Scouting Football Talent – The blueprint to a successful quarterback

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars are two teams sure to be at the top of the 2013 NFL Draft that will be looking for franchise caliber quarterback help.  Both are just a few years removed from making huge financial and opportunity cost investments in their current starters.  Matt Cassel was handpicked by GM Scott Pioli after his one year super season in relief of Tom Brady.  Blaine Gabbert was just drafted by Gene Smith in 2011 but is already considered a disappointment by many in the game.

So whether Pioli and or Smith are back for a second shot at filling the position, whoever is making the draft day decisions for either club would be well served in staying aware of a few statistical trends.  As you go forward with your own draft analysis for 2013, keep in mind the following criteria and see if the projected prospects fall in or out of these categories.


There is no “one size fits all” dimension for the quarterback position, but players drafted between 2008-2012 averaged the following parameters;

  • Height – 6036
  • Weight – 226
  • Speed – 4.88
  • Arm – 31 3/4
  • Hand – 9 5/8
  • Vertical Jump – 32”
  • Broad Jump – 8’11”
  • Short Shuttle – 4.37
  • Long Shuttle – 11.87
  • 3-Cone – 7.3

Passing your peers

At the annual NFL Combine, the top quarterback prospects who went on to become starters in the NFL exceeded peer average (EPA) or outperformed the average of all the participating prospects at their position in at least 3 of the 7 events.  For the quarterback position two categories statistically stood out as significant for the sample.  The highest percentage coming from  3-Cone (79%) and Broad Jump (69%) between 2005-2010.

Starts and accuracy

Another long standing, though little known indicator, is the 36+/60% Rule.  The top producing prospects at the quarterback position that were selected in the 1st & 2nd rounds of the NFL Draft had started over 36 games in their collegiate careers and completed 60% or more of their passes.  Today’s spread offenses have hyper-inflated the completion percentage, but it stands to reason that accuracy is extremely important in the National Football League.  Short passing attacks and dump offs to the flat should be closely monitored when evaluating a top level prospect.  Watch a Southern California game some time (catch my drift?).

2-Deep rosters

When examining the 2-Deep rosters across the NFL, it becomes abundantly clear where and when the talent falls.  QB’s are a premium, there are only so many to come out of the college talent pool every year.  The majority of 2-Deep NFL rosters are filled with 1st and 2nd round selections, along with College Free Agents.  Money and leverage is spent in the higher rounds to get the top 4 players in the first 64 picks or so.  36% come from the 1st round, while 14% follow up from the 2nd round.  The next highest source of quarterback talent on NFL rosters is from College Free Agency.  Sure, everyone is going to scream Tom Brady in the 6th.  But given the number of players selected, his success is an anomaly and not the norm.

Definition of success

Ultimate success at the professional level is difficult to measure.  But it would be safe to surmise that if you’re going to select a quarterback in the top 10, he should last longer than 2 or 3 seasons.  This study is a bit dated with the data, but it still should be researched.  In it, success is defined as 56 starts over the first 5 years of the player’s career.  Recalling where 2-Deep QB’s traditionally come from, we find that picks 1-10 have a 57.1% chance of success.  QB’s selected 11-20 have a 25% success rate.  Signal callers between 21-50 hit 37.5%.  After that it’s virtually 0% until you get to Mr. Brady.

This stat will be updated and may very well shift as players like Russell Wilson (3-75) and Matt Schaub (3-90) are worked into the equation.  But not by much.

What the numbers say

Over the past dozen years the 5th overall quarterback has fallen on average at pick #88 and well into the 3rd round.  I use that pick as the threshold to account for Schaub.  There are some other “familiar” names to debate; Seneca Wallace, Kyle Orton, Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel, Trent Edwards.  But it’s hard to call those players successes at the position.

You’re going to see a lot of Top 10 lists from the scouting gurus, but keep in mind the reality of the National Football League and the numbers that suggest that just maybe one or two will ever live up to the hype about to be shoveled on them over the next 4 or 5 months.

There’s a path that leads to success in picking QB’s.  You just got to know which way to turn.

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