NFL teams are learning to wait — not inflate — draftable quarterbacks
Patric Schneider, AP
Rick Spielman’s seat as the Minnesota Vikings top football executive is getting warm. He had a pretty solid run of success in his early years, but the natives are getting restless coming off last year’s 5-10-1 season.
And Spielman’s troublesome quarterback evaluations, which led him to trade a second-round pick for A.J. Feely during his Miami Dolphins tenure, is the reason he’s under pressure.
“When you miss on the quarterback nothing else matters,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay points out when talking about Spielman, who used a 2011 No. 12 pick on Christian Ponder, whom the Vikings are trying to replace.
Former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland — who drafted Chad Henne, Pat White and Ryan Tannehill — can attest to McShay’s claims. While Tannehill hasn’t belly-flopped, his career also hasn’t taken off in Miami, and the clock is ticking. But it’s not like the Dolphins have a ton of alternatives.
For the third time in the past 13 years a quarterback wasn’t the top overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft. Odds are football’s most important position will likely be shut out this year too because none of this classes top passers are viewed as clear-cut franchise quarterbacks.
NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock said Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are the only quarterbacks who he’d give the green-light to step in and play right away.
“Every other quarterback needs a redshirt year,” Mayock said.
In fact, there’s no consensus of who is No. 1, or two, or three, or five.
The Sun Sentinel asked three different NFL executives to name the quarterback they would select if their team needed one. One selected Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, whose frame and mobility reminds scouts of Ben Roethlisberger. Another picked Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, whose untamed approach to the game reminds plenty of former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia.
The last picked Teddy Bridgewater, whose accuracy and keen decision making helped him thrive in Louisville’s pro style offense.
At one point Bridgewater was perceived as the top quarterback in this draft class but a bad Pro Day performance has tanked his draft stock to the point some analyst believe he’ll have a Geno Smith-like fall into the second round.
But nobody will truly know where these quarterbacks are taken until draft day, and even then success isn’t guaranteed.
“I really think teams have come to the conclusion that we’re reaching on these quarterbacks, and when you reach you’re setting yourself up for failure,” said an executive from a NFC team. “Last year there wasn’t one quarterback who deserved to be a first-rounder. One (Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel) snuck in, but I think we’re making progress.”
NFLDraftScout.com projects six quarterbacks — Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage, Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo — will be selected in the top 100 picks of this week’s draft. And that doesn’t even factor in Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Murray, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, San Jose State’s David Fales and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, who are all projected to be drafted.
“Quarterback is the only position on a whole team where the team doesn’t try to upgrade the level of talent every year,” said Shaun King, an NFL quarterback for seven seasons who now serves as an analyst for Yahoo Sports and CBS Sports. “Every year they are trying to replace the defensive tackle, get younger at linebacker, but not quarterback.”
Most teams ride them until the wheels fall off, which is exactly what the Dolphins did with Henne until 2011. And Miami will likely take that same approach with Tannehill, who is entering a make-or-break season in his third year as Miami’s starter.
Tannehill, who has produced a 15-17 record and a 79.1 passer rating in his first two seasons, will be learning a new offense for the first time in six years. The Dolphins hope improving the offensive line, which allowed 58 sacks, will help Tannehill take his game to the next level. But if he doesn’t the franchise has a tough decision to make because Miami must decide whether or not to trigger Tannehill’s fifth-year option next May, which will put him on the books for around $14.66 million in 2016.
©2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
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GRAPHIC (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064): draft
ARCHIVE PHOTOS on MCT Direct (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): bortles, manziel, bridgewater
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