No draft decision is as important as a quarterback draft decision. And historically, some NFL franchises have made better ones than others. But who has been the best? The worst? We turned to the numbers to find out.
To rank all 32 teams based on their quarterback-drafting prowess, we used Pro Football Reference's weighted career approximate value (AV) to measure production -- stretching all the way back to the start of the common draft era in 1967. But this isn't as simple as summing every QB's weighted career AV. We wanted to also adjust for where they were selected. Anyone can pick a superstar at No. 1 overall, but grabbing a Russell Wilson in the third round takes more skill. So think of this as production above -- or below -- expectation given where the player was selected.
We also made an adjustment for the year a player was drafted. Recent draftees haven't had the opportunity to build up a career's worth of AV yet, though this doesn't entirely solve the issue, so someone like Patrick Mahomes will still probably look a lot more valuable in a few years than he does now by this measure.
Let's look at how every NFL franchise has fared in quarterback-drafting since 1967, starting with the six-time Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Note: This exercise uses weighted career AV, which puts more weight on a player's best seasons, as opposed to simply totaling the AVs earned each season. For simplicity, I'll simply call it AV or career AV from here on out.
1. New England Patriots
Total drafted QB career AV above expectation: 304
Best value pick: Tom Brady, No. 199 in 2000
Worst value pick: Tom Hodson, No. 59 in 1990
How could it be anyone else? The name of the game here is production over expectation based on draft pick, and the Patriots found arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in the sixth round. The Patriots are so far out in front here that even if we didn't count their second-highest-performing quarterback -- Rich Gannon, drafted in the fourth round in 1987 -- they would still be the top team.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
Total drafted QB career AV above expectation: 197
Best value pick: Drew Brees, No. 32 in 2001
Worst value pick: Ryan Leaf, No. 2 in 1998
I saw the Chargers at No. 2, and for a moment, I thought, "Huh?" But then it clicked. Even with the Leaf disaster, the Chargers have drafted several successful quarterbacks ... for other teams. The aforementioned Brees is one. Eli Manning and Trent Green are two more.
Add in Dan Fouts, a Hall of Famer drafted with the 64th overall pick who did play for them, and it all makes perfect sense.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Total drafted QB career AV above expectation: 167
Best value pick: Peyton Manning, No. 1 in 1998
Worst value pick: Art Schlichter, No. 4 in 1982
Though selected with the first overall pick in 1998, Manning still accumulated the fourth-most AV above expectation of any quarterback, and the most among all players selected in the first round. That's in pretty sharp contrast to Manning's successor in Indianapolis, who also was selected with the first overall pick: Andrew Luck. Though Luck beat expectations for a first overall pick, he ended up only 15 AV units ahead of that expectation because of his early retirement. Manning was more than 100 units past that.
You know who else is boosting the Colts' numbers here? John Elway. The Baltimore Colts selected Elway with the first overall pick in 1983, but the future Hall of Famer refused to play for them and successfully forced a trade to Denver.