It's draft day and the hapless Detroit Lions have already committed $40 million in guaranteed money to the first overall pick, quarterback Matt Stafford of the University of Georgia. It's well-documented that drafting quarterbacks is more art than science, but I was curious to see exactly when the most successful active quarterbacks were drafted, so I dropped some numbers in a spreadsheet.
Draft position among the top 30 active quarterbacks in career QB rating
Average draft position: 104* Median draft position: 102 Number of number one overall picks: 4 Number of un-drafted QBs: 6** Number drafted in the first round: 12 Number drafted in the 150th position or higher: 12
* This number is a little deceptive because 6 QBs went un-drafted--as a workaround, I assigned them the draft number of the last player drafted in their respective draft year plus one. For example, 262 players were drafted in the year Tony Romo became eligible, so I assigned him number 263. Not perfect, I know. ** This shouldn't be too surprising. The universe of QBs who go un-drafted every year is very large. There are 120 D-1 schools each with a QB, many with a draft-eligible QB every year, in addition to the QBs who emerge from lesser divisions (49ers QB JT O'Sullivan, for instance, played at D-2 UC-Davis). That some of them would get overlooked should not be that surprising given the uncertainty involved in QB assessment.
For further analysis of why NFL teams have struggled to identify which quarterbacks will excel at the professional level, be sure to read Jonah Lehrer's blog commentary on a Malcom Gladwell article on the subject.