Every single year we hear it. “This isn’t a good year for quarterbacks.”
It’s usually paired with the assumption that next year’s class will be better. I haven’t followed a draft where I haven’t seen or heard this opinion somewhere.
Last year’s class of quarterbacks was perceived as a poor one because the depth wasn’t good after the top talent - Sam Bradford – left the board. In 2011 it’s a supposed weak group because there’s plenty of depth, just not a bona fide #1 pick like the one selected by St. Louis.
I understand why the ’weak class’ argument is made annually because whether you’re a fan or a pundit, everyone appreciates the importance of the position. Ideally you not only want someone who can win you football games, he also has to have good technique and all the off the field intangibles. He will be the face and identity of the franchise. People want their QB’s to be more like Peyton Manning than Ben Roethlisberger, even though the latter has two Super Bowl rings.
It’s easy to get behind drafting a Sam Bradford type quarterback. He says all the right things during interview - the answers are pretty dull, but that’s ok. He’s a student of the game who you just know spends hours watching tape while the rest of his teammates are winding down. He’s in the facility almost as long as the coaches, if not longer.
On the field he’s a pure talent with everything you look for – accuracy, a capable if not elite arm and he makes good decisions. It’s easy to assume that at some stage in his career he’ll win a Super Bowl for St. Louis, or that they will at least contend for one.
The problem is, prospects like that are always destined to go first overall unless the team making the pick already has a legitimate starting quarterback.
If he’s the one defining quarterback prospect in the draft does it make it a weak class? Not for the team picking first overall. The team’s who may need a quarterback in the 2-32 range however have cause for complaint. In that sense 2011 is a better year for those teams because there are four potential first round prospects – Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker.
None are as highly rated as Bradford, but certainly all have reason to be drafted in the first 32 selections.
Seattle finds itself in a unique position because they are a team that would be picking much higher but for a history making 7-9 playoff appearance. In reality you will never find a Sam Bradford type quarterback with the #25 pick. Last year Tim Tebow was taken with the very same selection by the Denver Broncos. He was far from a flawless player and clearly the Broncos (or at least Josh McDaniels) bought into the ‘Tebow factor’ and hoped his driven determination to improve would solve some of his technical problems.
That’s the type of gamble that presents itself when picking a QB late in round one.
The fact there isn’t a Sam Bradford type quarterback this year is irrelevant to the Seahawks because they don’t pick high enough to wonder whether they’ll have a chance to draft them. On the other hand, the depth at the position offers at least the option to solve the team’s biggest long term question mark even if they ultimately decide to pass.
Many will consider the prospect of drafting a guy like Ryan Mallett as unfavorable. He doesn’t come across even half as well as Sam Bradford does and the negative euphoria surrounding him these last few weeks may leave permanent damage to his stock.
No doubt people will say, “wait till next year.” I’m not a fan of that line of thinking.
Clearly the team should not feel forced to draft ‘any’ long term option at quarterback. The Seahawks aren’t going to plough in carelessly ready to make a colossal gaffe on a player they aren’t fully convinced with. Neither will they be entertaining thoughts of next year in their decision whatever it may be.
The Seahawks’ intentions must be to select in the 20′s or 30′s every year. If they do so, it will mean the team has qualified for the post season year after year. In order to achieve that they will have to address the long term future at quarterback – a situation of great urgency now that Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent-in-waiting and will turn 36 in September.
We can look ahead to next year and acknowledge the possibility of both Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Matt Barkley (USC) declaring. We can also anticipate that both will be top 5-10 picks with Luck almost certainly the #1 choice.
Seattle would have to be a 0-3 win team to have a shot at Luck and maybe also Barkley. Considering they play in the weak NFC West I’m not entirely sure that’s even possible. It was quite some achievement for St. Louis to be bad enough in this division to select first overall – something the Seahawks should strive to avoid even if the prize is a shot at Luck.
You end up coming back to a guy like Mallett, because that’s the type of player we’ll be discussing if Seattle succesfully maintains their place atop the NFC West rankings. He doesn’t have all the intangibles you look for, but he’s still clearly a talented quarterback.
Mallett’s football IQ is among the best I’ve scouted but it’s not often discussed simply because – to put it bluntly – he doesn’t come across in such a positive way with his body language and during interviews. Christian Ponder is established as a very bright and intelligent individual off the field and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard people credit Ponder’s game intelligence because of this fact. It’s a mistake because his decision making is often terrible and he’s much more erratic than Ryan Mallett.
For me the bigger gamble would be to draft Ponder any higher than round five and expect him to work out as a starter than it would be to take Mallett in round one and work on the ‘intangibles’.
While ever the Seahawks enjoy success (and even at 7-9, winning the division has to be classified as such) they will almost certainly have to ‘take a chance’ on a quarterback one day. That will be the case whether it’s Charlie Whitehurst, a round one pick, a mid/late rounder, a free agent or trade. They will not find a flawless diamond a la Bradford, Luck etc without experiencing one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
The argument of ‘waiting till next year’ can only be classified as an admittance that the team cannot hope to achieve the status of picking in the 20′s again. The same problems will exist next year, only Hasselbeck will be a year older and it’s not obvious we’ll see the same level of depth at the position.
Taking a chance on someone might be inevitable. So why wait?