Quarterbacks selected in the top five of the NFL Draft since 2002

This past weekend saw the 83rd NFL Draft take place, which saw a record number of quarterbacks be taken in the first-round. Two of these quarterbacks were taken with the top five picks in the draft. The Cleveland Browns took Baker Mayfield with the first pick and the New York Jets selected Sam Darnold with the third pick.

This makes it a great time to look back and see how quarterbacks selected in the top five (starting with the 2002 NFL Draft) have fared. During this period there have been 21 quarterbacks taken in the top five not counting the 2018 draft.


Let’s start with looking at each quarterbacks stats compared to each other in terms of quarterback rating, completion, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and interceptions.

Bolded quarterbacks are retired

QB Draft (pick) GP/GS QB Rate Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
D.Carr 2002 (1) 94/79 74.9 1353 2267 59.70% 14,452 65 71
J.Harrington 2002 (3) 81/76 69.4 1424 2538 56.10% 14,693 79 85
C.Palmer 2003 (1) 182/181 87.9 3941 6307 62.50% 46,247 294 187
E.Manning 2004 (1) 216/214 83.5 4424 7369 59.80% 51,682 339 228
P.Rivers 2004 (4) 196/192 94.8 4171 6492 64.20% 50,348 342 166
A.Smith 2005 (1) 156/151 87.4 2877 4613 62.40% 31,888 183 96
V.Young 2006 (3) 60/50 74.4 755 1304 57.90% 8,964 46 51
J.Russell 2007 (1) 31/25 65.2 354 680 52.10% 4,083 18 23
M.Ryan 2008 (3) 158/158 93.4 3630 5593 64.90% 41,769 260 126
M.Stafford 2009 (1) 125/125 88.3 3005 4850 62.00% 34,479 216 118
M.Sanchez 2009 (5) 77/72 73.9 1295 2285 56.70% 15,219 86 86
S.Bradford 2010 (1) 80/80 85.1 1805 2887 62.50% 19,049 101 57
C.Newton 2011 (1) 109/108 85.3 2001 3420 58.50% 25,074 158 94
A.Luck 2012 (1) 70/70 87.3 1570 2651 59.20% 19,078 132 87
RG III 2012 (2) 42/40 88.4 766 1210 63.30% 8.983 42 26
B.Bortles 2014 (3) 62/61 80.8 1318 2229 59.10% 14,928 90 64
J.Winston 2015 (1) 45/45 87.2 939 1544 60.80% 11,636 69 44
M.Mariota 2015 (2) 42/42 88.6 787 1274 61.80% 9,476 58 34
J.Goff 2016 (1) 22/22 89.4 408 682 59.80% 4,893 33 14
C.Wentz 2016 (2) 29/29 88.8 644 1047 61.50% 7,078 49 21
M.Trubisky 2017 (2) 12/12 77.5 186 330 59.40% 2,193 7 7

Eli Manning has started and played the most games. He also has the most completions, attempts, passing yards and interceptions. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers has the highest quarterback rating and most passing touchdowns. Matt Ryan has the highest compleition percentage.

Jared Goff has the highest TD to Int ratio (2.35), followed by Carson Wentz (2.33). However, both of them have only played two seasons so it is unlikely either will stay that high. Rivers and Ryan are after them, with a TD/Int ratio of 2.06.


QB Record, comebacks, and game-winning drives

Quarterbacks, more so then arguably any other position in professional team sports, are judged based on the performance of their team. They are also looked towards to lead their team in crunch time at the end of games.

QB Record (Win %) Comebacks GW Drives Playoff Rec P CB P GWD
D.Carr 23-56 (.291%) 7 11 0-0 0 0
J.Harrington 26-50 (.342%) 6 7 0-0 0 0
C.Palmer 92-88-1 (.511%) 22 35 1-3 (.250%) 1 1
E.Manning 111-103 (.519%) 26 35 8-4 (.667%) 4 5
P.Rivers 106-86 (.552%) 23 27 4-5 (.444%) 1 1
A.Smith 88-62-1 (.586%) 18 22 2-5 (.286%) 1 1
V.Young 31-19 (.620%) 7 13 0-1 (.000%) 0 0
J.Russell 7-18 (.280%) 3 4 0-0 0 0
M.Ryan 95-63 (.601%) 26 35 4-6 (.400%) 1 1
M.Stafford 60-65 (.480%) 26 32 0-3 (.000%) 0 0
M.Sanchez 37-35 (.514%) 8 10 4-2 (.667%) 2 2
S.Bradford 34-45-1 (.431%) 7 8 0-0 0 0
C.Newton 62-45-1 (.579%) 13 15 3-4 (.429%) 0 0
A.Luck 43-27 (.614%) 13 17 3-3 (.500%) 1 1
RG III 15-25 (.375%) 4 5 0-1 (.000%) 0 0
B.Bortles 21-40 (.344%) 6 7 2-1 (.667%) 0 0
J.Winston 18-27 (.400%) 5 8 0-0 0 0
M.Mariota 20-22 (.476%) 7 8 1-1 (.500%) 1 1
J.Goff 11-11 (.500%) 1 1 0-1 (.000%) 0 0
C.Wentz 18-11 (.621%) 2 2 0-0 0 0
M.Trubisky 4-8 (.333%) 0 1 0-0 0 0

Out of the all the quarterbacks taken in the top five since 2002, only Carson Wentz (.621%), Vince Young (,620%), Andrew Luck (.614%) and Matt Ryan (.601%) have won over 60% of their games. However, a quarterback alone doesn’t make a winning team as 11 of these 21 quarterbacks have losing records.

Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford have the most comebacks (26). Manning, Ryan and Carson Palmer all have the most game-winning drives (35).

32 (53%) of Stafford’s 60 wins have involved a game-winning drive. 26 (43%) have been due to comebacks that he has helped orchestrate.

Only four quarterbacks (Manning, Sanchez, Bortles, and Luck) have non-losing records in the playoffs. In the playoffs, Manning has 8 playoff wins, 4 comebacks, and 5 game-winning drives. The other 20 quarterbacks have a combined 24 wins, 8 comebacks and 7 game-winning drives.


Awards and Honors

Finally, how do quarterbacks who have been taken in the top five spots of the draft since 2002 stack up in terms of the honors they have been awarded?

POW: Player of the Week

OROY: Offensive Rookie of the Year

All-Rook: NFL All-Rookie Team

CPOY: Comeback Player of the Year

OPOY: Offensive Player of the Year.

D.Carr 0 No Yes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J.Harrington 1 No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
C.Palmer 3 No No 0 0 3 1 0 0 0
E.Manning 4 No No 0 0 4 0 0 2 2
P.Rivers 9 No No 0 0 7 0 0 0 0
A.Smith 2 No No 0 0 3 0 0 0 0
V.Young 2 Yes Yes 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
J.Russell 0 No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
M.Ryan 8 Yes Yes 0 1 4 1 1 0 0
M.Stafford 1 No No 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
M.Sanchez 1 No Yes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
S.Bradford 1 Yes Yes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
C.Newton 9 Yes Yes 0 1 3 1 1 0 0
A.Luck 4 No No 0 0 3 0 0 0 0
RG III 2 Yes Yes 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
B.Bortles 0 No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J.Winston 1 No Yes 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
M.Mariota 3 No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J.Goff 1 No No 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
C.Wentz 2 No No 0 0 1 1 0 1 0
M.Trubisky 0 No No 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Vince Young, Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III are the only top five quarterbacks to make the NFL’s All-Rookie Team and be named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Newton and Ryan are the only MVP winners in this group, while Matthew Stafford is the only one to win Comeback Player of the Year. Eli Manning has more Super Bowls (2 to 1) and Super Bowl MVPs (2 to 0) then the other 20 quarterbacks combined.


Sources and Info:

Featured Image: “Eli Manning” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/draft-finder.cgi (use to see which quarterbacks were drafted in the top five since 2002 and see their profiles)

https://www.footballdb.com/leaders/career-passing-tdintratio (used to find TD-to-Int ratio for QBs)

https://www.footballdb.com/stats/qb-records.html?type=reg&alltime=1 (Use to find winning percentage for QBs)

Charts make using Google Spreadsheets


Looking back at the careers of Jason Witten and Jay Cutler

Today, it was reported by ESPN that their sources told them legendary Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten would be retiring. While his decision is not officially final, it seems like the end the line for one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history as he will join ESPN as a Monday Night Football analyst.

Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport reported that former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler would be retiring. In his 12 year career, Cutler has been at the center of a love/hate relationship with fans due to his on-field play and demeanor. With both players seemingly calling it a career, let’s take a look to see where they rank statistically in NFL history using Pro Football Reference.

Jason Witten 

In his 15 year career, Jason Witten has proven to be one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL. A third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Tennesse, he has proven to be a reliable target for the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Tony Romo, and Dak Prescott.

He has made the Pro Bowl 11 times in his career and was honored as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012. Witten has also been named to two AP All-Pro 1st teams and two AP All-Pro 2nd teams.

Category Stats Ranks among Cowboys Ranks among all TE Ranks among all receivers
Games played 239 1  2 *7
Games started 229 1  2  2
Receptions 1,152 1 2 4
Receiving yards 12,448 1 2 21
TD 68 3 *5 T-46
Pro Bowls 11 *T-1 2 T-3

*Pro Bowls: Tied with Bob Lily

*Games played: Not counting Trey Junkin, who was primarily a long snapper.

*TD: Not counting Harold Carmichael who mostly played receiver

Witten is also one of the few players to rank in the top 30 all-time for receiving yards while having played his entire career for one team.

Bolded players are still playing, italicized players are in Hall of Fame

Player Team Rank Yards
Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals 3 15,454
Marvin Harrison Colts 9 14,580
Reggie Wayne Colts 10 14,345
Steve Largent Seahawks 18 13,089
Jason Witten Cowboys 21 12,448
Hines Ward Steelers 25 12,083
Michael Irvin Cowboys 27 11,904
Calvin Johnson Lions 29 11,619
Antonio Gates Chargers 30 11,508


Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler was a first-round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Vanderbilt. He spent three years with the team, making the Pro Bowl in 2008, He was then traded to the Chicago Bears, spending eight up-and-down seasons there.

Cutler made his only career playoff appearance in 2010 with the team. He then briefly retired after being released by the Bears before unretiring to spend last season with the Miami Dolphins.

