After a whirlwind 2010 season full of many attractions, from the high flying Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, to the cheese-head champion Green bay Packers, the offseason buzz has gotten off to a fast start.
At least the rumors and speculations, anyway.
With an uncertain CBA looming and a lockout imminent, many wonder if there will even be an NFL Draft, or a 2011 season in the NFL for that matter. Will we see the replacements once again? Only time will tell.
But, until it becomes certain, the offseason continues, with teams busy with their evaluations of their players, coaching staffs, and implementing new systems. At the same time, they must decide which players to hold on to, and which players to cut loose. The most scrutinized position for a lot of struggling teams is to first address the quarterback position.
The quarterback position is one of, if not the, most important position to have on a football team. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots have been so successful because of their quarterbacks, whom have held down the NFL for some time now. Other teams have learned to follow their lead and find that quarterback of the future.
Teams like the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets, the Atlanta Falcons, and even Tampa Bay and St Louis look to have found their quarterbacks of the future. Their quarterbacks are the new generation behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, along with Brett Favre, whom has retired after an illustrious twenty-year career.
Just as those teams have ushered in the next generation of quarterbacks, teams are still trying to find theirs in the 2011 draft. This draft holds plenty of potential, as four of the top five quarterbacks in this draft all have first-round potential, and teams looking for one are looking to snatch the right one to build their respective franchises. Not only that, but this draft is one of the best rated quarterback classes in some time.
Not all teams need a quarterback first round, but which ones will benefit the most from a rookie, rather than bringing in a veteran?
One of the first teams on the board that need a smart, consistent quarterback is the San Francisco 49ers.
One of the best franchises that boasted some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Joe Montana and Steve Young, the 49ers have since failed to replace their consistency. They attempted thus by drafting Alex Smith number one overall out of Utah.
This experiment went wrong in several ways, namely by the 49ers inability to keep offensive coordinators. Mike McCarthy, one of the NFL's best in developing quarterbacks, left for Green Bay's head coaching; Norv Turner left for San Diego, Jim Hostler was in for a year, Mike Martz was brought in, and later replaced by Jimmy Raye II. Smith had five offensive coordinators in five years.
It's hard for a quarterback to develop when the franchise can't settle on a coordinator.
Now, at this point, with a new head coach in Jim Harbaugh, it may seem as though the organization will start fresh in the draft with a young quarterback. It will take a couple of seasons to get the 49ers on their feet, especially on offense, where there are few weapons aside from running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and tight end Vernon Davis.
The best way for Harbaugh to build this franchise will be by drafting a quarterback high. The best quarterback for them here would be Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, or they could even wait it out and select Ponder in the second round. Drafting Locker could be a bit of a reach, but its not guaranteed he'll still be on the board when the 49ers select again early in the second round.
A team that could definitely do with drafting a high-round quarterback sooner rather than later is the Washington Redskins.
The fact that Donovan McNabb is still with the team doesn't mean that they will not need one. NcNabb at age 34, is growing older, and his play is declining bit by bit, and his best football is likely to be behind him. His growing problems with Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan doesn't make his job in Washington any easier, nor the fact that he was signed to a five-year contract extension.
Once McNabb was benched due to 'cardiovascular endurance' issues in favor of Rex Grossman, it seems that McNabb's time in Washinton may be a bit shorter than people may have hoped, and he might be trading material for the Redskins soon.
If that happens, the Redskins are left with Rex Grossman, who, while he put up numbers, is not the Redskins answer at quarterback. They require some fresh new blood under center.
With the number ten pick in the NFL draft, the Redskins have several options open to them should they choose a quarterback. With Gabbert likely to be off the board, the Redskins go one of several ways. They will have a chance at Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, or possibly Cam Newton. All of them have the athletic ability to function in the Redskins offense, which it has sorely lacked for some years now.
But, if they choose Ponder, its again possible they choose another position of big need for them and wait until the second round, which at this point they could have Ponder waiting for them should a team like Seattle pass over him in favor of rebuilding their secondary.
This team is up in the air in terms of drafting a quarterback early in this draft.
The Titans make the list simply because of what few directions there are for them to go.
There are reports of them aiming to land Matt Flynn out of Green Bay, who had a solid performance in Week 15 against the New England Patriots, almost pulling off the upset against them.
Vince Young's status, as it always seems to be, is up in the air and it is still unsure if he will be sticking around in 2011, even if Fisher is no longer the head coach. But the fact that the Titans are quarterback shopping isn't good on their overall view of Young at all.
