According to ESPN’s Seth Walder (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are the NFL’s 3rd best franchise as it relates to drafting quarterbacks all-time:
3. Indianapolis Colts
Total drafted QB career AV above expectation: 167
Best value pick: Peyton Manning, No. 1 in 1998
Worst value pick: Art Schlichter, No. 4 in 1982
Though selected with the first overall pick in 1998, Manning still accumulated the fourth-most AV above expectation of any quarterback, and the most among all players selected in the first round. That’s in pretty sharp contrast to Manning’s successor in Indianapolis, who also was selected with the first overall pick: Andrew Luck. Though Luck beat expectations for a first-overall pick, he ended up only 15 AV units ahead of that expectation because of his early retirement. Manning was more than 100 units past that.
You know who else is boosting the Colts’ numbers here? John Elway. The Baltimore Colts selected Elway with the first overall pick in 1983, but the future Hall of Famer refused to play for them and successfully forced a trade to Denver.
The ranking was assembled using the following data:
“To rank all 32 teams based on their quarterback-drafting prowess, we used Pro Football Reference’s weighted career approximate value (AV) to measure production — stretching all the way back to the start of the common draft era in 1967,” Walder writes. “But this isn’t as simple as summing every QB’s weighted career AV. We wanted to also adjust for where they were selected. Anyone can pick a superstar at No. 1 overall, but grabbing a Russell Wilson in the third round takes more skill. So think of this as production above — or below — expectation given where the player was selected.”
“We also made an adjustment for the year a player was drafted. Recent draftees haven’t had the opportunity to build up a career’s worth of AV yet, though this doesn’t entirely solve the issue, so someone like Patrick Mahomes will still probably look a lot more valuable in a few years than he does now by this measure.”
For a franchise that selected arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time with the first overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, Peyton Manning, the Colts being ranked this high isn’t exactly surprising.
The Colts also later selected another #1 overall pick, Andrew Luck, at the top spot of the 2012 NFL Draft—who despite living up to his enormous hype, had his career unfortunately cut short by injuries after just 6 seasons played for Indianapolis.
It’s amusing though that John Elway, the first overall pick of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Colts, is helping to boost their overall ranking—given that he never actually played a snap for the franchise before his draft rights were traded away to the Denver Broncos.
On a similar note, the Colts also selected Atlanta Falcons 2x Pro Bowl quarterback Chris Chandler in the 3rd round of the 1988 NFL Draft, who played 2 seasons in Indianapolis before being traded away, but had a career AV of 102 (non-weighted) after 18 NFL seasons.
The Colts franchise also got a lift from Bert Jones, the second overall pick of the 1973 NFL Draft, who won an MVP award in 1976 playing for them and had an AV of 89 in Baltimore during 9 seasons (and a total career AV of 93 [both non-weighted]).
However, for a franchise that selected Manning, Jones, and Luck early on in their respective drafts, there have also been some missteps at selecting quarterbacks by the Colts with the first few picks—including Schlichter (the 4th overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft) and Jeff George (the first overall pick of the 1990 NFL Draft)—although George went on to have a career AV of 78 (non-weighted) during 12 NFL seasons.
That being said, the Colts were clearly carried by Manning in this exercise, who is one of the greatest players to ever play the sport—and they had enough contributions from Luck, Jones, and even Elway (potentially Chandler) boosting their stock to be among the NFL’s top ranked teams all-time when it comes to selecting quarterbacks.
The Colts trailed just the New England Patriots and now, Los Angeles Chargers in overall ranking.