Category Career Stats *Ranks among Bears Ranks among all QB
Games played 153 17 71
QB Rating 85.3 *1 T-33
Completions 3048 1 24
Attempts 4920 1 28
Comp % 62.00% *1 T-24
Pass yards 35,133 1 27
Pass TD 227 1 31
Interceptions 160 2 T-53
Yards per attempt 7.1 *5 T-68
Yards per game 229.6 *1 31
Wins 74 1 57
Game winning drives 28 1 T-20
Comebacks 23 1 T-19

*Rank among Bears only counts stats Cutler accumulated with Chicago

*Only counts players with minimum of 300 career pass attempts with Bears


Sources and info:

Featured Image: “Jason Witten” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/W/WittJa00.htm (Witten’s career stats)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/rec_yds_career.htm (Cowboys career leaders in receiving)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/pro_bowls_career.htm (Pro Bowls for all players)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/C/CutlJa00.htm (Cutler’s career stats)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/chi/career-passing.htm (Bears career leaders in passing)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/ (Career leaders for passing and receiving)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/psl_finder.cgi (Used to find comparisons for Witten and Cutler to other players)

Graphs made using Google Spreadsheets

Looking back at NFL Drafts that had at least 4 QBs taken in the first round

The 2018 NFL Draft is today and it is not out of the question that four quarterbacks could be taken in the first round. All four teams picking in the top five (Browns pick 1 and 4) are in need of a quarterback.

There is also the chance that teams like the Bills, Dolphins or  Cardinals all could make a move to take a quarterback in the first round. However, what does history say regarding how first rounds with this many quarterbacks taken has turned out.

The 1949 NFL Draft

The 1949 NFL Draft was the first to have four quarterbacks get taken, with all being selected in the top ten. Detriot took John Rauch with the second pick, Green Bay took Stan Heath (5), the Rams took Bobby Thomason (7) and Philadelphia took Frank Tripucka (9).

Player (pick #) GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
John Rauch 27/3 53.5 70 170 41.20% 959 8 9
Stan Heath 12/1 4.6 26 106 24.50% 355 1 14
Bobby Thomason 85/44 62.9 687 1346 51.00% 9480 68 90
Frank Tripukca 75/56 52.2 879 1745 50.40% 10282 69 124

Heath only lasted one year in the NFL, while Rauch stuck around for three seasons. Tripucka never managed in the NFL, lasting four seasons. However, following an eight-year hiatus from the sport, he found some success in the AFL with the Broncos. He was their starter for three seasons and made one Pro Bowl.

Thomason was the most successful QB out of this group. After two seasons with the Rams and one with the Packers. He had a successful six-year stint with the Eagles, making three Pro Bowls. In 1953, he had the first 400-yard passing game in Eagles history. At the time, it was only the seventh 400-yard game in NFL history.

The 1983 NFL Draft

It would not be until the fabled 1983 NFL Draft that at least four quarterbacks would be taken in the first round. The Colts took John Elway with the No. 1 pick and then the Chiefs took Todd Blackledge with the seventh pick. Buffalo then selected Jim Kelly (14), the Patriots took Tony Eason (15), the Jets took Ken O’Brien (24) and Miami picked Dan Marino (27).

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
John Elway 234/231 79.9 4123 7250 56.90% 51475 300 226
Todd Blackledge 46/29 60.2 424 881 48.10% 5286 29 38
Jim Kelly 160/160 84.4 2874 4779 60.10% 35467 237 175
Tony Eason 90/51 79.7 911 1564 58.20% 11142 61 51
Ken O’Brien 129/110 80.4 2110 3602 58.60% 25094 128 98
Dan Marino 242/240 86.4 4967 8358 59.40% 61361 420 252
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP Hall of Fame
John Elway 10 9 3 0 1 2/1 Yes
Todd Blackledge 1 0 0 0 0 0/0 No
Jim Kelly 8 5 2 0 0 0/0 Yes
Tony Eason 2 0 0 0 0 0/0 No
Ken O’Brien 3 2 0 0 0 0/0 No
Dan Marino 10 9 6 1 1 0/0 Yes

*All-Pro means they made the Associated Press (AP) 1st or 2nd team

*OPOY stands for Offensive Player of the Year

*Playoff App only counts years the QB started in the playoffs

Blackledge is the bust of this group, spending five seasons struggling with the Chiefs before becoming a backup in Pittsburg. Eason led New England to the playoffs twice in his three primary seasons as the starting quarterback. O’Brien made the Pro Bowl twice and led the Jets to three playoff appearances but is overshadowed by his contemporaries.

Kelly spent his first two seasons in the USFL after declining to play for the Bills, winning the league’s MVP award his rookie season. Eventually, he joined the Bills once the USFL folded, famously leading them to the Super Bowl four straight seasons.

Marino spent his entire career with the Dolphins, where he set season and career NFL passing records for yards and touchdowns. Elway never played for the Colts, as he was traded to Denver. Spending his entire career with the team, they made five Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them in back-to-back seasons.


The 1987 NFL Draft

With the first pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Vinny Testaverde. The Cardinals then took Kelly Stouffer (6), Atlanta selected Chris Miller (13) and the Bears took Jim Harbaugh (26).

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
Vinny Testaverde 233/214 75.0 3787 6701 56.50% 46233 275 267
Kelly Stouffer 22/16 54.5 225 437 51.50% 2333 7 19
Chris Miller 98/92 74.9 1580 2892 54.60% 19320 123 102
Jim Harbaugh 177/140 77.6 2305 3918 58.80% 26288 129 117
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP
Vinny Testaverde 3 2 0 0 0 0/0
Kelly Stouffer 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Chris Miller 1 1 0 0 0 0/0
Jim Harbaugh 3 1 0 0 0 0/0

Stouffer sat out his rookie season due to a contract dispute and never played for the Cardinals, as his rights were traded to Seattle. He spent four seasons with Seattle and was mostly ineffective. Miller spent four seasons as the Falcons primary starter but only had success in 1991, when the team made the playoffs. Eventually, his career ended early a few years later due to a string of concussions he suffered with the Rams.

Harbaugh spent four seasons as the Bears starter, taking them to the playoffs twice, although he never played in the 1990 playoffs due to injury. He then spent four seasons as the Colts primary starter. Testaverde is arguably the NFL’s greatest journeyman QB, spending 21 seasons with seven different teams. He did help lead the Browns (1994) and the Jets (2001,2002) to the playoffs.

