Phil Emery: Developing late-round quarterbacks doesn’t work


Bears General Manager Phil Emery is not a believer in taking a quarterback late in the draft.

Emery says he has studied the development of quarterbacks in the NFL and found that teams that draft quarterbacks in the late round rarely turn those players into franchise starters.

“I just did a little study. It’s very interesting,” Emery said. “That developmental theory doesn’t hold a whole lot of water. There’s entire classes of quarterbacks, since ’06, I went back and looked at from [Jay Cutler’s draft class] on — when people say developmental quarterbacks, OK, so who has gotten developed? There isn’t a single quarterback after the third round since 2006 that has been a long-term starter. So you’re either developing thirds, and most of them have been wiped out of the league. So to get a quality quarterback, you’ve got to draft them high. That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that’s unusual, highly unusual.

In 2012, the Seahawks got Russell Wilson in the third round and the Eagles got Nick Foles in the third round. But Emery says the good quarterbacks are usually snapped up in the first and second rounds.

“That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that’s unusual, highly unusual,” Emery said. “Most of the starters in this league come from the first and second round. So that’s where you need to take a quarterback. So when you talk about quarterback every year, they have to be somebody that you truly believe will beat out the second and third quarterback that you perceive on your roster. And if not, history shows that you shouldn’t make that pick.”

There is, of course, a glaring exception in Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 1999. But according to Emery, the odds of finding a quarterback late in the draft are so long that you’re better off not trying.

75 responses to “Phil Emery: Developing late-round quarterbacks doesn’t work

  1. No matter where you draft a QB, it’s still a crapshoot. The ones who are good starters from year one are the rare exceptions. Even greats like Manning, Elway and Aikman took time to develop – and for every franchise QB taken in Rd1 that had winning careers, you can find another who never amounted to much.

  2. I’d prefer taking the great prospect in rd 1/2 and having him fail than setting my hopes on finding the next Tom Brady in the 6th.

  3. QBs are expected to slide in the draft and seems Emery is trying to scare a few teams into reaching for QBs before the 14th pick (since they ain’t takin one)…

  4. Strongly disagree with that assessment, especially if you go back a little farther. Plenty of QBs drafted later or undrafted have been major contributors or gotten their teams high draft picks in return. KWarner, TRomo, MHasselbeck, RGannon, DGarrard, MCassell, JDelhomme, MBulger, TGreen, JGarcia, KOrton, DAnderson, DFlutie, JKitna, EGrbac, etc. Why not take a shot instead of drafting a special teamer that will be lucky to make your team anyway?

  5. In general, 1st or 2nd round draft picks at every position do better. Look at the make up of any good team and you will see plenty of top picks. Patriots have tons of first and seconds for example. It doesn’t mean you don’t develop late round picks and see what happens. For QBs it’s no different. You take guys in the later rounds and try to develop them. You always need back ups anyway if it doesn’t work out. Consistently good teams are rarely going to get the top few QBs in the draft unless they purposely tank for a year like the Colts.

  6. If you don’t have a QB, the other 52 on the roster have little chance of success. The teams continually in the playoffs have a good to great QB.

  7. If you need a study to tell you that the higher the draft pick, the better that QBs chances are, you’re in trouble.

    But drafting one in the first doesn’t make him good. It still comes down to uncommonly great evaluation skills.

  8. You think about developing a player when you spend a larger amount of resources to obtain him. If you’re drafting a late-round qb, you are giving him a chance to compete. He can learn as much or as little as he wants. If you’re drafting a late round qb to develop him into a starter, you probably should have picked him up sooner.

  9. I agree somewhat and disagree on others. There have been plenty of busts on QBs taken in the 1st and 2nd Rounds. Question is are those QBs taken in the 1st or 2nd Round only because their QBs or do they truly deserve to be taken that high. Ryan Leaf bust, tim Couch bust, Akili Smith bust, Christian Ponder bust, Blaine Gabbert bust ( when Ponder & Gabbert were taken that high i had to laugh),.

    I agree with him that QBs taken late in the draft are long shots with Tom Brady being the major exception to the rule.

    This years draft. Bridgewater, Manziel, Bortles, Carr have no business being taken before the 4th Round. They all will have very short if any NFL careers

  10. 1st rounders are given chance after chance to make it and later round QB’s are given up after a bad game or two. Jake Locker is given another year for what reason? My Jags just wasted another year on Gabbert “to see” if he would become something. Bradford has shown no reason to keep him except for he was a 1st overall QB.

