The Case for NOT Drafting Geno Smith...


From the FanPosts -Joel

Like just about everyone else, I’m of the opinion that if there’s one QB prospect that stands head and shoulders above the rest, then the Chiefs have to draft him. Many are adamant that Geno Smith is that guy, but this Fanpost is based on the opposite premise, i.e., Smith does not qualify as the obvious number one selection. If you’ve already bought club seats on the ‘Geno-or-bust’ bandwagon, then you might not want to play along with this supposition. Otherwise, read on.

I like Geno Smith. I really do. Sure, I have doubts about his long ball, and his perfectionism reminds me a little too much of Peyton Manning, but honestly, the Chiefs should be so lucky. Unluckily, there’s plenty of reason to question whether Geno is the one true QB. Just check out the mass of AP posts to see the range of fan favorites out there. We didn’t see this kind of chatter in 2011 or 2012. Look at the Big Boards posted by the ‘draft experts’. Geno Smith usually tops the QB list, but I’ve also seen Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, and Ryan Nassib ranked higher – and I’ve seen where none of these guys crack the top 20, let alone the top 10. I’ve read that if you ask three pro scouts to name the top QB prospect, you’ll get three different answers. Maybe all this uncertainty is just the meme of the moment, but it might just represent the "wisdom of the crowd".

The historical record also supports the possibility that 2013 could be a down year for quarterbacks. The table at the end of this post lists every 1st-round quarterback drafted since the year 2000. What’s interesting for this study is that we can sort the careers of the 36 players taken into 6 categories:

Category Count
Franchise QB 8
Plus Starter 4
Solid Starter 5
Minus Starter 9
Bust 6
Too Soon To Tell 4

I’m sure that readers will disagree with me here and there, but the story the data tells is that for once, the conventional wisdom has it right. The probability of drafting a 1st-round QB who goes on to have at least a solid career isn’t much better than a 50/50 proposition, and the odds decline to 1 in 4 if you are looking for a franchise QB who can give you 120 starts, 12 playoff games, and the occasional Pro-Bowl appearance. I suspect most fans are like me: the Chiefs better be 98% sure they are drafting a franchise QB with the #1 pick because ending up with Sam Bradford (a.k.a., the Tyson Jackson of quarterbacks) ain’t gonna cut it.

Another way of reaching the same perspective is to look at the 32 players who finished the 2012 season as their team’s number one quarterback. I would say 13 of these QBs are true franchise players. They are Peyton Manning (#1 in 1999), Tom Brady (199th in 2000), Drew Brees (#32 in 2001), Eli Manning (#1 in 2004), Ben Roethlisberger (#11 in 2004), Aaron Rodgers (#24 in 2005), Matt Ryan (#3 in 2008), Joe Flacco (#18 in 2008), Cam Newton (#1 in 2011), Colin Kaepernick (#36 in 2011), Andrew Luck (#1a in 2012), Robert Griffin III (#1b in 2012), and Russell Wilson (#75 in 2012). Five of these QBs were drafted #1 – or for RG3, #1b – overall, four more were drafted in the 1st round, and four were drafted in Round 2 or later. Notice too that since the millennium, the drafts from 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010 have produced neither a "Plus Starter" nor a franchise QB (although only the 2002 and 2007 classes were so dismal that they did not produce so much as one solid starter). That’s six sub-par drafts in the span of 13 years. So while it may be true that most franchise QBs are found in Round 1, it does not follow that a franchise QB is inevitably available in the first round of each year’s draft.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the other players who came out of the not-so-good drafts from the perspective of QB talent.

Yes, I have fully embraced 20/20 hindsight here because my point is to underscore how many good players are available in every draft. Some of these guys – Calvin Johnson, anyone? – were scouted at the time as can’t-miss stars. By over-drafting a QB, teams like the Raiders, Titans, and Texans foolishly gave up the chance to draft these Pro-bowl players.

In view of these facts, the Chiefs must consider both the opportunity cost in reaching for a QB as well as the likelihood that the team can trade down and still get ‘its guy’ later in the draft. We’ve got 10 weeks to debate which players the Chiefs might take instead of a QB with their top pick. (BJ Kissel kick-started the discussion here.) I want to address the second question: what are the chances that Chiefs can find their QBOTF later in Round 1 or early in Round 2?

To answer this, let’s continue our review of starting NFL QBs. We can be sure that the 13 teams with franchise QBs will not select another QB with their first pick. Moreover, there are six teams with established starters for whom taking a QB early would register as a stupendous surprise: the Bengals w/Andy Dalton, the Texans with Matt Schaub, the Chargers with Philip Rivers, the Cowboys with Tony Romo, the Bears with Jay Cutler, and the Lions with Matt Stafford. Finally, there are the eight teams whose current investments in QB make it unlikely that they’ll draft a QB in the first round of this draft: Dolphins, Browns, Eagles, Raiders, Vikings, Buccaneers, Titans, and Rams. That leaves the Chiefs (1), Jaguars (2), Cardinals (7), Bills (8), and Jets (9) as the teams that desperately need to improve at the QB position (draft order listed in parentheses).