The 1999 NFL Draft

The first three picks in this draft were quarterbacks, as the Browns took Tim Couch, Philadelphia selected Donovan McNabb and the Bengals picked Akili Smith. Later on, Minnesota took Daunte Culpepper (11) and the Bears picked Cade McNown (12).

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
Tim Couch 62/59 75.1 1025 1714 59.80% 11131 64 67
Donovan McNabb 167/161 85.6 3170 5374 59.00% 37276 234 117
Akili Smith 22/17 52.8 215 461 46.60% 2212 5 13
Daune Culpepper 105/100 87.8 2016 3199 63.00% 24153 149 106
Cade McNown 25/15 67.7 281 515 54.60% 3111 16 19
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP
Tim Couch 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Donovan McNabb 7 6 0 0 0 0/0
Akili Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Daunte Culpepper 2 3 0 0 0 0/0
Cade McNown 0 0 0 0 0 0/0

McNown and Smith were both busts who lasted two and four years in the league. Couch took over a horrid expansion Browns team and lasted through five injury-plagued seasons. He did lead the team to an 8-6 record as a starter in 2002 but missed the team’s playoff game due to a broken leg he suffered in the final game of the season.

Culpepper burst on to the scene his second year, leading the Vikings to an 11-5 record before struggling the next two seasons. He then bounced back and produced two more Pro Bowl seasons. However, a major leg injury in 2005 derailed his career and he played sparingly for the next four seasons.

Donovan McNabb was the Eagles longtime starting quarterback who took them to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. He also became the franchise’s career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

The 2003 NFL Draft

In the 2003 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected Carson Palmer with the first pick. Three more quarterbacks followed with the Jaguars taking Byron Leftwich (7), the Ravens took Kyle Boller (19) and the Bears selected Rex Grossman (22).

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
Carson Palmer 182/181 87.9 3941 6307 62.50% 46247 294 187
Byron Leftwich 60/50 78.9 930 1605 57.90% 10532 58 42
Kyle Boller 67/47 69.5 861 1519 56.70% 8931 48 54
Rex Grossman 54/47 71.4 863 1562 55.20% 10232 56 60
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP
Carson Palmer 3 3 1 0 0 0/0
Byron Leftwich 1 0 0 0 0 1/0
Kyle Boller 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Rex Grossman 2 0 0 0 0 0/0

Boller started his first two seasons with the Ravens having a winning record but mostly failed to impress as he was carried by the team’s stout defense and rushing attack. Boller then lost his job when the team signed veteran quarterback Steve McNair, becoming a backup for the rest of his career.

Grossman was on the Bears for seven seasons. He started 16 of his 31 games with the team during their run to the Super Bowl in 2006 behind their imposing defense and running game. He would later start 13 games with Washington during the 2011 season.

Leftwich was the Jaguars starting quarterback for his first three seasons but lost his job to David Garrard after missing most of his fourth season due to injury. He then spent his last five years in the league as a backup on the Falcons, Buccaneers, and Steelers.

Palmer spent seven seasons with the Bengals but the team only made the playoffs once as they struggled to find success despite Palmer’s ability when healthy. Eventually, a denied trade request led to him briefly retiring before being traded to the Raiders. After two subpar seasons their, he joined the Cardinals. In five seasons, he led them to the playoffs twice but basically lost two seasons due to injury.


The 2004 NFL Draft

The 2004 NFL Draft saw the Chargers select Eli Manning with the first pick and the Giants take Philip Rivers fourth. A trade was then orchestrated by the two teams to swap quarterbacks, with the Chargers receiving extra picks. The Steelers then took Ben Roethlisberger (11) and the Bills later selected J.P. Losman (22).

Italicized players are still active and on an NFL roster

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
Eli Manning 216/214 83.5 4424 7369 59.80% 51682 339 228
Philip Rivers 196/192 94.8 4171 6492 64.20% 50348 342 166
Ben Roethlisberger 200/198 94.0 4164 6493 64.10% 51065 329 174
J.P. Losman 45/33 75.6 564 952 59.20% 6271 33 34
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP
Eli Manning 6 4 0 0 0 2/2
Philip Rivers 5 7 0 0 0 0/0
Ben Roethlisberger 10 6 0 0 0 2/0
J.P. Losman 0 0 0 0 0 0/0

Losman was never able to find a role with the Bills due to injuries and up-and-down play, eventually losing his job to 2007 third-round pick Trent Edwards. Rivers, Manning and Roethlisberger are all future Hall of Famers, with all three holding most of their respective franchises career passing records. The trio also ranks in the top ten in career completions, passing yards, and touchdowns.

The 2011 NFL Draft

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Panthers selected Cam Newton with the first pick. This was then followed by a flurry of moves as the Titans picked Jake Locker (8), the Jaguars took Blaine Gabbert (10) and the Vikings nabbed Christian Ponder (12).

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
Cam Newton 109/108 85.3 2001 3420 58.50% 25074 158 94
Jake Locker 30/23 79 408 709 57.50% 4967 27 22
Blaine Gabbert 48/45 71.5 781 1397 55.90% 8437 44 43
Christian Ponder 38/36 75.9 632 1057 59.80% 6658 38 36
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP
Cam Newton 4 3 1 1 1 0/0
Jake Locker 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Blaine Gabbert 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Christian Ponder 0 0 0 0 0 0/0

Gabbert and Ponder both never worked out for their respective teams, causing them to both have to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft (Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater). Locker’s career never got on track due to injuries and the Titans would eventually end up drafting Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Newton won Rookie of the Year and has since led the Panthers to the playoffs four times in his seven years with the team. His most successful season came in 2015, when he won OPOY and MVP, leading Carolina to the Super Bowl.

