LIVE › 10-Noon Saturday SportsTalk
NEXT › 12:05 p.m. Money Talk with Josh Arnold
1:05 p.m. This Week in High School Sports
2:05 p.m. SportsCenter Saturday
Updated: October 3rd, 2013 2:29pm
Failure rate in NFL surprisingly high for first-round quarterbacks

Failure rate in NFL surprisingly high for first-round quarterbacks

by Derek Wetmore
Email | Twitter
SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports


With the news that Josh Freeman was released by the Buccaneers on Thursday, some NFL fans assessed their own quarterback situation and wondered if Freeman might be an upgrade. That's not to suggest he would be in Minnesota, as the feedback I got yesterday suggests more fans are against a Freeman signing than are in favor.

One thing Freeman and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder have in common: they were both drafted in the first round.

Freeman wasn't the long-term answer in Tampa. I'm no soothsayer, but it appears the same is true of Ponder in Minnesota, even though they're substantially different situations.

Kind of disappointing that a first-round quarterback didn't pan out long term, right?

Sure, but apparently that's not all that rare.

In fact, about half of all first-round quarterback taken in the past 10 years don't pan out, according to ESPN's NFL blogger Kevin Seifert.

He cites the pass-happy NFL as the reason so many quarterbacks are failing these days. Teams are forced to draft to fill the position early and often, so there's a larger sample of possible flame-outs and failures from which to choose.

Seifert writes:

We are in an unprecedented era of quarterback desperation. In the 10 drafts from 1993-2002, NFL teams selected 19 quarterbacks in the first round. That means there was a 37 percent uptick in using first-round picks on QBs from 2003-12.

You would like attribute that trend to a better talent pool, but I think we know otherwise. Restraint is no longer an option at quarterback. I would be stunned if we ever see another year like 1996, when the class was so weak that no quarterback was drafted until the second round at No. 42 overall (Tony Banks) and then not again until the third round at No. 85 (Bobby Hoying).

That makes it easier to understand the failure rate over the past 10 years. Call it the QB Desperation Factor.


What does this mean moving forward? Quarterbacks and more quarterbacks, I would guess. The most recent Scouts Inc. evaluation of the 2014 draft revealed five quarterbacks among the top 32 players.

Given the QB Desperation Factor, how many can we expect to be selected? The Monday Morning Quarterback predicts nine! That makes sense. In this era of 50-50 success rate, you draft nine to get five.

Is it fair to classify Ponder with players like Freeman, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell and J.P. Losman? Or must we read the next chapter of Ponder's narrative to make that judgment?

In any case, Seifert's analysis suggests it won't be all that surprising if Ponder isn't the long-term answer in Minnesota. It was just about a coin flip to begin with.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for His previous stops include and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
In this story: Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder