Anytime a team elects to use a first-round pick on a quarterback, they are taking a sizable risk. Aa poor decision may set the franchise back another five years.
Every year, we hear the same spiel from Mel Kiper and all the other draft pundits: “Quarterback X has all the tools” or “this kid is a can’t-miss prospect." Funny thing is that more often than not, these picks do not pan out.
Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch and Cade McNown are just a few memorable top picks who burned out fairly quickly in the league.
Of course when these picks fail, all the “experts” rely on hindsight to explain the warning signs each player displayed prior to being drafted.
There are a wide variety of reasons that quarterbacks fail to succeed in the NFL. The most obvious reason to explain this failure is that these quarterbacks are thrust into a no-win situation.
Typically a team that picks at the top of the draft board has a lot of holes to fill, has undergone a coaching change,or followed Matt Millen’s draft strategy. Some quarterbacks have been able to thrive in the face of such dire straits, as Matt Ryan is the most recent success story overcoming such substantial odds.
However, for every Matt Ryan, there is always a Jason Campbell, Patrick Ramsey or David Carr. It’s not that these players weren’t talented enough to succeed in the league, but coaching indecision and lack of direction led to failure for these picks.
Every year there is a one quarterback that has a phenomenal season playing in the NCAAs and becomes the chic pick for the upcoming draft. We saw this with Akili Smith, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boeller and every year one team gets enamored with these players. These “flash in the pan” players are great if you want create short-term excitement, but they ultimately lead to long term tragedy.
Cam Newton suitors beware.
Work ethic and attitude also play an enormous role for how a quarterback will adjust to life in the NFL. Several talented studs such as Vince Young and Matt Leinart were revered coming out of college, yet they did not want to put the work in on the big stage. Whether it be laziness or general disinterest, a lack of work ethic is unacceptable at this level.
A foil to this point would be Josh Freeman from the 2009 draft. Many analysts questioned the selection, citing he had the raw tools, but he was most likely a reach. Freeman is by no means a sure thing just yet, but his work ethic and desire to succeed have made up for his shortcomings.
Work ethic and desire make a world of difference as a few well known quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and some guy named Brady have all ascended to the top of the sport due to their unrelenting nature.
Over the years, NFL owners and coaches have become more cognizant of character issues and the impact a player may have on an organization. Obviously Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell are the most well-known red flags taken highly in a draft only to crash and burn very very quickly.
Ryan Mallet has obviously missed that memo in Jon Gruden’s “Quarterback Camp.”
Drafting a quarterback in the first round is no easy task, because frankly their is no sure thing. For all the high picks being spent on quarterbacks, it’s worth noting that 15 teams in the NFL started non-first round quarterbacks on Opening Day last season.