Why the Importance of Quarterback Play Should Affect NFL Draft Process

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Why the Importance of Quarterback Play Should Affect NFL Draft Process
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The Quarterback. 

The most thoroughly analyzed, individually cherished, harshly ridiculed and universally well-known position in all of sports.

If a team has a good quarterback, division titles, playoff appearances and Super Bowl berths can quickly morph from past memories to present-day realities.

If a team doesn't, the head coach and general manager's job security is tenuous at best, and with time, it will be staring at a top-five draft pick.

Sure, football is a team game—organized chaos of 11 players on each side of the ball.

That said, discounting everything else—from the pass-rushing specialist to the chain-moving No. 1 receiver, from the elusive running back to the lockdown corner—a team's ultimate success can almost precisely be solely measured by the play of its quarterback.

The New England Patriots have been the unparalleled epitome of accomplishment since 2001, and Tom Brady has been unquestionably elite through it all. 

The Indianapolis Colts were AFC juggernauts with Peyton Manning under center. Now the Denver Broncos are. The New Orleans Saints rose to prominence with the play of Drew Brees

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The Cincinnati Bengals have accomplished as much as a team as Andy Dalton has as a quarterback. The same goes for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens, Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears, Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers, Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys and Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans.

No one touches the football as much as the quarterback; therefore, quite logically, he is the most vital player on any team, regardless of what is read about a club's game-changing defensive end, ball-hawking safety or thumping linebacker.

Frankly, all football analysis can be related back to one central question—how will the quarterback utilize, react to or counter "Player X"?

Organizations like the Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns have struggled over the last decade. 

One commonality? 

The lack of what we classify today as a franchise quarterback.

Because of that, every team envious of the New England Patriots should be doing whatever it can to acquire that franchise quarterback. 

Recently, teams have. 

In the 2011 draft, the Tennessee Titans drafted Jake Locker No. 8 overall, a move that many categorized as a "reach." Two picks later, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Blaine Gabbert. Before the draftniks could pick their jaws off the table, the Minnesota Vikings selected Christian Ponder at No. 12. 

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While all three signal-callers have experienced inauspicious beginnings to their careers, each team undoubtedly had the right idea in addressing its quarterback spot on draft day. 

Why? 

Because nothing can turn around an entire organization faster than a good quarterback, and those three clubs needed a future franchise guy. 

Remember, Bill Belichick was 41-57 as a head coach before Brady was fatefully handed the starting job.

The Titans, Jaguars and Vikings likely performed due diligence on each quarterback they picked and had confidence that their guy had franchise quarterback potential. 

They made the proper choice because the draft is a gamble, although, on occasion, many of us like to believe it isn't. The same scouts who uncover a late-round gem one year can fall in love with a first-round bust the following year at any position.

The Titans, Jaguars and Vikings identified who they believed was a franchise player at the game's most crucial position and drafted him as soon as possible.

That's what teams should do at the quarterback position. 

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Some will advise to wait until the second or third round for a signal-caller with some faults or red flags. The "value" is better after the first round, they'll say.

But if a team does wait, what does that really say about the quarterback who is eventually chosen?

It's not exactly a ringing endorsement, that's for sure.

It says, "Hey, kid, we didn't think you were good enough to take you in Round 1, but now we expect you to be the leader of our franchise."

Also, should a team really run the risk of waiting on a quarterback it loves just to get him at what is perceived to be a better value?

I wouldn't.

If a quarterback-needy team believes there isn't a franchise signal-caller available and is higher on a talented skill position guy or defender, in most cases, it'll choose the latter.

Fine. 

Subsequently, though, that team shouldn't expect to be successful as the second- or-third-round quarterback starts his professional career or as long as the veteran signal-caller who couldn't get it done in the past is making the calls in the huddle.

Ironically, Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, the 199th selection in the 2000 draft—a true outlier.

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That doesn't mean teams should bank on finding the next Brady on Day 3 of any draft in the future. 

With the NFL exponentially becoming a pass-happy league and the overused, albeit correct, phrase "quarterback-driven league" coming out of Trent Dilfer's mouth more and more, teams desperately eager to return to relevance and win Super Bowls must find a great quarterback. 

Everything else, though slowly and rather quietly, has faded to the background.

Maybe the right one isn't in the 2013 draft or free-agent class, but teams must find him as fast as they can. 

Look around—the franchises with great quarterbacks are polishing their rings.

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