There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not it’s really necessary to tank in order to get a quality QB. After last Sunday’s crushing defeat and the perspective that seemed to provide as to just how much we’re going to struggle this year, I know a lot of people are concerned that being THIS BAD just isn’t worth it. People throw out names like Mahomes and Watson who were taken in the same draft at #10 and #12, respectively. People cite mid-rounders like Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott as evidence that you can still nab guys later in the draft who can play well enough to earn large contracts. Of course, one could also cite examples of guys like Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Derek Carr as QBs taken outside the top-15 that produced quality play for their teams, too. TBH, that’s all well and good. I get it. Maybe there are quality options outside the top picks in the draft? Maybe tanking isn’t necessary? Maybe that’s going over-board? Well, if that didn’t convince you. Here’s an even scarier argument! Take a look at some of the busts that’ve been taken highly. There are a slew of guys who are recent picks but who played so badly you barely remember they came out. I went all the way back to 2008 and counted 28 QBs taken in R1. Here’s how they look by draft position: 1 – Stafford / Bradford / Newton / Luck / Winston / Goff / Mayfield / Murray 2 – Griffin / Mariota / Wentz / Trubisky 3 – Ryan / Bortles / Darnold 4 5 – Sanchez 6 – Jones 7 – Allen 8 – Locker / Tannehill 9 10 – Gabbert / Mahomes / Rosen 11 12 – Ponder / Watson 13 14 15 – Haskins 16 – Manuel 17 – Freeman 18 – Flacco 19 20 21 22 – Weeden / Manziel 23 24 25 – Tebow 26 – Lynch 27 28 29 30 31 32 – Bridgewater / Jackson Just look at some of those names. Some were so bad you barely remember them playing: Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, EJ Manuel, Brandon Weeden, etc. You literally only remember these guys BECAUSE of posts like the one I’m making now that bring their names back into your brain. Then there are those guys who just make you cringe: Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Johnny Manziel, etc. Oof. Even then there are still guys who flat out sucked (Josh Freeman) as well as others who had issues that essentially turned them into journeyman (Griffin, Bradford, Bridgewater, etc.) And these are guys taken over the last 12 years! Just saying…that’s a lot of misses. That’s enough to scare me into questioning whether you should even drop a R1 pick on a QB! I’ve often said that the dominance of pocket passers in the mid-00’s is partially to blame for teams getting overly-excited about the QB position. There was a significant period there where you basically weren’t relevant as a franchise unless you had a Hall of Fame QB. There were at least 6 of those QBs all dueling it out: Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Rivers and Brees. You could also throw Kurt Warner into that mix as his time in Arizona gave that team an incredible offense that put them in the Super Bowl. Point being, those guys were setting records left and right and trading off Super Bowls one after the other: 2003 – Brady 2004 – Brady 2005 – Roethlisberger 2006 – P. Manning 2007 – E. Manning (vs. Brady) 2008 – Roethlisberger (vs. Warner) 2009 – Brees (vs. P. Manning) 2010 – Rodgers (vs. Roethlisberger) 2011 – E. Manning (vs. Brady) After that ridiculous period of QB-dominance I would forgive someone if they came away thinking that success in the NFL was merely governed by who a team had at QB. For basically a decade straight it didn’t seem like you could win a Super Bowl unless you had one of those 7-8 guys. But as I just laid out, the last 12 years have been sort of ugly in terms of drafting QBs. A lot of guys have been elevated up into R1 that probably should never have been there. For the sake of fairness I’m going to ignore the last 2 drafts. We haven’t seen much from Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, Rosen, Jackson, Murray, Jones or Haskins. It’s not yet clear whether they’re hits or misses at this point. Let’s agree it’s too early to judge those guys at this moment. So for the guys with at least 200 passing attempts, here’s a quick list which I’ve sorted in order of career passer rating: >110: 113 - Mahomes 100-110: 103 – Watson >95 - 100: >90 - 95: 95 – Ryan 95 – Goff 93 – Wentz 90 – Mariota 90 – Luck >85 – 90: 89 – Stafford 89 – Griffin 87 – Tannehill 87 – Winston 86 – Newton 86 – Trubisky 86 – Bridgewater >80 – 85: 85 – Bradford 84 – Flacco 81 – Bortles <80: 79 – Locker 78 – Freeman 77 – Manuel 76 – Weeden 76 – Ponder 75 – Tebow 74 – Manziel 73 – Sanchez 72 – Gabbert First thing to note is that the average passing rating is 85. That’s not far from the league average. It means that on average these R1 QBs can at least play NFL football even if they don’t light the world on fire. Second thing to note is that there are way more misses and duds than big-time hits. We talk about R1 QBs like they’re reliable upgrades but that’s not the case. Sure, a R1 guy has a better chance of being a star than a R5 pick—obviously—but to expect to get a good QB just because it’s R1 is naïve. Consider