NFL Draft 2016: Undervalued Quarterback Talent
Recently, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell declared that Carson Wentz is a better quarterback than last years top two overall draft picks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
This is a bold statement, but doesn’t help dismiss the notion that by most accounts, the 2016 NFL Draft is lacking in depth as far as talent at the quarterback position.
Granted, there are no Andrew Luck’s or Cam Newton’s – guys who are considered surefire starters before they take a snap in camp – in this year’s draft. But there is talent, and it’s pretty deep.[the_ad id=”58837″]The depth of that talent has the ability to change the look of this year’s draft. The normal school of thought is “If you need a quarterback, take the best one and take him early.” The problem with that theory is, you probably need other positions too, and you’ll end up sacrificing talent elsewhere to get a shot at a franchise quarterback.
The 2016 NFL Draft does have what appears to be some high-level, surefire talent at plenty of positions outside of quarterback. It is at these positions where I believe teams like the Browns, 49ers and Rams – teams that need plenty of help outside of the quarterback position – should look for talent in the first round.
Let’s take the two players who are widely considered the top quarterbacks available: California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. Both have unique tools and skill sets. The question is whether or not their tools and skill sets are that much more impressive than some of the quarterbacks you could get in later rounds. Is the gap enough that they should pass up the top pass rusher or cornerback in the draft?
Again, I don’t think so.[the_ad id=”58835″]Let’s be honest – the Browns need everything. It’s rare you’ll find a mock draft that doesn’t have the Titans taking an offensive tackle – usually Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil. If that is the case, Cleveland essentially has the first overall pick. They just brought in a veteran quarterback and are not exactly lacking bodies at the position. The Browns could upgrade their entire defense by drafting Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa or Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They could then come back at the top of the second round and draft Penn State’s Christian Hackeberg, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones or North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett – all of whom have similar upside to Goff and Wentz, yet a negligible difference in terms of skill sets.
The problem is the fact that the supposed quarterback shortage in professional football is being sold as a reality to everyone from media to fans to front offices. In addition to the perceived reality, the popular school of thought to fix this problem is to draft the best quarterback you can when you can regardless of what else you need. This school of thought pressures teams into taking the top-rated quarterbacks when they are available above all other needs.
As the Denver Broncos proved this season, you don’t necessarily need elite quarterback play to win at a high level. You need a lot of different pieces and a little stability at the quarterback position. The 2016 NFL Draft has more than enough quarterback prospects to provide teams stability at the position with sacrificing elsewhere.
Understanding that, fans shouldn’t be too upset about their favorite teams not reaching for one of the top two signal callers in the first round. Instead, they should be celebrating the fact that their teams filled other needs early and landed one of these guys in the later rounds:
No Michigan State quarterback won more games during their career than Cook, which is saying a lot. The two-time Big Ten Championship Game MVP is a proven winner with a track record of being able to make every throw while also posing a threat as a runner.
Best Fit: Denver Broncos
Hackenberg’s college career didn’t go quite as played, largely due to a patchwork offensive line comprised of several walk-ons during his time in Happy Valley. When he did get protection, the junior looked like a prototypical NFL starter at the position. In terms of the eye test, there may not be anyone better in the college ranks.
Best Fit: L.A. Rams
There isn’t a bigger arm in college football – and possibly the NFL. Jones is a physical freak who can pick apart defenses through the air or run like a tight end in the open field. He’s raw, but few have a higher ceiling.
Best Fit: San Francisco 49ers
North Carolina State
Brissett is a mix of Hackenberg and Jones — decent athlete and accurate passer. He’s also a natural leader, reminding me of Kirk Cousins at times in that regard. He needs a bit of polish, but with many of the teams who need quarterbacks filling their depth charts with veterans; he should have time to grow into a legit starter wherever he ends up.
Others to keep an eye on during NFL Draft weekend:
- Kevin Hogan, Stanford
- Cody Kessler, Southern Cal
- Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech
- Nate Sudfeld, Indiana