Like any publicity obsessed blogger, I often take a detour through my stats page to see the amount of reads I get in a given day, views from around the world, and links I get to other sites.
My mock drafts have been viewed by team-centric message boards and blogs, my opinions on controversial topics (Like Ben Wetzler-gate) have been analyzed, and recently, college football fans have debated whether or not a prized quarterback recruit will go play there or opt to be a baseball player.
The intent of this article is not a massive ego stroke, believe me, I love the attention, but I’m not a whore for it. No, rather, it’s answering the question, would said athlete, Allen High School shortstop and quarterback Kyler Murray, consider turning pro or enroll at Texas A&M.
Kyler Murray is perhaps one of the greatest beneficiaries of Lamarckism due to both his father’s and uncle’s athletic abilities. Although undersized as a quarterback, he’s made himself into one of the most sought after recruits in college football history, eventually deciding to sign with Texas A&M. In baseball, he’s considered a raw talent with a very high ceiling, a speedster with some hitting ability, and the talent to play shortstop.
Murray’s also a trailblazer in the fact that he played in the Under Armour showcases for both baseball and football, a feat that had never happened before.
Kyler Murray is no doubt one of the more interesting athletic recruits in the nation. Not only that, but he also has major leverage thanks to his uncle Calvin being a sports agent.
But that doesn’t address the question: Where will Kyler go?
To answer this question, one has to look at the past five years, where at least one major dual sport athlete was drafted out of high school.
To begin this half-decade journey, one only needs to look at current Dodgers prospect and former LSU quarterback commit Zach Lee.
Lee was the original Kyler Murray, a top prep multisport athlete considered a tough sign due to a commitment to play for Louisiana State’s baseball and football teams. In his senior year, the McKinney High School product posted NFL-style numbers, and was named the offensive player for the year in his district. It was safe to say that in order for him to sign, a team had to be willing to pay big for him to drop his commitment.
Concerns about his signability dropped him from an early first round pick to a late pick, even in mocks. In fact, some mocks took him out of the first round entirely.
Finally, on draft day, Lee was taken 28th overall by the Dodgers, and signed with a hefty $5.25 Million bonus at the deadline.
Since being drafted, Lee has been moving at a typical pace for a prep player, and expects to be in the majors by this spring. He most recently finished in AAA Albuquerque, going 7-13 with a 5-44 ERA, extreme numbers even by PCL standards.
Bubba Starling and Archie Bradley only increased awareness of the highly valued dual sport prep athlete.
Starling was a star quarterback and outfielder for Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. Considered arguably one of the best athletes in memory, he had both pro baseball scouts and University of Nebraska football and baseball fans salivating. Starling was a no-doubt first rounder in baseball, mainly because he was a five tool player, rare for a high schooler.
Archie Bradley was also a highly touted two sport star from Broken Arrow High School. Considered one of the top prep athletes in Oklahoma history, Bradley was named one of ESPN RISE’s Elite 11 quarterbacks, in a class that included Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Golson, and Cody Kessler, among others. He had a commitment to the University of Oklahoma as a two sport star as well.
Both Starling and Bradley ended up being top ten selections, with Starling going to the Royals fifth overall, and Bradley going to the Diamondbacks seventh overall. Because of their leverage as potential college athletes, they were able to sign big contracts with bigger bonuses, incidentally, this would be the second to last year that bonuses went unregulated. Since then, Bradley had become arguably one of the top pitching prospects with the Diamondbacks, with a major league debut projected at 2015. Starling’s development has been more protracted, having just finished his last season in Wilmington, the high-A affiliate of the Royals.
In 2012, Hueytown High School quarterback/pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston was a highly touted dual sport athlete. A top talent, Winston supposedly would have been a high draft pick had he not been so intent on playing football at Florida State. The Texas Rangers would draft Winston in the 15th round, and in an attempt to get him to sign on, offered to let him play football at Florida State. Winston refused, and has since become one of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL draft, and a former third team All-American utility baseball player.
Of course, Winston hasn’t ruled out professional baseball either, and has considered a baseball and football career, like Bo Jackson, another former Heisman winner.
Before Kyler Murray, however, Texas A&M fans had to look forward to Kohl Stewart as Johnny Manziel’s replacement. Stewart was a highly rated two sport star who was set to play both sports. There were questions about his health, however, as he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. This however did not deter the Twins, who took him fourth overall. Stewart signed rather quickly, with a signing bonus set at $4.5 million and in his first two seasons, has made it to Low-A Cedar Rapids, a good pace for a prep pitcher
Lee’s Summit High School outfielder Monte Harrison was an immensely talented wide receiver as well and was considered a tough sign from the beginning. His strong commitment to play football and baseball for Nebraska dropped him to the second round. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him, and he signed quickly, however. Harrison had a so-so year to start his career, but is one of the Brewers’ top prospects already given the strength of the Brewers’ system.
