With April’s draft looming large for ailing franchises, many teams looking for a starting quarterback will not find what they’re looking for. ESPN expert Mel Kiper has written many times that teams looking for a Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, or an Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts will not get one. What seems more likely to happen is a Top 10 pick like Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins; a guy taken too high because of need, whose season should pan out, but might fizzle. Or, they will take second and third rounders like Brock Osweiler of the Denver Broncos and Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles, who don’t quite look ready for NFL jobs.
Mike Glennon of NC State has momentum going into the draft and looks like he might be the guy that creeps into the Top 10 conversations. E.J. Manuel of Florida State University had a great Senior Bowl; Ryan Nassib of Syracuse University is a solid prospect. Both are making a case as second or third round talents.
Now on to the disappointments: Geno Smith of West Virginia, Matt Barkley of the University of Southern California, Tyler Wilson of the University of Arkansas, and Landry Jones of the University of Oklahoma. Many teams hoped each quarterback would improve and be a first rounder, but the players simply didn’t live up to these expectations. Hypothetically, Matt Barkley could have been the number eight pick of 2012 and the current quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, had he left school. Now, he’s going to have a tough time sneaking into the back of the first round.
Admittedly, the athletes have pro days, the combine, and interviews to make one team fall in love with them. But would it be such a bad thing if teams didn’t reach for these quarterbacks this year? I’m not saying that teams won’t; it’s too early to tell. I just think it would be good for the NFL if teams did not.
If only one quarterback went in the first round, then that would leave six of the seven teams (Chiefs, Jaguars, Oakland, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Arizona, and Buffalo) still uncomfortable with their quarterbacks. By “uncomfortable,” I mean that they may have a starter like the Buffalo Bill’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is neither elevating nor destroying the team. These uncomfortable teams have at the very least hinted that they are willing to bring in competition.
Now, quarterbacks like Foles, Brandon Weaden of the Cleveland Browns, Fitzpatrick, and ones that we haven’t even heard about yet will get their chance to stake their claim. In the era of immediacy, we forget that these athletes are not robots. They need time to adjust to new environments. In previous eras, franchises did thrust quarterbacks into hot water, where they still are today. The perspective is skewed, particularly when freaks like Luck, RG3, and Russell Wilson take the NFL by storm. Draft classes like the one this year will bring the NFL back to reality. It will challenge the NFL to work with what they’ve got, and treat quarterbacks more like every other position, and less like hand towels.
The defensive strength and even the strength of the skill positions of this year’s draft will definitely help the current young quarterbacks. ESPN experts are raving about the depth and talent of this year’s wide receiver crop. There is also a pair of first round tight ends in Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame and Zach Ertz of Stanford University.
This could be the perfect year for teams to pass on the romantic idea of striking gold and shaping a passer. This could be the year to stay patient and pick intelligently, so that when the right quarterback does come around, he looks like Colin Kaepernick not Jamarcus Russell.