If 2012 was the year of the quarterback in the NFL draft, then 2013 certainly was not.
Three quarterbacks were selected in the top 10 in 2012, but last week only one QB (Florida State's E.J. Manuel) was drafted in the first round.
However, just because this year's crop didn't generate the buzz of its predecessor doesn't mean that these QBs are doomed to careers of mediocrity.
Or does it?
That's what we're going to examine, by taking a look at the career outlooks of every quarterback drafted in 2013, as well as the biggest name among the undrafted free-agent signees.
After weeks of speculation and rumormongering, the prevailing wisdom was that Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who played under Bills head coach Doug Marrone at Syracuse, was the leading candidate to be Buffalo's first-round pick at No. 8.
The prevailing wisdom was wrong.
The Bills dropped the first big surprise of the 2013 NFL draft, trading back in the first round before making Florida State's EJ Manuel the first signal-caller off the board.
According to Sharon Katz of ESPN, Marrone listed a number of reasons why the Bills chose the Seminoles star, stating, "He can throw the football vertically down the field, he has a good arm, he can get himself out of trouble, he can create things with his feet, he has good presence in the huddle, he’s accurate and we are excited to have him.”
The 6'5", 237-pound Manuel is likely the most athletic of this year's quarterback crop, but he's not nearly as pro-ready as last year's top quarterbacks were. There's definitely going to be a learning curve as he adjusts to the pro game.
That curve may not be as pronounced as many believe, however, at least according to Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Bills fan Chris Trapasso, whom I asked for his thoughts on the subject:
EJ Manuel is obviously the best suited quarterback on the Bills roster to run the spread/read option, and many expect that to be featured in Buffalo's offense. He played in a complex system at Florida State, so the learning curve may be shorter than initially expected.
The Bills also brought over free agent Kevin Kolb in the offseason after jettisoning 2012 starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, and unless Manuel has a phenomenal camp or Kolb face-plants, it will probably be the veteran under center in Week 1.
With that said, Trapasso put the odds of Manuel playing as a rookie at 80 percent, and I'm inclined to agree. Kolb will likely start the season, but if he gets hurt (a real possibility given his injury history) or the Bills fall from contention, the future will be soon in Buffalo.
Once that's the case, there are going to be bumps in the road, and it may not be fair to expect Manuel to start putting up numbers like Robert Griffin or Russell Wilson, but Manuel has the physical tools to be a solid starter in the NFL.
Projected 2013 Stats: 1,350 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 170 rushing yards, two touchdowns (six games)
Fantasy Value: With Kolb the probable Week 1 starter, Manuel isn't draftable in most fantasy leagues, but he could eventually develop into a serviceable platoon starter, making him worth a late look in dynasty leagues.
West Virginia's Geno Smith may not have been the first quarterback taken, but he's the one with the clearest path to early playing time.
The New York Jets have already sent Tim Tebow packing, which means that the only things standing between Smith and the starter's job are 35-year-old David Garrard (who hasn't taken a snap since 2010) and Mark Sanchez.
You know, this Mark Sanchez.
General manager John Idzik told ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning (via NFL.com) that Sanchez will be part of an "open competition," but frankly, given how Sanchez played last year, I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where Smith isn't the Week 1 starter.
The issue then will be what Smith does once he gets the job. It's not a matter of talent—Smith had a phenomenal senior season in Morgantown, throwing for nearly 4,200 yards and 42 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
However, the NFL isn't the Big 12, and Smith won't have Tavon Austin to throw the ball to in the Big Apple. The Jets don't have the best array of offensive weaponry, and their offensive line isn't going to be confused with San Francisco's anytime soon.
There's also the question of Smith's mental toughness, which has been called into question in the past. There isn't a bigger pressure cooker in the NFL than New York.
Just ask Mark Sanchez
if Smith and the Jets struggle out of the gate, then the boo birds are going to come out, and Smith is going to have to learn to handle adversity better than he did in college or in nearly bolting after being passed over in the first round of the draft.
If Smith can shake off the rough patches, the skills and arm strength are there for him to become the franchise quarterback the Jets (and Smith) hope he'll be.
If not, his confidence will be run through the same paper shredder that Sanchez's was.
Projected 2013 Stats: 3,300 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 200 rushing yards, one touchdown
Fantasy Value: Even if Smith starts out of the gate, it's hard to imagine him posting the sort of production that would make him a viable fantasy option. He's worth a look as a QB2 in dynasty leagues, but in redrafts, Smith's fantasy value is minimal unless you need to start two quarterbacks.
In the truest pirate sense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just fired a shot across the bow of quarterback Josh Freeman.
That shot came in the form of North Carolina State's Mike Glennon, whom the Buccaneers selected with the 73rd overall pick.
On one hand, Freeman has been inconsistent in his tenure as Tampa's starter, and the leash for the fifth-year pro just got significantly shorter after the Bucs used a third-rounder on the strong-armed Wolfpack star.
However, Glennon wasn't exactly Captain Consistency himself at NC State, and it would be a huge upset if Glennon unseats Freeman this season.
With that said, as Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reported before the draft, head coach Greg Schiano is far from sold on Freeman as the long-term starter.
This is also a contract year for Freeman, so if he struggles with turnovers again (he's thrown 39 interceptions over the past two seasons), Glennon could be inserted into the lineup sooner rather than later, especially if the Buccaneers fade from contention in the NFC South.
Projected 2013 Stats: None
Fantasy Value: Glennon might be worth a late flier in deep dynasty leagues, especially as insurance for Freeman owners, but Glennon has no value in redraft formats.
The quarterback competition just got a little murkier in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Philadelphia Eagles moved up in the fourth round to select Matt Barkley, who had a disappointing senior season with USC that saw his draft stock fall from a virtual top-five lock in 2012 to a Day 3 pick in 2013.
At first glance, Barkley might not seem the best fit for the up-tempo offense that new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly ran at Oregon, which usually featured a mobile quarterback more in the mold of Michael Vick.
However, Kelly's offense is more about the quarterback snapping the ball and making quick decisions than it is the quarterback taking off with the rock.
Barkley may not have the strongest of arms, but he is good at surveying the field and finding the open man—traits that should serve him well in Philly.
Many media outlets have theorized that Barkley's selection means the end for Nick Foles in Philadelphia, but Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News predicts that it will actually be Foles, and not Vick or Barkley, who starts for the Eagles in Week 1.
In other words, the short-term picture in Philadelphia is as clear as mud and will all but certainly stay that way until one signal-caller asserts himself in training camp. Even then it wouldn't be surprising to see at least two (and maybe all three) quarterbacks get playing time in 2013.
The long-term picture isn't any more clear, but my money says that Barkley beats out Foles to be Vick's backup and then eventually takes the reins as the starter, possibly as early as 2014.
Once he does, a lot of NFL teams are going to wish they'd pulled the trigger, because outside of arm strength, Barkley has all the qualities necessary to become a solid NFL quarterback. He's a smart, accurate passer with four years of experience in a pro-style offense.
In fact, I'll go so far as to say that five years from now, Matt Barkley will be the most successful QB from the 2013 class. You heard it here first.
Projected 2013 Stats: 870 passing yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions (three games)
Fantasy Value: Except in the deepest of dynasty leagues, Barkley's fantasy value is nonexistent right now, but he's a player to monitor closely as the summer progresses.
According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib was "wounded" when his old college coach passed on him in the draft.
Well, Nassib will have plenty of time to get over it while he's standing on the sidelines in New York.
Nassib's a talented young quarterback with a fair amount of athleticism, but after the New York Giants made him their fourth-round selection, he's now firmly entrenched in the fifth circle of backup quarterback hell.
That's because not only is Nassib stuck behind one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks in Eli Manning, but Manning is an elite quarterback who's also started every game for the Giants over the past eight seasons.
The upside, as Kevin Patra of NFL.com points out, is that Nassib will get a chance to learn from Manning, who told Patra, "I think it's always good to have a young quarterback who can come in and be prepared."
The downside is that the only thing that Nassib will be preparing to do for the foreseeable future is hold a clipboard.
Projected 2013 Stats: None
Fantasy Value: None
Tyler Wilson's case is one of the more interesting ones among this year's crop.
The 6'3" Wilson, who Marc Sessler of NFL.com reports was at Walmart when the Oakland Raiders called his name in Round 4, seems destined for clipboard duty after the Raiders traded for Matt Flynn in the offseason.
However, it's not like Flynn is the second coming of Tom Brady. He had one big game in a Week 17 matchup with the Detroit Lions in 2011 and parlayed that into a three-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
Now, Flynn will finally get his chance to prove he's an NFL starter, but that's far from a sure thing.
Wilson's game needs polish, but he's got a strong arm, has shown the ability to put up big numbers, and displayed his toughness last year during the disaster that was the 2012 season for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
He may not get a chance this year, but there's a better than average chance that at some point over the next couple of seasons, Tyler Wilson will find himself starting a game for the Raiders.
If he gets that chance, it's a job he may not give back.
Projected 2013 Stats: 220 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions (one game)
Fantasy Value: He wouldn't have much even as the starter in Oakland. As a backup? Forget about it.
Landry Jones was ridiculously productive in college, throwing for over 15,000 yards with the Oklahoma Sooners. However, Jones may be lucky to throw for 150 yards over his first four seasons in Pittsburgh.
Such is life when you're drafted by a team led by a veteran QB who has already led his team to a pair of Super Bowl victories.
To be honest, Jones could stand a season or two to work on his game behind Ben Roethlisberger anyway. Yes, Jones is a talented quarterback, but his productivity was very much a product of Oklahoma's system, and he often made poor decisions under duress.
However, at least one player thinks Jones may see the field relatively soon.
Charlie Batch, whose time as Roethlisberger's backup all but certainly ended with Landry's selection, told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he thinks the team could be grooming Jones as Roethlisberger's replacement:
I think this isn't about replacing me. Big picture, maybe they're thinking, "Can we develop Landry Jones to be the starter? Maybe two years from now, he could be our guy for the next 10 years." We don't know. But with the contracts for quarterbacks these days, he'd certainly be a heck of a lot cheaper than Ben at age 34 or 35 or 36.
Whoa now, Charlie. Jones has to at least get past Bruce Gradkowski before we start anointing him the future in the Steel City.
Projected 2013 Stats: None
Fantasy Value: None
The following were all either drafted in the seventh round or signed to free-agent deals.
As such, most of them will be fighting for a roster spot, much less playing time, so none of these players have any fantasy value in 2013.
Sure, the next Tom Brady could be hidden somewhere in this group of late-round prospects, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Brad Sorensen, San Diego Chargers: The 6'4" 229-pounder looks the part of a pocket passer, but after starring at Southern Utah, it's going to take quite a bit of seasoning for Sorensen to develop into a viable backup for Philip Rivers.
Zac Dysert, Denver Broncos: Many pundits believe the Broncos got a steal in the seventh round with Dysert, who was widely considered a top-five prospect entering the draft. Granted, Dysert won't be seeing the field anytime soon behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, but as tutors go, the strong-armed Dysert could have done a heck of a lot worse.
B.J. Daniels, San Francisco 49ers: The Niners brought in Colt McCoy to back up Colin Kaepernick in the short term, but Daniels is a much better fit in the read-option due to his athleticism. In fact, Daniels tweeted that his NFL career may begin with a role on special teams.
Sean Renfree, Atlanta Falcons: The Duke signal-caller was the last quarterback drafted and has quite a bit of potential after leading Duke to a bowl game despite a lack of offensive weaponry. However, stuck behind a young star quarterback in Matt Ryan, the odds of Renfree playing in anything but preseason games are slim to none.
Tyler Bray, Kansas City Chiefs: Bray might have the strongest arm of any quarterback in this year's class, but his shaky decision-making and a lack of maturity left him undrafted. Now, Bray will have to hope that a strong camp gives him a chance to unseat Ricky Stanzi as the third-stringer in Kansas City.