The record says that not all of these teams will end up using a 1st or 2nd round pick on a QB. I’m not going to tabulate the data, but if you were to review the history of QBs drafted going back to 1936, you would see any number of years where teams in need of a QB didn’t select one in the early rounds. Heck, we can just take the Chiefs as Exhibit A for this point! So maybe the Bills stand pat in hopes that Ryan Fitzpatrick will get them through 2013; maybe the Jets or Jaguars swing a deal for Alex Smith or Matt Flynn; but let’s just suppose that the Chiefs are competing with at most three other teams for one of the top QB prospects in 2013. (And isn’t it ironic: we’ve bemoaned the weakness of this draft in comparison to 2011 and 2012, but here it turns out that the bumper crop from those years actually helps the Chiefs’ draft strategy in 2013!)

The site lists the top 7 QB prospects in order as Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, EJ Manuel, and Tyler Bray. It’s reasonable to suppose the Chiefs like three or four of these QBs about the same, and I have no doubt that Andy Reid could work successfully with any of them. Rather than drafting Geno Smith, the Chiefs could use their #1 pick to shore up the defense, or they could trade down as far as the low 20s and either way, they’d still have a shot at a good QB prospect.

What’s a trade from #1 to, say, #7 worth? Well,

  • In 2012 Washington swapped #6 for #2, plus two future first round picks and a second round pick to take Robert Griffin III. Of course, there’s no RGIII in the 2013 draft, so we can throw that trade out as a benchmark.
  • Cleveland gave Minnesota 2012 picks from the 4th, 5th, and 7th rounds just to move from #4 to #3. Dallas traded its 1st and 2nd round picks to move from #14 to #6. In 2011, Atlanta traded its 1st, 2nd, and 4th round picks plus its 2012 1st and 4th round picks to move from #27 to #6.
  • Meanwhile, the Jaguars traded 1st and 2nd round picks to the Redskins to move from #16 to #10.

Thus, it looks like the minimum reward for moving down 6 or 8 spots is an additional 2nd round pick. The Chiefs could keep this extra pick or they could turn around and package it and/or their third round pick to get back into the first round. Either way, they’d be virtually certain of getting one of the guys they like plus another valuable prospect. It’s like free money!

Now, I’m not adamant that the Chiefs trade down, but I would absolutely endorse a low-risk, high-reward gamble like this. The team will have turned the #1 overall into at least one more high-value pick while still drafting their now and future QB. Management would also demonstrate that it has the nerve and the savvy to use existing assets to improve their strategic position. If we assume that Chiefs GM John Dorsey and Coach Andy Reid actually know what they’re doing (and if they don’t, the Chiefs are screwed no matter what they do), then the only real downside is that this hypothetical draft class for the Chiefs would not include Geno Smith. I’ve almost convinced myself that it’s worth the risk. Time, and perhaps the NFL Combine, will tell whether the Chiefs agree.

As promised, here’s the chart of the 36 first-round quarterbacks drafted since the year 2000. (Note: an asterisk after the player name indicates that he completed the 2012 season as his team's starter.

"Verdict" Key
1 Franchise QB
2 Plus Starter
3 Solid Starter
4 Minus Starter
5 Bust
?? Too Soon To Tell
Player Year Pick # Years in NFL % Games Started Total Games Started Playoff Games Started Pro Bowls My Verdict
Chad Pennington 2000 18 11 49% 87 6 0 3
Michael Vick 2001 1 10 64% 106 5 4 2
David Carr 2002 1 11 45% 79 0 0 4
Joey Harrington 2002 3 9 53% 76 0 0 4
Patrick Ramsey 2002 18 7 21% 24 0 0 5
Carson Palmer* 2003 1 9 84% 123 2 2 2
Byron Leftwich 2003 7 10 45% 51 1 0 4
Kyle Boller 2003 19 8 37% 47 0 0 4
Rex Grossman 2003 22 10 31% 51 4 0 4
Eli Manning* 2004 1 9 94% 146 11 3 1
Philip Rivers 2004 4 9 79% 119 7 4 1
Ben Roethlisberger* 2004 11 9 89% 140 14 2 1
J.P. Losman 2004 22 7 29% 33 0 0 5
Alex Smith 2005 1 8 60% 77 2 0 3
Aaron Rodgers* 2005 24 8 67% 86 8 3 1
Jason Campbell 2005 25 8 55% 71 0 0 4
Vince Young 2006 3 6 53% 87 1 0 4
Matt Leinart 2006 10 6 19% 18 0 0 5
Jay Cutler* 2006 11 7 85% 95 2 1 3
JaMarcus Russell 2007 1 3 31% 25 0 0 5
Brady Quinn 2007 22 5 30% 24 0 0 5
Matt Ryan* 2008 3 5 98% 83 5 1 1
Joe Flacco* 2008 18 5 100% 93 13 0 1
Matthew Stafford* 2009 1 4 68% 4 1 0 2
Mark Sanchez 2009 5 4 97% 68 0 0 4
Josh Freeman* 2009 17 4 87% 56 0 0 3
Sam Bradford 2010 1 3 87% 42 0 0 3
Tim Tebow 2010 25 3 32% 16 2 0 4
Cam Newton* 2011 1 2 100% 32 0 1 2
Jake Locker* 2011 8 2 34% 11 0 0 ??
Blaine Gabbert 2011 10 2 75% 24 0 0 5
Christian Ponder* 2011 12 2 81% 26 0 0 ??
Andrew Luck* 2012 1a 1 100% 17 1 0 1
Rober Griffin III* 2012 1b 1 88% 15 1 1 1
Ryan Tannehill* 2012 8 1 100% 16 0 0 ??
Brandon Weeden* 2012 12 1 94% 15 0 0 ??

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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