The 2016 NFL draft provides an interesting case study on when is the best time to draft a quarterback. From an analytics perspective, if you have very high confidence in NFL scouting, or more precisely, the abiity to evaluate quarterbacks, then you take a franchise quarterback at the top of the first round. Obviousy, the other teams are going to do the same thing, and there will be no franchise quarterbacks left after the early first round.
On the other hand, if you believe that quarterbacks are hard to evaluate accurately (hint: this is what the Browns believe), then you are willing to take a flier in a later round, and you're more reluctant to risk a high pick on a quarterback.
This is just the concept of risk. Do you believe drafting quarterbacks is a low risk proposition, or is it high risk?
So look at the draft capital burned for the first round guys last year. I think the trend is easier to understand if you look at the entire group of first rounders, rather than just one particular guy (who might inspire hallucinations of greatness). In 2016 Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went first and second overall, and Pax Lynch was taken in the late first round. We coud also add Sam Bradford to the list, since he accounts for a number 1 and conditional number 4 pick. As shown in the table, teams traded a total of 15 picks including 6 number one picks to land these four quarterbacks guys. It's absolutely insane how much teams are willing to pay for quarterbacks.
In all, for qbs in the first round, the 4 treams traded the following:
Teams Spent: Teams Got:
6 number one picks Jared Goff
3 number twos, Carson Wentz
5 number threes. Pax Lynch
1 number 4 (conditional) Sam Bradford
Jiminy Christmas, that's 13 draft picks including some really pricey ones, and I'm not real sure that they are really that good. Jared Goff was All-Nothing in his first year, and Carson Wentz struggled, and Pax Lynch didn't play for the Broncos.
Now let's see what happened for the rest of the draft.
Teams spent: Teams got:
1 number two Dak Prescott
2 number threes Jacoby Brissett
3 number fours Cody Kessler
1 number five Connor Cook
4 number sixes. Cardake Jones
1 number seven Kevin Hogan
If you believe in the Brandt draft point system, the mid-first round iis worth roughly 1000 points, 2nd round is 400 poinnts, 3rd round is 200 points 4th round 70, 5th round 35 6th round 20 and 7th round 10. In rough terms the top 3 guys were worth about between 6000 and 7000 points, and the bottom 12 guys totalled under 1500 points.
So, obviously if the NFL knows as much about quaterbacks as they think, the first round guys should be worth FOUR times what the bottom guys were worth.
But that is not the case. Although there are a number of guys who are never going to make it, there were some standouts in 2016 from the later rounds. Dak Prescott, Jacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler clearly outperfromed Goff, Wentz and Lynch. In particular, in theory Goff was worth SEVENTY FIVE (75) TIMES Dak Prescott.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the top quarterbacks were way overvalued. The scouting was NOT super accurate. If anything it was super inaccurate.
Goff, Wentz and Lynch may develop and make a better accounting for themselves but even so they are not vastly superior to Dak Prescott. Goff is never ever going to be judged to be seventy five times more valuable than Dak Prescott. Those who think that the NFL can accurately predictt quarterback performance are wrong.
The obvious conclusion is that NFL scouts can not accurately predict quarterback performance, or you would never get guys like Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and others in the mid to late rounds. That's why it makes sense to draft somebody else with your first round pick, and usually not a quarterback unless he is truly a no-doubter like Andrew Luck.