If the Titans aren't able to land Flynn out of Green Bay, they must look to the draft to find another quarterback to start the new era under new head coach Mike Munchak, the first new head coach for the Titans in over 17 years.
In terms of a quarterback, the Titans want to avoid one with character issues, a mistake they made with Vince Young, who experienced too many off the field issues the last few seasons in Tennessee. With the eighth pick in the draft, they have plenty to evaluate.
It's likely that Mallet will be ruled out due to character concerns on and off the field, but there will still be at least three of the four first round rated quarterbacks on the board. The Titans likely choices to watch here could come down to Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. Both have the arm and athleticism to play in the NFL, something the Titans like to have at quarterback.
However, both are 'system quarterbacks' and will be closely evaluated as to how they will translate from playing in a spread shotgun offense their entire collegiate careers to playing under center in a pro-style offense.
A team that has been poised to win for several seasons now has been the Minnesota Vikings. They have the line, most of the weapons, and an aggressive defense that specializes in terrorizing your quarterback with the likes of Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Kevin and Pat Williams in the front seven. Not to mention they have an underrated linebacker corps.
But, they need one key ingredient to their franchise: a franchise quarterback for the long run.
They have tried the Tavaris Jackson experiment, and haven't been all too excited to give him the job. Brett Favre had his last best season in 2009, but injuries and age finally caught up to him, and he has finally taken off the helmet, leaving the Vikings devoid of a quarterback.
Now, the Vikings are in a position they have been in for quite some time: no long term solution at quarterback. What will they do, with no options in free agency?
They look to the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Vikings chose a good time to consider a high round quarterback, what with the talent they have in the first two rounds. While the Vikings are poised to win now, there are no viable options that would work for them long term. The best option would be a quarterback like Kevin Kolb, but he looks to be primed for a trip to Arizona.
In terms of draft picks, that's where it becomes interesting. Minnesota sits at the twelve spot, just out of reach of the top ten, by which time its is possible the best might be gone, with teams like Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee, and San Francisco above them.
If the draft falls in the Vikings favor in the first round, the Vikings could be in line for Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Mallet, and could be extremely lucky if Cam Newton falls far enough to twelve. At this point, the likely scenario would have Mallet still available by the twelve spot if Cincinnati passes on him.
Again, the Vikings could wait and draft a smart quarterback like Dalton in the second round. This is a good draft of talented quarterbacks.
As they have no veterans that could start in relief of a rookie quarterback, the Vikings will likely put the quarterback they draft, whether in the first or the second, into strong consideration for a starting job. The Vikings may be able to win now with a proven veteran, but they must take their bumps and bruises with a rookie to have that potential long term.
The Bengals have become one of the more disgruntled franchises in the NFL the past few seasons, and it has been starting to get to starting quarterback Carson Palmer, whom recently requested the Bengals trading him or retiring. Palmer's status in Cincinnati is still a developing one. Will he stay? Will he go?
At this point, it seems that Palmer is close to no longer being a member of the Bengals. And with only Carson's brother Jordan and a Dan LeFevour at quarterback, the Bengals need to get a quarterback if Carson is traded or cut, as he still has plenty of football in him to play.
With the number four pick, plenty of options will still be available for the Bengals should they take the quarterback route. They are said to have their eyes particularity on Blaine Gabbert, who at this point looks like he is the top quarterback in this draft. Ryan mallet is also a candidate to be selected by the Bengals. The Bengals like to take chances on players with character issues and concerns, and are notoriously known for doing so. Cam Newton could be a prime choice here if he bypasses Buffalo.
The Bengals arguably don't belong on this list, but due to Palmer's questionable status, it will be assumed that he doesn't return.
Franchise quarterbacks are hard to find; can there be one found in this draft?
All in all, these teams were designated because they could benefit the most from drafting a quarterback high. All of these teams had their quarterback struggles last season, and the 2011 draft provides the best opportunity, as this is the most hyped class of quarterbacks in a couple of season. Its rare that you see great value and starting potential in the first three rounds of the draft.
Overall, the overall value of these quarterbacks will be among the most watched position heading into the draft, as franchise quarterbacks are hard to find. Teams can surely win without franchise quarterbacks, as the Ravens did back in 2000. But, the franchise quarterback, or at least a consistent quarterback, is a main staple in an NFL offense, as it is the one piece an offense can not function without.
As the combine commences, and evaluations of these high profile quarterbacks begin, teams will be wondering this:
Who will the next big guy from this group be? Which guys will step up in this next generation of quarterbacks?