Picking a quarterback at the top of the draft is a big deal. Nowadays, you're spending more than $40 million in guaranteed money to lock him up, and if you pick the wrong guy, you're going to have to spend another $40 million or so to lock up his replacement. That's assuming you, your head coach and your staff don't lose your jobs in the process. In the end, picking a quarterback who can't hang at the pro level can cost an organization the better part of $90 million.
And yet, if organizations just looked at the past performance of successful and unsuccessful quarterbacks, they'd find that two lowly variables hold the key to a large part of the variance between busts and Pro Bowlers.
Enter the Lewin Career Forecast, named after the researcher who put it together, David Lewin. In doing exactly the sort of research we mentioned above, Lewin found that there are two variables that predict quarterback success at the pro level: a quarterback's games started and his completion percentage in college. That's it. For quarterbacks selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, it's been a wildly successful predictor of pro success, identifying busts from Ryan Leaf to Kyle Boller, while highlighting future Pro Bowlers like Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. You can read more about the methodology behind the LCF in Lewin's 2008 article for ESPN.
With those findings in mind, of course, there are several very interesting quarterback candidates likely to come off the board in the first two rounds. We'll take a look at the five quarterbacks who might go in the first 64 picks, provide comparables to their college selves and project their likely performance at the professional level.