What is a typical QB draft class?
In an average draft, how many QBs get picked? How many of those QBs go on to be successful in the NFL and how many of them fail?
To try to get a handle on those questions, I analyzed 8 draft classes, beginning with the famous 2004 QB draft. I defined "starter" as a QB who made at least 50 starts during his career. "Backup" was more of a subjective judgment, primarily based on how many years the QB lasted in the NFL, though in a couple of cases I still allowed QBs who had short careers to qualify as backups if they started enough games.
8 total draft classes: 104 QBs selected, 23 starters, 29 backups
22% rate to get a starter (among all drafted QBs), 50% success rate to get at least a backup (from all drafted QBs). In other words, half of the QBs who get drafted don't do enough to even count as backup QBs in the pros.
A 9.9% chance of landing a starter if you draft a non-1st round QB. So 1 out of 10 times, it works. Pretty lousy odds.
23 QBs drafted in 1st round, 15 became starters, a 65% "success" rate for 1st round QBs, though a few of those starters played so poorly that we might define them as "busts" if you polled fans of those NFL teams. So, 2 out of 3 first round QBs become starters, though this has a "self fulfilling prophecy" aspect in that teams sometimes will continue to start a 1st round pick even if he's struggling, reluctant to give up on him, especially under the old CBA where they already invested so much money into him and it was a sunk cost. Today, it is easier for a team to move on from a 1st round QB (e.g. Josh Rosen) if they decide he doesn't have what it takes.
Average of 2.9 starters per draft class. Players such as Chad Henne and Tyrod Taylor counted as "starters" under the criteria I used, so that number would change if we made even a slight upward adjustment to the minimum number of required starts to qualify as a starter.
Average of 13 QBs drafted each year. It is uncommon for there to be at least 15 QBs taken in a single draft. From 2003 through 2023, there were only 2 drafts that had at least 15 QBs.
With those statistics in mind, these are my "way too early" QB rankings for the 2024 NFL draft:
2024 Quarterback draft rankings
1. Caleb Williams (1st round)
2. Bo Nix (1st round)
3. Quinn Ewers (1st round)
4. Sam Huard (3rd round)
5. Tyler Van Dyke (4th round)
6. Drake Maye (4th round)
7. Carson Beck (4th round)
8. Spencer Rattler (4th round)
9. Michael Penix Jr. (4th round)
10. JJ McCarthy (5th round)
11. Jayden Daniels (5th round)
12. Cam Ward (5th round)
13. DJ Uiagalelei (5th round)
14. Michael Pratt (6th round)
15. Shedeur Sanders (6th round)
16. Jordan Travis (6th round)
17. Jeff Sims (6th round)
18. Tyler Buchner (6th round)
19. KJ Jefferson (6th round)
20. Collin Schlee (7th round)
21. All the rest (all UDFA, these names aren't ranked in any particular order): Ben Bryant, Graham Mertz, Cameron Rising, Kedon Slovis, Kyle McCord, Sam Hartman, Grayson McCall, Spencer Sanders, Jaxson Dart, Taulia Tagovailoa, Phil Jurkovec, Jalon Daniels, Joe Milton, Hudson Card, Mark Gronowski, Will Howard, Payton Thorne, Tanner Mordecai, Brennan Armstrong, Emory Jones, Will Rogers, Max Johnson, Tyler Shough, Dillon Gabriel, Riley Leonard, Devin Leary.
Obviously, I haven't studied every single QB in college football. There could be some way off the radar guys I don't even know are out there. I still have one more player left on my list of players to study.
The exact ranking isn't particularly important. Similar to a preseason ranking of teams, it doesn't really matter, because we have the entire 2023 season to be played. We have no idea how it will unfold and for some teams we don't even know who their starting QB is going to be. There are players on the above list who might not even win the starting job on their own team (e.g. Spencer Sanders and Jaxson Dart are on the same team. They can't both be 1st string.)
The main takeaways I see from my rankings are:
1. It is potentially a large QB class. Even if some of the younger QBs stay in school and don't enter the draft, we still easily could end up with 15 draft worthy QBs. As noted above, it isn't common to have a draft with at least 15 QBs selected.
2. A couple of the QBs who I feel have good NFL potential (Huard and Beck) have almost zero playing experience so far in their college careers. My speculation is that draft experts are discounting them, because they are looking at things like statistics and highlights. I'm looking more at their traits, so I don't care that they don't have stats or a spectacular highlight video.
3. Conversely, some of the hyped 1st round prospects, like Drake Maye and Michael Penix Jr., I consider to be overrated. Their stats are outstanding. Some of their traits, however, are concerning, which is why I don't have them ranked high. They both have good athletic tools, so if they can develop more in 2023, they could move up the board, but my grades are based on what the QB looks like right now. I'm not projecting forward and assuming that any of these QBs will be much improved a year from now.
What are your opinions about next year's QB draft? Is there a QB you would "pound the table for", who you strongly believe will be great? Is there one you are convinced will be a bust? Which QB are you most interested in following in 2023?