First-Round QB Less Risky Than DE

April 14th, 2014


Even with all the media coverage of the NFL, there still exists a secretive blossoming underworld inside many franchises. It’s a world where spreadsheets and hard drives and stats geeks try to craft an edge with information. 

The Bucs hired their own master of numbers this year, Tyler Oberly. So Joe finds it interesting that Mr. Oberly shared an analysis earlier this month from his old website,

One of the numbers crunchers there, former high school football coach and longtime national analyst John Harris, studied NFL defensive ends and quarterbacks drafted in the first round from 2002-2011. His data concluded that defensive ends were “total busts” 42.5 percent of the time, whereas QBs only busted 36.7 percent of the time.

Quarterbacks also showed to be average or below — aka a notch better than “total bust — 16.7 percent of the time. DEs only hit that level 10 percent of the time.

Superstars were landed at each position at about a 20 percent clip.

So what does this mean? Well, of course, it means almost nothing. But it is the kind of data being presented to Lovie Smith and Jason Licht behind the walls of One Buc Palace. This type of number crunching is what, for example, helps craft trends like staying away from running backs early in the draft and not being fear-stricken by talented quarterbacks.

36 Responses to “First-Round QB Less Risky Than DE”

  1. bucrightoff Says:

    What about the stats on OLine or WR, aka the positions the Bucs are actually choosing between?

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Would be curious about the numbers on Oline.

  3. Oil Derrick Brooks Says:

    And offensive tackles bust even less than QBs, correct?

  4. Harry Says:

    I am not surprised really – a little surprised that DE is that much higher. I would think WR is high as well. My guess would be that the safest pick is O-line (OT), DT, CB in that order.

  5. Harry Says:

    I would think so ODB. The OTs taken in the first rd always seem to end up at least being “serviceable” if not All Pros. But I still want my QB, lol

  6. BucFanForever Says:

    Probably, the safest pick in the first round is Punter. Let’s go with something that will help us win.

  7. DallasBuc Says:

    I can’t imagine Manziel getting past texans, jags, browns, raiders and any other team willing to trade up ahead of us! Doesn’t seem plausible

  8. Snook Says:


    Draft him.

  9. Jordan Says:

    According to the article, defensive ends picked in the first round were more likely to be “perennial pro-bowlers or a solid long-term veteran” than QBs. Slightly higher risk, slightly higher reward for DE’s. The methodology of the research is quite poor. A more complete analysis would’ve assigned a weighted value for each pick depending on their exact draft order selection, as opposed to lumping a #1 overall pick with a #32 overall pick and supposing that they are the same.

  10. T in Orlando Says:

    Wouldn’t Average or Below actually be a worse category than “total bust” for QB? Odds are a team will spend more time with a QB drafted in the 1st that appears Average (I would think Freeman would qualify in this category), in the hopes the light will turn on soon. Where as a total bust, is probably recognized by year 3, and the team cuts ties.

    Even if not, that means 1st round QBs will be average or worse about 53% of the time, and 1st round DEs will be average or worse, about 52% of the time.

    I think that’s splitting hairs if actually taking this information into account.

  11. Oil Derrick Brooks Says:

    This is a different author’s analysis looking at draft picks #1-#16 for the years 1993-2009:

    Quarterback Hit Rate: 48.2%
    Defensive Tackle Hit Rate: 46.9%
    Offensive Tackle Hit Rate: 69.2%

    Quarterback Bust Rate: 44.4%
    Defensive Tackle Bust Rate: 46.9%
    Offensive Tackle Bust Rate: 19.2%

    It’s crazy how little respect people give OTs. I understand it’s an unglamorous position, but, I guess I look at it as a great line will make a average QB better, but a bad line will make a great QB look terrible. That’s just my opinion. I always want both lines rectified first.

  12. Kevin Says:

    What is the bust percentage on WR??? Was that included in the study?

  13. SAMCRO Says:


    Right On … I totally agree!

  14. louden Says:

    @ ODB (great name by the way) and SAMCRO:

    Yeah, right on + when i hear how some seem to be in love with Demar Dotson and i hate the panthers – this comes to mind:

  15. Orca Says:

    This information can’t be applied in every draft. Some years there may be a more talented QB class while other years may be loaded with DEs. In the end, the decision always comes down to a conviction about a player. That statistical information is nice to know but doesn’t really help very much.