that our very own Ryan Tannehill ranks 10th on this list of 26 guys. Think about that. We ditched him because of lackluster performance and he was the 10th BEST GUY!!! Second thing to note is that there is no floor. Some of the busts are EPIC. And they’re all different. Some are injuries. Some are lack of ability. Some involve drugs and scandal. And that’s not saying anything about the punishment associated with just going to a bad team! But the real question is whether it’s worth it to tank in order to move from #15 down inside the top-5. That’s what people want to know. I’m not going to sway anyone from picking QB in R1 despite all the scary stuff I’ve just laid out: Yes, in the race to find the next Hall of Fame franchise QB a lot of guys got over-drafted. Yes, the odds of finding an elite QB in R1 are slim. Yes, the potential to draft someone who ends up a complete bust is real. But most of us still favor drafting a QB. The question is whether guys are right when they point to Watson and Mahomes and say, ‘you can get good QBs outside the top picks, too!’ Is that really true or is it cherry-picking? Well, if I ignore the guys from the last couple drafts (as well as Lamar Jackson who has fewer than 200 passing attempts) and make a list of just the guys I would have preferred to have ended up with it would like this: Luck, Mahomes, Stafford, Newton, Goff, Wentz, Ryan, Watson Their average draft position is 3.6. So if you want to land someone who’s REALLY GOOD, you’d better have a top-3 pick. If I look at the average of the rest of the QBs who range from solid down to complete bust it comes to 11.9. For the record, the "rest" include these guys: Mariota, Griffin, Tannehill, Winston, Trubisky, Bridgewater, Bradford, Flacco, Bortles, Locker, Freeman, Manuel, Weeden, Ponder, Tebow, Manziel, Sanchez and Gabbert. I have left out Lamar Jackson and Paxton Lynch because of lack of playing time. Soooo, yeah. There you go. I think that if you want to maximize your chances of landing a true franchise guy you need to do better than the middle of R1. You really need to be amongst those very top picks. If I isolate the guys we’ve seen taken in the top-3 it looks like this: 1 – Stafford / Bradford / Newton / Luck / Winston / Goff / Mayfield / Murray 2 – Griffin / Mariota / Wentz / Trubisky 3 – Ryan / Bortles / Darnold Here they are by career passer rating: 95 – Ryan 95 – Goff 93 – Wentz 90 – Mariota 90 – Luck 89 – Stafford 89 – Griffin 87 – Winston 86 – Trubisky 86 – Newton 85 – Bradford 81 – Bortles That’s a pretty tight group! The outlier is Blake Bortles and he’s still only at 81. The rest are basically as good or better than Ryan Tannehill who again, wasn’t terrible. And while the best guy (Mahomes) isn’t on that list, there are several who are capable of winning league MVP: Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck. And that’s not even factoring in what Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray end up doing before it’s all said and done! I don’t know how this makes all of you feel but it’s REALLY comforting information to me. It makes me think that regardless of who we draft, we’re pretty sure to end up with a guy who can play. So barring injury issues like those of Sam Bradford for instance (which are rare) I think there’s a strong chance that what Miami’s doing will ultimately end up a relatively safe bet. So how badly did teams have to do to get up into the top-3 picks? Well, first off, it took the Colts going 2-14 to get Luck at #1. It took the Lions going 0-16 to get Stafford at #1. It took the Panthers going 2-14 to get Newton at #1. It took the Falcons going 4-12 to get Matt Ryan at #3. So for the teams that HIT it usually meant doing really badly. The exceptions would be Goff and Wentz. Both the Rams and Eagles went 7-9 and found ways to trade up into the #1 and #2 picks of the draft. But we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that was only possible because STUPID TEAMS like the Browns and Dolphins helped them make those trades! So just how badly does a team need to do in order to get into the top of the draft (excluding a trade)? Since 2008, the average team that earned the #1 spot won 1.4 games. Since 2008, the average team that earned the #2 spot won 2.0 games. Since 2008, the average team that earned the #3 spot won 2.5 games. So if you want to assure yourself a top pick, you had better have essentially the worst season in franchise history. The moral of the story is that when someone asks whether or not it’s worth it to be drafting inside the top-3 the answer is a resounding YES! Yes, it is definitely worth it given the outcomes we've seen over the last decade. HOWEVER, the price to be paid is steep. You need to be historically bad and flirt with disaster. The Browns and Lions both went 0-16 while the Dolphins went 1-15. But keep in mind that selecting amongst the top-3 not only increases your odds of finding a true franchise guy by a HUGE AMOUNT but it's also somewhat "safe" in that you probably aren't going to draft a bust like you might if you were picking between #10 and #32. So the next time the Dolphins get whooped and you find yourself on the fence, go back and read this post again.