The 2012 NFL Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft saw the top two picks be quarterbacks, as the Colts selected Andrew Luck with the first pick and the Redskins then took Robert Griffin III. Miami then picked Ryan Tannehill (8) and the Browns later selected Brandon Weeden (22).

Player GP/GS QB Rat Comp Att Comp % Yards TD Int
Andrew Luck 70/70 87.3 1570 2651 59.20% 19078 132 68
Robert Griffin 42/40 88.4 766 1210 63.30% 8983 42 26
Ryan Tannehill 77/77 86.5 1653 2637 62.70% 18455 106 66
Brandon Weeden 34/25 76 559 965 57.90% 6462 31 30
Player Playoff App Pro Bowls All-Pro OPOY MVP SB/SB MVP
Andrew Luck 3 3 0 0 0 0/0
Robert Griffin 1 1 0 0 0 0/0
Ryan Tannehill 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Brandon Weeden 0 0 0 0 0 0/0

Weeden started his rookie season with the Browns. However, he ended up being benched in favored of Brain Hoyer and later Jason Campbell due to injury and poor performance in his second and last season with the team.

Griffin electrified the league his rookie season, winning OROY and making the Pro Bowl. However, he suffered a major knee injury in that year’s playoff game and was never the same after that. He had then never performed at the same level and suffered a rash of injuries over the next two seasons before losing his job to Kirk Cousins.

Tannehill has been a solid starter for the Dolphins over the years but everything seemed to finally come together in 2016 when the team when on a hot streak. However, he injured his knee, missing the end of the season and the team’s wild-card playoff game. He then tore his ALC in practice, causing him to miss the entire 2017-18 season.

Luck came into the league and led the Colts to the playoffs while making the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons. He was then limited to seven games in 2015 due to various injuries but bounced back and played 15 games the following season. Luck then missed the entire 2017-18 season due to a shoulder injury that had been affecting him since 2015.

Conclusions from years with 4+ QBs taken

There have been only eight times in the previous 82 NFL Drafts where at least four quarterbacks have been taken in the first round. However, if it happens this year it would be the third time in the last eight drafts that it would have occurred.

One of the quarterbacks taken in years with 4+ QBs selected has made at least one Pro Bowl. In six of the eight drafts, at least two quarterbacks have made at least one Pro Bowl.

However, it is not guaranteed that years with lots of quarterbacks taken will result in success as there is a reason picking in the draft is often filled with what-ifs when looking back.


Sources and info:

Featured Image: “Philip Rivers” by Jeffrey Beall is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Used Pro Football Reference’s draft finder to find which years had 4 quarterbacks taken in the first round and see their stats.

All charts made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs

NFL Draft: Comparing the careers of each No. 1 pick

The NFL Draft is tomorrow and the Cleveland Browns have the first pick for the second year in a row. Once again a quarterback will likely get taken at the top of the draft but regardless the ripple effect that the selected player’s career has will be large on the franchise. With that being said, how have past No. 1 picks compare to each other in terms of their careers?

Games played

First, let’s take a look at how many games each player taken first in the NFL Draft has played. It is important to note that the current 16 game schedule did not start until the 1978 season. From 1961-1977, they only played 14 games and before that played between 10-12 games depending on the year.


Click this link to view above chart closer up: //datawrapper.dwcdn.net/7sioE/1/

*I did count games played in the rival AFL and AAFC, as they are listed on Pro Football Reference.

Top 10 in terms of games played by 1st round picks

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Playing career Player Games played
1985-2003 Bruce Smith 279
1998-2015 Peyton Manning 266
1984-2000 Irving Fryar 255
1983-1998 John Elway 234
1987-2007 Vinny Testaverde 233
1974-1989 Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones 224
2004-present Eli Manning 216
1968-1982 Ron Yary 207
1994-2006 Dan Wilkinson 195
1993-2006 Drew Bledsoe 194

*Chuck Bednarik was the first top pick (1949) to reach 100 and 150 games played, finishing with 169. It wasn’t until Ron Yary that a 1st overall pick surpassed these marks. Bednarik is still T-12 in terms of games played by a top pick, with Orlando Pace.

Bottom 10 in terms of games played by 1st round picks

This is not counting the last two overall picks (Jared Goff 22GP and Myles Garrett 11GP), since neither has played three seasons in the NFL.

Playing career Player Games played
N/A (Drafted 1936) *Jay Berwanger 0
N/A (Drafted 1962) *Ernie Davis 0
1954 Bobby Garrett 9
1947 Bob Fenimore 10
1961 (Drafted in 1959) *Randy Duncan 14
1946-1948 (Drafted in 1944) *Angelo Bertelli 16
1963-1965 Terry Baker 18
1946-1947 (Drafted in 1941) *Tom Harmon 22
1946-1948 Boley Dancewicz 23
1953-1955 Harry Babcock 30
2007-2009 JaMarcus Russell 31

*Berwanger never played due to a dispute over money with the Eagles and later Bears.

*Davis never played due to leukemia, which took his life just over a year after he was drafted. 

*Duncan never played in the NFL, but played one season in the rival AFL. 

*Bertelli was selected in 1944 while on active duty with the Marine Corps. After serving in the Pacific Theatre, he played three seasons in the rival AAFC following a court case between the AAFC’s L.A. Dons and the NFL’s Boston Yanks over who he could play for.

