This week we’ve been exploring the future fantasy impact of early and non-early declare NFL prospects. The NFL has shifted to more players being granted early eligibility and entering the draft earlier than ever. With that in mind, we’re hoping to take that signal and see if there’s anything to take from it since it’s a way to fold draft age, breakout age, and draft capital into one.
We’ve already looked at the wide receiver and running back positions to start the week. We inherently know the league values prospects who declare early highly because they’ve flat-out told them so. Unsurprisingly, both results have skewed heavily in favor of those early declare players performing at a higher level than their counterparts, but as was the case with running backs, the drop-off was not a severe as the wide receiver position. That provided illumination on that non-early declare running backs were better investments than their wide receiver cohorts.
You can circle back to that original wide receiver post to going deeper into the methodology, but we’re once again only accounting for players selected in the NFL draft over the past 10 years and how they performed on a per-game basis for fantasy output.
For quarterbacks, it’s even easier to write off a player that isn’t drafted. Over the past decade, all of the QB1 per game seasons have come from just one player, Tony Romo. Jon Kitna, Nick Mullens, Case Keenum, and Shaun Hill have all turned in one QB2 per game season over that span. With that teed up, let’s roll into the quarterback position.
QB Draft Selections Over The Past 10 Years
Over the past 10 years, 117 quarterbacks have been selected in the draft. 29 (24.8%) of those players were early declare prospects, by far the lowest rate of any of the positions we’ve covered. Over the first two posts, early declare running backs accounted for 38.6% of their position while wide receivers made up 32.9%.
That should be expected. If a player is not given a high grade at quarterback from the league, there’s really no reason to enter the draft. Whereas a second- or third-round back or receiver may still have an incentive to enter the draft and create an impact, the deck is stacked against you as a quarterback entering the league without the weight of high draft investment in your pocket.
Of that 30-player sample for early entries above, 21 of those players were selected in the first round of the draft and 26 were selected in the opening three rounds.
11 of our 87 non-early declare quarterbacks produced a QB1 season per game while just six (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz) have produced high-ceiling season among the top-six in points per game.
As expected given draft capital, the early declare prospects trump their non-early counterparts but once again, we’re letting everyone on the dance floor at the basement level.
64 (54.7%) of these total quarterbacks were selected in the fourth round or later while 65.8% were selected in the third round or later and 74.4% were selected outside of the first round.
Draft capital carries the most weight at the quarterback position. First-round quarterbacks have accounted for 71.7% of the QB1 per game scoring finishes over the past 10 years. There have been 25 individual seasons of a quarterback selected outside of the first two rounds over that span. Tom Brady and Russell Wilson have accounted for 13 of those. Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, and Tyrod Taylor are the only other quarterbacks with multiple QB1 per game scoring seasons over that same span that were selected in the third round or later among drafted quarterbacks.
Even letting the second round through the turnstiles doesn’t add much. Over that same span, Andy Dalton has two QB1 per game scoring seasons and Derek Carr has one. Drew Brees technically counts since the NFL was only at 31 teams when he was selected at pick 32. He’s registered nine of those seasons over the past 10 years.
The bottom line here is that even being a second-round draft pick gives a quarterback a tough outlook for future fantasy success. Of the 10 second-round quarterbacks taken over the past 10 seasons, only Dalton and Carr have produced QB1 seasons per game while neither registered a top-six scoring season. Just four of those 10 passers have produced a QB2 scoring season per game, with Colin Kaepernick and Jimmy Garoppolo joining Dalton and Carr. That doesn’t give Drew Lock a lot of rope, as Geno Smith, DeShone Kizer, Christian Hackenberg, Brock Osweiler, and Jimmy Clausen round out the sample. With that in mind, we’re reducing our field of passers down to only the first round to bring us home.
Round 1 QB Draft Selections Over the Past 10 Years
Bringing things in tight to first-round options, the early declare group nearly triples up the non-early declare group, which has been a common theme among first-round picks throughout each position we’ve covered. If a prospect is entering the NFL draft early, he likely has a good reason off of the information already provided by the league.
Just two of our non-early declares (Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz) have produced a top-six scoring season per game while only Ryan Tannehill joins them among the QB1 scoring tier. Of our small non-early declare sample, only Christian Ponder, E.J. Manuel, and Brandon Weeden failed to produce a QB2 level season per game.
20 of these 30 first-round passers in total were taken among the top-10 picks. Of that non-early sample, just five were taken with top-10 draft picks, another signal that most of them didn’t carry the highest of value entering the league. Those four players were Ponder, Manuel, Weeden, and Tim Tebow.
Of the six early declare quarterbacks that were first-round picks and not selected within the first 10 picks, they were Deshaun Watson (12), Dwayne Haskins (15), Johnny Manziel (22), Paxton Lynch (26), Teddy Bridgewater (32), and Lamar Jackson (32).
Looking at the 2020 Class
Just being able to declare early for the draft at the quarterback position is a major signal in projected draft capital, which is, in turn, a signal for future production. The projected number one overall selection in Joe Burrow does not fit that profile. Projected to go first overall, Burrow would join Baker Mayfield and Luck as the only non-early declare quarterbacks to be taken first overall among the nine quarterbacks to be selected first overall since 2009.
Burrow isn’t alone as a non-early declare considered highly in this class. Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts are both also non-early declares considered to be first-round picks this April. Tua Tagovailoa is the lone early declare expected to be taken in the top-10 while Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm are all early declares expected to be taken in the first two rounds, but outside of the top-10.