired by the Eagles after stints with the Rams and Chiefs, is the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Wilson has started in the big game twice. Osweiler was Peyton Manning's backup for Denver's Super Bowl 50 win and I think they give you a ring for that.

Washington spent big to trade up for Griffin, and he was the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year. Cousins -- 0-1 as a playoff starter -- is about to supplant Stafford (and technically, Jimmy Garoppolo) as the league's highest-paid player.


Chris Towers is a fantasy writer for cbssports.com. On Tuesday he tweeted:

"Over the last five seasons, 33 quarterbacks have attempted at least 1,000 passes. Joe Flacco ranks 32nd in TD%, 25th in INT%, 32nd in passer rating, 33rd in Y/A, 33rd in AY/A, 33rd in ANY/A, 33rd in TD/INT ratio."

The year before that, 2012, Flacco and the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Flacco was named MVP.


Here comes the 2018 NFL Draft and everyone thinks the Bills are in the quarterback market. They have the luxury of two first-round picks, seemingly making it easier to get the player they want.

One thing that would be nice to know in advance of this draft is what constitutes a success.

Joe Flacco has been pretty much terrible for years but before that was a champion. Would anyone not consider the Ravens' selection of Flacco in the 2008 draft a success?

Matt Stafford is in line to make a quarter-billion dollars and break a bunch of records while being easily the best quarterback in his draft class. Is Detroit's drafting him a success?

The Eagles traded Nick Foles in March 2015 to get Sam Bradford and only re-acquired him last year to play in case of emergency, which ...


Any team's goal isn't drafting the best players, it's winning. Those things are not mutually exclusive, of course. The list of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks isn't a list of the league's best quarterbacks through the years, but it's mostly very good-to-great players. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly aren't on it, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson are.

I'm perfectly fine with the Bills drafting a quarterback early this year. (Reminder/caveat: I'm a talk-show host and almost always prefer for the Bills and Sabres whatever the thing is that we'll have the must fun talking about.) But the Bills aren't, you know, a good team. They don't have the Ravens' defense, or the Lions' receiving corps, or the Eagles' offensive line. How do you build those things? Mostly through the draft, of course. Is the plan to draft a quarterback in Round 1 this year -- even maybe trade up to do it -- and start him as a rookie? If it's not, fine, but we'll all be hanging out eagerly waiting for the kid to go in, to replace whoever the veteran is that's keeping his seat warm. If he does start right away, well, good luck to him.

Blake Bortles was the first quarterback taken in 2014, third overall. He's not great. He just won two playoff games and almost the AFC title.

Is Jacksonville's selection of Bortles four years ago a success?

You tell me.


No one knows which of these quarterbacks will be best and no amount of scouting budget changes that. Mel Kiper doesn't know, Bill Polian never knew, no one.

My advice: Hang in there with picks 21 and 22, or even trade down for more players, and let NFL Draft history be your guide. Might that lead you to Lamar Jackson? Perhaps. I can live with that. The big talent you get is expensive, and no matter who you take you still have to surround him with the right circumstances in order to win.

Winning. That's the goal, right?