If you haven’t heard, the Patriots need a quarterback. The Cam Newton experience was, to put it lightly, something short of a success. With Newton and Brian Hoyer set to hit free agency this offseason, Jarrett Stidham will be the only quarterback left on the roster once March 17th rolls around. Some fans and media around New England had higher hopes for Stidham in 2020 than being the backup quarterback all season (or something even 3rd string) and perhaps that same optimism will carry over for as long as Stidham is the projected starter in 2021. However, New England fans should at least hesitate before jumping on the Stidham hype train once again.
It’s important to understand, as it relates to both Stidham or any future Patriots quarterback, that looking for a starting quarterback in the third round or later isn’t a fruitful endeavor. Thanks to the success of the Patriots most recent franchise quarterback, sixth round pick Tom Brady, Patriots fans have been deluded into thinking Bill Belichick can find his next franchise quarterback in the later rounds of the draft. The entire region of New England is in desperate need of a reality check, almost as desperately as the Patriots need a quarterback.
Of the 29 quarterbacks that started nine or more games this season, 22 of them were first round picks. Another four were second rounds picks. Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson were the only quarterbacks to start more than half the season who were taken outside the first two rounds of the draft. Fans have become enamored with finding the next Tom Brady in the sixth round or the next Russell Wilson in the third round or the next Dak Prescott in the fourth round, but for every one of those guys, there’s 15 Zach Mettenbergers or Ryan Lindleys or Ryan Mallets.
There were 63 quarterbacks drafted in the third round or later since 2013. Of those 63, only 18 were good enough to simply start a measly four games in the NFL. Those 18 quarterbacks have a combined record of 106-175, a winning percentage of .377 (worse than that of the Patriots this past season). Of those 18, only four have a winning record: Former and current Steelers backup quarterbacks Landry Jones and Mason Rudolph, Dak Prescott and Trevor Siemian. Rudolph, Siemian and Jones are all only one game over .500.
Dak Prescott: 42-27
Trevor Siemian: 13-12
Mason Rudolph: 5-4
Landry Jones: 3-2
If we consider Dak Prescott the only successful name on that list, that’s a hit rate on middle and late round quarterbacks of just 1.6% over the last eight drafts. Finding that diamond in the rough is much harder than it is perceived to be. Conversely, the hit rate on first round quarterbacks over the same span is much higher.
(Hits and misses for first year quarterbacks are just projections for now and are subject to change.)
That’s a hit rate of roughly 46%
If the Patriots want to make it back to the AFC Playoffs, look who they’re going to have to compete against. Every team who made the playoffs in the AFC this season was led by a quarterback taken in the first round:
Patrick Mahomes – 10th overall pick
Josh Allen – 7th overall pick
Ben Roethlisberger – 11th overall pick
Ryan Tannehill – 8th overall pick
Lamar Jackson – 32nd overall pick
Baker Mayfield – 1st overall pick
Philip Rivers – 4th overall pick
Taking quarterbacks in the first round is viewed as a huge risk, but it really isn’t all that different from taking any other position. You’re just as likely to take a bust at wide receiver or cornerback as you are at quarterback. You could just as easily draft a Dee Millner, or a Kevin White or a Dion Jordan if you pass on a QB. In the Patriots case, they’ve failed to make the most of their first round picks time and time again in recent years. Dominque Easley, Malcom Brown, N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel all haven’t lived up to their draft position.First round picks aren’t nearly as valuable as they’re made out to be. There are almost no guarantees in the NFL Draft. Just because the quarterback failures are more high profile doesn’t mean it’s any more or less risky than taking any other position. If the Patriots are hoping to draft their next quarterback, they should plan on taking him in the first round or the second round at the very latest. That’s where the talent is and that’s where they have the best chance of finding a starter that can last for the next decade.