  16. BamBamBuc Says:

    Accidentally posted this on the wrong article. Here is some of what I found as to success rates.

    Interestingly, there have been several articles written and some “fan” research posted across the internet regarding the draft and success rate by round by position. Of course, it’s all subjective based on criteria for “success”, but quite interesting nonetheless. At FootballsFuture, a Vikings fan posted several years ago a study on the draft (2011). The first round was simply pass/fail, either a player made an impact or not. Later rounds were based on at least one year as a starter (pass).

    The smaller sample sizes (OG, C, TE) had very high success rates, but also very limited selections. So, either you are a 1st rounder or not, and it’s pretty obvious. CB had a large number of selections and a very high success rate. OT and QB were pretty much a coin flip in the first round. DL was pretty low success rate, only beaten out by WR (2nd most selections of any group and barely 1 in 3 success rate). Of course, this was a several years ago, but a 10 year draft study (1998-2008) with interesting results.

    When looking at later rounds, a few things stand out. Once you get past the 1st round QBs (50/50 shot), chances of even getting a 1 year starter drop to about 1 in 4 or worse in ANY other round. Positions with equal or better success in the 2nd and 3rd round over the 1st round include WR, OT (remains about a 50/50 shot for 3 rounds), CB (2nd round, drop drastically in the 3rd), DE & DT (actually decent results through 5 rounds, just not great in the 1st). The writer never looked at G, C, TE or LB beyond round 1 (interesting note, LB is one of the most successful 1st round options).

    Another research by SBNation Seahawks site uses much stricter criteria for success (2 Pro Bowls, 7 year starter, or 125 games played). Data taken was from 1988 onward, and the results calculated in 2009. Similar results, as CB, OL and TE found success in the 2nd round frequently. QB had minimal 2nd round success, but extremely limited success (by those standards) after round 2.

    The truth is more a matter of opinion on this subject than black and white, right and wrong. But it seems pretty obvious that some teams get lucky with a QB beyond round one, but it’s not the “norm” to find a great QB later in the draft (no matter how deep the draft). WR is typically found in rnds 2 and 3 (with a high bust rate on 1st rounders). All linemen (both O and D) can have “gems” much deeper in the draft. And if you’re “playing it safe” in the first round, take a LB or DB.

  17. BamBamBuc Says:

    ODB – Saw that one too. Chose to look at the others since I could compare entire 1st round (not just top 16) AND compare to later rounds. I look at it this way, (depending on success criteria) if I can “hit” on a DE 47% in the first round or a QB 46%, but in the 2nd round I can hit on a DE 48%, but a QB only 22%, then I should probably get the QB in rnd 1 and wait for the DE in rnd 2. It could be said “it depends on the draft and depth at each position”, but these are samples over long term. Some drafts had to be good while others bad at each position. Ultimately, it will come down to who Licht, Lovie, Tedford and Frazier think will improve the team the most and soonest, combined with level of risk filling positions later in the draft with talent.

  18. owlykat Says:

    Do the stats compare success of first round QBs to QBs in any other round? You can easily do it yourself among current top QBs and the round they were taken: Peyton and Eli, Rogers, Luck, Flacco, and Newton–all first rounders, and Roethlisberger, Wilson, and Brady, and Brees–all other rounds. So it appears to me the best chance for a top QB is in the first round because more QBs are selected in later rounds but less of those become top QBs.

  19. passthebuc Says:

    Oh Johhny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
    From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
    The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying
    ‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.

    But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
    Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
    ‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
    Oh Johnny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

    And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
    And I am dead, as dead I well may be
    You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
    And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.

    And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
    And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
    If you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me
    I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

    I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

  20. bucray1 Says:

    agree here joe , especially in this draft. I only see 1 sure fire first rounder ( clowney ) at DE . guys like dee ford and kony ealy would be 2nd or 3rd rounders in an average draft class,imho.

