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Dropping back

Why is this class of quarterbacks in free fall? Greg Gabriel

May 05, 2014
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Earlier in the year, many in the media and the draftnik community had as many as four quarterbacks being taken within the top 10 picks of this week’s NFL Draft. Now we are hearing one or two will get drafted in the top 10 and maybe none at all. Why is this happening?

There are a variety of reasons. The most important is that the quarterbacks are not as talented as the media originally thought. Going back to last fall, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater started the season very strong. Right away, he was anointed as the probable number one pick in the draft. We also had Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who was coming off a Heisman Trophy season in 2012 probably entering the draft after the season. That gave us another potential top player at the position

Add to that the great season Derek Carr was having at Fresno State and Blake Bortles from Central Florida coming out of nowhere in November, and there are suddenly four potential top quarterbacks in the draft. Raising the hype even further was Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland and Minnesota, all with needs at quarterback, having selections in the top 10. So there you go! It’s a lock! Four potential top QB’s and four clubs with a big need. The problem is, no one asked NFL club evaluators how they feel about the quarterbacks.

During this whole process, scouts, GM’s and coaches have remained very silent on the subject, moreso than normal. To date, I have seldom heard anyone from the NFL say anything about this year's quarterbacks other than the template, “some are talented”.

Recently, we have read that Teddy Bridgewater had been “falling” in the eyes of the NFL teams. That is not accurate. You can’t fall if you weren’t that high to begin with. The media is slowly finding out that THEY over-graded many of these players. So when they gauge that the teams' grades are not as high as their own, they must be dropping.

I have talked to four General Managers in the last week about this year’s draft. None has told me that his club has a QB rated as a top 10 player. One GM told me that he had two QB’s rated as first round players but none in the top 25 on their board. Another told me his club did not have a quarterback rated high, but he felt that maybe one would go in the top 10. Another told me that while his club didn’t have the QB’s rated high, he hoped that five would go in the first round because that would leave quality players for the other teams to draft.

Last week, former Browns GM and current Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, Phil Savage said on Sirius XM NFL radio that when mock drafts started coming out in January, they all had Teddy Bridgewater as the probable top pick in the draft. He said, after seeing these, that he polled a number of GM’s and personnel directors around the league to get their feelings, and none had Bridgewater as high as 20 on their early boards.

Why the difference in opinion?

I am not about to throw stones or cast doubt about the draftnik community. In the last year, I have gotten to know a number of these guys, and they do an outstanding job. They take their jobs seriously and have strong opinions based on what they have seen and in most cases are very good evaluators. Having been on the road with many of the NFL scouts over the last 30 years, I can tell you that many of these “amateurs” are more talented and have a stronger work ethic than some club scouts.

These guys have limitations though, as they don’t have access to “coach’s tape” and don’t make school calls where they can watch practice and talk with coaches and support people. Those two things are very important in the overall evaluation process. In most cases, the only time they get to see many of the prospects live is in the All Star games in January.

Another thing that the media and draftniks are doing is using history as part of their evaluation process. When this is done, you can understand why they felt quarterbacks would go high. From the 2006 draft through the 2012 draft, 20 quarterbacks were drafted in the first round, with 15 of those 20 being selected in the top 12 of their respective drafts. Clubs with a need drafted quarterbacks. 

The problem is, of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the first round in that time frame, only 6 have become what I would call "quality players". The jury is still out on a few more. The hit ratio on first round NFL QB’s is not very good.

In the 2011 and 2012 drafts, three quarterbacks drafted in the second round or later (Kaepernick, Dalton, Wilson) have gotten their clubs to the playoffs. One of these players has won a championship!

In that same 2011 Draft, four quarterbacks were drafted in the first round with Auburn’s Cam Newton going first overall. Of the four, the only one who has been successful is Newton. The other three clubs are looking for QB’s again in this draft.

In many drafts, clubs overdraft a quarterback because they have a need. They get burned because the player was overrated. The media and the draftniks feel history will be repeated, and clubs with a need will, again, overdraft at the position. I feel that history has taught the decision-makers a lesson. Drafting a quarterback high in the first round does not equal success. While these clubs have a need and will draft a quarterback, they won’t necessarily draft the quarterback with their first pick.

My feeling is that no quarterback in this class deserves to be taken in the top 10, and maybe one will go that high. All of these players have at least one major flaw. The teams with a need will either trade back and select the quarterback where he has more value, or they will select their quarterback with a later pick.

I said above, all of these quarterbacks have some flaws. Most have played in schemes where they cannot change plays or protections. They seldom, if ever, play from under center, and they go through very minor progressions as compared to the NFL game. While they have talent, they are not ready to play the NFL game. There is a learning curve, and many of the ones who have failed, played before they were ready.

Last year, many felt that two or three quarterbacks would be drafted in the first round. That didn’t happen, and only one QB was drafted that high. It’s my feeling that the 2013 draft was not an aberration, it’s the new trend.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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