Quarterback has been the most vital position in sports since the first forward pass was thrown. And as we transition into a league dominated by the air attack, the value of the guy under center is exploding.
In the NFL, quarterbacks are as important as steroids and alcohol were in “Breaking Bonaduce”. They spawn greatness. A team without a stud quarterback is never complete.
It takes more to mask and overcome bad quarterback play than it does poor pitching or erratic goaltending.
We haven’t seen a Super Bowl champion who didn’t have an above average passer in ten years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won it in ’02 with Brad Johnson (he was better than you think) and made up for Johnson’s flaws by fielding one of the greatest defenses ever.
Two years before the Bucs, the Baltimore Ravens employed the same strategy to compensate for the face of mediocrity, Trent Dilfer.
If your quarterback’s a bum, you better have a historically powerful defense. Good luck.
Every April the NFL draft comes around and we see desperate teams reach on overhyped quarterbacks in hopes that they’ll pan out. Death, taxes, and Christian Ponder’s coming off the board way too early; those are life’s certainties.
I don’t want to jinx it, but the 2013 NFL Draft might strap the reach-happy trend to a rocket and send it into orbit. The ratio of teams that need quarterbacks to faulty quarterbacks available in the draft is promising. We’re in for a good one.
Having blasted this year’s crop of throwers, I must say this: the class isn’t that awful. Much like every other position in the draft, there simply isn’t a bona fide tier one set of quarterbacks.
There is no Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, but there are a lot of intriguing options. Intriguing: get used to hearing the word intriguing. Please don’t make a drinking game out of it, though, or else you’ll end up like my man Danny Bonaduce.
I now present to you the top five quarterbacks of the 2013 class, in a very particular order (really intriguing to slightly a little intriguing).
Geno Smith, West Virginia: Smith has separated himself from the pack. His college production was somewhat inflated, but his tape backs up the numbers. He can throw the whole route tree and has a gun for an arm.
The red marks on Smith come from him not being a natural passer. He’s gotten by with sloppy footwork and mechanics. Both areas can be coached. It’s also hard to predict how he’ll adapt to a pro-style offense, especially when it comes to making pre-snap reads.
Smith will be taken within the first ten picks. His imperfections are outweighed by his potential.
E.J. Manuel, Florida State: Manuel is so intriguing. His size/ arm/athleticism combo is what reels you in. And he’s the only quarterback who’s suited to play in the Pistol and read-option offenses.
Manuel and Smith are hanging in the same boat (no 2005 Minnesota Vikings). They’re the two most interesting prospects, but raise concern because of their technique. Manuel is farther away from becoming a finely tuned passer. Invest enough time in this project and he could turn into a dynamic starter.
Some quarterbacks transcend scheme fit, most don’t. Manuel falls in with the latter. I think the Philadelphia Eagles will hold on tight to their rabbit feet and hope he’s there in the early second round. Chip Kelly’s system is begging for Manuel.
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse: Nassib is a less polished and less intelligent Matt Barkley but with a bigger arm and better mobility. The upside is there for him to evolve into a reliable starter.
Nassib made plays in college using his legs that probably won’t work out for him in the league. However, he doesn’t seem to mind trading a completed pass for a spear from a linebacker, and you have to admire/value that.
Matt Barkley, Southern Cal: This has been a long time coming for Barkley, who’s been groomed to play quarterback all his life. The Barkley story will show us how far a kid can go without having any real physical advantages.
Barkley is a hair undersized, lacks athleticism, and doesn’t get much heat on the ball. He’s countered these issues with stellar mechanics and a high football IQ.
Best case for Barkley: he winds up in a modified West Coast offense that calls for him to make a bunch of quick timing throws out of three-step drops. Unless he expands his arm range/power, he’ll spend most of his career in second place on the depth chart.
Mike Glennon, N.C. State: As a prospect, Glennon reminds me of Ryan Mallet without the ‘tude, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Both guys are giants who stay firmly planted in the pocket and sling bullets.
Glennon has to get his ball placement under control – especially when throwing with defenders at his feet. He could also use some work in the decision-making category.
Glennon is being compared to Joe Flacco enough to trick a team into doing something crazy. It’s very realistic to think the Arizona Cardinals could be that team. The Cards acquired Carson Palmer last week. I think they need a quarterback.
Palmer will act as a bridge to the future. It’ll take a little time and elbow grease to turn Glennon into a real quarterback.
I’d project Glennon as, at best, a poor man’s – actually, more like homeless man’s – Joe Flacco. We’re most likely looking at the next Derek Anderson.
Tyler Bray, Tennessee: Bray is the wild card. He doesn’t do many things well, but he has a cannon attached to his right shoulder. If only teams were able to draft Bray’s arm and connect it to a different body and mind. That arm would be a top five pick.