Even if a prep baseball player isn’t a dual sport athlete, teams will often look for ways to ensure a commitment to them as opposed to a college. Look at the Chicago Cubs last season. In order to get highly rated prep pitcher Carson Sands, the Cubs spent their first three picks on high floor college talent, catchers Kyle Schwarber from Indiana and Mark Zagunis from Virginia Tech, and pitcher Jake Stinnett from Maryland. Knowing full well they could sign their first three picks for less money, they treated Sands as their first round pick and signed him for about the amount of a late first rounder.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for football fans, but in the business of sports, money rules everything. Draft a player high and offer him the moon, while still being within the limits of the bonus pool, and a player will sign. It doesn’t matter if the player could be the best quarterback in university history, the player will go where the money is. Unless Kyler Murray explicitly tells teams not to draft him because he wants to play football in college, ensuring that he drops to a day 2 or 3 pick, you can bet there is going to be at least one team willing to pay whatever amount is necessary to get him on their team as the shortstop of the future.
Any Jets fan or reporter who expected second year general manager John Idzik to pounce in free agency has been left sorely disappointed, irritated, or at the very worst, calling for his head. It’s been a little over a week since the real offseason began and so far the only notable moves that the Jets have made have been losing valuable right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, replacing him with Super Bowl starter Breno Giacomini, signing former Peyton Manning target Eric Decker to a team friendly contract over five years, and cutting embattled wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Idzik has left the team with a Cromartie sized hole at cornerback, a need for another target for second year quarterback Geno Smith, and enough questions to make a game out of figuring what the team’s offseason strategy is.
In an offseason rife with talent at any position other than quarterback, Idzik has repeatedly lost out on cornerback options in free agency. First to go was arguably the best cornerback on the market Alterraun Verner, who left Tennessee for Tampa Bay, followed by Vontae Davis, who returned to Indianapolis, then Darrelle Revis, who ended up being the Golden Goose of Free Agency, who was cut by Tampa Bay then signed by the Jets’ most bitter rival, the New England Patriots. On Sunday, after negotiations with former Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the sixth year cornerback ended up signing with the New York Giants. Details came out that Idzik wanted Cromartie to prove himself after having a decent year in Denver after two miserable ones in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Giants ended up giving Cromartie exactly what he wanted, a 5 year deal worth a little less than $8 million a year. In terms of a contract, that’s top flight cornerback money, and DoRoCro is certainly not a top level corner.
Going back to Idzik though. his actions, or rather, inaction, has led to several theories: that he’s a stubborn negotiator who refuses to find a middle ground, (ostensibly true, given his handling of the Howard situation), that he’s more concerned with building the team through the draft, (also true, given that he’s already attended Texas Tech and Louisville’s pro days to scout tight end Jace Amaro and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rather than meeting personally with former top target Emmanuel Sanders) or that he’s deliberately sabotaging Rex Ryan so that he can blow up the team and remake it the way he wants it (although there’s no credence to that theory, the way that he handled Ryan’s coaching staff indicates that he’s still smarting over having to deal with someone whom he didn’t hire).
What disgruntled fans, columnists like Manish Mehta and Rich Cimini, and agents fail to realize is that there’s more to the offseason than free agency. There’s no such thing as an open-book general manager; if there was, then all his targets would be gone. Idzik is fiscally conservative. In a salary cap driven league, that may not be a bad thing. He’s not going to throw money at just anyone because that player can temporarily fill a need. While admittedly upset at losing Revis to New England, I get why he didn’t sign him. Revis may be a top flight cornerback, but really, is a corner worth $12 million a year? In addition, Revis established his status as a greedy money grubbing mercenary when he held out of camp in 2010, and cemented it when he signed a 1 year deal for $12 million with the Patriots.
Idzik knows that prices for players do drive up when rookie contracts expire. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He’s only been playing for three years and already he wants $18 million a year. This is for a quarterback who, while he did make the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter, is in no way elite quite yet.
Another realization is that Idzik’s strategy has paid off. The Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl with a roster built almost entirely out of players acquired in the draft. Richard Sherman was an Idzik pick. Russell Wilson was an Idzik pick. Golden Tate was an Idzik pick.
What Idzik does need to realize is that he’s not in Seattle anymore. Seattle is more calm and reserved when it comes to dealing with football outside the season. New York, on the other hand, is a hyper frenzied media market. Every move is watched, every player is overanalyzed. Fans don’t know the meaning of patience. Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson, both imported products of the New York way, aren’t patient. However, is it necessarily a bad thing to wait? Is waiting until the draft a crime?