*Harmon declined to sign with the Bears after being drafted, Instead, signing with Columbia Pictures to make the film “Harmon of Michigan.” He then enlisted in the Army Air Corps and would eventually play two seasons with the L.A. Rams after the war.


Pro Bowls

The 82 players to have been selected with the 1st pick have made a combined 175 Pro Bowl appearances. Out of these 35 never made a Pro Bowl, while 47 went to at least one.

Pro Bowls

The first player taken with the top pick to make a Pro Bowl was Ki Aldrich in 1939.

Players selected 1st overall with the most Pro Bowl appearances

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Player Pro Bowls made Career length
Peyton Manning 14 1998-2015
Bruce Smith 11 1985-2003 
John Elway 9 1983-1998 
Chuck Bednarik 8 1949-1962 
Ron Yary 7 1968-1982
Orlando Pace 7 1997-2009 

All-Pro teams

For All-Pro teams, I only counted those who made a UPI team (1936-39) or an Associated Press (AP) All-Pro team (1940-present), as these are the main ones Pro Football Reference uses. Out of the 82 players taken with the top pick, 50 never made an All-Pro 1st or 2nd team.


Most All-Pro appearances by 1st overall picks 

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Player Total All-Pro app. All-Pro 1st All-Pro 2nd
Bruce Smith 11 8 3
Peyton Manning 10 7 3
Chuck Bednarik 9 6 3
Ron Yary 7 6 1
OJ Simpson 5 5 0



Since 1967, the AP has given out awards for Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) and  Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY). Only five top picks have ever won either of these awards.

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Award (Year won) Player
OROY (1978) Earl Campbell
OROY (1980) Billy Sims
OROY (1981) George Rogers
OROY (2010) Sam Bradford
OROY (2011) Cam Newton

Starting in 1971, the AP has given out a Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award. Their annual Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY) was first awarded the following year. Since then only six top picks have taken home one of these awards.

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Player Times winning OPOY/DPOY
Earl Campbell 3 (OPOY)
Bruce Smith 2 (DPOY)
Peyton Manning 2 (OPOY)
OJ Simpson 1 (OPOY)
Lee Roy Selmon 1 (DPOY)
Cam Newton 1 (OPOY)


Only nine players selected with the top pick in the draft have ever won the league’s MVP award. I used the Joe F. Carr (MVP) (1938-46),  the UPI MVP/POY (1948-1956) and the AP MVP award (1957-present) as the benchmark for MVP winners.

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Player MVP (Year won)
Peyton Manning 5 (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013)
Frankie Sinkwich 1 (1944)
Bill Dudley 1 (1946)
Paul Hornung 1 (1961)
OJ Simpson 1 (1973)
Terry Bradshaw 1 (1978)
Earl Campbell 1 (1979)
John Elway 1 (1987)
Cam Newton 1 (2011)

*Campbell and Newton are the only top picks to win OROY, OPOY, and MVP

Championships and Super Bowl MVPs

Out of the 82 players taken with the first pick in the NFL draft, 24 (29.26%) of them have either won an NFL Championship, AFL Championship or Super Bowl. Twelve of these players have at least two.

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Players with a least 2 championships
Championships won
Paul Hornung 5 (1 Super Bowl, 4 NFL Champ)
Terry Bradshaw 4 Super Bowls
Leon Hart 3 NFL Championships
Troy Aikman 3 Super Bowls
Billy Cannon *3 AFL Championships
Chuck Bednarik 2 NFL Championships
Bubba Smith 2 (1 Super Bowl, 1 NFL Champ)
Jim Plunkett 2 Super Bowls
John Matuszak 2 Super Bowls
John Elway 2 Super Bowls
Peyton Manning 2 Super Bowls
Eli Manning 2 Super Bowls

*Gary Glick (1 AFL Championship) is the only other No. 1 pick to have one.

Of course, the group of players gets even smaller when just looking at Super Bowl MVPs. Only six players taken with the first overall pick have been named Super Bowl MVP.

Bolded players are in Hall of Fame

Player Super Bowl MVPs
Terry Bradshaw 2
Eli Manning 2
Peyton Manning 1
John Elway 1
Troy Aikman 1
Jim Plunkett 1

Info and Notes:

Featured Image: “Peyton Manning” by Jeffrey Beall is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/draft/ (used to take note of games played and honors for each player taken with the 1st pick)



Games played chart made using Datawrapper

All other charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs

NFL Draft: How often do certain positions get taken with the No. 1 pick?

The first round of the 2018 NFL draft takes place this Thursday. Cleveland holds the first pick in the draft, with mock projections either having them take one of the top quarterbacks or running back Saquon Barkley. However, which positions get selected with the top pick in the draft the most and how has this changed over time?

Positions to be taken with the 1st pick

Quarterbacks have dominated the top spot in the NFL draft, being selected 31 times in the previous 82 NFL drafts (37.80%). After this is running back/fullback, which has been picked 20 times (24.39%). Rounding out the top three spots are the guys who get after the quarterback, as defensive lineman have been selected 14 times (17.07%).

Positions pie

*The only DB selected 1st overall was Gary Glick in the 1956 draft by the Steelers.

Timeline of each position being taken

Here is a chart that shows how often each position has been taken with the first pick. The start of the chart is the 1936 draft and the end is 2017 draft. Each high point means that a position was selected with that year’s top pick. I excluded DB from the chart since only one has ever been taken.

Time - Copy.png


Positions taken in NFL draft by era

Over time the NFL has changed and evolved. Teams have come and gone, rules have been changed and more games are being played. With these changes has come a change in philosophy, especially on offense, as teams have transitioned emphasizing the running game to a modern, high-powered passing attack.

