The Rams decision to draft a D II QB from West Texas A&M left fans and pundits alike scratching their heads. In a year where the draft's QB class had few standouts, the Rams officially made Keith Null their developmental project. Can Keith Null make it in the NFL? And the larger question, do quaterbacks from the later rounds of the draft have much success making their way into regular roles with NFL teams?
Playing in the NFC West, Keith Null should be right at home as a sixth round pick. Check out where the starting QBs in the NFC West came from:
|QB||Draft round/pick, year|
|Marc Bulger||6th rnd/168, 2000|
|Matt Hasselbeck||6th rnd/187, 1998|
|Kurt Warner||undrafted free agent|
|Shaun Hill||undrafted free agent|
|Alex Smith||1st rnd/1, 2005|
First of all, I don't know what the starting QB situation in SF is, and I don't think they do either. I do know that their first round pick has to actually fight for his job. If Smith does earn the starting role by the Bay, he'll be the only starting QB in the NFC West that was drafted higher than the sixth round.
Since 1990, teams have drafted 97 QBs in rounds 5-7. Of those passers, 25 have played in 15 games or more, 14 have played in 30 games or more, and 10 have played in 50 games or more. In addition to the NFC West QBs mentioned above, other recognizable names on that list include Mark Brunell, Gus Frerotte, Jeff Blake, Tom Brady, Derek Anderson, and Matt Cassell. The serviceable backups on that list includes even more names, as you might expect.
Obviously, on average, there's a difference between a QB taken in the first round versus a QB taken in the sixth. Both halfs of the draft include players who never made it in the league, but fans don't hold it against a team when a sixth round pick doesn't work out the way they do when a first round pick washes out.
The point of this post isn't really Keith Null. It's hard to know exactly what kind of player the Rams have got in their newest QB without having seen him throw to NFL players while facing other NFL players. I do think Null, on paper and from this vantage point, looks to have a skill set that can make him a contributor, but so much of that will come down to coaching and coaxing that talent out of the player. The larger point I'm trying to make is don't write off a QB just because he's a sixth round pick.