    You don’t need to draft a QB every year and give up too quickly but if you look at the long term history of the draft the top ten QB’s are 50% from the first round – Montana, Favre, Brady, Brees all are later round QB’s.

  11. Would you rather just pick someone to “be a starting quarterback,” or someone who could be a multiple Super Bowl winner. It’s not a bad idea to at least CONSIDER late round developmental quarterbacks. Ask people about Montana, Brady, Young, Warner, and possibly Wilson now. Those didn’t work out too poorly. On the flip side, Young, Leinert, Sanchez, Palmer, Cutler, Leftwich, are good examples to the opposite side.

  12. Actually it is not a crap shoot. Quite the opposite. The higher a QB is picked the greater chance of success. QBs that fall do so for good reason. Contrary to media and fan perception GMs are the best in the world at what they do. There are no guarantees but its not random. People that say its all about luck really have no idea what they are talking about. Emery is spot on but its a little short sighted. I do think quality backups at qb are as important as ever with qbs dropping back at record paces

  13. Wait, so you are telling me that the % chance that a draft pick turns out to be a long term starter decreases with each passing round? I never would’ve guessed!

  14. With the right coaches and system, QB’s can be developed no matter what round. Look at the top QB’s and then see who their coaches are!!!

  15. Emery has a valid point: since 2006, rounds 4-7 have not produced any long-term starting-caliber QB’s.

    Let’s compare this to first-round QB’s over that same period:

    2013: EJ Manuel
    2012: Andrew Luck, RGIII, Tannehill, Weeden
    2011: Cam Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder
    2010: Bradford, Tebow
    2009: Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman
    2008: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco
    2007: Jamarcus Russell, Brady Quinn
    2006: Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler

    From an organizational perspective, first-round picks are obviously a far greater investment than mid/late-round picks. Unfortunately, that extra investment rarely produces a quality player.

    An unfortunate truth: the success rate of first-round QB’s is only marginally higher than that of late-round QB’s…..they just cost a lot more. And unlike first-round QB’s, you don’t have to worry about a late-round pick becoming a major setback for your organization if he doesn’t pan out.

  16. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you took the best quarterback available in say the seventh round and gave him all the first team reps and installed him as your starter he would have a much greater chance for success than when he is just sitting in a film room and qb meetings and not getting hardly any practice reps much less game experience.

  17. I always thought Tim Couch was a pretty decent qb that just got hammered because he never had anyone to block for him kinda like David Carr. Both of them got sacked so many times per game it wouldn’t surprise me to hear they both suffer from PTSD

  18. It can be done. The Vikings used to have a lot of success with lower round quarterback picks. Not so much lately. Here’s some of the history, in order of drafts picks 3rd round or lower.

    Fran Tarkenton, Round 3. Hall of Fame, held basically every NFL passing record when retired.

    Steve Dils, Round 4. Started 12 games. Played 6 years for the team and then traded to the Rams.

    Steve Bono, Round 6. Played 2 years in MN, also played for the 49ers and Chiefs.

    Tyler Thigpen, Round 7. Snapped up by the Chiefs when they tried to sneak him through waivers and then also played for the Dolphins and Bills

    Wade Wilson, Round 8. Played 17 years. Pro Bowl, led team to NFC Championship game. Also played for the Cowboys.

    Brad Johnson, Round 9. Spent 7 years with the Vikings. 2 Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl with the Bucs

    Bob Lee, Round 17. Became a starter, then starter for the Falcons, then backup for Tarkenton. Also was the team punter.

  19. I just looked back and did my own study from 1992-2012, as 2013 is too early to assess. In QBs taken in Rounds 1-2, there were 75 QBs taken and only 30 successful or quality careers, thats a 40 percent success rate with 1 incomplete Brock Osweiler.

  20. Eventually teams will wise up and pick a qb every years until they have a winner….why not
    …you keep 3 on the roster anyway and you have the practice squad

  21. Right, you have to draft QB’s in the 1st round like Ponder, Lienart, Weeden, Gabbert, Vince Young if you want to have long term starters.