Old school era (1936-1966): Before the first Superbowl takes place

This period saw the most HB/FB get taken, as 13 of the 20 (65%) backs taken first overall were selected during this time. Out of the first eight NFL drafts, seven of them saw a back get taken with the top pick. This included four backs being selected first from 1940-43. (George Cafego, Tom Harmon, Bill Dudley and Frankie Sinkwich)


*Only OL taken was Ki Aldrich in the 1939 draft

Modern era (1967-1992): Prior to free agency being implemented

The modern era saw a slow change in NFL philosophy, as there was an almost equal emphasis on the passing and running game. There was also a focus on getting to the quarterback as 9 of the 14 DE/DT (64.28%) drafted first overall were taken during this period.


This period saw the most consecutive defensive lineman picks first overall. From 1972 to 1974, defensive ends Walt Patulski, John Matuszak and Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones was taken with the top pick.

*Only WR/End/TE/SE taken was Irving Fryar in the 1984 draft

*Only OL taken was Ron Yary in the 1968 draft

Post-modern era (1993-present): After free agency, higher emphasis on passing game

The post-modern era has seen total dominance by quarterbacks at the top spot of the draft. This is due to how dominant the passing game has become and rule changes to favor throwing the ball have been implemented.

Post Modern

Starting with Peyton Manning being taken first in the 1998 draft, 14 of the last 20 (70%) of top picks have been quarterbacks. From 2001 to 2005, five quarterbacks (Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Alex Smith) were taken with the first pick in consecutive years. This is the longest streak of quarterbacks taken with the top pick.

*Only RB/FB taken was Ki-Jana Carter in the 1995 draft

*Only WR/End/TE/SE taken was Keyshawn Johnson in the 1997 draft

First player taken at each position

Let’s take a look at the first player ever taken first overall at each position.

Position Year drafted Player
QB 1944 Angelo Bertelli
HB/FB 1936 Jay Berwanger
WR/End/SE 1950 *Leon Hart
TE 1960 *Billy Cannon
OL (Tackle) 1968 Ron Yary
OL (Center) 1939 *Ki Aldrich
DE 1967 Bubba Smith
DT 1991 Russell Maryland
LB 1949 *Chuck Bednarik
DB 1956 *Gary Glick

*Hart also played FB and DE

*Cannon also played HB and FB

*Aldrich also played LB

*Bednarik also played center

*Glick was also the kicker in his first two seasons

Last player taken at each position 

Finally, let’s end with seeing the last player who was taken first overall at each position with the top pick.

Position Year drafted Player
QB 2016 Jared Goff
HB/FB 1995 Ki-Jana Carter
WR/End/SE 1996 Keyshawn Johnson
TE 1960 Billy Cannon
OL (Tackle) 2013  Eric Fisher
OL (Center) 1939 Ki Aldrich
DE 2017 Myles Garrett
DT  1994  Dan Wilkinson
LB  1988  Aundray Bruce
DB 1956 Gary Glick


Info and sources:

Featured Image: “NFL Draft 2010 Set at Radio City Music Hall” by Marianne O’Leary is licensed under CC BY-2.0

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/draft/ (Use to take note of each player’s listed position)

All charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs

NFL Draft: Who selects the #1 pick and from where?

The 83rd NFL Draft is taking place next week and for the second consecutive year, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock. However, what does history have to say about who most often selects the first overall pick and from where?

Which teams have most often had the #1 pick?

The Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams have both selected the top pick in the NFL draft seven times in their franchises histories. Indianapolis last used the first pick to take Andrew Luck in 2012, while Los Angeles took Jared Goff in 2016.

The 2018 draft will see the Browns select the #1 pick for the fifth time, tying them with the Buccaneers for second place.


*Titans made all their #1 picks as the Oilers

*The Boston Yanks were active from 1944-48

Teams to have the #1 pick once: Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jets, Panthers, Raiders, and Saints

Team to never have the #1 pick: Broncos, Jaguars, Ravens, and Seahawks

What colleges have produced the most #1 picks?

Over the last 82 NFL drafts, five colleges have produced 22 (26.82%) of the #1 overall picks. There have been 16 colleges to have at least 2 players taken with the top selection, with Notre Dame and USC tied at the top. However, USC can be in first place all by themselves if quarterback Sam Darnold is taken by the Browns next Thursday.


The last Notre Dame player taken #1 was defensive end Walt Patulski in 1972, while the last USC player taken first was quarterback Carson Palmer in 2003.

Schools to have one player taken #1 include: Alabama, Central Michigan, Chicago, Colorado State, Florida State, Fresno State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisana Tech, Michigan State, Mississippi, NC State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Pennsylvania, Rice, SMU, South Carolina, Syracuse, *Tampa, Tennessee State, Texas A&M, Tulane, UCLA, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington and Washington State.

*The University of Tampa discontinued its football program in 1974

Where are #1 picks born?

Out of the 82 players that have been selected #1 in the NFL draft, 18 (21.95%) of them were born in Texas or California. 21 of the 50 states (42%) have never produced a player who was selected with the top pick in the NFL draft.

Number of #1 picks born in state.png

Same map but in gradient colors

# of players taken 1st in draft born in state.png

Only two players selected first overall was not born in one of the 50 states. 2012’s top pick Andrew Luck was born in Washington, D.C., while 1943’s top pick Frank Sinkwich was born in Starjak, Croatia.


