Why the mid-round QB dream is ridiculous for the Titans, or anybody

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The idea that the Titans should draft a quarterback every year until they hit comes up periodically.

Another thing I hear a lot is that they should spend a mid-round pick on a quarterback.Wilson

I've been overdue to delve into these ideas, both of which I've long considered nonsensical.

Midday 180 production assistant Wes Patrick helped me on a large-scale project to find out just what a team might expect if it drafted a QB every year and what hit rate it could expect with a mid-round pick.

In the last 10 years…

There have been 89 quarterbacks drafted after the first round. Of those, 30 -- or 33.7 percent -- have never played. (Eight of those were rookies in 2018, so we wouldn’t have expected much and only Kyle Lauletta of the Giants played, appearing in two games. I understand those guys skew the number.)

I rate 10 of the 89 as hits, players who’ve been significant contributors -- players you would not only draft again where they were drafted, but you would absolutely draft higher, in some cases significantly higher:Carr

  • Jacoby Brissett, third round, 2016, New England
  • Dak Prescott, fourth round, 2016, Dallas
  • Derek Carr, second round, 2014, Oakland
  • Jimmy Garappolo, second round, 2014, New England (now San Francisco)
  • Russell Wilson, third round, 2012, Seattle
  • Nick Foles, third round, 2012, St. Louis (now Philadelphia, about to be a UFA)
  • Kirk Cousins, fourth round, 2012, Washington, (now Minnesota)
  • Andy Dalton, second round, 2011, Cincinnati
  • Colin Kaepernick, second round, 2011, San Francisco (now out of the league)
  • Tyrod Taylor, sixth round, 2011, Baltimore

It’s early to judge the 2018 draft class of course, but we are working big picture here. Draft a signal-caller outside of the first-round and the hit rate is roughly 11.2 percent.

And the success of Wilson, who lasted so long because of height concerns, helped alleviate height concerns and makes it less likely that a shorter but highly skilled and dynamic quarterback will last that long again. Watch Kyler Murray.

The NFL passer rating equation isn’t the greatest barometer. But it factors in completion percentage, touchdowns and interceptions and gives us good grounds for comparison.

Those 10 players have a combined passer rating of 92.1.

The other 79 quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round in the last 10 years have a 71.59 rating.

QB wins are not a thing.

But when those 10 quarterbacks have played, their teams have gone 317-268-6 (.541).

When the other 79 quarterbacks have played, their teams have gone 28-229 (.109).

So if you think the Titans are going to find a mid-range quarterback who’s going to challenge Marcus Mariota this year and potentially be the guy in 2020, here’s a dose of reality.

If we call the first two rounds the top of the draft and rounds six and seven the bottom, mid-round would be the third, fourth or fifth.

In the last 10 years, those three rounds have produced 40 quarterbacks. If you don’t hit the lottery with Wilson, Prescott, Foles (who needed a good deal of time), Cousins or Brissett, who’s probably more suited to be a backup, who did you get?

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Davis Webb? Nate Sudfield? Nathan Peterman? Bryce Petty? Tom Savage? Matt Barkley? Nathan Enderle? Mike Kafka?

These are not problem solvers. To me, they are actually problem creators. Because teams think they've found an answer when they have not.

Their teams spent huge time and resources working to develop guys who simply didn’t have it. That’s part of the process, of course. You see something in a guy, you bring him in for it, you try to build off it, and, especially at quarterback, you often fail.

But you need to maximize your chances.

All these teams spent picks that could have been used on positions with much better mid-round hit rates.

Including first rounders, 119 quarterbacks have been drafted in the last 10 years. I've shown you five mid-round successes out of those 119. You can bank on 4.2 percent odds if you like. I'll take a hard pass.

And let's note the Titans, through four front office regimes, have stayed away from this approach. While they failed in the first round with Vince Young and Jake Locker, their rolls of the dice on QBs have been late dreams: sixth-rounder Luke Falk in 2018 (now in Miami), sixth-rounder Zach Mettenberger in 2014 (now a backup in the AAF), sixth-rounder Rusty Smith in 2010 and fifth-rounder Kevin Daft in 1999.

If the Titans used a mid-round pick on a QB often enough, they might hit on one. But how many Petermans are you willing to take along the way? The best path to a top quarterback is a first-round pick, and even those are far from a guarantee.


I maintain Mariota is locked in as the starter in 2019, his $20.9 million base salary becomes guaranteed on March 16. He will get hurt during the season so they need to have a backup situation that ranks among the NFL’s best. Their prayer is that Mariota plays well and proves worthy of a big contract that plugs him in as the guy going forward.

If he doesn’t, maybe he gets one more year tagged as they search for a successor. Maybe that new backup has a chance to take over. Maybe they are moving up in the first round to get the next guy.

They aren’t finding the answer in the third round or by taking a quarterback annually if he isn't a first-rounder, where they still wouldn't be guaranteed an answer.


Feel free to look through a spreadsheet of every QB drafted in the second round and later in the last 10 years, right here.

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