Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Value of Quarterbacks In The NFL Draft.

This past draft we have seen four teams, three inside the top 8, use first round draft picks on quarterbacks (including No.1 overall pick holder Indianapolis and the Redskins, who traded up to pick No.2). In 2011 we saw four teams use picks inside the top 12 on QBs.

As the league becomes increasingly dominated by the passing game, it's not hard to see that teams are placing a higher value than ever on the quarterback position and the necessity of having a "franchise" quarterback. In some cases, this has led to guys probably getting drafted higher than they should be (Ryan Tannehill this year, Christian Ponder the year before).

However, all this drafting needs to be tempered with a quick reminder. There are 32 teams in the NFL - that means 32 starting QB spots. The number of teams that have taken QBs high the last two years will mean that in the next couple of years, demand for quarterbacks will be much lower. Teams generally will give a QB at least three years to prove himself before looking at other options.

Next year USC's Matt Barkley is considered the most likely No.1 pick - he would probably have gone in the top 5 this year had he declared. The team that picks No.1 probably got there because they couldn't get anything from their QB so will probably take him regardless. After that, however, you have three or four QBs (Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, West Virginia's Geno Smith) who would probably have been first round picks this year. And that's not even considering a guy who makes a charge up draft boards this year after a sterling season. Who had RG3 as the No.2 pick before the start of the last college season? I remember reading about him as a borderline first rounder.

Assuming that besides Barkley (who, barring injury or a horrendous drop off, will at least be a top-5 pick) you have four other guys who would be first round picks. Who would take them? Let's take a look at every team's QB status.

AFC North
Baltimore: Joe Flacco may not be a top-5 QB but he's got the Ravens to the playoffs every season he's played and was a dropped pass/missed FG away from the Super Bowl this year. No Chance
I can see the Steelers taking a QB in the next couple of years to groom behind Roethlisberger, given he's on the wrong side of 30 and probably won't play at this level for too long given the way he gets hit - but unless the value's really good I can't see them taking a guy in the first. Slim chance
Cincinnati: The Bengals took Andy Dalton in the second round last year. He made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season and looks like their franchise guy for years to come. No Chance.
Cleveland: They used the 22nd pick this year on Brandon Weeden. He's going to get a few years even with his age. No Chance

AFC East
New England: They have that Brady guy. Plus they picked up Ryan Mallett as a development guy last year. No Chance.
New York Jets: Who knows with the Jets? That said, with the extension they gave Sanchez in the off-season followed by the trade for Tebow...I don't think they'd look at other QB options before 2014. If Sanchez struggles this year I can see them giving Tebow a shot though. Slim chance.
Miami: Ryan Tannehill is the QB of the future in South Beach, and Matt Moore is the short term starter. They're not looking elsewhere right now. No Chance.
Buffalo: The Bills are the first team I can see taking a first round QB next year. Their team has suddenly become stacked after a great free agency/draft period, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is injury prone and may not even be that good. If they get another high pick next year I can see them taking a QB. Good chance.

AFC South
Houston: Matt Schaub may be a free agent end of this year, but he's a good fit with their offense and was doing pretty well before his injury. Besides, TJ Yates looked like an NFL quarterback when spelled into duty last year and will probably be their guy should Schaub not come back. No Chance.
Indianapolis: They just drafted Andrew Luck with the No.1 pick. No Chance.
Jacksonville: The Jags are interesting. They used last year's No.10 pick on Blaine Gabbert, but he looked pretty bad most of last year. Now he has a stud receiver to go with a top running game and defense - the excuses are almost up. If Gabbert doesn't show more this year the Jags will possibly look at other options, but again the three-year rule. Slim chance.
Tennessee: They took Jake Locker high last year and he may be their starter this season - if not, Matt Hasselbeck looked rejuvenated in his first season in Tennessee. They may have tried to get Peyton Manning but drafting a guy is totally different. Locker is the guy in Nashville. No chance.