  21. bucrightoff Says:

    Roethlesberger is a first rounder (11th overall)…

  22. BamBamBuc Says:

    owlykat – Big Ben was a 1st round pick (11th overall). Beyond that, it is still based on what each author considers “success”. For example, if the criteria is “top shelf” as in [2 Pro Bowls, 7 year starter, or 125 games played] the number of “successes” drops for all positions. For QB, the drop off past round 1 in that scenario leaves only a tiny % in each round to ever succeed. Yet, if the criteria is lessened to [starter for 1 full year] for any player after round 1, then there will be more successes in later rounds at all positions (although QB still drops to about half of the first round success rate in round 2 and less deeper in the draft).

    Another thing to remember is that QB is a singular position. There are 2 OT, OG, DE, often DT, CB, Safety, and more LB and WR players each game. There is only 1 QB. If we took the odds for QB and divide by one (for how many QBs start), we’d still have the same %. Yet if we half the success rate of DE’s (because we need 2 starters, therefore have to draft twice as many) the success rate drops. I’d hate to see the WR success rate if it were cut in 1/3 or 1/4. Fortunately, many of the non-QB positions have had success beyond the 1st round, which balances the odds of filling a complete, talented roster.

  23. tickrdr Says:

    As posted previously by me, there have been 51 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft in the last 20 years (1993-2013). Their AVERAGE performance does improve somewhat the closer you get to the top of that round, but not as much as you might think. For instance, those 51 players have played an aggregate total of 384 seasons (this means that you take the number of total seasons that that player has competed, and add them all up .e.g Drew Bledsoe [#1 overall in 1993] played a total of 14 seasons plus next guy times # of seasons etc.) If I were to pick an arbitrary QB rating as a standard against which to measure their performance, say 83.9 as an example to just pick a number out of the blue…… then there were 120 total seasons where those first-rounders had a rating higher than 83.9 (120/384=31.2%). Please note, this is any season EVER in their career, not just their rookie seasons.
    Or stated the opposite way, that means that almost 69% of those seasons resulted in a QB rating less than 83.9. Looking at the individual players, there were 17 (17/51=33%) who NEVER had a single season with a rating greater than 83.9 in their entire careers!

    Let’s also pick an arbitrary number of TD passes in a single season…..oh say 19. Out of those same 384 seasons, only 114 (114/384=30%) seasons resulted in that many TD’s. And 21 of those players (21/51=41.1%) NEVER had a single season with at least that many TD’s. And another 9 players had only one season with as many as 19 or more TD’s. Not even if they played 16 games. The numbers are even worse when you look for seasons with a TD/INT ratio greater than 2.1 (19/9)…… only 57 total seasons out of that 384 = 14.8%…… ANY season in their career, not just their rookie campaigns.

    Now these are taking ALL first rounders, even those chosen later in the first round like Daunte Culpepper (11th), Ben Roethlisberger (11th), and Aaron Rodgers (24th), so the numbers MUST be better when you are talking about the studs taken near the top of the round? Actually they do improve……… somewhat.

    Anybody interested in the rest of these stats?


    Note: This is why I’ll repost my offer to bet later.

  24. BamBamBuc Says:

    I’d actually be more interested in the breakdown of all QBs taken after the 1st round. Per pro football reference, there were 197 in that same time frame. If we’re looking only at “years as a starter”, nearly 3/4 of them never started one season. 54 of the 197 started a single season or more. Of course, some of these players were just drafted a year ago, so there’s a longevity issue as well. I’d have rather stopped at 2010 or 2011 draft for a clearer picture.

    So, if we have 20 years (actually 21, since you included 1993 & 2013), that would be 6 rounds times 21 years, so 126 rounds produced 3 more QBs that started at least one season than 21 1st rounds did (54 to 51). Based on years as a starter, total career yardage and total career TDs, I’d have to say the past 20 years has produced exactly 2 QBs that can be considered “franchise past the 1st round and they now play for the Saints and Patriots. Don’t get me wrong, Wilson and Kaep may make it into that group eventually, only time will tell. And because we don’t know about the more recent draft picks yet, I have to conclude that the last time a “franchise QB” was taken past round 1 was 13 years ago.

