No matter which team selects which players in this year’s NFL draft, in five years, we will not think of the event in terms of quarterbacks; we won’t think of the Quarterback Class of 2011 with much wistful reminiscence. Each guy has too many questions.
Or to quote Pete Carroll, trying to be as political (and to some degree, because he's a coach, coy) as possible, "You have a number of guys that are capable and this great quest to find the quarterback, which guy’s going to emerge. There’s only a couple guys a year that really turn out as being big time quarterbacks. It’s still a mystery."
Mystery = Despite all the hype, no one's close to Sure Thing Territory this time around.
Of course many outright acknowledge that this is not the greatest draft for quarterbacks and I couldn't agree more. But look at everyone’s draft boards: at least two quarterbacks (Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert) are coming off in the first round and four or five more will likely be off the board by the end of the third (Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton and Ryan Mallet).
By all accounts, 2004 was the best quarterback draft class (Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, JP Losman) since 1983 and five quarterbacks went in the first three rounds that year. Why, if this isn’t a quarterback-heavy draft, are so many guys coming off the board so early?
Yes, teams have needs. But if I told you about a quarterback who’s a consensus top five pick; he’s gigantic, athletic, uncorks missiles and just lead his team to a National Championship, despite some character questions, you’d say Cam Newton, right?
Or JaMarcus Russell?
If I told you about a quarterback who most say should be a first round selection—he just concluded a beautiful statistical career, played in a unique and complex offense (rarely under center), knows how to lead a locker room and has that winning smile we love in All-American leaders like Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb—you’d say Blaine Gabbert, right?
Or Brady Quinn?
What about question-mark guys from decent-to-good programs that we’re finding ways to talk ourselves into? Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and Ryan Mallet, right?
Or Trent Edwards, Drew Stanton, John Beck and Kevin Kolb?
If I were a GM, I’m looking at this year’s draft and a huge red sign is blinking in the back of my mind: 2007, 2007, 2007!!
I'm looking at the fact Oakland and Cleveland aren't much better off than they were four years ago, thinking about the hype frenzy and that little voice is screaming:
“We talked ourselves into guys we KNEW didn’t have “It” back then, but made the picks anyway because our fans were screaming that we needed help at quarterback and we lacked the testicular fortitude to pass on the position for an ACTUAL building block for the franchise’s future.”
Or something like that.
I acknowledge that what happened four years ago does not equal what will surely happen this year; that’s an annoying jump in logic that too many writers actually try to make. But every year, to some degree, the phenomenon of talking ourselves into quarterbacks occurs. Ryan Leaf, as much as I feel bad for him, has become the poster child for the frenzy.
GM’s and fan bases become the guys who attend remote liberal arts colleges and talk themselves into the idea that, “Yeah, I guess she is kinda attractive.” Then (the next morning) in three years, when (the light is good and you’re sober) it dawns on you that (holy crap!) your prized pick isn’t going to win you many games. So you (creep out of the room quietly) sign some crappy journeyman quarterback to a two-year deal to stave the bleeding and ensure a seven win season, and we remember how, actually, there were in fact a lot of questions (hormones raging) about our wasted draft picks.
“Well, he was the best quarterback available!”
So?? Wait then!
Spend that pick on someone that doesn’t make you shrug and avert your eyes as you say his name. Sure, quarterback is the most important position in the NFL, but it’s not like this is your last chance to sign a guy. Wait a year, give your current QB one more season to learn the offense (so he can tutor his eventual replacement), make a trade, sign a free agent or sniff out a diamond in the rough. Four of the top twelve quarterbacks in 2010 (by QB rating) were drafted by different teams than the one they play for now. Why get a mortgage on a house you know is (*cough*) “a real fixer-upper”?
Because, maybe it was concerning that Blaine Gabbert didn’t take many snaps from under center, or that he played in a gigantic spread offense that wouldn’t work in the NFL? Maybe it was concerning that Cam Newton had that me-first attitude, that he seemed to smile with a glass jaw, that when put to the task he couldn’t remember a single play he’d run in college because they rarely ever huddled and simply relied on his “ability to create” which is a game plan only one player in NFL history made work (Mike Vick)? Maybe Mallet really was an unstable spaz? Maybe Kaepernick’s motion really was longer than a Russian novel?
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Damn you Draft Goggles!
Want games to play during the draft?
[Caleb is a Featured Columnist and also writes for Wired.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/calebgarling]