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Recent drafts show not much middle ground for first-round quarterbacks

NFL Combine - Day 3

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma looks on while sitting out the workout during day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Murray is widely predicted to be selected first overall in the NFL draft. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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Recent drafts have shown a trend about when teams pick quarterbacks: Often early in the first round and late in the first round, but not much in the middle of the first round or the second round.

That quarterback is the NFL’s most important position goes without saying, and that good quarterbacks on their rookie contracts are the league’s most valuable asset is well established. That’s why so many quarterbacks go high in the first round, including four in the Top 10 picks last year.

But in the middle of the first round, something interesting happens: Teams don’t really take quarterbacks in that range. In the last 10 drafts, the only quarterbacks to go in the 13 to 20 range of the first round are EJ Manuel (16th overall in 2013) and Josh Freeman (17th overall in 2009).

Teams do take quarterbacks late in the first round, however, often trading back into the late first round for players like Lamar Jackson (32nd overall last year), Paxton Lynch (26th overall in 2016) and Teddy Bridgewater (32nd overall in 2014). The advantage to taking a quarterback late in the first round instead of early in the second round is that players chosen in the first round get fifth-year options on their rookie contracts, while players chosen in the second round become free agents after four years.

So NFL teams either take a quarterback high in the first round or move back into the first round for a quarterback who falls. The teens are a dead zone for quarterbacks.

Also a dead zone for quarterbacks is the second round: In the last two drafts only one quarterback, DeShone Kizer in 2017, has been chosen in the second round. Over the last 10 drafts only 10 quarterbacks have gone in the second round, while 30 quarterbacks have gone in the first round. If a team thinks a quarterback is good enough to draft in the second round, that team will probably trade up and draft him late in the first round.