  25. Harry Says:

    Great research. I am surprised DT is not more successful. You have a valid point on drafting an OT, but you know my feelings on that. If it were a late 1st rd pick, I’d say fine, but not at #7

  26. BamBamBuc Says:

    Oh yes, almost forgot. Only one of the 1st round picks never started a “season” for his team. Jim Druckenmiller started just 1 game his entire career, played in 6. That was back in the 90’s. So, 50 of 51 1st rounders started at least one season (hard to say how many more some will start, i.e. Manuel has only started one, but he was only drafted last year). 80% of the 51 have started 2 or more years (and 4 of those 41 have only been in the NFL 2 years). 34 of 51 have started 3 or more years (and 3 of those have only been in the NFL 3 years). Over half (28 of 51) have started 4 or more years in the NFL. Yet only 25% of the “after Rnd 1” players could get 1 or more years.

    To look at it another way… of all the 1st round QBs, approx 50% have started 6+ years in the NFL or (for those with less than 6 years in the NFL) been the starter every season in the NFL. 25 of 51. About a 50% chance to get a QB that’s at least good enough to start for 6 years. Maybe not “franchise”, maybe not “future HOF”… but 6 years of stability. As opposed to the huge risk of 1% “franchise” after round one and only 5% lasting 6 years as a starter past round one.

  27. BucNasty!!! Says:

    Johnny manziel in the 1st Kelvin Benjamin n the 2nd and the best available guard in the 3rd you can fill out your depth and special teams eith the remaining picks,undrafted free agents,and still unrestricted free agents* cough cough* Santonio Holmes

  28. Jordan Says:

    @tickrdr – wow! incredible stats. Is it possible to provide the percentage of those 384 seasons where the QB had a passer rating over 83.8, more than 18 tds, and a td:int ratio greater than 2:1?

  29. tickrdr Says:


    Thank you very much for sharing your research. IMHO though, actually starting a game, or even having several seasons as a starter seems a very poor way to judge a QB’s performance. This may reflect an injury to the first-stringer (e.g. Aaron Rodgers) , or poor play by the original starter (e.g. JF5), or even how many here feel that , and perhaps rightly feel that the only reason Mike Glennon got to play was that he was Schiano’s “pet”. There may simply not be any QB deemed better at a given time on any given team, and NOT that the player’s performance was so outstanding that led to him becoming the starter. I think that most of us would agree that there may be some second stringers playing behind stars, who thus never start, but may actually perform better than some teams’ starters, especially in some seasons (e.g. Eli Manning or even RG3 this last year). There can be a long and heated discussion about how then to best evaluate a given QB’s performance, and many websites are dedicated to “tweaking” the available stats, and compare the relative performance of your favorite player. The stats I quoted come from and utilize the QB rating listed there, as well as the TD’s and INT’s.

    As noted above, the reason I hope Mike Glennon gets a chance is simply based on his performance stats for last year as a rookie. (QBR 83.9, 19 TDs, and 9 INTs) which compare very favorably vs. the lifetime stats of all the FIRST round picks of the last 20 years, and NOT just comparing their rookie stats with MG8!

    Even looking at the QB’s taken #1 overall in the draft ( 13 players), they have a combined 106 seasons over their careers, but only in 43 of 106= 40.6% of those seasons did that player post a QB rating HIGHER than MG8’s 83.9, and that total includes 14 seasons by Peyton Manning.
    Those same #1 overall QB’s threw for 19 or more TDs in only 49 of 106= 46.2% cumulative seasons, but MG8 managed to do that in only 13 games in his rookie campaign.
    And in only 20 seasons out of those 106= 18.9% did that QB have a better TD/INT ratio better than MG8’s 19/9= 2.1. Once again, take away P. Manning’s 9 seasons doing that, and you’re left with only nine seasons ever in their career for the remaining 12 players with a TD/INT ratio better than Mike’s last year.

    Now for the sarcastic part. MG8 did have an All-Pro offensive line, 60% of whom were inexplicably released and/or traded by by our new regime. He did have an unbelievable running attack and seasoned tight ends, as well as two of the top ten receivers in the league, and got almost all of the reps in preseason and the first three weeks practice during the regular season. Plus he had an unbelievable coaching staff and OC, as well. And just like Josh McCown, he got to play Dallas and Minnesota the 31st and 32nd worst defenses in the league last year, rather than the 49’ers, Saints, Panthers, and other playoff-bound teams who were fighting for divisional crowns and home-field advantage in December.

