NFL Draft: Take QB early or not at all

Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn throws passes prior to the start of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

The Green Bay Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers . Rodgers is only 30 years old so the Packers are a few years away from needing to think about drafting his replacement. The time is always right though to draft a developmental quarterback, one that could prove to be the long-term backup and fight with Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien for snaps and a spot on the roster this season.

Since the Packers drafted Flynn in the seventh round of the 2008 draft they have selected just one quarterback, B.J. Coleman in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. That’s one quarterback in a span of 45 selections. With the Packers pension for wanting to draft and develop quarterbacks, always a valuable trade commodity (see Packers of the early to mid 90’s who game the NFL Kurt Warner, Aaron Brooks, and Mark Brunell among others), that’s a pretty short stack to work with.

As usual, there are a number of quarterbacks listed at the top of various mock drafts, with widely varying opinions among the “draft experts” on what these quarterback’s ceilings are and who will have the best NFL career. This got me thinking, of the quarterbacks that threw for the most yardage when they played (an imperfect gauge but a gauge none the less) the top 50 in the 2013 season, where were they drafted. The top 50 passers in yards per game broke down like this:

1st round: 23
2nd round 6
3rd 5
4th 3
5th 0
6th 0
7th 2 Undrafted: 7

Now if you only take the quarterbacks who appeared in enough games to “qualify” for the official ranking the numbers look like this:

1st round: 20
2nd round : 6
3rd round: 5
4th round: 0
5th round: 0
6th round: 1
7th round: 2
undrafted: 3

The way I interpret this data is that if you don’t invest a high pick in a quarterback (first 3 rounds) your team is essentially as well off finding a quarterback after the draft. Think of an unrefined gem that can be polished for years within your offense, or even another team’s offense and then yours, rather than using a mid to late round selection on a quarterback. While most of the undrafted quarterbacks to make this ranking were backups there are the success stories like Tony Romo who went from undrafted player to a highly productive NFL starter. The Packers depth chart going into 2014 at quarterback seems to reflect a similar philosophy. Their starter is a former first round pick. The backup is a former 7th rounder with extensive experience in their offense, while the 3rd string quarterback is an undrafted player with experience with another team prior to coming to Green Bay. Drafting a quarterback can be exciting for fans. I mean who doesn’t love to have a new signal caller to clamor for when things go awry but it’s not necessarily a productive endeavor. Since the Packers are unlikely to pick a quarterback in the early rounds, they could be just as well off trusting Ted Thompson to find a quarterback among the priority undrafted college free agents following the selections on Saturday.