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Success of first round quarterbacks: by the numbers

How does Joe Flacco compare to other first round quarterbacks and what do the numbers tell us to expect from Lamar Jackson?

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Since the beginning of the Super Bowl era in 1967, 112 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. On average, two quarterbacks are selected in the first round each year. The highest number of quarterbacks taken in the first (six) occurred in 1983. For perspective, five quarterbacks were selected in the first night of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Zero quarterbacks were called in the first round in 1974, 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1996. When the Ravens wrote down Lamar Jackson’s name for the final pick of the first round, Baltimore selected a quarterback on the first day of the draft for the first time since selecting Joe Flacco with the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft. 10 years later, what insights does the historical data on past selections gleam when it comes to expectations for Jackson? How has Joe Flacco stacked up against the numbers*?

Years in the League

According to the NFL Players Association, the average NFL career spans just 3.3 years. First round quarterbacks outpace this statistic by 5.6 seasons. Excluding active players, first round quarterbacks averaged 8.9 years in the NFL, with Vinny Testaverde (class of 1987) staking claim to the longest career at 21 years. Greg Cook (1969), Todd Marinovich (1991), Jim Druckenmiller (1997), Cade McNown (1999) and Johnny Manziel (2014) flamed out the fastest after just two seasons.

Comparing Flacco: Flacco has already outpaced the average, entering his 11th year with the Ravens.


Completion Percentage

Chad Pennington (2000) has the second highest completion percentage among all NFL quarterbacks at 66 percent. Drew Brees, a second round selection in 2001, ranks first with 66.9 percent. Jim Druckenmiller recorded the lowest completion percentage, 40.4, in his two-year stint. First round selections average a completion percentage of 56.4.

Comparing Flacco: Flacco ranks above the average, completing 61.70 percent of his passes for his career.

Passer Rating

Druckenmiller again brings down the average for first rounders with a 29.2 passer rating. Aaron Rodgers (2005) tops the all-time leaders list with a 103.8 rating. Behind Rodgers, Russell Wilson, a third round selection in 2012, boasts a 98.8 passer rating ahead of Tom Brady. First round selections average a 74 rating.

Comparing Flacco: With an 84.1 passer rating, Flacco again out performs the average for his fellow first rounders.


Pro Bowl Selections

First round quarterbacks have been invited to the Pro Bowl 143 times. Peyton Manning (1998) blows his peers out of the water with 14 Pro Bowl selections, the most among all quarterbacks. Tom Brady, the most famous sixth round selection, has received the invite 13 times during his career. Only 41.12 percent of first round selections have received Pro Bowl nods.

Comparing Flacco: Joe Flacco joins the majority with zero Pro Bowls on his resume.

First-Team All-Pro Selections

Since 1967, a first round quarterback has only been named a First-Team All-Pro 19 times. In similar fashion to the Pro Bowl, Manning leads all signal callers with seven selections. A mere 9.35 percent of first rounders were named to the First-Team All-Pro list in their career.

Comparing Flacco: Flacco to-date has been unable to make the leap and contribute to the small number of first round draft picks named to the list.


First round draft picks have started in 413 playoff games, recording 218 wins and 195 losses for a 52.78 winning percentage. Peyton Manning has appeared in the most post season games with 27 starts but also has the most losses at 13. Terry Bradshaw (1970) has the most wins - 14, and former Ravens quarterback, Trent Dilfer (1994) has the best winning percentage at 83.33 percent. 56.74 percent of first round quarterbacks have appeared in at least one playoff game with an average winning percentage of 40.59 percent.

Comparing Flacco: With a 66.67 winning percentage in the post season, Flacco has seen more post season success than the majority of other high draft selections.

Super Bowls

Of the 104 possible starts in Super Bowl history, a first round quarterback has been under center 44 times or in 42.31 percent of Super Bowls. Only 22.43 percent of first round quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw, John Elway (1983), Jim Kelly (1983) and Peyton Manning all tie for the most appearances (four).

Just 14.95 percent of quarterbacks taken in the first round brought home a Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw leads the group with a perfect record propelling him to four Super Bowl titles. First rounders have a 59.72 winning percentage in the championship.

Comparing Flacco: Going one-for-one in the Super Bowl, Flacco is part of a small circle of first round selections who have been able to deliver a Lombardi Trophy as a return on investment for their franchise.

If Lamar Jackson is to have an average career as a first round selection, fans should expect him to complete the majority of his passes coupled with a passer rating in the 70s. It is unlikely he will become a Pro Bowler or a First-Team All-Pro based on the data. Jackson should aim to appear in the post season but expect to lose more games than he wins. Given the scarcity of Super Bowl appearances and championships, Baltimore would be incredibly fortunate to have three first round selections bring a Lombardi Trophy to Charm City.

*Stats from