Here we go again

We are a week away from the Combine, and the first round quarterback hype is already high. Many of the draftniks and media have both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota going in the top 10. Their thinking is that because they are the two most talented quarterbacks, they will automatically go that high. If you notice, it’s only the media and draftniks that are making these statements. No one from the NFL says a thing and they won’t until they get into the lying season full swing. Once you get to the Combine, you can’t believe a thing an NFL exec says about a prospect because 90% of the time they are lying. If you go back a year or 13 months, most of that same group had Teddy Bridgewater going, if not first overall, at least in the top 5. They also had Johnny Manziel as a sure-fire top 10. As we got close to the Combine, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles started to catch fire and by the start of that annual event, many “experts” had all three of those quarterback’s being drafted in the top 10. The problem is the people making these predictions aren’t the ones making the decisions. While quarterbacks did get largely over-drafted for a number of years, in the last two drafts, they’ve been drafted just about where they should have been. Only Blake Bortles was drafted in the top five as he went third overall to Jacksonville. Personally, I thought that was high. As I wrote a year ago, I didn’t think any quarterback last year was worthy of a top 10 pick. If Jacksonville had a chance to do it over, they may well have drafted Bortles all over again but not with the third pick. They probably would have traded down. One of the reason’s the quarterbacks start to “fall” after the Combine is that beginning with the Combine, the coaches are more involved with the process. The coach’s opinion is very important in the evaluation of a quarterback. They are not only looking at the physical traits of the player, but the mental. Does the prospect have the mental aptitude to handle the offense that particular team is running? The coaches also are looking at the leadership qualities the player has. By spending a lot of time with the player they can get a pretty good idea if that player has what it takes to lead. Up to now, the “draft experts” just look at the talent of the player and rarely factor in character. Again, go back to last year and Johnny Manziel. Maybe on natural talent, Manziel deserved to be a top 10 pick but when you figure in his character, we saw that he may not even be a legitimate first round player. The Browns waited until pick number 22 before they drafted Manziel. After just one season in the league we have found out that Manziel’s lack of character may destroy his career. I got a call the other day from a renowned draft expert and his question was, “Do you think the Bucs take Winston with the first pick?” It took me all of one second to say no. Having worked with Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith for a number of years, I know how he values character. There are things that he will let slide, but there are other issues that he won’t budge on. Winston’s off-field issues won’t sit well with Smith, and I would be surprised if the Bucs selected him. Could it happen? Of course, but that would mean Lovie had changed his philosophy to draft a player at a need position. There is no doubt Winston is the most talented quarterback in this draft, but his character issues will make him slide. We won’t know the answer to how far he will slide until draft day. Marcus Mariota is a very productive and talented quarterback in the Oregon system. His play in that system doesn’t translate to how he will play in an NFL style system. Mariota has legitimate accuracy concerns downfield. In three games charted this season, he completed only about 35% of his passes over 15 yards. That isn’t NFL quality accuracy. Mariota is a top character guy who will do what it takes to improve but he is still a work in progress and it will take some developmental time. You can’t expect him to come in and play and be productive, he just isn’t ready. That being said, do you take a guy like that in the top 10? While it's good radio or television to listen to these experts, their opinion doesn’t mean a whole lot. Last year, after the experts found out what NFL people really think about the quarterbacks, they no longer had them rated as high. Using Bridgewater as an example, in 2 months the "experts” dropped him from a top five to out of the first round. In truth, NFL evaluators never had Bridgewater as a top five type of player. The point is this, the “experts” aren’t really experts and the information they give out is only as good as the information they get. Knowing that, don’t believe everything you hear them say over the next few weeks. It’s just conversation hype. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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