We’re less than four weeks away from the 2014 NFL draft, and nobody seems to have any idea when or where the top quarterbacks will be drafted. It might help if teams were certain which QBs were the best bets – Johnny Manziel? Teddy Bridgewater? Blake Bortles? Tom – I can barely type this without laughing – Savage? – but there appears to be significant disagreement about where the value is.
Here’s the most likely answer – not in the 1st round.
From 2009-2013, 14 QBs were drafted in the 1st round. Four have already changed teams. One (Tebow) is out of the league. Perhaps more importantly – nine of the GMs who drafted those QBs are no longer with the team (one, Mike Reinfeldt of Tennessee, is in a new role with the Titans). Only three of those GMs are still in the same position. The Minnesota Vikings employed a “group system” when they took Christian Ponder 12th in 2011.
There’s an old NFL adage: A GM and coach are only as good as their QB. That clearly applies here. And obviously, nobody loses their job based on one QB misfire in the 1st round. And as you can see in the chart, all but two (Tebow, Weeden) of the QBs went in the Top 17 (read: QBs were going to bad teams). So if you’re a GM in your 1st or 2nd season, this one’s easy: If you’re not certain you’re drafting a superstar QB in the first round, it’s probably best to pass. As soon as that 1st round QB hits the field, the GM clock begins to tick.
[Aside: Because someone will bring it up, the 2014 playoff QBs -- Manning (FA), Brady (6th round), Dalton (2nd), Luck (1st), Alex Smith (trade), Rivers (1st), Wilson (3rd), Newton (1st), Foles (3rd), Rodgers (1st), Kaepernick (2nd), Brees (FA).]
Which brings us to Manziel, Bortles, Bridgewater and a half a dozen other QBs who will get drafted next month. We can all agree none of these QBs look like immediate impact starters along the lines of Luck or RG3. So why take a QB in the first round and thrust him into a no-win situation in Jacksonville or Cleveland or Minnesota?
If you’re a GM with a pick in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, the move is probably to fortify the lines, strengthen the skill players and hope you can really nail that early pick with an impact performer who will be with the franchise for a decade? And then, in the 2nd round or later, take the QB you want? We’ll find out May 8th.