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.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been nothing short of a dumpster fire. At 0-5, with two of the worst quarterbacks in the league, a running game that looked best when the first iPhone came out, and absolutely no defense, the chances of the Jaguars getting the top pick in the 2014 draft are as high as Skip Bayless’ man crush on Tim Tebow. That being said, one of the biggest problems with the team is that they have no quarterback. Sure, they have a quarterback per sé, but really, Blaine Gabbert has about as much business being an NFL quarterback as I do, and Chad Henne is inadequate as a fill-in. That being said, the Jaguars should seriously reconsider who is behind center. With no one else to turn to, the team should opt for a quarterback who has experience running a spread offense in college, who has played in a big time bowl game (and won), and who, as a hometown favorite, would bring fans to Everbank Field. That player is Denard Robinson.
Robinson is by no means a conventional passing quarterback, something that would play to his favor. Regarded as more of an athlete out of high school, he played on the Wolverine teams led by Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, While at Michigan, Robinson developed chemistry with wide receivers like Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway, and with the ample backfield of Fitz Touissant and Vincent Smith behind him, he was able to lead a high level offense.
Robinson may not have Roundtree, Hemingway, Touissant or Smith at his disposal in Jacksonville, but what he does have is a potentially dangerous wide receiver duo in Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Shorts has proven to be invaluable to the anemic Jaguar offense, while Blackmon, fresh off a 4 game suspension, showed his form by ripping off a long touchdown against the Rams last week.
Robinson is a runner as well, and in today’s NFL, a running quarterback is starting to become a viable option, as seen in Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Geno Smith, and Terrelle Pryor. If he is unable to go after his offensive weapons, he can just as easily tuck the ball and gain sizeable chunks of yardage.
Robinson is also a local kid, as he came out of high school in Florida. Given the Jaguars’ popularity is next to nil these days, putting a Florida kid in may just entice a few more brave souls to make the trip to Jacksonville.
It’s a thought, but perhaps if the Jaguars do not want to look completely pathetic, maybe they should opt for Robinson instead of waiting the slow and agonizing wait for Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel.
With almost nothing baseball prospect related to write about until the offseason, Prospects2Pros has decided to multi-outfit the blog into a multi sport blog. Look, it’s the best way to use it, and if it helps keep me in practice especially while I have to wait through the non prospect activity that comes with October, then it’s all for the best. You don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. MLB.com doesn’t like it, MLB.com doesn’t have to sponsor it. I just feel that moving into different channels is certainly going to have a positive effect on my writing. And I have no doubt that there are plenty of multi-sport fans who peruse Reddit, MLB.com’s blog network, and so on and so forth. Heck, when I wrote for Bleacher Report, I covered both the Mets and the Jets, as well as the occasional outside sport team. My point is, there is nothing wrong about it, and if there is, it’s not illegal.
Moving on from my little rant, let’s get to the post at hand.
Last year’s NFL season saw the introduction of five very gifted quarterbacks who changed the paradigm that is what a rookie quarterback is expected to do. Andrew Luck shattered rookie records that had been just recently topped, en route to leading the Indianapolis Colts, who had finished with the worst record in the NFL, to a playoff berth. The same happened to former Baylor University star and Washington Redskins starter Robert Griffin III. He took a team that had continually been miring in coaching ineptitude and horrifically bad contracts, and lead them to a playoff berth, all while dealing with injury. Ryan Tannehill, a converted wide receiver out of Texas A&M, helped the Miami Dolphins, who haven’t had a continuous starter since Dan Marino, finish in second place in the AFC East, although granted, the AFC East is probably the weakest division in football right now. And if that’s not enough, there is considerable debate as to whether or not the Seattle Seahawks took the best quarterback in the draft in undersized Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who not only contributed to the re-strengthening of the NFC West as a power division, but actually took his team the farthest in the playoffs in his rookie class, that is, if you do not count Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, who ended up playing half the season and picking up where Alex Smith had left off.
Fans and the media were spoiled rotten by this group of talented gunslingers. Ratings went through the roof when their teams were on primetime TV. All in all, they signified the complete and total annihilation of the old system of sitting a rookie quarterback in his first season, a system that had continually gained in popularity until it reached a head in 2003, when Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer was benched for his entire rookie season, followed a year later by the benching of quarterbacks Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom made late season debuts.
Fast forward now, and we’re looking at what the media calls the weakest rookie quarterback class since 1996. In this year’s class is Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, from Florida State. Manuel, like his predecessor Christian Ponder, a 2011 draft pick, rose up draft boards with a decent senior campaign highlighted by an outstanding Senior Bowl performance, which rose his stock from a Day 2 pick to a top 16 pick. Also in this year’s class is Geno Smith. Smith graduated from the University of West Virginia and was chosen by the New York Jets in the second round of the draft. While the two names lack the notability that their predecessors have, they certainly have had their fair share of controversy. Geno came into what was dubbed by the media as a “circus” environment, supposedly left over from the 2012 season, when the Jets had such star studded names manning the quarterback position as Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, and even Tim Tebow, despite the fact that Tebow never started a game for the team.
The point I am trying to get across here is that Smith, Manuel, and any quarterback from the 2013 class is going to have a rough adjustment period. Sadly, what with the exploits of Luck, Wilson, and Griffin, they will not be given the leeway that they undeniably deserve. Manuel came into a losing culture, the Bills have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL. Despite spending money to improve the team last year, the Bills have no realistic shot at competing unless a miracle happens. Geno, unfortunately is playing in the media capital of the world, where results are expected now, and anything short is considered a failure in the minds of the fans, and the media. You look for instance at the 2013 preseason. Manuel had the poise to play well, but his season started out in doubt when he hurt his knee. Geno, on the other hand, was under the microscope. He had a solid, if unspectacular debut, then in week three, when actually exposed to a full game, he fell to pressure. Three picks later, as well as a safety, people were already clamoring that the season was lost, and even worse, when Mark Sanchez did come in, and got hurt, people latched on to the closest security they had, an undrafted free agent named Matt Simms, who did end up leading the Jets to victory, although 1. it was in the preseason, and 2. it was against third and fourth string football players.
Whatever happens this year to the rookie quarterbacks, you can expect a hard eye. Smith and Manuel are playing in the shadow of what could be arguably one of the best quarterback classes in years, and unless they manage to blow people out of the water, you can expect people to say that the teams that chose them should have waited or should tank and hope for a better quarterback next year. In my opinion, that is grossly unfair, and to that, I also point out that there are 17 weeks to determine what a quarterback can and can’t do.
Would you agree? Should the 2013 class not be judged against the 2012 class? Should the 2012 class be used as a measuring tool to indicate the potential of a quarterback? I leave the floor open to you.