Should Geno Smith be considered a can't-miss franchise quarterback?
As the 2013 NFL draft approaches, there are a handful of teams that will be hoping they can find a franchise quarterback to lead their team for the future. Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills all desperately need a new and talented leader at the game's most important position.
Unfortunately, the 2013 NFL draft doesn't contain an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson. It does, however, possess some quarterbacks who have shown flashes of the skills necessary to be a franchise quarterback.
What are those skills and how can you spot a can't-miss franchise quarterback? Let's take an in-depth look.
Let's start with the most obvious quality about a franchise quarterback: leadership. This isn't the easiest quality to spot, but it may be the most important quality.
You want a quarterback who doesn't back down when he's up against the wall. You want a quarterback whose willing to fight for those extra yards or play through a minor injury.
These traits don't always show up on game tape, but they can definitely be seen when a team interviews a potential draft prospect.
A franchise quarterback doesn't necessarily need to have a rocket arm like Jay Cutler or Matthew Stafford. However, they do need to have a strong enough arm to make all the throws necessary in the NFL.
The throw that talent evaluators are looking for out of potentially franchise quarterbacks is known as the out route, or the deep out. This is the pass that an NFL quarterback has to be able to make.
Other throws that a quarterback has to be strong enough to make are the corner, post and dig. Lacking the ability to make any of these throws simply means a team cannot ultimately move forward with that quarterback as their franchise quarterback.
When talking about accuracy, we aren't just talking about completion percentage. Any quarterback could complete a high percentage of dump-off passes and slants to raise their completion percentage. A franchise quarterback needs to be accurate.
They need to be able to place the ball where only their receiver can catch it. It isn't good enough for a quarterback to just be able to place the ball when he has all the time in the world. He'll also need to be able to be able to do it on the move.
A perfect example of this is Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. He consistently places the most difficult throws in the perfect place.
As you can see from the chart above (via Pro Football Focus), Rodgers had the highest accuracy percentage in the NFL. In fact, the top seven quarterbacks in this category could all be considered franchise quarterbacks.
Throwing Receivers Open
This goes along with accuracy, but franchise quarterbacks have to be able to throw their receivers open.
They need to be able to anticipate routes. They also need to be able to throw where the cornerbacks can't get the ball. Even if the pass is going to be incomplete, an incomplete pass is always better than an interception.
The throws also need to be on time and on target. Throwing receivers open allows bigger plays to happen and is a trait that franchise quarterbacks need to have.
Just ask any fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars how important pocket awareness is to a franchise quarterback. Blaine Gabbert has shown very poor pocket awareness during his two years in the season, and it is rather clear that Gabbert is no franchise quarterback.
In the above video, the pocket begins to collapse around Gabbert. There is room for Gabbert to roll out to his right to make a play outside the pocket, but he doesn't have the awareness to realize this. Instead, Gabbert runs right into the pressure caused by the Cincinnati Bengals.
You'll also notice that once Gabbert feels pressure, his eyes go to the ground. A franchise quarterback should be able to sense pressure and avoid the rush all while keeping his eyes down the field.
Many college quarterbacks aren't asked to make multiple reads on every single play. However, in the NFL, quarterbacks need to make multiple reads, and they need to be able to do it while under pressure from the best players in the game.
A franchise quarterback simply can't struggle when their first or second read isn't open. They need to be able to move through their progressions, and when their top options aren't open, they need to be able to move onto that third or fourth read.
The final trait you want in a franchise quarterback is intangibles.
Teams want quarterbacks that are willing to put in the work to get better. They don't want quarterbacks who have all the God-given ability in the world, but aren't willing to put in the extra time to get better. Think of JaMarcus Russell as the perfect example of this type of quarterback.
Instead, NFL teams want quarterbacks who have a passion for the game; quarterbacks who absolutely love to play football. Brett Favre absolutely loved the game of football, and it showed on the field as he ran around like a kid on the playground.