On October 20th, 2019, Matthew Stafford threw a 36-yard pass to Danny Amendola. Other than it being a big gain, there was nothing special about the play itself. But the moment was huge. Stafford had just become the quickest player to reach a career total of 40,000 passing yards in just his 147th game. 

Coming off a Monday night game the week before where Stafford outplayed Aaron Rodgers but questionable referee calls down the stretch gave the Packers a win, Stafford returned against the Vikings playing lights out. He didn’t have a single running back go over 30 yards and had to do it all himself with 364 yards, 4 touchdowns and a passer rating of 111.7. His defense let up 42 points and the Lions lost 42-30. The game was a microcosm for Stafford’s career in Detroit as a whole. Matthew Stafford was drafted number one overall in 2009 and has been giving these types of performances many times only for the team around him to fall short far too often.

Teams that pick a quarterback first in today’s NFL have almost never found long term success. In fact, here’s how the quarterbacks taken #1 since 2009 have been doing:

2010: Sam Bradford – Currently unsigned by an NFL team

2011: Cam Newton – Currently unsigned by an NFL team

2012: Andrew Luck – Currently unsigned by an NFL team (Retired unless Bellichick calls)

2015: Jameis Winston – Currently unsigned by an NFL team

2016: Jared Goff – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

2018: Baker Mayfield – Too early to tell

2019: Kyler Murray – Too early to tell

Vince McMahon, I have heard times have been rough for you recently but if you ever take a 3rd swing at starting a football league, you can make it where you only have former #1 overall quarterbacks play for each team since they’re all available. 

In fact, last season Matthew Stafford was the only number one pick ranked in the top 10 for EPA/dropback (which is the expected points added to their team divided by the number of times they took a snap and dropped back to pass or for a designed run). EPA/dropback is also considered one of the best stats for evaluating QBs as proven by fellow writer Joey DiCresce.

Now I could talk about how loyal Matthew Stafford has been to this franchise, how he and his wife Kelly are basically the first family of Detroit since they adopt a family for Christmas every year (Stafford-On-Christmas) and donated food to hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak (Staffords-Helping-Hospitals). But I really need to talk about why I believe the Bengals shouldn’t take a quarterback number one overall but instead should trade the pick and work on the other areas of their team. 

Yes, it’s true Andy Dalton’s quarterback play was awful last year as his EPA/dropback was only better than Kyle Allen’s and worse than quarterbacks like Mason Rudolph, Sam Darnold and *shudders* Mitchell Trubisky. By drafting Joe Burrow, the Bengals are hoping they at least get their Matthew Stafford, someone who takes them from 2-14 to competing for playoff spots. But as I’ve shown, quarterbacks taken first overall in the NFL draft are more likely to turn out like Sam Bradford, Jameis Winston, etc. They’re all talented players but haven’t found much success in the NFL due to bad supporting casts and having too much pressure on them. 

The Bengals have at least have needs at Offensive tackle, Wide receiver, Edge rusher, Interior offensive line, Linebacker, Tight end, Cornerback and Safety. Basically think of a position in football and the Bengals probably need help there. They can find serviceable quarterbacks elsewhere in the draft. 

 Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin on Twitter) put together a list of QB efficiency since 2010 using EPA and Completion Percentage over Expected (CPOE measures a quarterback’s performance relative to the difficulty of their throws). Of the quarterbacks that stayed with the original teams that drafted them and had at least 1,500 total plays, I charted their index (Brees being the highest at 2.15 and Gabbert being the lowest at -2.76): 

Quarterbacks taken in the top 2 have ranked 13th, 15h, 17th, 18th, 21st, 25th, 28th and 36th out of 46 qualifiers in this past decade. Even my beloved Stafford didn’t crack the top 10 due to the fact he had some bad years of play, especially when he wasn’t working with much of a team and kept getting injured. 

The table still shows quarterbacks taken in the first round, like Matt Ryan at 3 and Deshaun Watson at 12, have still done well. This is because a team drafting outside of the top 10 is probably a better run organization with more pieces and resources to help a young quarterback succeed. If the Bengals really want to succeed, they should call Miami and ask for picks 5, 18 and 26. This is reasonable for the Bengals to ask because recent history showed us the Rams traded two first-round picks, two second-rounders, and two third-round selections to the Titans to move up from and draft Jared Goff. Using Chase Stuart’s new analytical draft values (https://www.footballperspective.com/draft-value-chart/) the Bengals would be giving up a pick worth 34.6 of approximate value (AV) and getting 54.4 AV in return. This is what a draft could look like in that scenario for the Bengals based off of PFF’s draft simulator:

5: QB, Tua Tagovailoa

18: OT, Josh Jones

26: EDGE, A.J. Epenesa

or

5: OT, Tristan Wirfs

18: S, Xavier McKinney

26: WR, Denzel Mims

This now opens up the Bengals to taking later round quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, Anthony Gordon, etc. Tackle and EDGE were needs the Bengals thought they were doing to have to fill in later rounds which would make them miss out on other quarterbacks but they’re able to get even more talented players at those positions and stockpile quarterbacks. I understand Tua’s injury concerns but having someone like Fromm as a backup is similar to what other teams have done before. The Redskins already had taken Robert Griffin III in the first round but also took Kirk Cousins in the 4th round and got lucky with him. After signing Matt Flynn to be their starter, the Seahawks took Russell Wilson in the 3rd round and haven’t looked back since. 

Another scenario would be to trade the number one pick to the Jaguars for 9, 20 and 42 which would be giving up 34.6 AV for 46.9 in return. A draft for the Bengals in this scenario could possibly look like this: 

9: CB, C.J. Henderson

20: QB, Jordan Love

33: C, Cesar Ruiz

42: LB, Jordan Brooks

All in all, it’s highly unlikely the Bengals decide to trade back and it would be a shocker if they do. In the 1999 NFL draft, the Saints traded their whole draft for the #5 overall pick which included giving up their 1st round pick (#12 overall), 3rd round pick, 4th round pick, 5th round pick, 6th round pick, 7th round pick and their 2000 1st round pick (became #2 overall) and 2000 3rd round pick. If the Bengals get a similar haul, they would be fools not to take it as that is the right way to start their rebuild. Some teams could fall for the allure of Joe Burrow and trade a similar package. I think Joe Burrow is good, but he’s not good enough to decline an offer of every single pick for him. I hope the city of Cincinnati gets to experience what the city of Detroit has had in Matthew Stafford but in reality, it’s been sad the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since he’s been drafted. The Bengals could become a lot closer to competing in the grueling AFC North by trading back and stockpiling picks. Since success in the NFL draft is a coin flip, give yourself as many chances as you can to get it right. 

Plus, we’ve all been bored for the last month so people would lose their minds if the Bengals traded the #1 overall pick. Do it for America, Cincinnati!

Club Twitter – @mfbanalytics

Personal Twitter- @Tejseth41