Info and sources:

Featured Image: “2011 NFL Draft stage” by Marianne O’Leary is licensed under CC BY-2.0

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/draft/ (Use to note team and college player was drafted from, clicked on each player to find place of birth)

Map of player’s place of birth made using https://mapchart.net/

All other charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs

A history of NBA scoring trends

With the 72nd regular season of the NBA having wrapped up last week, let’s take a look at how scoring trends have changed over the course of the sport’s history. From the sport slowing down in terms of points scored to the impact the addition of the three-point line has had, the NBA has changed a lot over half a century.

NBA scoring over time

The highest scoring season in NBA history was the 1961-62 season, in which the league averaged 118.8 points. Unsurprisingly, the lowest scoring year was the first season (1946-47), with an average of 67.8 points.

Points per game

The 13 season stretch from 1995-96 through 2007-08 is the longest stretch in NBA history in which the league averaged under 100 points. However, scoring has been up in recent years. This past season (2017-18) saw an average of 106.3 points, the most since the 1990-91 season (106.3 points).

The NBA seasons that have seen the most field goal attempts are also some of the highest scoring years in league history, which all came before the advent of the three-point line.

1960-61: 109.4 shots, 118.1 points (2nd all time)

1959-60: 108.7 shots, 115.3 points (T-7th all time)

1961-62: 107.7 shots, 118.8 points (1st all time)

1966-67: 103.1 shots, 117.4 points (3rd all time)

1965-66: 102.4 shots, 115.5 points (6th all time)

Points vs Shots

The NBA has not seen a season with over 100 shots attempted since 1967-68 (100.8). The league has not seen a year with over 90 shots attempted since 1979-80 (90.6), which was the first season the three-point line was introduced. In fact, from 1983-84 until 2015-16, the NBA averaged under 85 shots attempts per season until the past two years (2016-17, 85.4 and 2017-18, 86.1).

PPG vs leading scorer

From 1959-60 until 1971-72 every season in the NBA saw at least 110 points be averaged per season. This span was also when the 9 of the top 12 top scoring seasons by a player in NBA history happened.

Player Year PPG Scoring Avg. Shots per game
Wilt Chamberlain 1961-62 50.36 118.8 (1st) 107.7 (3rd)
Wilt Chamberlain 1962-63 44.83 115.3 (T-7th) 101.2 (8th)
Wilt Chamberlain 1960-61 38.39 118.1 (2nd) 109.4 (1st)
Wilt Chamberlain 1959-60 37.60 115.3 (T-7th) 108.7 (2nd)
Michael Jordan 1986-87 37.09  109.9 (17th)  88.8 (29th)
Wilt Chamberlain 1963-64 36.85 111 (11th) 99.1 (12th)
Rick Barry 1966-67 35.58 117.4 (3rd) 103.1 (4th)
Kobe Bryant 2005-06 35.40  97 (49th)  79 (62nd)*
Michael Jordan 1987-88 34.98  108.2 (T-23rd)  87.8 (34)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1971-72 34.84 110.2 (T-15th) 95.5 (17th)
Elgin Baylor 1960-61 34.77 118.1 (2nd) 109.4 (1st)
Wilt Chamberlain 1964-65 34.71 110.6 (13th) 99.8 (10th)

*Only seasons with less shot attempts were 1998-99 (78.2), 1952-53 (77.1) and 1953-54 (75.4).


The battle of two-pointers vs. three-pointers 

In the 1979-80 season, the NBA introduced the three-point line, which has had a profound impact on the league in recent years. While it took over a decade, the three-pointer really exploded in the middle of the 1990s and has risen across the league ever since. The 2017-18 season almost saw more three-pointers attempted (29), then two-point field goals made (29.1).

Shots taken and attempted

shot percentage

Although fewer two-pointers are being taken since the three-point line was introduced, the rise of the three has seen an increase in the percentage of two-point shots made. The last two seasons, 2016-17 (50.30%) and 2017-18 (51%), saw the first time over half of two-point attempts had been made.

Meanwhile, the NBA’s overall field goal has suffered as more three-pointers are being attempted. Despite the increased significance of the three, the NBA as a whole has not gotten better at making them. Since the 1991-92 season, the three-point percentage for each season has been between 33.10% and 36.70%.

The NBA’s embrace of the three-point shot

The most successful teams over the past few seasons have embraced an increase in three-point attempts, in no small part due to data analytics which has taken over much of the league.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the Golden State Warriors often get credit for ushering in this three-point revolution, In the last six seasons, Curry and Thompson have accounted for six of the top seven seasons in NBA history in terms of made threes.

However, it appears as if the Houston Rockets are taking it to the next level, led by GM Daryl Morey, head coach Mike D’Antoni, and All-Star James Harden. In the last two seasons, Houston has averaged 41.3 three-point attempts per game, 6.5 more on average than the next closest team.

To see the full extent of the change lets look at the Minnesota Timberwolves, who attempted the least threes per game (22.5) this year. Even the team taking the least threes is shooting more then what the league average was in 2014-15 (22.4), only three years ago.

It will remain to be seen how much higher this three-point revolution could go. Next season could possibly be the first to see more three-pointers attempted per game then two-point field goals made.

The rise of the three-pointer has revitalized scoring in the NBA to levels it has not seen in over two decades. If this rise in three-pointers continues at its current pace, it is possible the NBA could see 1960s levels of scoring.


Info and sources:

Featured Image: “Wilt ‘The Stilt” Chamberlain, 1967, Philadelphia, PA., 1967” by Cliff is licensed under CC BY-2.0

https://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/BAA_1947.html (analyzed league stats for average points, two-pointers, three-pointers, shooting percentage and the league leader in points for each season up until 2017-18)



Charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs