2014 NFL Draft: Why Teams Shouldn't Reach for QBs in Round 1

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2014

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies drops back to pass against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

I could probably tell you why teams in this year's draft shouldn't reach for quarterbacks in one sentence. That sentence goes something like this: Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman.

All were quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2009, all could be considered reaches and four of the six teams that drafted them currently have top-10 picks this season (because nothing sinks a team faster than completely whiffing on a "franchise quarterback").

And I was nice. For now, I'm giving Jake Locker, Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill and EJ Manuel the benefit of the doubt. 

Sure, teams have hit on quarterbacks in the first round since 2009. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III (if he can stay healthy), Cam Newton and Matt Stafford all come to mind. Go back a season and you can add Matt Ryan to the mix. But those players were either considered pretty safe selections or such dynamic talents they couldn't be passed up.

Do any of the quarterbacks in this draft class fit either description?

Johnny Manziel perhaps fits the latter designation, which is why in my latest mock draft I have him going No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns. He's a fantastic athlete and is a better passer than many gave him credit for in college. He's also a gunslinger who isn't that big and is going to have to learn to make his reads in the pocket lest he leave each game in a body bag. 

In the right system, he could be dynamic. But a team has to be willing to allow Johnny Football to be Johnny Football—and Manziel needs to learn when to rein in his gunslinger ways and simply make the smart but boring dump-off or quick read—if he's going to be successful. 

Drafting Manziel is committing to an entire system. If you try to fit that square peg into a round hole, well, you're doing it wrong. But who might try to enter that rodeo?

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports thinks the Cleveland Browns will nab Johnny Football:

Per Ed Werder of ESPN, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be in the running for Manziel:

And best yet, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys could snag him if he drops, per Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report:

And that isn't to mention the possibility that the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders or Minnesota Vikings could nab him in the top 10. Somebody is going to pluck him Manziel off the board in the top 20 picks. It will be a brave team and one committed to him. Whether it will be a mistake is another thing entirely.

The other player who seems to be a consensus first-round pick at this point is Blake Bortles, the prototypical physical specimen at the position whose style of play has been compared to that of Ben Roethlisberger. 

But there is a caveat, of course, and the caveat is that Bortles still lacks polish in the position, that he might be a bit of a project at the next level. For teams willing to let him develop for a season or two, he's a great fit. For teams that need an instant starter, however, Bortles is a riskier proposition.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Blake Bortles #5 of the UCF Knights during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against the Baylor Bears at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

He's a first-round talent, no doubt. But in a stronger quarterback draft, he would be taken at the back end of the first round, not potentially within the top 10 picks.

And that's another reason why reaching for a quarterback in the first round is such a mistake—because the strength of this year's quarterback class isn't at the top but in the middle. Teddy Bridgewater's drop down draft boards puts him in the cadre of quarterbacks that will potentially be taken on Day 2, such as Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Savage, AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger.

But with the draft being so strong and deep in general, teams might be far more willing to wait on selecting a quarterback while taking a surer thing in the first round. Why take Manziel when you could have Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews in the first five picks and potentially get a player like Bridgewater later in the draft?

Pragmatism should rule the day, but when it comes to quarterbacks, it often doesn't. Teams reach. They panic. They know a franchise is only as good as its quarterback. Teams will reach in this draft as well, though it seems that, much like last year, teams may be more cautious approaching the position.

But you just never know. With so many teams needing upgrades at the position, we could see a surprising run on quarterbacks in this draft despite the fact that there aren't any can't-miss faces of a franchise in this year's draft.

It happens more often than not. The 2014 draft should be the exception, but it probably won't be.