If you want to win a Super Bowl, you better have an elite quarterback. And if you want an elite quarterback, you better have a top-10 pick in the draft.
Because with a few notable exceptions, the middle rounds of the draft and even the second half of the first round are a dead zone for impact quarterbacks.
In the last 20 years, 84 quarterbacks have been taken in the second through fourth round of the draft. Only eight of them went to a Pro Bowl. Only two of them went to multiple Pro Bowls.
During the same 20-year span, 16 first-round quarterbacks have become Pro Bowlers and 13 of those 16 were taken among the first 11 picks in the draft.
So heres the math: 15 of 33 quarterbacks taken among the first 11 picks over the past 20 years have become Pro Bowl picks.
Thats 45 percent.
From Pick 12 of the first round through the end of the fourth round, 99 quarterbacks have been drafted, and only nine have gone to at least one Pro Bowl.
Thats nine percent.
More importantly: If you dont draft a QB at the top of the first round, your best bet to win a Super Bowl is to snag one in the late rounds or a free agent.
Eleven of the last 20 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks have been drafted among the top 11 picks. Only three were selected anywhere from No. 12 in the first round through the end of the fifth round late first-round pick Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre and Drew Brees, who were both among the first few picks in the second round (Brees 32, Favre 33).
The rest? Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, Brad Johnson a ninth-round pick and Kurt Warner undrafted. Going back one more year you have Mark Rypien, a sixth-round pick.
What does all this mean?
If you want to win a Super Bowl, you better draft a quarterback very early. If not, dont bother drafting one until very late.
The last quarterback drafted between pick No. 33 (Favre) and pick No. 199 (Brady) to win a Super Bowl was Jeff Hostetler, a third-round pick in 1984.
That was 28 years ago.
All of which is a long way of saying that its pointless for the Eagles to try to find a successor to Michael Vick in this years draft.
Vick will turn 32 in June, hasnt won a playoff game in eight years and has only survived 16 games once in his career. The Eagles like Mike Kafka, who enters his third year, but although hes shown some promise in his brief appearances, theres no reason to believe hes a future elite QB.
So there has been a lot of speculation that the Eagles will draft a quarterback this year. The 15th pick wont help. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be the first two picks in the draft, and the Eagles arent particularly high on Ryan Tannehill, wholl be the third quarterback taken.
The Eagles have two picks in the second round, but the neighborhood where they pick No. 46 and No. 51 has historically been one that simply does not produce elite QBs. The last Super Bowl winner taken with a pick in the 40s or 50s was Ken Stabler, the 52nd pick in 1968.
You are betting against the odds, Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman said. Most franchise quarterbacks are going to come from the top of the draft and then as you go deeper into the draft its harder to find players.
Most years, you have a so-called franchise quarterback or you have someone the pundits agree is a franchise quarterback and hes not going to make it out of the first few picks.
Roseman points out thats true with every position. But its far more extreme with quarterbacks.
You might get a good quarterback in the middle rounds. If youre lucky, you might even get a Jake Plummer, Matt Schaub or David Garrard. But your odds of landing a franchise QB are remote.
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock talked about this Thursday in a conference call with football writers and broke down the numbers in a slightly different way.
The conclusion is the same.
In the last eight drafts, there have been 23 quarterbacks taken in the first round, Mayock said. Fifteen of them are starters. In that same time frame there have been 82 quarterbacks drafted in rounds two through seven. Out of those 82, seven have become starters.
So from a statistical perspective, you've got less than a 10 percent chance of drafting a starting quarterback outside of the first round. So I think what's happening in this quarterback-driven league is we are getting a frenzy towards these top guys and it's pushing value up.
Last year Jake Locker went eight and Christian Palmer went 12. I thought that was too high for both of them.
This QB obsession has driven Ryan Tannehill, a converted wide receiver with 12 career wins in college, into a likely top-eight pick.
If you take him at face value today with 19 starts, he shouldn't be a top-10 pick, Mayock said. Hes got a lot of potential. I love the kid, I love his work ethic. I love his potential. But he shouldn't be a top-10 pick. Maybe not a top 15 or 20 pick. But in today's NFL, theres a good chance he will be.
All of this creates a bit of a dilemma for the Eagles. They were 3-13 in 1998 in Ray Rhodes final year, which allowed them to take Donovan McNabb with the second pick in 1999. And although McNabb never won a Super Bowl, he did have a very good career, with nine playoff wins, five NFC title game appearances and a three-point Super Bowl loss.
But since 2000, when the Eagles took Corey Simon with the sixth pick, they havent had a top-12 pick. Which helps explain why they signed Michael Vick when they had the chance. Their odds of drafting a franchise quarterback will remain minimal unless they have another three- or four-win season, something the Andy Reid Eagles have never done.
They tried with Kevin Kolb in the second round, but he obviously didnt work out for the Eagles (or the Cards so far).
Bottom line: If the Eagles do draft a quarterback in the middle rounds next week, it will be a shock.
So the franchises Super Bowl hopes will likely remain in the hands of Michael Vick for the foreseeable future.
Or until the Eagles can find a way to elbow their way into a top-10 pick.
Michael is still a young quarterback and he looks great to me, Roseman said. Hes healthy and hes determined and we feel very lucky to have him as our franchise quarterback.
There are certain positions on our football team that are always going to be a priority. Thats a hard position to find.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org