The Third Round is the Absolute Worst Place to Take a QB

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I often see people suggest using earlier-round picks to beef up on other positions and grab a QB in the third (or later). In my opinion, not only is the third round the worst place to find a franchise QB, I think it's the worst round to draft a QB entirely. It's too early to invest in a backup, and the odds of finding "the guy" there are so small that it is reckless to depend on it. It is basically setting the pick on fire.

As many students of the game know, in the 1979 draft, the San Francisco 49ers changed NFL history when they used a third round pick (82nd overall) to select a QB out of Notre Dame by the name of Joe Montana. It was a pick the 49ers acquired from the Seahawks (who had previously acquired the pick from Dallas), when Seattle wanted to move up for a linebacker by the name of Michael Jackson. To move up from 82nd to 57th, we traded the Niners a safety by the name of Bob Jury, a player we had drafted in the third round out of Pitt the year prior who never played for us.

Joe Montana would go on to become the best quarterback the NFL had seen at the time. Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl championships, winning MVP in three of them, and being named to five All-Pro teams, in addition to eight Super Bowls.

So, why would I suggest ignoring third-round quarterbacks entirely? The answer is short:

Russell Wilson (2019), Second-Team All-Pro

In the 45 years since Montana was selected, that 2019 second-team All-Pro from Wilson was literally the ONLY time a QB selected in the third round has been named All-Pro. 59 quarterbacks have been selected in the third round since Montana.

If you lower your expectations from All-Pros to Pro Bowls, which everyone knows is a popularity contest anyway, there have 18 times that a third-round QB made the Pro Bowl. Here is that list, with the year they were drafted:

9 Pro Bowls- Russell Wilson (2012)
2 Pro Bowls- Matt Schaub (2004), Chris Chandler (1988) - neither made a Pro Bowl for the team that drafted them
1 Pro Bowl apiece - Nick Foles (2012), Brian Griese (1998), Neil O'Donnell (1990), Jeff Hostetler (1984), Jay Schroeder (1984)

A very underwhelming list, and aside from Wilson, nobody who had sustained success for the franchise that drafted them. Hell, Chandler was on his sixth team when he finally establashed himself as a starter. How many of these guys would you have been willing to hand the reigns of the franchise over to? Even Russ was 12 drafts ago, and he was still the last franchise QB found in the third round.

Now for the others in those 45 years:
Rick McIvor
Frank Reich (fine backup, never a guy to build around though)
Bubby Brister
Hugh Millen
Robbie Bosco
Cody Carlson
Anthony Dilweg
Erik Wilhelm
Tommy Hudson
Peter Tom Willis
Billy Joe Hobert
Stoney Case
Eric Zeier
Bobby Hoying
Danny Wuerffel
Jonathan Quinn
Brock Huard
Josh McCown
Dave Ragone
Chris Simms
Charlie Frye
Andrew Walter
David Greene
Charlie Whitehurst
Brodie Croyle
Trent Edwards
Kevin O'Connell
Colt McCoy
Ryan Mallett (RIP)
Mike Glennon
Garrett Grayson
Sean Mannion
Jacoby Brissett
Cody Kessler
Davis Webb
CJ Beathard
Mason Rudolph
Will Grier
Kellen Mond
Davis Mills
Desmond Ridder
Malik Willis
Matt Corral
Hendon Hooker

We don't know on Hooker yet, but look at how many of those recent ones have either had their drafting team move on already or are out of the league entirely.

Out of 59 QBs, Russell Wilson is like 90% of the success, and he was a special situation. When guys like Colt McCoy and Mike Glennon are considered having done well with the pick, it's probably a waste of time to even consider the position in the third round. Quarterback is too important to not have your sights set higher.
 
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BASF

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Great post. The research and time is appreciated.

Thing about your premise is that I doubt anyone considers any of those players to have been overdrafted. The third is pretty much the natural spot to take a flier on a QB that was decent in college and you believe that you might mold him into the QBOTF. I don't have time to search through the list, but I doubt anyone would have luck finding even an article regarding these guys being looked at as a starter quickly for their teams.
 
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Great post. The research and time is appreciated.

Thing about your premise is that I doubt anyone considers any of those players to have been overdrafted. The third is pretty much the natural spot to take a flier on a QB that was decent in college and you believe that you might mold him into the QBOTF. I don't have time to search through the list, but I doubt anyone would have luck finding even an article regarding these guys being looked at as a starter quickly for their teams.
That's a good point, and there were definitely players in there who were not drafted to be "the guy", Kevin O'Connell, David Greene, etc, but that brings up, why even draft them that early? Ideally, they'll barely see the field, and it's difficult to flip these guys for anything when they don't get the chance to showcase their abilities outside of preseason, which has been truncated in recent years. Like, I doubt the Patriots drafted Brissett with the hopes that they could flip him for Phillip Dorsett in three years. Cody Kessler ended up netting a sixth rounder. Schaub was the best case scenario (by far), with the Falcons getting two future second-rounders, but teams havn't been as apt to take chances on preseason QB wonders since the Cards got burned by Kevin Kolb.

The ones that have been given their chance have mostly been failures. We saw it this past year with Desmond Ridder and the year before with Davis Mills. We've seen Trent Edwards, Chris Simms, Colt McCoy, etc handed the reigns and none of them showed enough promise to even get a second season as a starter.
 

IndyHawk

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I think the list should include QBs after the 3rd and UDFA's so we can see how many
good or great ones that were missed.
I hate the media of today that overhypes QBs that shouldn't be drafted in the first two
rounds.
 

Palmegranite

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I think the list should include QBs after the 3rd and UDFA's so we can see how many
good or great ones that were missed.
I hate the media of today that overhypes QBs that shouldn't be drafted in the first two
rounds.
I'll start.

Brock Purdy
Doug Flutie
Tom Brady
 

MyrtleHawk

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Out of 59 QBs, Russell Wilson is like 90% of the success, and he was a special situation. When guys like Colt McCoy and Mike Glennon are considered having done well with the pick, it's probably a waste of time to even consider the position in the third round. Quarterback is too important to not have your sights set higher.
200
 
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Rat

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I think the list should include QBs after the 3rd and UDFA's so we can see how many
good or great ones that were missed.
I hate the media of today that overhypes QBs that shouldn't be drafted in the first two
rounds.
If you include UDFAs it's like a million to one chance.

I looked at some of the other rounds and they were bad too. Like, for the fifth round, there hasn't been a franchise QB selected (for the team that drafted them) since Bob Waterfield in 1944. Mark Brunell was a fifth rounder too, but for the Packers.

I mostly picked the third round because at least in the 5th-6th the odds at other positions are bad enough where you're still getting value for a backup QB. Even if you find a good backup QB in the third, I don't know it's worth the opportunity cost for guys who are more likely to see the field.

I've mentioned this on other boards and people always point to Russell Wilson like they got me. Russ actually illustrates my point perfectly because he was the last one in the third round found and that was 12 years ago. The best since then are Glennon and Brissett and nobody is building a team around either. Brissett has a reputation for being a good backup, but all the team that drafted him got was a bad receiver in a trade and is now on his sixth team.

Foles is sort of an exception too, but not really. Obviously Philly doesn't regret that pick, but how likely is it for your backup QB to have an insane postseason run and be Super Bowl MVP? He switched teams six times and wasn't a franchise QB for anyone. Hell, he was an enormous disappointment for four of the five teams that acquired him.
 

chris98251

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If you use all / Pro Bowls as a measuring stick you logic is already flawed, it is nothing but a popularity contest, there is a reason nobody watches the game also. Now if you speak All Pro that's different, but again QB's are limited to usually 2 per conference a year. 32 teams that's pretty limiting compared to LB's and O lineman where you get like 4 total or more. Tell me there are only 2 really good QB's per conference every year, we know that's BS, trying to quantify a good QB has so many variations, Team around him, Coaching, Offensive philosophy. These and other limitations make it hard beyond the eye test seeing him lead, his skills under fire, how he handles a stress test be it pressure, a screaming Coach, being on a losing team for years.
 

nanomoz

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Getting a great QB usually requires much more of an investment. Russ was the exception for sure. In terms of ratio, there aren't a lot of QB hits after the first few picks of the second round in the past 30 years, are there?
 

Maelstrom787

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This is a good example of correlation not necessarily equating to causation. If there's a guy available in the third that you think you can actually mold into something good to great, you take him. The third round isn't cursed, it's just... y'know, it's late for QB. It's picks 65-104ish in a league where the quarterback is worth probably double the best player at any other position in the league.

While I don't believe there's something specifically cursing the third round when it comes to quarterbacks, I DO think this is a good illustration of why the volume approach where a team forces quarterback picks is a good way for a GM to impose an Idiot Tax on himself.
 

WarHawks

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Getting a great QB usually requires much more of an investment. Russ was the exception for sure. In terms of ratio, there aren't a lot of QB hits after the first few picks of the second round in the past 30 years, are there?
Historically, the hit rate after the first 12 picks falls off a cliff. Of course there are exceptions, but the odds are dismal.
 

Appyhawk

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I often see people suggest using earlier-round picks to beef up on other positions and grab a QB in the third (or later). In my opinion, not only is the third round the worst place to find a franchise QB, I think it's the worst round to draft a QB entirely. It's too early to invest in a backup, and the odds of finding "the guy" there are so small that it is reckless to depend on it. It is basically setting the pick on fire.

As many students of the game know, in the 1979 draft, the San Francisco 49ers changed NFL history when they used a third round pick (82nd overall) to select a QB out of Notre Dame by the name of Joe Montana. It was a pick the 49ers acquired from the Seahawks (who had previously acquired the pick from Dallas), when Seattle wanted to move up for a linebacker by the name of Michael Jackson. To move up from 82nd to 57th, we traded the Niners a safety by the name of Bob Jury, a player we had drafted in the third round out of Pitt the year prior who never played for us.

