Late-Round QBs Carry Low Success Rates

The Bears would almost be better off not worrying about quarterbacks if they're unable to find one in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft.
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Its almost as if a great wall is in place after the fourth round of the NFL draft for quarterbacks.

Any quarterback chosen after Round 4 can pretty much get used to wearing visors and carrying clipboards. Most of them won't get the chance to do this very long, either.

So as chances of the Bears selecting one of the top five quarterbacks in this draft dwindle with each trade by teams at the top of the draft, the possibility looks greater and greater they'll draft either Davis Mills, Kellen Mond, Kyle Trask or even Ian Book.

There would be an outside chance Jamie Newman would fit into the group, as well.

If they don't take one of those passers, they might as well not waste the time or pick.

NFL Draft Bible rates Mills, Mond, Trask and Book as quarterbacks with second through fourth-round grades. Newman received a fifth-round grade.

In the last 15 drafts, Pro Football Reference records two NFL quarterbacks taken after Round 4 who became starters. By starter, that is to mean they started more than half the games their teams have played.

One of those won't qualify after this season. That's Gardner Minshew. He has started 20 out of a possible 32 games but Trevor Lawrence will likely take care of that percentage after 2021.

The other is Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is the only quarterback in the last 15 years to buck the odds and become an NFL starting quarterback from rounds five through seven.

Apparently that Tom Brady sixth-round mold was lost or broken long ago, or teams just do a far better job of scouting these days.

Another statistic pertinent to the Bears' search is Ryan Pace has drafted no player who became a starter after Round 5. That's starters being players who started at least half their team's games, as mentioned already. Pace's 10 sixth- and seventh-rounder picks have never amount to much. Combined, they've started 10 games and he's going into his seventh draft.

So if the Bears want a meaningful quarterback selection they will ignore players like Sam Ehlinger,  Jamie Newman, Zach Smith, Zac Thomas, Feleipe Franks and Shane Buechele. These are quarterbacks who will not become starters based on percentages and league-wide scouting opinion.

There are reasons to consider a few of those six quarterbacks as possibilities if they want to simply fill out their quarterback room, or if they want to roll dice.

Feleipe Franks

Scouting opinion is greatly divided on the Arkansas quarterback and he possesses a few traits which might lead some to believe he can buck the trend of failure from the fifth round and later.

NFL Draft Bible considers him an undrafted free agent. Starters can arise from this group. Tony Romo became a very effective starter as an undrafted free agent. Other scouts see Franks as a fifth-through-seventh rounder.

What Franks has going for him is an unbelievably strong arm, fantastic size and apparently better speed as a runner than previous reports suggested.

He just needs to put all of these together while leading a team.

Franks showed off his strong arm in 2018 at the Steve Clarkson Quarterback Retreat, winning the long throw contest in a field that included Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa, Jacob Eason, KJ Costello and Jake Fromm. Two years earlier as a college freshman at this same camp he won the long throw contest over Deshaun Watson, Josh Rosen and Eason.

A 63-yard miracle Hail Mary TD throw to Tyrie Cleveland made by Franks in 2017 is still talked about at Florida, even after he lost the starting job and transferred to Arkansas.

Franks was the Gators starter beginning in 2017 and if it wasn't for a bad ankle injury he suffered in 2019 the career of Kyle Trask might have never materialized as it did.

Franks transferred to Arkansas and in 2020 enjoyed his best complete season in terms of accuracy (68.5%) and TD-to-interception ratio (17-to-4). Until last season, one of his biggest problems seemed to be that despite a big arm, he couldn't consistently find the target on deep throws. But Franks last year threw for 2,107 yards on 163 of 238 for a weak, three-win team. He looked like a quarterback developing and improving.

At 6-6 1/2, 234, Franks ran a 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash at a pro day. One overly enthusiastic hand-held put him at 4.55. Regardless, that's nice athleticism from a big man.

Nevertheless, Franks did little in the Senior Bowl practices to prove skeptics wrong and even though he put up decent numbers in the game he displayed a major weakness scouts warned about—poor decision-making under durress. He had one completely awful decision on a pass moving awkwardly to his left.

"Franks is starting to put it together, but still has massive hiccups as a processor and decision-maker," is how NFL Draft Bible's scouting report describes him.

If this doesn't sound like a potential project quarterback for some team, nothing does. However, remember the success rate of those QBs taken after Round 4.

Jamie Newman

He is listed as a Georia quarterback. He was more of a Georgia observer. Newman played for Wake Forest, whose last NFL starting quarterback drafted was Norm Snead. So it's been a while for that school.

Newman is very athletic and possesses a strong arm, but like with Franks he has little accuracy when throwing downfield.

Heading into 2020, Newman was ranked as a top three quarterback by Pro Football Focus, which liked his running ability and his willingness to successfully challenge difficult situations as a passer.

"Newman threw into a tight window at the highest rate in college football by over 5 percentage points in 2019," PFF wrote.

Then again, college quarterbacks who throw into tight windows often find in the NFL the windows are even tighter and the interceptions more plentiful.

PFF had him ranked below Lawrence and Justin Fields. In the 2019 season, they had him ranked the third-highest-graded passer behind only Joe Burrow and Fields.

Newman is very inexperienced, with just 18 games and 506 pass attempts (306 completions). He never had a completion percentage of 60.9 and was at 60.5% for his career. Also, in 2019 he threw 11 interceptions and had 35 career TD passes to 16 interceptions.

He ran for 826 yards on 245 attempts in three seasons.

"With an impressive combination of arm strength, size and athleticism, Newman projects as a mid-round gamble who could pay huge dividends down the road," NFL Draft Bible concludes.

Sam Ehlinger

An inspiriational Texas leader with a flair for the dramatic, Ehlinger has a tie to the Bears because his college head coach was new Bears offensive assistant Tom Herman.

A strong, 6-1 1/2, 235-pounder, Ehlinger is a strong runner and has shown he can extend plays to throw. He is a very experienced passer with 923 completions for 1,476 attempts, 11,436 yards, 94 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. He also ran for 1,903 yards on 554 attempts.

"Much more athlete than quarterback, Ehlinger is a troubling slow processor who holds onto the ball way too long," NFL Draft Bible wrote. "His accuracy is hit or miss, showcasing ball placement that can be all over the place."

His arm strength was also questioned.

Ehlinger took the starting job from Shane Buechele, who eventually transfered to SMU. After one disheartening loss he vowed he'd never be a part of a Texas team doing something similar again, then turned around at the Sugar Bowl after the 2018 season and led the Longhorns to an upset of Georgia as 13 1/2-point underdogs.

Shane Buechele

The son of former Cubs player Steve Buechele, his overall arm strength and accuracy are quesitoned by NFL Draft Bible.

At 6-1, 207, he is smaller than the ideal pro size these days. His success came at SMU after he lost the Texas job to Ehlinger, and he had impressive numbers for two seasons with 63.8% completions and 7,024 yards. But it was against the American Athletic Conference competition and not in the Big 12.

"While not his strong suit, Buechele was impressive at delivering the ball accurately down the field in the deep passing game and almost always gives his receivers a chance to go up and catch the football," NFL Draft Bible wrote. "He's also very adept at delivering accurate throws while under duress in the pocket."

The same scouting report suggested the opposite in some regard.

"At times, Buechele struggles with arm strength, as some of his passes flutter throughout the air on deep passes. He also has some issues making cross-field throws to the opposite hash sideline."

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