Finding Your Franchise Quarterback

While watching my fantasy Seahawks franchise quarterback of the future play a horrible game against Nebraska today, I found myself wondering if drafting a quarterback is the best way to go. We have, after all, already traded for Charlie Whitehurst, and the best quarterback in franchise history was acquired via a trade with Green Bay. Maybe we should just stick with Whitehurst, and forget about this whole drafting a QB thing.

I decided to take a look at all 32 starting quarterbacks to see how they were acquired:

Almost 60% of the starting QBs were drafted, 25% were acquired via trade and just over 15% were signed as free agents. Tony Romo and Drew Brees are the only elite QBs signed as free agents, and Romo is a little unique in that he was an undrafted free agent that has spent his entire career with one team.

Not surprisingly, nearly 2/3rds of NFL starting QBs are with their original team. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Seahawks fans aren’t interested in having Matt Moore or Jake Delhomme on the team. We want an elite QB that can lead us to the Super Bowl, so let’s focus on the top 15 QBs in the NFL. I’m going to use John Clayton’s ESPN ranking of top QBs as a basis since it’s as good as any other. I’m going to modify it just a bit to look at top QBs that are part of their franchise’s future plans. Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre may be top 15 QBs, but both were acquired via trade late in their careers, so including them in the mix would not tell an accurate story of how teams build at that position. Here’s the modified list:

Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
Drew Brees
Ben Roethlisberger
Aaron Rodgers
Philip Rivers
Tony Romo
Carson Palmer
Eli Manning
Joe Flacco
Matt Ryan
Matt Schaub
Jay Cutler
Matt Hasselbeck
Sam Bradford (sorry, he’s just way better than the other guys on Clayton’s list)

Of this upper crust, 11 are with their original team. Ten were drafted by that team, and Tony Romo was signed as an undrafted free agent. Drew Brees was a free agent signing and Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler were traded. When you move to the top 10 or top 5, all of the players are with their original teams except Brees.

In other words, while acquiring a QB that can develop into your franchise player is possible, it is highly unlikely.