Draft evaluators have been pushing the quarterbacks down the rankings for months now but here comes the big charge to the front of the draft class.
Does anyone really think the supposed top pass rushers with less than 10 sacks last season -- Barkevious Mingo, Ezekiel Ansah or Dion Jordan -- are less risky than quarterbacks like Matt Barkley (36 touchdown passes in 2012) or Geno Smith (42 TD passes in 2012)? Then you believe the hype around the pass rushers and the lack of hype around the quarterbacks.
I like the pass rushers, but what have they really done as compared to the top quarterbacks? The pass rushers are selling potential. Are the pass rushers sitting atop the mock drafts because of potential? Are the quarterbacks down the list because of over-analyzation?
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Gil Brandt and I talked Wednesday, and no one has a better pulse on the draft than Gil. He predicts three quarterbacks will go in the top 15 picks! That even surprised me.
Bills general manager Buddy Nix told me he will exhaust the quarterback market in this draft because he needs one and there's really nowhere else to go to get one. I see owners like the Eagles' Jeff Lurie going to QB workouts, and it strikes me as a bigger indicator quarterbacks are rising up draft boards. Barkley will have a good workout by the time you read this article, and the momentum will be moving him and Smith up the draft board.
Barkley was supposedly a top-10 pick last year and stayed at Southern California. Some would say he ruined his chances this year by staying the extra year. The same thing was said about Jake Locker two years ago, and he still made the top 10 because the Titans needed a QB.
Smith and Barkley combined for close to 24,000 passing yards and 214 touchdown passes in their careers. Last year the top two draft picks were Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. They came out of college with 54 less touchdown passes and 4,189 less yards than Barkley and Smith.
This year's top quarterbacks aren't going 1-2 in the draft, nor do they deserve to. But when you consider seven of the top 10 teams are in their high drafting position because they have quarterback issues -- Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, Browns, Cardinals, Bills and Jets -- they have to consider this draft for the answer to their quarterback woes. Two of these teams have to try to fix their QB problems in the first round, and as Brandt claims, maybe even a third team from this group surprises everyone with a QB.
Here's a little historical look at teams that convinced themselves not to take a QB when he was staring them in the face. In 2004 the Raiders took Robert Gallery and left Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger on the board. The same year the Browns took Kellen Winslow and left Big Ben to haunt them for over a decade.
The Jaguars took WR Reggie Williams that year instead of Roethlisberger. In 2005 the Jaguars took Matt Jones, a college quarterback converted to wide receiver in the NFL, and left Aaron Rodgers on the board. The same year, again, the Raiders took CB Fabian Washington at No. 23 overall, one pick before Rogers.
In 2008, the Dolphins took Jake Long and passed on Matt Ryan, and the Bills took Leodis McKelvin instead of Joe Flacco. How many of the players chosen instead of the QB are even still on those rosters?
Today the cost of drafting a QB in the first round is cheap compared to the old days and it is worth the risk.
Predicting trends in an upcoming draft is dangerous business. Last year all we heard was drafting running backs in the first round was old-school thinking and the new world of NFL thought was take a running back in the third or fourth round. When the real draft came along, three teams took running backs in the first round: Cleveland, Tampa Bay and the Giants. Why? Because they needed a running back and they knew the guy they wanted wouldn't be there in the second round. Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson combined for 3,635 yards rushing and receiving and scored 29 touchdowns.
Good thing those clubs weren't listening to the pre-draft analysis about when to take a running back, and I suspect the clubs that need a QB will do the same this year.