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No middle ground when it comes to drafting QBs

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
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The image-makers, those hidden persuaders who feel compelled to hang a glitzy handle on everything, may in retrospect have to rename this "The Year of the High-Round Quarterback."

Indeed, the just-completed NFL Draft had kind of a Third World vibe to it: You know, hardly any middle class.

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There were seven quarterbacks who went off the board in the first three rounds, tying the recent-day record, but only five after that. That's the lowest number for the final four rounds -- typically a stretch when franchises gamble a selection on a guy who is deemed a project at the position but has some redeeming attribute -- since 2007.

Said one league personnel director whose team flirted with taking a quarterback in the sixth or seventh round, but opted for a different position in each stanza: "The teams that were desperate gobbled 'em up right at the top. There's usually a 'run' in the late rounds. But there wasn't much left to run with, was there?"

True enough, but the quarterback streak, which included four passers among the top dozen picks overall, can't be blamed entirely for the relative dearth of players taken at the position. It was assumed that some clubs, like Cincinnati or Buffalo or San Francisco, would trade back up into the bottom of the first round to snatch a passer once names started to fall.

Didn't happen.

In fact, the Bengals and 49ers both failed to complete deals they attempted to craft, and they still got quarterbacks.

It was likewise assumed that, because the lockout precluded franchises from hitting the telephones on Saturday night and signing undrafted quarterbacks as training camp "arms," clubs would instead garner exclusive rights by frittering away some late choices on throwers. But there was only one quarterback, Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech (Baltimore), in the sixth round. Alabama's resident brainiac, Greg McElroy (New York Jets), was the lone quarterback in the last go-round.

Guys like Deleware's Pat Devlin, Scott Tolzien of Wisconsin and Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson will have to wait for a Collective Bargaining Agreement to sign a contract.

Fact is, there were only 12 quarterbacks selected during the league's three-day flesh market, and that's two fewer than a year ago. It's also fewer than the average, 13.2, for the previous 10 years. Free-agent "arms" always faced long odds anyway to even find their way onto a practice squad. With the prospect of no minicamps or OTA, and possibly a truncated training camp, the chances of earning any kind of NFL paycheck are further reduced.

One team executive on Saturday evening suggested that undrafted quarterbacks who normally might have signed within an hour of the draft's final choice might do well to consider the UFL or arena football as alternative learning laboratories.

For the four passers chosen in Round 1, at least two of them whose resumes were embellished by team needs, it probably was "The Year of the Quarterback." For the position, in general, though, the draft might have been forgettable.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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