NFL Quarterback Gold Rush 2.0: To Draft or Not To Draft, That Is the Question

Pete WilliamsCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2011

NFL Quarterback Gold Rush 2.0: To Draft or Not To Draft, That Is the Question

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    Previously I wrote this article on how many teams were in dire need of a starting quarter back:

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/525051-2011-nfl-quarterback-gold-rush-panic-is-spreading-across-the-nfl/page/1

    When Luck decided to stay in college there wasn't a clear cut top 5 QB in the draft anymore and commentators and draftnicks have the top 5 QBs floating all over the 1st. round - including myself.

    At the same time the free agent pool of starting caliber QBs is very small - but loaded with potential, but risky, starting QBs.

    Few teams want to trade a starting caliber QB, like Kyle Orton in Denver or Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia.

    This off season there will be a huge rush from QB hungry teams and although we have 4 potential 1st round QBs in the draft, I think its fair to say that this is a sellers market.

    Depending on how the QBs perform at the combine and at their pro day - we could see heavy trading come draft day as teams position themselves to land their guy.

    Finally I haven't even taken into consideration that we won't have a CBA - that would confuse matters even more leaving teams with no other option but to draft a QB.

Teams in Dire Needs Of a Starting QB

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    There is a high number of teams who needs to find themselves a starting QB this off season.

    With a possible lock out - trades might become impossible until the pre-season or later (or so I have read) and that puts even more pressure on teams to get their guy in the draft.

    The 5 teams in dire need are in draft order:

    • Arizona Cardinals
    • San Francisco 49'ers
    • Tennessee Titans
    • Washington Redskins
    • Minnesota Vikings

    The 9 teams that could be interested are in draft order:

    • Carolina Panthers
    • Buffalo Bills
    • Seattle Seahawks
    • Cincinnati Bengals
    • Miami Dolphins
    • Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Oakland Raiders

    That is a total of 12 teams looking for a QB with starting potential.

Starting Material Quarter Backs Available

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    Draft

    Andrew Luck has without a doubt the quality to be a starting rookie QB, but with Luck not declaring for the draft - there isn't a clear cut no. 1 QB in the draft.

    The QBs in the draft class of 2011 all has some questions marks surrounding their abilities to start right away. But I will stick my neck out and name the following as starting material:

    1. Blaine Gabbert
    2. Cam Newton
    3. Jake Locker
    4. Ryan Mallet
    5. Christian Ponder
    6. Colin Kaepernick
    7. Pat Devlin

    Free Agents:

    The free agent pool is to say the least not very impressive and the two quality starters in the pool - Peyton Manning and Michael Vick should both be resigned as franchise QBs with the Colts and Eagles respectively.

    The free agent OBs that are proven starters are could be available are the following:

    1. Matt Hasselbeck (but he might only last for another season)
    2. Alex Smith (He needs a shot with a good head coach that believes in him)

    Then there is a free agent pool of possible starters a team could take a chance on:

    1. Matt Moore
    2. Matt Leinart
    3. Troy Smith
    4. Brady Quinn
    5. Tavaris Jackson
    6. Caleb Haine
    7. Dennis Dixon

    Trade options:

    Trades are always hard to predict - and even more so with a looming lock out.

    However the following starting material QBs could be available as the current team have committed themselves to another starting QB:

    1. Kevin Kolb: rumored to be available for two first round picks
    2. Kyle Orton: rumored to be available for a second round pick
    3. Vince Young: maybe 3-4 rd pick, could be cut
    4. Donovan McNabb: maybe 3-4 rd pick, could be cut

The Arizona Cardinals: Looking For a Veteran Starter

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    The Arizona Cardinals already have two talented QBs in Max Hall and John Skelton. But they need a proven starting QB to help them win now as the rest of the team is more or less ready to challenge for the division in 2011.

    Kyle Orton could be the missing piece for the Cardinals. They have a great running game and some star receivers for Orton to go to. Orton has proved that he can put up the numbers and with play makers to help him win games, he could be just what the Cardinals were looking for.

    The Cardinals 5th pick in the 3rd round could do the trick.

The San Francisco 49'ers: Harbaugh Wants To Groom His Own QB

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    Harbaugh knows that Andrew Luck probably will be out of reach for the 49'ers when he decides to declare for the draft.

    Therefor he goes to the next best thing and that is Jake Locker. Had Locker come out in 2010 he would probably have been a top 5 - 10 pick. And playing on a bad team doesn't all of a sudden make Locker a worse QB.

    He proved by the end of the season that he can perform under pressure and took his team to a bowl game and won it - just as he promised when he decided not to declare for the 2010 draft.

    Lockers all round package has room for improvement, especially his accuracy when throwing from the pocket. But nothing that Harbaugh can't teach him.

    Personally I think that it hurt Locker to play on a bad team where he had to rely too much on his athleticism to get the job done for the team. Locker is accurate when throwing on the run outside the pocket - so you would believe that he has the tools to be accurate in the pocket.

    If Locker can prove that he can improve his accuracy, he has everything else to be a monster QB.

    Harbaugh knows what it takes to be a QB in the NFL and although I have Locker going to the 49'ers I could see Harbaugh looking for the right guy in all directions - all we know is that the 49'ers need a starting QB.

The Tennessee Titans: A Quarter Back That Can Help Titans Win Now

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    Vince Young is gone, Fishers is gone - owner Bud Adams is old and wants to see his team win now - he can't wait for another young QB to develop into a franchise QB.

    With a solid draft and strengthening the team all around The Titans could challenge for the division in 2011. All they need is a solid QB that can lead the team and make the passes that opens up the run for CJ2K.

    Cam Newton would be like looking for a Vince Young clone, he could be available when the Titans pick at No. 8 - but it is questionable if the Titans wants to take a chance at the QB position. However Newton has by some been hailed for his leadership abilities and character.

    If Donovan McNabb still has anything left in the tank, if he still has the ambition and wants to win - he could be a very good match for the Titans with his good arm, his ability to scramble and experience. If McNabb were to be cut by the Redskins, I think he would be a good move for the Titans.

    Maybe Ricky Stanzi or Andy Dalton could develop into starting material behind McNabb.

The Washington Redskins: Looking For The Hidden Gem

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    The Washington Redskins need to make the most of their draft picks as they are rebuilding. I think the Redskins QB strategy will depend on how they do in free agency, but I will look for Shanahan make at least 5 key signings in free agency.

    I think it is hard to see a free agent QB that would fit Shanahan and the teams need for a leader. Vince Young is probably the closest thing if he is cut by the Titans and maybe Shanahan is just the right guy to put Vince Young in the right mode.

    Mike Shanahan likes his QBs to be mobile and with a big arm which speaks to Jake Locker and Cam Newton. However both might be off the board when the Redskins are up in the 1st round and the Redskins do have a lot of other needs they could address in the first round.

    Colin Kaepernick has emerged as a talent that must be intriguing Shanahan, and he might be able to land him with a 2nd - 3rd round pick. In that case look for Shanahan to trade down, as there is plenty of talent graded in the bottom of the first and the second round that fits the Redskins needs perfectly.

The Minnesota Vikings: A QB For The Future

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    The Minnesota Vikings are in a post Favre transition phase with numerous free agents and an aging team.

    But the Vikings is also a team with great talent and on offense they look like the perfect setup for starting a rookie QB.

    In 2011 the Vikings will rely more on the running game to carry the offense and in Christian Ponder they could have probably the most pro-ready QB in this years draft.

    No doubt the the Vikings would be pretty hot on Locker whom many other draftnicks have sent to Minnesota, but I'm not sure he will be on the board when The Vikings are up in the first round.

    If Ponder checks out medically I think he could be a great fit because he can do it all, is a leader and a smart kid.

    If the Vikings wanted to go for a free agent or trade - then Kyle Orton would be a great fit and the Denver Broncos would love the Vikings 2nd round pick in return.

The Carolina Panthers: Out Of Luck, Who Is Next ?

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    The Carolina Panthers thought they had it made with Andrew Luck - but he wisely decided that he rather would become an architect than joining the Panthers.

    The Panthers cannot afford to have another terrible draft like they did in 2010, so I will be looking for them to make the safe picks. With Luck out of the picture, the Panthers would love to trade down to add more talent, but I think they will have a hard time finding buyers.

    You could easily argue that Jimmy Clausen needs a fair shot as the starting QB of the Panthers and that might just mean sitting behind a veteran QB like Billy Volek from the San Diego Chargers who is a free agent for a year.

    The Panthers could make good use of their picks to stack some more talent on an already young and talented team. And who knows they might be picking at no 1. again in 2012 when Luck declares.

The Buffalo Bills: The Dark Horse

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    Unless the Buffalo Bills totally falls in love with Cam Newton I don't see them looking at a QB in the first three rounds.

    With the emergence of Ryan Fitzpatrick the Buffalo Bills are in a perfect situation to add more talent so that the team will be ready when they draft their new franchise QB - they might get Luck(y).

    However I wouldn't rule out that the Bills would go for a QB in the later rounds if the likes of Ricky Stanzi, Andy Dalton or Pat Devlin were to fall out of the 3rd round.

    Also if the Bills get at offer to trade out of the no 3 spot, they might decide they have enough picks to make a move if the right QB is available at the right price.

Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carrolls 5 Year Plan

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    At some point Pete Carroll is going to draft his future franchise QB.

    Matt Hasselbeck might come back for another year and Charlie Whitehurst is just as good as any of the free agents available.

    I can see any of the first round QB prospects going to the Seahawks.Both Gabbert, Newton and Locker have the physical tools to take the game in their own hands and that is not a bad thing for a franchise in rebuilding mode.

    I think that Pete Carrolls experience from college and his coaching style might be just the right thing for the young and inexperienced Gabbert. He wouldn't have to play straight away and could have a great mentor in Hasselbeck to help him develop on and off the field.

    Colin Kaepernick has been making a strong case for himself as has Christian Ponder as picks in the 2nd round. But I think Carroll will only make a move if the right guy is there. Pete Carroll is on a 5 year plan to make the Seahawks a legitimate Super Bowl contender and is in no rush - at least not in 2011.

Cincinatti Bengals: We Like Trouble

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    If Cason Palmer wants out of Cincinatti there is no point in keeping him or his brother. I think it would be refreshing to clear the air with T.O. Chad Johnson and Palmer leaving the team.

    The Bengals are not a bad team but something happened with the chemistry in the locker room and the defense was plagued with injuries.

    I don't think the Bengals will pick a QB with the pick no 4, but maybe they would trade down or use their second round pick on a guy like Ryan Mallet. And on a team with some hard nosed veterans, Mallet could probably learn some of the intangibles that he presumably lacks.

    If the Bengals revert to their run first offense with Cedric Benson, Mallet could actually be a nice fit, because he could stretch the defenses deep with his big arm.

    If the Bengals were to go to a veteran, Vince Young looks just like a player the Bengals would love to pick up.

    On a personal note I would love to see Dan LeFevour get a shot, he is a fighter that excels under pressure.

Miami Dolphins: In The Shadow Of Dan Marino

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    It doesn't look like there is a lot of faith in Chad Henne at the future franchise QB in Miami. With Dan Marinos shadow hanging over the QB position it will take a special kind of guy to take command in Miami.

    Cam Newton might just be that guy. Cam Newton seems to have all the tools to make it big in the NFL, and the self confidence and swagger to make big in Miami - to be Brandon Marshalls new best buddy. The Dolphins running game with wild cat elements, would fit nicely with Newtons running abilities.

    In fact I think this fit is so good that the Dolphins might even want to trade up for Cam Newton.

    And having a private media workout - that so Miami - well in my mind.

    Alternatively the Dolphins will give Chad Henne his final shot and sign a veteran like McNabb or Vince Young as wild cards.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Del Rio and Garrards Last Danse

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars will probably continue with Del Rio the Garrard tandem for another season and Luke McCown will be a good backup to push Garrard if he is resigned.

    I don't see the Jaguars going QB in the first couple of rounds as they have plenty of other needs.

    However if Vince Young is cut from the Titans I think the Jaguars will have to take a good look at him, because of what he could do together with MJD. Maybe Vince Young has learned his lesson and playing for a under the radar franchise could do him good.

    If the Jaguars were to draft a QB I think prospect like Christian Ponder, Nathan Enderle and Greg McElroy could be nice fits with their experience running a pro-style offense and managing games.

Oakland Raiders: Will Al Davies Fall in Love ?

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    Without a first round pick the Oakland Raiders are really out of the race for any of the top picks QB picks in the draft. And its kind of hard to argue that any of the free agent QB's are substantially better than Jason Campbell.

    If the Raiders are going to continue down the road with Jason Campbell adding a young QB like Pat Devlin would be a nice fit as he possesses some of the same traits as Campbell, good arm, tough, accurate.

    Now if Al Davis were to call an Al Davis - the Raiders would probably be in the market for Vince Young, but that would be going in another direction - and do they really want another QB with questionable intangibles.

Blaine Gabbert and The Question Of The No 1 Pick in The Draft

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    Blaine Gabbert is the big unknown for me in the draft.

    Commentators and draftnicks all have Gabbert high on their boards, and I have slotted him as a nice fit for the Seahawks.

    But I'm having a hard time finding anything about where this kid really excels. Instead I keep reading about his poor work ethics and being out of shape.

    I would be very cautious about picking Gabbert because some of the following comments that I have collected from CBSSports.com:

    • Is very young and lacks experience.
    • Accurate, but most throws within 10 yds.
    • Inconsistent on short throws when under pressure
    • Panic with pressure coming straight at him
    • Does not feel backside pressure very well
    • Stares down receivers - easy to read
    • Doesn't read blitzes very well
    • Makes poor decisions because he gets impatient.
    • Played in an offense that perennial makes QBs look good.

    The upside of Gabbert is that does throw with great zip, has a good arm, a quick release, is mobile and a good leader on the field with a winning mentality.

    I think Gabbert is much harder to evaluate than any other of the QBs, maybe the combine will make us wiser.

    Blaine Gabbert by all means represent the big question of this article: To draft or not to draft.

In Conclusion

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    Finding the franchise QB is at the forefront on every teams agenda.

    I tried to evaluate how the quarter back needy teams will address the to draft or not to draft question.

    Things will turn out totally different and after the combine we (might) be a lot wiser.

    So to summarize:

    The Dark Horse: Blaine Gabbert could go to any of these teams.

    The 5 teams in dire need will address the QB position like this:

    • Arizona Cardinals: Trade for Kyle Orton, as they don't need another rookie QB
    • San Francisco 49'ers: Sign Jake Locker in the first round.
    • Tennessee Titans: Trade for or sign Donovan McNabb if he is cut
    • Washington Redskins: Sign Colin Kapernick in the 2nd to 3rd round (look for them to trade down.
    • Minnesota Vikings: Sign Christian Ponder in the 2nd round

    The 9 teams that could be interested are in draft order:

    • Carolina Panthers: Sign a veteran free agent like Billy Volek to give Clausen another year.
    • Buffalo Bills: Signing later rounds talents like Ricky Stanzi or Andy Dalton
    • Seattle Seahawks: Sign Blaine Gabbert in the 1st round.
    • Cincinnati Bengals: Sign Ryan Mallet in the 2nd round
    • Miami Dolphins: Sign Cam Newton in the 1st round
    • Jacksonville Jaguars: Sign / trade for Vince Young 
    • Oakland Raiders: Sign Pat Devlin in the 3rd round