It’s the halfway point of the NFL regular season, which means that teams are getting ready either for the playoffs or for the 2014 NFL draft. For those teams looking forward to the draft, there are players that they need to evaluate, talent from schools that when tapped, will certainly either provide the needed resources to win, or will come back to bite teams. That being said, let’s look at this year’s talent, where it came from, and whether or not it should be picked.
Please note that certain players will not be used as they have not indicated whether or not they will go pro.
Top Prospects: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, Zach Mettenberger, LSU, Tajh Boyd, Clemson, Stephen Morris, Miami, Derek Carr, Fresno State, Aaron Murray, Georgia, AJ McCarron, Alabama
Players to avoid: Mettenberger, Boyd, McCarron.
Why? Though these quarterbacks are having great seasons, history has not been on the side of quarterbacks from these schools. In the past ten seasons, LSU has had none of their quarterbacks achieve NFL success. Matt Mauck was a career backup who is now gone, Jamarcus Russell is arguably one of the biggest busts in NFL history, and Jordan Jefferson and Ryan Perriloux both never entered the league thanks to various run ins with the law. Mettenberger has the skill set to be a quarterback, but the system that he is in will not translate to the NFL. At best, he could be a backup to a decent team, but if one has to rely on an LSU star to pilot their team, you know that the worst is coming.
Clemson may be a juggernaut, but they are more for playmakers of the non-quarterback variety. Guys like CJ Spiller, DaQuan Bowers, Dwayne Allen, Andre Ellington, have all established themselves as playmakers for the Tigers and in the NFL too. You look at the recent quarterback history in Clemson, nothing stands out. Before Tajh Boyd was Kyle Parker. Parker turned down the NFL in favor of a baseball career. Before that. the last notable Clemson quarterback was Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst is still playing, but he is a backup on the San Diego Chargers. Tajh may be able to break the Clemson stigma, but teams should approach him with caution.
Alabama quarterbacks are known more as game managers, getting by because of the team around them. AJ McCarron had the benefit of playing with playmakers, plus the Alabama defense helped the team win the two national championships. McCarron’s predecessors, in turn, Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson were also game managers. McElroy had the benefit of playing with a Heisman winner, while Wilson came on during the reestablishment of the Tide as a dominant program. While the Tide have had their share of legendary quarterbacks, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Ken Stabler, to say that an Alabama quarterback is the reason why the team is good is a major overstatement. An Alabama quarterback needs to have a good team around him in order to survive the NFL, or else they are just as good as an average quarterback.
Let’s take into consideration other schools that have had great college quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it in the NFL.
USC: Matt Barkley cemented his place in the ever expanding list of USC quarterbacks who failed to ascend beyond college stardom, joining Mark Sanchez, John David Booty, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Rob Johnson, Todd Marinovich, and Rodney Peete. The problem with these guys is that like Alabama, there is enough talent around them to artificially enhance the USC quarterback’s stats to make them look appealing. Matt Leinart wouldn’t have won his Heisman without Reggie Bush or Mike Williams, Carson Palmer. It also doesn’t help that at USC, there is a certain pampered ego aspect. Avoid any USC quarterbacks at any cost.
Notre Dame: Maybe it’s the hype of the program, but Notre Dame has not had a legitimate NFL quarterback since Steve Buerlein. Again, I’ll repeat that, Steve Buerlein. Like USC, Notre Dame is a heralded program whose commitments make them appear to be a strong contender every year. It is with that that each quarterback is expected to be good, and because of that, the Notre Dame quarterbacks are often put under a lot of pressure. Guys like Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, and Everett Golson were not only under intense pressure to succeed on the field, but also to abide by the moral code established by the university itself. Because of that, these quarterbacks often crumble under intense pressure. That being said, it looks like Gunner Kiel may find himself touted as the next big thing one year, but if and when he does falter, it’s another Notre Dame quarterback bust.
Oregon: Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, and Darren Thomas all came through Oregon’s system, and while they carved out decent college careers, their NFL careers have been far from excellent. Masoli and Thomas have an excuse, Chip Kelly’s offense has shown to be faulty when used in the NFL, plus with teams adapting to the mobile quarterback model, it’s obvious that there’s almost no chance for those two to succeed. Clemens, Dixon, and Harrington were all pegged as conventional signal callers, and yet they still could not hack it as legitimate options. Clemens has at least a chance to bring some respectability back to the Oregon quarterback, as he currently is starting for the St. Louis Rams while Sam Bradford is on IR. My personal belief as to why the Oregon quarterback is unsuccessful in the NFL is the fact that like USC, they are spoiled. Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike makes sure that Oregon has the bells and whistles in their uniforms to give the Ducks a competitive advantage, and while it’s nice to some, it doesn’t help a quarterback succeed in the NFL.
Using these three schools, we can determine that a lot of good quarterbacks who go to good football schools are not given the adequate tools and knowledge to succeed in the NFL. Whether it’s the innovative offenses, like in Oregon, or the talented recruiting classes that take the effort out of the hands of the signal caller, it seems as if the best course of action is to avoid quarterbacks from great football schools altogether.
What then is the best option? Quite simply, go for a quarterback from a decent school, but not a perennial national championship contender or an under-the-microscope school. These quarterbacks had to make due with the weapons they had, and in all likelihood, it was they who made their weapons look good, not the other way around. A quarterback that comes to mind is Andrew Luck. Luck not only has an NFL pedigree, but also an ability to manage games and yet still come out as a leader. That ability has helped him lead the Colts to a 5-2 record and the lead in the AFC south. Luck did not have the types of weapons at Stanford that schools like Texas, Alabama, and others had, and that was fine. He defied expectations and brought the Cardinal back to the John Elway glory days. Hopefully he will bring Indianapolis to a Super Bowl one day and be mentioned in the same vein as Peyton Manning.
So there you go. The best way to find a quarterback is to look for one who is good, and who makes his weapons look good, not the other way around. Hopefully Jacksonville and Cleveland and any other team looking for their next franchise quarterback will take that advice.