    And finally, one of the most interesting facts I learned, was that of all those 1st round QB’s, 37 of 51 of them (37/51=72.5%) improved their lifetime QB rating compared with their rookie rating.


  30. tickrdr Says:


    Jordan Says:
    April 14th, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    @tickrdr – wow! incredible stats. Is it possible to provide the percentage of those 384 seasons where the QB had a passer rating over 83.8, more than 18 tds, and a td:int ratio greater than 2:1?

    Thank you for asking! I’m not entirely sure I understand your question though, as the percentages for individual seasons meeting those criteria individually i.e. only a QB rating > 83.9, or only seasons with 19 or more TD’s, or only seasons where the TD/INT ratio was greater than 19/9=2.1 were listed above in my post at 6:27pm today.

    But if you are asking how many surpassed MG8’s rookie season in ALL three criteria, the list is mighty short. Of those 51 QB’s chosen in the first round, to my knowledge only Robert Griffin III (QBR 102.4, 20 TDs, and only 5 INTs) beat all three of MG8’s numbers for his rookie season. Of note, Russell Wilson did it as well during his rookie compaign (QBR 100.0, 26 TDs, and 10 INTs), but of course we all know he was only a lowly third round pick. Just a thought, perhaps the head coach or QB coach at NC State is the true QB guru we should hire.


  31. BamBamBuc Says:

    I think the point I’m making is that getting a QB to perform consistently over a long term outside of the first round is at best 1 in 20 and more likely 1 in 100. Glennon did fine last year, yet there are examples of QBs having one or two seasons that are out of the norm. This is why guys like Cassell get signed to big contracts, then flop. I haven’t gone through all the numbers like TDs per season for those outside the first round, but I’d guess if someone took the time it would be pretty obvious that the first round pick is more consistent. Feel free to compare the 51 1st rounders to the 54 other rounders. 50% starting for 6 years, or their entire careers to this point as opposed to 5% speaks volumes regardless of good vs great. That’s 10x more long term success at a minimum.

  32. tickrdr Says:

    I am willing to bet that regardless of which team he plays for, that Johnny Manziel will not beat the rookie year stats of Mike Glennon. Even if he ends up here with a much better supporting cast than MG8 had. And I fully admit that I have NEVER seem Johnny Manziel play, except for a few highlights etc.
    Specifically: 3 separate bets.
    1) his QBR (minimum of 300 attempts) will be less than 83.9 for 2014.
    2) his TD total will be less than 19 for his first thirteen games.
    3) his TD/INT ratio will be less than 19/9 .
    If he doesn’t play = I win the bet.

    In fact, I’ll let you pick your choice of the available QB’s, and maybe next year we can see who did best. Same three bets, same restrictions and stats.


  33. BamBamBuc Says:

    Not really interested in bets. More interested in long term answers. If a bet were to be made (and I wouldn’t, not a betting man) I would offer that… 1) Glennon will never match or beat any 2 of those 3 stats in another season of his career. 2) the career #s of 2 of the top 3 will destroy Glennon’s career #s. 3) more than 1 first round QB in this draft will start more playoff games over their career than Glennon. Despite QBR or TD/INT ratio… Wins matter more. Glennon will never amass wins like the top QBs on this draft. And I’m not a Manziel fan, so I’d even be willing to exclude him from the candidates. That leaves Bridgewater, Bortles and Carr/Garoppolo.

  34. mpmalloy Says:

    Snook Says:


    Draft him.

    Joe, is that you?

  35. tickrdr Says:


    Had a post in response to your one about Cassell, but managed to somehow delete/lose it, and I type too slowly to try to reproduce it again tonight. I somehow think that we may have at least one more post from JBF about the QB position before the draft. LOL

    Maybe we can revisit the “bet” in a friendly way a year from now. As they say, only time will tell. Thanks for the good discussion, and good night to you.


  36. Brain Says:

    QB success rate is much higher in the 1st round than later in the draft, especially relative to other positions.

    I’m anti-Manziel but at least he’s a talent upgrade over what we have. If we waste a 2nd rounder or trade up for Garoppolo, however, I will bash my head through the wall.