Idzik prove many doubters wrong with his first draft. He found Revis’ replacement in Dee Milliner, reaped the immediate benefits of the deal as well by getting future Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, a pick, mind you, that Jets fans booed (although Jets fans will boo practically any pick), and patiently waited and picked up a viable, if slightly shaky option at quarterback in Geno Smith at #39. In addition, Idzik completely revamped the running game by trading for Saints running back Chris Ivory. Prior to the deal, many fans wanted Idzik to pick up a running back, like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or UNC’s Gio Bernard.
Although Idzik’s strategy may wear thin the patience of fans who were expecting the team to actually do something in free agency, perhaps he’s biding his time and hoping that his magnum opus is in this year’s draft.
The Jets do have up to 12 picks this year after the purge of 2013. Up to 5 of those picks are protected thanks to the compensatory rules. There’s actually a good chance that one of those picks ends up being the prized end of the third round selection. In addition, the Jets have two fourth round picks, and history has shown that the fourth round has been one of the Jets’ best rounds, see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Brad Smith, and Bilal Powell for reference.
Idzik may be using one or two of the picks that he has to strike a deal for a cornerback. While he won’t be getting a Sherman, he may be going after someone who’s dependable, like a Brandon Flowers or a Byron Maxwell. It’s not like he’s going to pull a St. Louis and stash all his picks.
Idzik also knows a late round talent when he sees one. Seattle’s defensive backfield was constructed practically out of late round picks, save for Earl Thomas. Maybe he’s scouting late round cornerbacks who fit the Ryan system.
Look, I get it. The Jets defied expectations last year. They finished 8-8 while perched precariously near the salary cap without an established franchise star or a legitimate receiving corps. They’re off the hook for $27 million. The obvious thing to do is to pounce in the Free Agent market. But here’s the thing. Idzik isn’t an obvious person. He’s biding his time and obviously planning to strike when he feels comfortable. Idzik’s a draft man, just like Mike Tannenbaum was a free agent man before him.
Idzik knows what he’s doing, that he’s got plenty of time. Jerry Reese, the GM of the Giants knows that his time is coming, which is why he’s been making moves like offering 5 years to a cornerback who really isn’t worth the money. Reggie McKenzie of Oakland is also making desperation moves because he knows another 4-12 season will likely mean that he’ll be out of a job. Bill Belichick is making moves because he wants to capitalize on whatever time he has left with Tom Brady, especially after seeing him at his worst last year. And John Elway knows that Peyton Manning is one bone crushing sack away from calling it a career.
There’s a saying in football which could be rephrased for most professional sports (the NBA excluded) that says that you don’t win a championship by winning free agency. Who won free agency last year? And what happened to them that season?
Fans often act spoiled and entitled. We saw it in Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, although in that case, it wasn’t Peter and his buddies crying about the Patriots not making moves in free agency, rather it was the team’s inability to win because of divine intervention. (Frankly, the thought that the Patriots could actually suck with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still playing is actually intriguing.) In fact, Peter put it on the mark with this quote.
These are good drunk people who work hard to get absolutely nowhere in life. There are 3 million fisherman and only 7 fish left in the sea. But they live to watch football. Many of them on Zenith or Sylvania televisions.
Okay, there’s an obvious exaggeration there and the context is different, but that’s the point. Fans feel that they know what their team needs, and it’s not just the generality of a position, they feel that they know which players their team needs and how much money they should spend, and when things don’t go their way, they whine and call for people’s heads. In truth, what does a blue collar worker know about the inner workings of a football team? What does a news writer know about cap room and how to use it other than how much there is? What does an unemployed deadbeat, a product liability attorney, or a student at a college living on their parents’ dole know about how football, the business works? They think they know football, but what they know is the on field product, like knowing what a Lamborghini looks like. They don’t know what parts go into a car unless they specialize in that field, or dabble in it as a hobby. If a fan wants to get into the business of football, they need to learn about the business of football. That’s why colleges offer sports management courses nowadays. If fans ran a team, they’d run it to the ground. They’d have no concept of what cap is, and how to manage it. They’d know next to nil about player values. In truth, unless they did the actual research into what it takes to run a team, they’d play it like they would their fantasy team. A fantasy team and an actual NFL team are two entirely different things. In fantasy, unless you invested a ton of money in it, you can make moves without consequence, and in all likelihood, your team is full of stars. In pro football, you can’t afford it unless you manage your money wisely. So again, unless you actually know about how football, the business is run, it’s advisable that you stop yelling for your GM’s head.
So yes, while Idzik may be annoying a lot of people with his supposed glacial pace in free agency, we can’t pass judgement on him until the offseason ends. There’s months to go before the first preseason game, and free agency obviously isn’t over yet. So don’t panic and don’t yell for his head. Good things come to those who wait.
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.