by Kip Earlywine
In my opinion, there are two truly special quarterback prospects in this draft (assuming they declare): Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. After that, there’s a drop off point to the remaining quarterbacks, including Landry Jones. I’m not as critical of the remaining quarterback group as Rob is, but I do agree that there is a big difference in quality after Barkley leaves the board.
However, I think its fairly certain that there will be more than two quarterbacks drafted in the 1st round. On his current trajectory, I have a hard time seeing Landry Jones escaping it. For one, quarterback prospects with no doubter first round tools usually become first round picks almost regardless of whatever issues they may have. In recent years both Jake Locker and Josh Freeman have provided examples of this. For another, teams value production, and Jones has certainly had plenty of that. On a high profile, high ranked team no less. You put that all together, and its very hard not seeing Jones as a top 15 pick, even if his game is far from perfect under close scrutiny.
And I think that’s a good thing, maybe a great thing. And not because I think Seattle will draft Jones, but for the opposite reason. A few notable draft experts have been harsh to Matt Barkley, giving him a grade in the late 1st round. The real debate about this upcoming draft should be Luck vs. Barkley, but I suspect the actual debate will become Barkley vs. Jones for the honor of being the second quarterback off the board. Luck’s draft hype is approaching legendary status, and he’s done nothing on the field to dispel it. With Luck’s star shining so brightly, it creates the illusion that Matt Barkley is somehow a much lesser quarterback, which opens the door for Landry Jones.
The thing about draft stock is that so much of it is built on hype and reputation. Right now, Landry Jones is leading an undefeated team that ranks #2 in the nation. He’s likely to break Sam Bradford’s school records for passing. What if he wins the national championship? If he does that, you might even have some draft personalities playfully comparing his stock to Andrew Luck’s. The storylines write themselves: Jones even wears the same #12 jersey number as Andrew Luck (oddly enough, so does Austin Davis and John Brantley- two other QBs who could potentially force their way into round one).
So why is this a good thing? Well for one, anything that pushes Matt Barkley down the draft board is a good thing for the Seahawks. Seattle has probably blown its chances for the #1 pick already, and after an impressive performance against the Falcons, I’m thinking 5 or 6 wins is certainly a possibility for 2011 Seahawks. Perhaps Barkley could slip to the 10th pick after being leapfrogged by a bigger, stronger competitor like Blaine Gabbert was earlier this year, or like how Matt Leinart was in 2006.
The second reason that high draft stock for Jones is good thing: it creates the perception that this is a quarterback heavy class, which might help entice a #1 picking team to trade out of Andrew Luck; the same way that Philip Rivers helped facilitate a deal for Eli Manning. What if Landry Jones reaches Seattle’s pick, and a trade of Jones plus two future 1st round picks is enough to entice the top picking franchise into moving Luck? Depending on how highly they rate Jones, that’s a possibility. Same thing for Matt Barkley. Its an expensive offer, but one Seattle should absolutely consider making.
A third reason would be that if Jones fell to the Seahawks pick, and Barkley was already gone, Seattle could use Jones as an incentive for other teams to trade with them. Trading down in the first round isn’t easy, unless you’ve got a valued quarterback in your draft slot. Trading down could make more sense than ever in 2012, as the first round prospects are looking weaker than usual but the 2nd round is looking relatively strong. Seattle could swing Landry Jones and pick up Ryan Tannehill (or Austin Davis) plus Chris Polk in exchange. Tannehill isn’t completely perfect, but at a minimum, I think he’s got what it takes to be an ideal fit as a point guard quarterback, and with a little time, could produce. I think he’s the 2nd best point guard quarterback in this draft after Luck, and probably the 4th best quarterback overall. I’ll refrain from grading Davis as I’ve seen so little of him, but what I’ve seen has impressed me. Chris Polk deserves a topic in itself, but I think its hard to ignore the success he’s had in almost an identical offense to Seattle’s.
So why not have the Seahawks just draft Landry Jones for themselves? I want to be clear that this post is not going to be a scouting report, and I won’t go into details just yet about his game. That said, I’m a fan of Jones, and for the right team I could see him becoming successful in the NFL, but I don’t think that team is Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. Recent events have convinced me of Pete Carroll’s true aim at quarterback. I’ll have a separate post on this topic soon. But for now, I’ll only say that I have a hard time seeing Pete Carroll drafting Landry Jones because of several trait mismatches. Its possible that John Schneider could feel differently and create a behind the scenes controversy (I hope not, nor do I expect that), but outside of that remote possibility, I don’t think Seattle would draft him. I won’t go in depth right now, but the reason I feel this way is because Landry Jones isn’t mobile, he’s inconsistent, and he’s a big play type quarterback. Or to put it another way, he’s a less extreme Ryan Mallett with fewer NFL skills, and the front office avoided Mallett like the plague. Mallett was a complicated case, but given that Carroll has already waited this long to find “Mr. Right” at quarterback, I don’t think he’d compromise now.
If Seattle can’t finish with the worst record in football to secure Luck (and they won’t), the next best thing is to hope for a crowded quarterback class at the top. The more options there are at the top of the draft, the more likely the quarterback Seattle actually wants could fall to their pick, and potential attempts to maneuver for a quarterback either up or down would be easier to pull off as well.