  22. It still makes sense if you’re a team with a history of at least getting other teams to believe those guys have been developed. Look at Matt Flynn as a recent example. Where would the Packers be if they didn’t draft him in the 7th round (especially after they spent a 2nd rounder in the same draft on Brian Brohm). Ron Wolf used to take a QB in every draft despite having Favre. He flipped Mark Brunnell, Aaron Brooks, and Matt Hasselbeck after investing later picks to draft them. He drafted Ty Detmer as well.

  23. Brady, Hasselback, Bulger I can name off the top of my head. Then you have UFA’s like Room, Warner, and Garcia.

    I think at this point teams are just quicker to move on with both coaches and qb’s so teams never really develop guys.

  24. I had the same problem back in high school gym class. For some reason the players I picked last were never as good as the players I picked first. I’m glad Emery did this study, because its been driving me crazy for years.

  25. Continuation of above study: in rounds 3 and up from 1992-2012, there were 22 QBs had successful careers. Sure on a percentage basis, Emery is correct, but you can still have productive QBs taken in the later rounds if you draft well. Some of these QBs had no business being drafted in rounds 1-2. So lets see 30 out of 75 in Rounds 1-2, where the impacts are much more severe on your organization if you miss, vs 21 successful careers in QBs taken in rounds 3+ during that same time frame.

    Successful is defined as being a starter and/or quality backup for at least 5 years. most of the QBs drafted in Rounds 1-2 are out of the leaugewithin 4 yrs.

    Included in those successes in rounds 3+, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Bruce Gradkowski, Kyle Orton, Derek Anderson, Matt Cassell, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Seneca Wallace, David Garrard, Josh McCown, SageRosenfels, Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Matt Hasselbeck, Gus Frerotte, Mark Brunell, Elvis Grbac, Trent Green, Jeff Blake, Brad Johnson

  26. There is always talk about how many QBs taken in the first round end up not amounting to anything, but I wonder how many QBs taken after round one end up being successful. I bet it would make the first round bust percentage look pretty good. Of course, the guys taken early are given many more chances to prove themselves. If you’re taken in a late round, there is probably a lot working against you.

  27. This is where coaching can make a difference. Take Rodgers and Brady and Brees for example. They can all see the field from sideline to sideline. They can all anticipate where each eligible receiver will be. That is due to exemplary route running and that is due to coaching. The quarterback needs to be able to throw accurately, and these three do. But an effective quarterback is only as good as the sum of his parts. The receivers must be coached to do their jobs well. To say the success of a team is solely due to the quarterback, like Rodgers, is too simplistic.

  28. Well McCown was a first rounder and he sucked until last year and he was drafted in what, um, 2006-7? What that shows along with Gabbert, Leaf, Geno Smith is that sometimes first rounders don’t do jack either.

  29. Thats kind of unfair. Highly drafted QB’s get far more chances to develop than QB’s drafted later. If you draft a guy in the 1st round, he’s not going to get pulled after one start most of the time, and guys drafted later rarely get the chance to have even that one start.
    Of course, you don’t end up being drafted early or late for no reason. You’ve been evaluated for years, and while no one can guarantee who will actually make it, they do a good job of weeding out who won’t make it.
    Regardless, in the end you cannot say that developing a late round QB doesn’t work, or even that there haven’t been late round QB’s in recent years who could have been successful. The keyword there being ‘could’. Because even if there was one guy who could have been, what are the odds he would have gotten the shot to even play, let alone be allowed to develop if he struggled initially.
    Doesn’t matter. Just draft some O-linemen for once Bears. Look at San Fran. Why were they successful? Check out what draft picks they invested in 0-lineman over the last handful of years.

  30. Mr. Emery ignores the fact of the overwhelming number of 1st round picks at QB, who FAIL. I’m not sure of his track record, but if he were that great, everybody would know him.

    One reason lower draft picks fail, is based in the NFL model. This huge nonprofit is reluctant to draft players, who their “brain trust” may tell them, is not projected to go high. Drafting is an art, not a science, so these geniuses are used to jumping on the bandwagon because they are really incapable of judging talent.

    I am convinced that given “true competition”, where a draftee is not anointed before he hits the field, there would be a lot more kids beating out the “chosen ones”.

