Examining Success Rate of Quarterbacks Drafted in Top Three

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears pick third in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Chicago Bears need a quarterback. Will those sentences merge successfully for the franchise? We examine.

As Chicago Bears fans have painfully learned, the NFL Draft is not a sure thing. There have been plenty of Bears’ first round picks that have walked out the door and never made much of an impact on the field.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears are selecting third overall. With the release of Jay Cutler, the Bears need a quarterback of the future. Almost certainly, Ryan Pace only sees newly signed Mike Glennon as a bridge quarterback until his future QB is on the roster and ready to play.

The Bears may have serious interest in drafting Clemson product Deshaun Watson with that pick. The Bears didn’t take much interest in Mitchel Trubisky’s pro day, but when Watson’s pro day arrived, the Bears had a different approach.

The Bears need a QB, if they are going to indeed draft Watson, historically, what are the odds that Watson becomes the quarterback they feel he can become. Let’s examine the success of top three quarterbacks drafted over the last twenty years.

First, let’s look at all the quarterbacks selected in the top three over that time.

1998. Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning. 1. player. 46.

1998. San Diego Chargers. Ryan Leaf. 2. player. 13.

1. player. 53. . 1999. Cleveland Browns. Tim Couch

player. 54. . 1999. Philadelphia Eagles. Donnovan McNabb. 2

Cincinnati Bengals. Akili Smith. 3. player. 56. . 1999

1. player. 44. . 2001. Atlanta Falcons. Michael Vick

1. player. 10. . 2002. Houston Texans. David Carr

Detroit Lions. Joey Harrington. 3. player. 50. . 2002

Carson Palmer. 1. player. 56. . 2003. Cincinnati Bengals

player. 13. . 2004. San Diego Chargers. Eli Manning. 1

Alex Smith. 1. player. 42. . 2005. San Francisco 49ers

2006. Tennessee Titans. Vince Young. 3. player. 35.

2007. Oakland Raiders. JaMarcus Russell. 1. player. 28.

Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan. 3. player. 44. . 2008

2009. Detroit Lions. Matthew Stafford. 1. player. 50.

2010. St Louis Rams. Sam Bradford. 1. player. 51.

87. . 2011. Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton. 1. player

1. player. 46. . 2012. Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck

Blake Bortles. 3. player. 52. . 2014. Jacksonville Jaguars

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston. 1. player. 48. . 2015

. 2015. Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariota. 2. player. 35

51. . 2016. Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff. 1. player

54. . 2016. Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz. 2. player

That makes 24 quarterbacks selected in the top three picks over the past 20 seasons. It’s tough to judge success, but it’s definitely not a black and white situation. The first two extremes are ‘franchise QB’ and ‘bust.’ No one can argue those. But let’s make two more categories: JAG (just a guy) and solid quarterback.

Let’s eliminate Goff and Wentz because it’s too early to judge them, and for the sake of this article, let’s grade lightly and put Mariota and Winston in the franchise QB category. They both appear to at least be headed to solid quarterback situation at worst, so we will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Franchise QBs- Peyton Manning, McNabb, Vick, Eli Manning, Ryan, Newton, Luck, Winston, Mariota

Solid QBs- Palmer, Alex Smith, Stafford

JAGs- Bradford, Bortles

Busts- Leaf, Couch, Akili Smith, Carr, Harrington, Young, Russell, RG3

Obviously, these slots are subjective but don’t focus on whether David Carr should be a bust or a JAG and don’t focus on whether Matt Stafford should be in the franchise or solid QB category. Focus on the top two categories being successful draft picks, and the bottom two categories being unsuccessful.

Splitting hairs aside, the successful and unsuccessful draft picks are pretty cut and dry. So what does this all mean?

It means that only 12 of the 22 quarterbacks selected in the top three are successful NFL quarterbacks. Only 55%. One step further, only 41% of those QBs selected played at a level a team would consider acceptable when using a pick that high.

On the opposite end, 45% of these quarterbacks cannot be considered successful NFL QBs and 36% of these quarterbacks are flat-out busts.

The bottom line is that nothing is certain. Using a top three pick on a quarterback only gives you about a 50-50 return. That’s a major risk for GM Ryan Pace whose seat is already starting to get pretty warm.

Obviously, the Bears need to start winning football games for Pace to keep his job, but if he selects a QB at three and they end up being a bust, Pace is almost certainly out of job.

That being said, if Pace hits on a quarterback, the Bears are going to start winning games and Pace is going to be Chicago’s GM for many years.

The quarterback situation must be addressed. Pace punted each of the first two years on the job, and to this point, he’s only addressed it mildly with Mike Glennon. Knowing that QBs are only about a 50-50 success rate, Pace better be certain that the QB he selects is the right man for the job, or Pace’s first GM job will be classified as a failure.

The pressure is fully on Pace’s shoulders. While Jay Cutler underachieved  during his years in Chicago, he did provide stability to the position. Now Pace must re-stabilize the position with his quarterback of the future. That will most likely not be Glennon. Pace must make a decision as to who his quarterback will be. His job depends on it. Pace is going to have to leap either this year or next year, whenever he does decide to do it, it’s anyone’s guess if he can stick the landing.