Joe Montana would go on to become the best quarterback the NFL had seen at the time. Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl championships, winning MVP in three of them, and being named to five All-Pro teams, in addition to eight Super Bowls.

So, why would I suggest ignoring third-round quarterbacks entirely? The answer is short:

Russell Wilson (2019), Second-Team All-Pro

In the 45 years since Montana was selected, that 2019 second-team All-Pro from Wilson was literally the ONLY time a QB selected in the third round has been named All-Pro. 59 quarterbacks have been selected in the third round since Montana.

If you lower your expectations from All-Pros to Pro Bowls, which everyone knows is a popularity contest anyway, there have 18 times that a third-round QB made the Pro Bowl. Here is that list, with the year they were drafted:

9 Pro Bowls- Russell Wilson (2012)
2 Pro Bowls- Matt Schaub (2004), Chris Chandler (1988) - neither made a Pro Bowl for the team that drafted them
1 Pro Bowl apiece - Nick Foles (2012), Brian Griese (1998), Neil O'Donnell (1990), Jeff Hostetler (1984), Jay Schroeder (1984)

A very underwhelming list, and aside from Wilson, nobody who had sustained success for the franchise that drafted them. Hell, Chandler was on his sixth team when he finally establashed himself as a starter. How many of these guys would you have been willing to hand the reigns of the franchise over to? Even Russ was 12 drafts ago, and he was still the last franchise QB found in the third round.

Now for the others in those 45 years:
Rick McIvor
Frank Reich (fine backup, never a guy to build around though)
Bubby Brister
Hugh Millen
Robbie Bosco
Cody Carlson
Anthony Dilweg
Erik Wilhelm
Tommy Hudson
Peter Tom Willis
Billy Joe Hobert
Stoney Case
Eric Zeier
Bobby Hoying
Danny Wuerffel
Jonathan Quinn
Brock Huard
Josh McCown
Dave Ragone
Chris Simms
Charlie Frye
Andrew Walter
David Greene
Charlie Whitehurst
Brodie Croyle
Trent Edwards
Kevin O'Connell
Colt McCoy
Ryan Mallett (RIP)
Mike Glennon
Garrett Grayson
Sean Mannion
Jacoby Brissett
Cody Kessler
Davis Webb
CJ Beathard
Mason Rudolph
Will Grier
Kellen Mond
Davis Mills
Desmond Ridder
Malik Willis
Matt Corral
Hendon Hooker

We don't know on Hooker yet, but look at how many of those recent ones have either had their drafting team move on already or are out of the league entirely.

Out of 59 QBs, Russell Wilson is like 90% of the success, and he was a special situation. When guys like Colt McCoy and Mike Glennon are considered having done well with the pick, it's probably a waste of time to even consider the position in the third round. Quarterback is too important to not have your sights set higher.
I would have taken a chance on Hooker before the third round last year. I liked him as well, or more, than any of the others. But he had the injury issue to deal with and that should always be a factor when moving to nfl level. Thing about that is to see what the player had done since the injury. If he has proven out then go for it.
 

BlueTalon

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This is a good example of correlation not necessarily equating to causation. If there's a guy available in the third that you think you can actually mold into something good to great, you take him. The third round isn't cursed, it's just... y'know, it's late for QB. It's picks 65-104ish in a league where the quarterback is worth probably double the best player at any other position in the league.

While I don't believe there's something specifically cursing the third round when it comes to quarterbacks, I DO think this is a good illustration of why the volume approach where a team forces quarterback picks is a good way for a GM to impose an Idiot Tax on himself.
Exactly. All those stats are interesting, but ultimately they mean nothing. They might tell you that success is unlikely, but they can't say anything about a specific player in a specific situation.
 

chrispy

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Historically, the hit rate after the first 12 picks falls off a cliff. Of course there are exceptions, but the odds are dismal.
The hit rate including the first 12 picks is quite dismal as well. Franchise QBs are hard to hit on and where they're picked rarely predicts their future performance.
 

Hawkinaz

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The team/coaching staff that drafts a QB is much more important than what round he is drafted in, a fair amount of players fall through the cracks
 
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I'm not making the point that the third round is "cursed". I mostly looked into this in the first place because of how often I see fans citing the Bradys and the Purdys as reasons to wait on drafting QBs. There's nothing wrong with taking a chance on the guys that slip through the cracks for whatever reason, but I mention the third round specifically, because the value in at least getting a good backup is much less that early. If Schneider falls in love with Joe Milton's potential and snags him in the sixth round, I'm all for that. If he takes Spencer Rattler or Jordan Travis in the third thinking he found the next Russell Wilson, I'm going to be far less optimistic. It would feel like a wasted opportunity given how many excellent contributors are found at other positions in the third round every year. I think we're all happy that two years ago, we took Abe Lucas despite Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis still being on the board.
 

nwHawk

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I’m curious to see the impact of S2 testing in the next 5 years and how it impacts draft decisions.
 
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