Every year when football season is over and the draft is all us fans have to look forward to, speculation on which player should go first in the draft becomes the hot topic. More often than not the number one player is usually at the quarterback position but when he is not and drops down the rankings the keyword becomes “over-reach”.
In my opinion the most valuable player on any team will always be the quarterback, he is the leader of the offense and as he does so do the other 10 men next to him. In the history of the NFL no team has ever won the Superbowl with a below average quarterback and very rarely does that team have a winning season. So when a team comes into the draft devoid of a starting caliber leader should they draft the best quarterback available in the draft regardless of ranking in said draft? I absolutely believe so. But first let me clarify something, I also absolutely believe in drafting the best player available as every team should but that is a luxury that is not easily found and i will explain why.
Every offense is developed around one guy, the quarterback, and the abilities that guy brings to the table. If the quarterback is mobile then a top rated offensive line is not needed right away to win games. But if that quarterback has a strong arm, then a receiver that can get down field the fastest will be a huge asset and the play calling will be set up for that. If the Quarterback has a decent arm but excels in a quick release then the asset to the offense will be a precise route running tight end or slot receiver. The only position on offense that has less of an impact on the play calling regarding the QB play is at running back, that is of course unless the QB is a pure pocket passer than a RB that can block is a must. My point is that each and every draft and free agency decision is based on how the quarterback plays and his capabilities at the position because a team is built around him and only him. To this day I have never heard a team build an offense around a TE or a RT or even a RB.
Now the question still remains, should a team draft on BPA or need. Well if a team needs a quarterback and he is the best player available to boot then the answer is simple. But, what if the QB is not the best player available in the draft but the team still needs one much like the Houston Texans need one in this years draft? Then the answer becomes a bit more complex. Currently the number one player in this years draft is Jadevon Clowney and he is a superb player and should be ranked number one. Unfortunately for Houston they get the catch 22 of having the first overall pick where their choice for the best player is one they already have in J.J. Watt. Now granted having two bookends like Watt and Clowney is an extremely mouth watering scenario and the Houston defense will be incredibly potent but does adding Clowney really upgrade the team to the point where it will equal wins for them? I highly doubt it due the the mere fact that a defense is only there to prevent other teams from winning not winning the game itself. So my selection for them should be at quarterback as that is the position that means the difference between a loosing season and a season with a future mainly because you won’t build an offense around a DE but you will build one out of your quarterback. What getting the best player available for a team like Houston instead of a need based player accomplishes is a lag between drafts as now the team will have to wait two years at least before drafting players to suit the needs of the offense and quarterback (If the draft one next year). Basically, the option of getting BPA sometimes is a detriment to the forward motion of a team that is in dire need of a rebuild.
Now the counter argument to drafting on need instead of BPA, especially when the need is at quarterback, is that it is a “reach” and a team should never reach for a player. But is it really a reach to draft for need at the position? Lets look at the past 10 years of so called “reaches” and compare them to the ones that where not considered a reach and see what we can find out.
[ezcol_1half]Here is a list of all QB’s selected in the first round of the draft over that past 10 years (*not including 2013 as it is too soon to call)[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end][/ezcol_1half_end]
2002 – David Carr ( 1st Overall)
Joey Harrington ( 3rd Overall)
2003 – Carson Palmer (1st overall)
Byron Leftwich ( 7th Overall)
Kyle Boller ( 19th Overall)
Rex Grossman ( 22nd Overall)
2004 – Eli Manning ( 1st Overall)
Philip Riviers ( 4th Overall)
Ben Rothliesberger (11th Overall)
JP Losman (22nd Overall)
2005 – Alex Smith (1st Overall)
Aaron Rodgers (24th Overall)
Jason Campbell (25th Overall)
2006 – Vince Young (3rd Overall)
Matt Leinart ( 10th Overall)
Jay Cutler (11th Overall)
2007 – JaMarcus Russell (1st Overall)
Brady Quinn* (22nd Overall)
2008 – Matt Ryan (1st Overall)
Joe Flacco (18th Overall)
2009 – Mathew Stafford (1st Overall)
Mark Sanchez (5th Overall)
Josh Freeman (17th Overall)
2010 – Sam Bradford (1st Overall)
Tim Tebow (25th overall)
2011 – Cam Newton (1st Overall)
Jake Locker (8th Overall)
Blaine Gabbert (10th Overall)
Christian Ponder (12th Overall)
2012 – Andrew Luck (1st Overall)
RGIII (2nd Overall)
Ryan Tannehill (8th Overall)
Brandon Weeden (22nd Overall)
The players selected in red are the ones that where not considered to be “reaches” in their perspective draft. The ones in blue where considered reaches by most if not all analysts. The ones with an asterisk where quarterbacks selected well bellow their rankings. * I used scout.com as a barometer on their rankings.
So lets see what we find in this list: Out of the 10 QB’s selected 1st overall only one was considered to best BPA at number one and that was Andrew Luck. Cam Newton was ranked as the 10th best player, Sam Bradford was rated number 2, Mathew Stafford ranked 3rd, Matt Ryan ranked 4th, JeMarcus Russell ranked 3rd, Alex Smith 7th, Eli Manning 7th, Carson Palmer 5th, and David Carr 3rd. Out of the 27 quarterbacks drafted in those years that were considered non-reaches only 14 of them took their teams to the playoffs, the rest are either backups, retired or in jail (Ryan Leaf). The combined winning percentage of the 27 is 42% while the combined winning percentage of the “reached” for players is 46%. (Stats came from pro-football-reference.com)
So what does this mean then? Well, a QB that is considered a reach has as much of a chance of having a winning record, if not better, as the QB that is considered selected at the correct ranking. But what does that mean for players that are not QB’s in the draft? Well it means nothing as the only player that gets the W/L stat is the quarterback and no one else.
Another interesting aspect came via the quarterbacks that were selected well above their rankings. The only one that made that list is Brady Quinn, a journey man QB that now plays backup for the Rams selected 22nd but ranked at 12th. The rest of the list was either right on or where selected above their perceived rankings with the exception of Andrew Luck who was ranked 1st and selected 1st. Of the 33 QB’s on this list 16 are starters in the league and only 6 of those where ranked 1-5 in the draft. The other 10 were ranked form 6 all the way to 40 (The SB winning Joe Flacco was ranked 36).
So if you look at all the numbers and the production of all the quarterbacks selected over the past 10 years how can one say that a particular QB is a reach even though that is exactly what a team needs? If the ratio is that half of all quarterbacks selected, no matter the ranking, will be an adequate to elite starter why wouldn’t a team like Houston draft the best player for a position they need instead of the best player in the entire draft. Like i said earlier, I believe in drafting the best player available but when it comes to need especially in the most important position, you draft the best player available in that position.