With the first week of preseason games in the books, let’s take a look at where each team stands and how their starting quarterback stacks up against their peers. The Eagles, Jets, Jaguars, and Bills are expecting to use the preseason to determine who their starter will end up being week one. With the other 28 teams set at QB barring injury, the assumption is that the week one starter for those specific teams will be Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, and E.J. Manuel.
The average draft position of a starting QB in the NFL today is 35th overall, which is where Andy Dalton was drafted in 2011. There are nine starting QB’s who were selected first overall, with only five still with the team who originally drafted them. There are only three starting QB’s in the league not drafted in the first three rounds, Tom Brady (199th), Matt Flynn (209th), and Tony Romo (Undrafted). If you remove these QB’s from the average draft position, the average drops to 15th overall. The last QB selected 15th overall was Tony Eason, who was selected by New England in the famed 1983 QB draft class.
Having a first round QB does not necessarily determine if your team will be successful. There are two QB’s who are exempt (Flynn and Manuel), because they are entering their first year as starters in the league. Every non-first-round QB has led their teams to the playoffs (Drew Brees, Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Matt Schaub, Brady, and Romo), with Dalton being the lone non-first-round QB without a playoff victory. The NFL has a plethora of playoff experienced QB’s. Only seven starting QB’s have yet to lead their teams to the playoffs (Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill, Gabbert, Josh Freeman, and Brandon Weeden), all first round selections.
The opposite may be true for Conference Championship and Super Bowl appearances. Eight active QB’s have started in a Super Bowl (Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Brees, Brady, and Kaepernick), with Kaepernick being the only starting QB that has been to a Super Bowl and not won. Of those eight, five were selected in the first round. Six other starting QB’s have led their teams to a Conference Championship game (Vick, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, Sanchez, and Jay Cutler), all selected in the first round.
Super Bowl appearances have varied widely between conferences. Since 2001, the AFC has had only five teams and QB’s start in the Super Bowl. Brady, Roethlisberger, and Peyton Manning account for 10 of the 12, while the other starters are Rich Gannon and Flacco. The NFC has had an amazing 11 teams and 10 different starting QB’s in the Super Bowl since 2001. The only team to appear more than once was the Giants, led by Eli Manning. There are only two QB’s who have started multiple Super Bowls for the NFC, Eli Manning and Kurt Warner, who started once for both the Rams and Cardinals. Of the 10 NFC starters, only four are still active (Eli Manning, Brees, Rodgers, and Kaepernick). The division with the most Super Bowl appearances since 2001 is the AFC East with five, all belonging to the Brady-led Patriots. The AFC North and the NFC West are tied in second with four appearances each, with the NFC West being the only division in the NFL since 2001 with each team representing the conference in the Super Bowl. The opposite is true for the AFC West, with the longest current Super Bowl drought and only one appearance by the Gannon-led Raiders in 2002.
Draft position is not the only factor that contributes to NFL success. Experience also plays an important role. The average experience for a starting QB is five years. Of the 17 eligible starting QB’s with at least four years’ experience in the league, every QB has led a team to the playoffs. Of those 17, Carson Palmer and Matthew Stafford are the only starting QB’s with at least four years’ experience who have not won a playoff game. Only six of the 13 QB’s with three years’ experience or less have led their teams to the playoffs (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Wilson, Christian Ponder, Dalton, and Kaepernick), and only two (Wilson and Kaepernick) have playoff victories. The AFC South has the lowest NFL experience average among starting QB’s with 3.5 years, while the AFC West has the most with 9 years.
Sticking with your starter can also contribute to their success. Half of all eligible starting QB’s (14/28) have led their teams to playoff victories (Smith, Manuel, Flynn, and Palmer are exempt due to this being their first year starting with their respective teams), and 75% (21/28) have led their teams to playoffs. All 14 QB’s that have started at least four years with their current teams have led them to the playoffs. Twelve of those QB’s have at least one playoff victory, with Stafford and Vick as the exceptions. This leads to the starting QB chicken and egg question, does sticking with your QB lead to playoff appearances, or do playoff appearances lead to sticking with your QB?
Damien Lodes is a Denver Broncos fan from Moore Oklahoma who is very excited for this season to start, and wants to see Peyton Manning win a second championship.