    Isn’t Leaf and Russell enough to debunk this guy’s theory? Maybe Gabbert, Ponder, Weeden …

  31. If it proves anything, it proves that drafting a qB is not subject to scientific methodology.

    The Packers drafted Bart Starr in the 17th round and got 5 NFL Championships and 2 Superbowls. The Vikings drafted Ponder high in the 1st round and finished in last place 3 out of the last 4 years. The only conclusion one could reasonably make is that the Packers know what they are doing and the Vikings don’t, no matter which round the Qb was taken in.

  32. “Phil Emery: Developing late-round quarterbacks doesn’t work”

    Brian Sipe – Rd 13 – #330 Over All

  33. Just so some of you know. Steve Young was taken 1st overall in a supplemental draft after the collapse of the USFL. He likely would have been taken 1st in round one when he came out but he played in the USFL.

  34. I’m not even sure Emery even believes this. This is a guy who is SUPER secret about drafting and player acquisitions. Suddenly, he gives out his strategy on drafting QBs? I agree with the other poster, he’s trying to get a guy to trade up to 14 to draft a QB.

  35. QBs drafted in the 1st round only have a 40% success rate. Build the rest of your team and than try to plug in a serviceable QB

    examples Seahawks& 49ers

  36. Interesting when you look and see that since 2005 only 2 QB’s drafted in round 1 have won the Superbowl. Rodgers and Flacco and I think most would state that of those 2, Rodger is what most would want in a QB.

    So basically if you look at that and what Emery is saying – no QB at any time is any good.

    Got it.

  37. A lot of you seem to be missing the point. I think he’s got a point. The game isn’t the same as the 80’s and 90’s when you get find guys like Brady. Too much info is out there now. This is from 2006 and on so bringing up moon, warner, etc isn’t what he’s talking about he’s talking about today’s game. Same thing as the draft used to have more then 7 rounds which would mean guys like Super Bowl MVP Richard dent wouldn’t of been drafted.

    Also emery didn’t trade for cutler either that was Angelo that’s like saying belichek lost Super Bowl 20 to the bears woven though he has nothing to so with the team at that point.

  38. Joe Montana was a third round draft pick. Johnny Unitas was a ninth round pick. Matt Schaub – third round, David Garrard – round 4, Marc Bulger – round 6, plus a bunch of guys who have had good careers like Orloff, Orlovsky, Chad Pennington, Seneca Wallace, Charlie Frye, Chris Simms, Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and others. They don’t seem like a bad bet compared to the busts in the first round like Akili Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch and Ryan Leaf, The list of first and second round busts is higher than for the late rounds. These guys are just the most egregious.

  39. This conversation is vastly oversimplified. Emery doesn’t have the time to explain and spoon feed to each and every person how he evaluates QB’s. He gave you a general rule and some of you are taking it literally. Listen to the press conference. He saying that in general, the later rounds have not produced starting or long term QB’s. in addition, you don’t draft a QB unless you think he has the goods anyways. QB success depends on many factors, the team that picks them, offense scheme, weapons, position coaches and on down the line. Later rounds give you better VALUE at other positions…and I agree. Look at ’06 til present from rounds 4 and on for other positions and you will see a much higher success rate.

  40. Phil’s “little study” is just that: little study.

    Does he take other factors into consideration such as O-line talent, receiver talent, COACHING ability, or a franchise’s overall ability to field a winning team?

    Year after year we see the same teams show up on Sundays only to go through the motions. How many great non-QB players are stuck on these teams, lanquishing week after week, unable to shine because of a poor coaching plan, a spiritless locker room.

    It’s not all on the players. Great coaches are able to motivate the young men to do their best and give them a strategy to go out and do it.

    I’d like to see Emery conduct a little study on the winning records of front office people and coaching staffs.

    It’s not just the QB who’s responsible for pulling a team’s chestnuts out of the fire every week. I would say “Shame on Phil Emery”, but really its “Shame on us” if we accept his limited and shallow conclusion here.

  41. A lot of posters are ignoring that NFL scouting has gotten better over the years. New techniques are learned to evaluate players and there has been a tremendous amount of emphasis on QB scouting.

    There might be a reason that no starting QBs were drafted after round 3 from 2006 onward.

  42. What Emery also didn’t mention is that developing 1st round Quarterbacks doesn’t work either. See: Jay Cutler

  43. I sort of see his point. But you can make that case for *any* late-round draft pick: they don’t usually make it to be a starter, much less a valuable starter.

