With the Broncos and Bears this month giving up on quarterbacks they drafted, and former first-round pick
And even that number is a bit less than solid because it presumes
Is this an unprecedented development in the NFL? Perhaps not. But for comparison sake, let's look at where the league stood 20 years ago, before full-fledged free agency began and when the draft still went 12 rounds (five more than today). In 1989, 19-of-28 teams (68 percent) featured starting quarterbacks they drafted, with names like
And memo to the Detroit Lions, who are contemplating the selection of a first-round quarterback this year: Proceed at your own considerable risk. First-round QBs have been dropping like flies in the past two years.
We've seen Tennessee bench first-rounder
We're not quite to the point where being a first-round quarterback is hazardous to one's career, but consider that of the 10 quarterbacks selected in the first round as recently as 2005 or later, only five are the clear-cut starter for the team that drafted them.
And that 50 percent success ratio is a bit deceiving because it's made up of
In this decade, it has been just as advantageous -- and maybe more so -- to be a quarterback taken in the lower reaches of the draft. Orton was a fourth-round pick in 2005, but wound up beating out the first-rounder Grossman in Chicago. Anderson was a sixth-round pick of Baltimore's that same season, before going on to Pro Bowl stardom in Cleveland.
What can we draw from all this? For one, if you need a quarterback of the future in this year's draft, you better not be counting on duplicating the Ryan and Flacco double stroke of lightning from last year. They were aberrations by any recent measurement, and history indicates another pair of first-round ready-made starters aren't likely to be in the pipeline this year for the Detroits and San Franciscos of the league.
Secondly, quarterbacks taken high in the draft have windows of opportunity that seem to grow shorter all the time. We don't know yet if quarterbacks such as Smith, Young, Leinart and Quinn are really going to have starting eras with the teams that drafted them in the top 10, but we do know that in the past three seasons, the door closed on first-rounders in Buffalo, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and with the Jets. More such scenarios could very well follow this year.
So while we're once again fixated on the top two or three quarterbacks in this year's draft -- debating the relative merits of
Taking a quarterback high in the draft has always been the proverbial crapshoot. But as the years go by, choosing a first-day quarterback is becoming the NFL draft's most inexact science.