AFC West
Denver: Not with that Manning guy. Plus, they drafted Brock Osweiler as QB of the Future this year. No chance.
San Diego: Rivers had a poor season last year but I can't see the Chargers moving away from him, even if he's on the wrong side of 30. I can possibly see them taking a mid-round guy to develop behind him though. Slim chance.
Kansas City: The Chiefs are loaded with talent and depth everywhere but quarterback. If Matt Cassel can't get them to the playoffs this year I can see them looking at a quarterback in the 2013 draft. Good chance.
Oakland: My Raiders pissed two high draft picks away on Carson Palmer last year (fuck you very much Hue Jackson) and we have Terrelle Pryor. Unless Reggie McKenzie really wants to get his own guy in I don't see it. Slim chance

NFC North
Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers. Nuff said. No chance.
Chicago: Only if their offensive linemen finally have Jay Cutler killed as they've been trying to do for the last three years. No chance.
Detroit: In Matt Stafford's first year not cut short by injury we saw what he could do. He has the potential to become the best QB in the league within a couple of years if he holds together and the Lions keep building around him. No chance.
Minnesota: Similar to Jax, I can see the Vikings looking at their options next draft if Christian Ponder can't put it together in his first full season as a starter, especially with their new stadium coming. I don't think it's likely though unless there's a full management/coaching change. Slim chance.

NFC East
New York Giants: They have a two-time Super Bowl winner under center. Eli may be 30 but I don't see them looking elsewhere for a few years. No chance.
Philadelphia: Andy Reid is always looking at new options at QB, and Michael Vick probably doesn't have a long career ahead of him given the way he plays. That said, if the Eagles take a first round QB next year it probably means something has gone horribly wrong. Slim chance.
Washington: RG3 cost them their first next year. He's the guy in DC for the present and future long as he plays good. And they used a fourth round pick on Kirk Cousins to be his backup in a move that still confuses me. No chance.
Dallas: If the Cowboys miss the playoffs and Tony Romo continues to self destruct in the clutch I can see the Cowboys taking a quarterback in the first. Jerry may love Romo but his patience isn't infinite. That said, he's recently come out and claimed that this team's window isn't open for long so I don't see him gambling with an unproven first rounder. Slim chance

NFC South
Carolina: They gambled on Cam Newton with the No.1 pick in 2011. That gamble has them looking like a playoff team for the next decade. No chance.
New Orleans: What the hell is going on with Drew Brees? How the hell are they dumb enough to low-ball him? Then again this is the team that...look, if Brees doesn't re-sign with the team, refuses to play this year and flops? They'll be in the running for Barkley and it'll be moot. If he comes back? They're still a SB contender. Either way, they won't be drafting a QB in 2013 because you'd have to think they come to their senses soon. No chance.
Atlanta: Matt Ryan needs to take this team to the next level, but I can't see the Falcons giving up on him this year even if he can't win in the playoffs. No chance.
Tampa Bay: The Bucs have a lot of problems but quarterback isn't one of them. Josh Freeman may have struggled last year in the maelstrom that was One Buccaneer Place last year but you'd have to think a more harmonious atmosphere and committed teammates (along with Vincent Jackson) will get him back to his 2010 form. No chance.

NFC West
San Francisco: Even if Alex Smith isn't the long term answer, they have Colin Kaepernick (last year's second round pick) waiting in the wings. It's possible that they could look at options though. Slim chance.
Arizona: Probably the most likely team in the league along with Kansas City and Buffalo. The Cardinals are pretty good everywhere else but Kevin Kolb struggled last year before getting a concussion. If he can't perform with a full off-season and a first round receiver in Michael Floyd opposite Larry Fitzgerald Zona will probably take a quarterback, barring a star turn from John Skelton. Good chance.
Seattle: If we've learnt one thing over the past year it's that Pete Carroll doesn't care what anyone thinks when drafting, so it's impossible to guess what the Seahawks will do. You'd have to think that signing Matt Flynn in free agency and drafting Russell Wilson in the third round this year would put them out of the QB market for now though. Who the hell knows?
St Louis: Sam Bradford was in the same boat as Josh Freeman last year - he spent half the season running for his life and the other half injured after he couldn't run any more. The fact that he's on his third offensive coordinator in three years is worrying but he showed enough in his rookie season to suggest he has future star potential. The Rams won't give up on him next year unless they have another 2-14 season. No chance.

 There you go. In a draft with a bunch of quarterbacks, I can only see three teams (Buffalo, Kansas City and Arizona) actively looking for a quarterback next year. If a team like Minnesota or Jacksonville winds up with the No.1 pick I can see them taking Matt Barkley or the best available prospect - but not otherwise.

What does this mean? In short, it'll be a reversal of the last couple of years. Where you've seen marginal first round talents get taken in the first high, 2013 will see one or two guys with legit top-15 pick talent drop into the late first/early second round. At that point you'll see one of the good Slim Chance teams (a Philly, a Pittsburgh) take them and hope they have the next Aaron Rodgers on their squad.

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