    You only get 53 roster spots to work with. When the GM and head coach are only given three or four seasons to make things work, you need every roster spot every season to make a difference quickly. You are unlikely to have that when you use a roster spot on any low draft pick.

    Using a roster spot for any developmental draft pick is a luxury most coaches and GMs simply do not have.

  44. Tom Brady didn’t become the QB he is today until the Patriots stopped relying on their defense and started to rely heavily on their offense. By the way, the Pats haven’t won a Super Bowl since making that switch. Funny how that works.

  45. “Most of the starters in this league come from the first and second round. So that’s where you need to take a quarterback.”

    This assumes that most of the starters in the league are actually good quarterbacks. They’re not.

    There are a handful of elite QBs. Another handful of good quarterbacks. And there are 20-22 starting quarterbacks that range from mediocre at best to horrid.

    His reasoning is faulty.

  46. Josh McCown and Jay Cutler had they’re best seasons under Emery and Trestman. Josh was the hottest FA QB this year. Jay got a huge contact after his best season, but Emery doesn’t know what he is talking about with his study….

  47. Love the geniuses on here naming all the first round busts they can think of as proof that Emery is wrong. Seriously, take a statistics class.

    It is an absolute statistical fact that the vast majority of franchise level starting QBs in the NFL over time have been high draft picks. Just because you can name a few high draft picks that didn’t make it or a few low round draft picks that did, doesn’t change statistical fact.

    Actually, your ability to so quickly come up with the names of the outliers proves the point- they are noteworthy because of their uniqueness.

  48. Bears fan here and I can say with confidence that Phil Emery would own any poster on this site in matters of player stats and probabilities. This dude is a research geek to the core and for whatever anyone feels about the Bears, he has pulled that organization’s front office forward about 40 yrs since he came on board.

  49. When you’re responsible for breaking the bank for Jay Quitler I guess you could be a bit defensive.

  50. bobzilla1001 says: May 4, 2014 12:13 PM

    By the way, the Pats haven’t won a Super Bowl since making that switch.

    And now go look at win/loss records since “that switch”

    Oh yeah, look at that #1, funny how that works.

  51. From 1992-2012, 52 QBs have been taken in the 1st round, and 24 have had successful careers, only 46% success rate, so to Emery’s point, yes 1st round QB have the best percent chance, but overall, 46% is not a very good percentage, according to the alleged genius scouts. I think this proves how inept scouting depts and organizations are.

  52. Part of the problem is that so many teams keep only two QBs. Late draft picks are relegated to the practice squad, and those players bounce around the league when given a brief opportunity for a regular roster spot. If the league wants to develop quarterbacks, be they top picks, late picks, undrafted or busts getting a second chance, teams should be required to keep a third quarterback.

  53. Montana , Brady, Unitas – all bums. Is he talking about developing no talent or his weakness in understanding what talent is?

  54. He’s in charge of the Bears, there’s an unwritten rule that forbids Bear’s coaches/GMs from developing good QBs.

  55. People… He’s not saying that EVERY late round QB is a failure. Guys like Brady and Unitas are the exception to the rule. And he’s right when he says that. of the 32 starting QBs in the league now, how many were drafted after the 3rd round?

  56. What is the win/loss record? If you know, tell us.
    My point is that defense, not QBs, wins championships.
    I have the utmost respect for Brady. But Brady didn’t become Brady until after his three Super Bowl wins.

  57. Too much is placed on the QB. If you look at majority of the QBs who had success in their rookie year, you would find that majority of them went to a team that already had a solid core of players. Guys like David Carr went to teams with not as much support, which probably destroyed their confidence and their career.

    Even though the importance of having a good QB has grown you still need an OL that can block, you still need WRs that can catch, you still need a RB that can keep the safeties from cheating and a defense that can make few stops every game. This is still the ultimate team sport.

  58. Any thoughts on developing QB’s prior to Marc Trestman coming here don’t apply now in regards to the possibilities. We’ve NEVER had a coach such as Trestman who is genuinely capable of developing a player and getting the most out of him. It all starts with assessing the player and getting the right QB here. If Emery feels the late rd. QB isn’t the answer, I’d take that to the bank! (No doubt Emery and Trestman are on the same page)

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