For NFL teams the stakes are never higher than when they find themselves wading through the sea of college talent seeking their Franchise Quarterback.
Film will be analyzed.
Players will be measured, timed, poked and prodded.
Questions will be asked, with pretty much no subject matter considered taboo.
Backgrounds will be checked.
And at the end of the day there will still be more misses than hits. Don’t believe me?
JaMarcus Russel is 25 years old, and missing in action. 27 year old Vince Young is in the process of being jettisoned by the Titans, while his fellow 2006 top 10 pick Matt Leinart (also 27) didn’t throw a single pass in 2010.
2005 saw San Francisco pick Alex Smith 1st overall, 23 picks in front of Aaron Rodgers (and at a considerably higher cost). Anyone think maybe the 49ers would like a mulligan there?
Why David Carr the 1st overall pick in 2002 is just 31yrs old (2 years younger than Tom Brady). In a perfect Texan world we should still be in the midst of celebrating the David Carr era. The 2002 draft was particularly costly as not only did Houston pick Carr 1st overall but Detroit used the 3rd overall pick on Joey Harrington. The Carr and Harrington era’s…..hope you didn’t blink.
The point is there is no such thing as a sure thing. For every Manning there’s a Couch (OK wiseguy there have been three Mannings to one Couch, but you get the point). For every Rivers there’s a Boller, for every Roethlisberger there’s a Leinart.
Unfortunately for every Smith (Alex) there’s another Smith (Akili).
Sure missing at any position in the 1st round is costly but QB’s are different, they invariably become the face of the organization. There is an investment made in them that goes beyond that of any player at any other position. Missing big on a Quarterback in the 1st round can set a team back years, and cost millions.
So with that as the backdrop where will Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton end up? Let’s take a look at some of the most likely possibilities.
Carolina 1st overall pick.
Left at the alter by Stanford’s Andrew Luck the Panthers have some decisions to make, but until there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place no one really knows the effect it will have on the draft. For instance many experts seem to believe that this may be a difficult draft to trade down from #1 but if a new CBA includes a rookie wage scale, then that may shake up the entire landscape of the top of the draft.
As for the Panthers they used a 2nd round pick on Jimmy Clausen in the 2010 draft. Clausen was expected to sit and learn but when injuries forced him into the lineup the results weren’t pretty. Three touchdown passes in 299 attempts and the lowest QB rating among qualifiers, the Panthers have to decide if that’s a rookie aberration or a sign of things to come.
Pros: Top pick may give them some flexibility if they can find a way to trade down a few spots.
Cons: Investment in Clausen. There are a lot of broken pieces here, is this where you want to stick a developmental QB?
Buffalo 3rd overall pick
Bills seem to be sending signs that incumbent Ryan Fitzpatrick is their man. However, if there is a third certainty in life besides death and taxes, it’s that you can’t believe everything you hear coming from front office people before a draft.
Pros: Buffalo tried to make a splash a few years ago with T.O., this would be a big splash. Bills don’t have too much invested in Fitzpatrick whose performance has been somewhat pedestrian.
Cons: Fitzpatrick may not have set the league on fire but he has made significant progress over the last couple seasons as his playing time has increased. If Newton ends up in Buffalo fans will start calling for him to start on day one, is he ready?
Cincinnati 4th overall pick
Bengals seem to be behind Carson Palmer, but there’s no denying that Palmer hasn’t been as effective post-knee surgery. Don’t see them grabbing him at #4 but if they could trade down?
Pros: Could spend a couple years on the bench behind Palmer instead of being thrown to the AFC North wolves during rookie season. Some significant age issues in Bengalville. Signing a rookie franchise QB could begin ushering in a new era.
Cons: Tough to pay two guys like franchise quarterbacks at the same time
Arizona 5th overall pick
Kurt Warner is not coming through that door anytime soon (but Derek Anderson is).
Pros: Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been there before. Whisenhunt was the Offensive Coordinator for another big rookie QB while in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger.
Cons: No strong #1 QB to watch and learn from. Fans will be calling for him to start from day one, whether he’s ready or not, and who could blame them.
San Francisco 49ers 7th overall pick
The Harbaugh era begins.
In addition to a new Head Coach the 49ers will also be naming a new Offensive Coordinator (looks like Harbaugh’s former Stanford assistant Greg Roman, according to multiple news sources). The naming of a new OC is an annual tradition in SF. I bring this up because if your going to draft a QB #1 as the 49ers did with Alex Smith in the 2005 draft I would like to think you would find a way to avoid at all costs the whole revolving door OC thing.
Alex Smith, six seasons, six Offensive Coordinators. Continuity anyone?
With both Smiths (Alex and Troy) becoming free agents the QB decision is on the top of Harbaugh’s to do list.
Pros: This coaching staff was just working with kids Newton’s age, may just make the transition a tiny bit easier. Lots of talent by the Bay, a QB here will have some weapons.
Cons: See Arizona
Tennessee Titans 8th overall pick
Well Jeff Fisher seems to have won over Bud Adams’ heart. Now what?
Pros: The idea of a big, strong, mobile Quarterback should not be a foreign one to the Titan coaches. You know what Cam Newton’s Heisman season reminded me of? Vince Young’s Rose Bowl performance. I’m saying Newton played at that spectacular a level much more consistently than Young whose Rose Bowl was one for the ages.
Cons: Any resemblance whatsoever to Young may be a deal breaker for Fisher.
Washington Redskins 10th overall pick
The Donovan McNabb era in Washington has been a train wreck. If only the Redskins had an owner who was willing to make a lot of noise and land one of the highest profile players in the draft, hmmm.
Pros: If this doesn’t have Dan Snyder written all over it then nothing does. His QB position is in flux, big headlines, yeah I’m betting Snyder can’t sleep at night just thinking about it.
Cons: Can’t really think of any off the top. Could McNabb be retained to mentor? I think not with that mid-year contract extension. May have to trade up.
Minnesota Vikings 12th overall pick
Just a hunch but I’m not predicting any private planes being dispatched to Mississippi in 2011.
Pros: Tarvaris Jackson is good enough (and cheap enough) to allow Vikings to compete if Newton doesn’t start right away.
Cons: May have to move up to get him.
Miami Dolphins 15th overall pick
Dolphins are another organization looking to make a splash.
Pros: Dolphins use of the Wildcat shows their willingness to be creative. Newton’s unique talents beg for a team to develop a system that takes advantage of all he has to offer.
Cons: Will have to move up to get him.
My hapless little attempt to handicap the field.
3-1 Washington Owners fixation on big time moves makes them the early favorite.
5-1 Arizona They have the need/pick and don’t want to put Larry Fitzgerald in moth balls.
5-1 Minnesota Ideal situation. Jackson can hold down the fort for now, talented roster.