The Schein Nine  

 

2017 NFL Draft: Browns, Texans head quarterback-needy teams

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It's complicated.

Every year around this time, I pen a Schein Nine on teams that need to address the quarterback position in the upcoming draft. But this subject has never been more bizarre than it is in this moment right now. Playoff teams need quarterbacks. The all-time QB class from the 2004 NFL Draft isn't getting any younger. And this draft class of field generals -- which seems to provide more questions than answers -- muddies the water, too.

The Jets (5-11) and the 49ers (2-14) were two of the worst teams in the NFL last season. They also happen to have two of the most underwhelming QB rooms in the league. Thus, you would think they'd be champing at the bit to spend valuable draft currency on a new signal caller, right?

Not so fast.

The Jets have Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. Hmm. Who's Larry, who's Curly and who's Moe? Still, you just don't get the feeling Gang Green will be targeting a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick. Yes, general manager Mike Maccagnan came out last month and said the Jets could still draft a QB, but it just doesn't seem like that will be a position addressed early in the draft. For one thing, the Jets just gave McCown a one-year, fully guaranteed $6 million contract. And they just took Hackenberg in the second round of last year's draft. I'm thinking Maccagnan and Co. have wisely identified that the franchise is in total rebuild mode, and they're keeping their eyes on the potentially robust 2018 QB class. It'd make sense.

Meanwhile, the 49ers are operating with a QB depth chart of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Not exactly Bill Walsh's Joe Montana-Steve Young QB room in San Francisco. But new GM John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan each just signed a six-year contract. There's no pressure to immediately unearth a franchise signal caller -- and everyone knows the Niners have needs all over the roster. So don't expect San Francisco to pull a QB off the board at No. 2 overall. If there's a guy Lynch and Shanahan crave in Round 2 or 3, we can talk about it. But honestly, I think the guy they truly crave is currently on a one-year deal with the Redskins.

So, with all of that as the backdrop -- and assuming the Jets and 49ers are in no rush to add another quarterback to the mix -- here are nine teams that should come away from this month's draft with a viable prospect at the game's most important position:

1) Cleveland Browns

Welcome home! The Browns headline this column for a third straight year!! Not the type of top billing this franchise is going for. But that's what happens when you make decisions like the one Cleveland made last April.

In an effort to stockpile draft picks, the Browns traded out of the No. 2 slot one year ago, thus passing up the opportunity to snag Carson Wentz. Didn't get the move then and still don't understand it now. But this franchise needs a quarterback. Desperately. Again.

Everyone on the face of the Earth expects the Browns to select transcendent pass rusher Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick. That's the right move. But Cleveland has a whole bunch of additional draft capital to work with, including the Nos. 12, 33 and 52 overall picks in this year's draft, and four selections in the top two rounds of next year's draft. If (when) Bill Belichick shoots down a bevy of picks for Jimmy Garoppolo, I expect Cleveland to take a quarterback in the first round. I think they are a candidate to trade up to the Jets' spot at No. 6. Many believe Mitchell Trubisky -- a Carson Wentz-lite prospect -- is the apple of Cleveland's eye. But whether it is Trubisky or Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes or DeShone Kizer, Cleveland needs a guy ... to be the guy.

Again.

2) Houston Texans

Rick Smith has never drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds since becoming the Texans' general manager. That's astounding, as Smith has held the job since 2006. And he still might not pull that lever this year. But that would be a mistake.

I like Tom Savage more than most. He has the arm and knowledge of Bill O'Brien's offense. The head coach seems to adore him and respects his leadership -- which would make Savage the total opposite of Brock Osweiler. But Savage hasn't been able to stay healthy, even as a part-timer. Savage had to deal with a knee injury as a rookie in 2014, then he spent the entire 2015 campaign on injured reserve due to a shoulder ailment. Last year, he missed time due to a concussion.

I have no issue with Houston starting the season with Savage under center. The team might be good enough -- and well-coached enough -- to win 10 games with an elite defense. But the Texans need a QB depth chart. Who's in line to take snaps should Savage go down or prove ineffective? Brandon Weeden. Better add some more talent, Mr. Smith.

3) Kansas City Chiefs

I am the president and founder -- and sometimes it feels like sole member -- of the Alex Smith fan club. But now might be a good time to look into the future. Smith, the top pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, isn't getting any younger, and the legit depth behind him in Kansas City is, well, non-existent. (Sorry, Tyler Bray and Joel Stave.)

I think Watson possesses some of the traits that have made Smith great (and yes, highly underrated), including athleticism and an ability to just plain win. The Clemson product could be a great fit in Andy Reid's offense.

The Chiefs have a playoff roster as is, without a whole bunch of glaring needs. Thus, Kansas City can take a quarterback in the first three rounds.

4) Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals need a young quarterback to develop behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Palmer will turn 38 this season, and while Stanton is a fine backup quarterback, he's not the guy Arizona will want to build around whenever Palmer hangs it up.

If Trubisky is there when Arizona goes on the clock at No. 13, he could be the guy. But the Cardinals also possess a second-round pick at No. 45 -- an area where one of the more raw prospects like Mahomes or Kizer could be available.

5) Chicago Bears

I like Mike Glennon more than most and believe he's a starter. But he's still Mike Glennon. No guarantees. And with Mark Sanchez and Connor Shaw behind him, this quarterback depth chart is far from comforting.

I would fall over if the Bears were to draft a quarterback at No. 3 overall. But between Rounds 2 and 4, I'd take a long look at the available prospects at the position. Davis Webb? Mahomes?

6) Buffalo Bills

I also like Tyrod Taylor more than most. I was thrilled -- though not surprised -- that wise coach Sean McDermott opted to keep him on a restructured deal. But it's basically a one-year commitment. Clearly, Buffalo remains unsold on Taylor as the definite long-term answer at the position.

Now, with some major holes on defense and Taylor in the fold for 2017, I'd be hesitant to take a QB in Round 1. But I wouldn't rule it out, given the Bills' never-ending search for a franchise quarterback after Jim Kelly.

There will be a correlation between how high they take a quarterback and how they view Taylor's potential upside. I still think he has more than what he has shown, and a legit coach like McDermott can help the cause. But I wouldn't blame the new head man for bringing in a talented youngster to compete with Taylor.

7) New York Giants

Eli Manning is 36 years old. The Giants need to groom someone to be his successor. They know this. In fact, they've openly talked about it.

"We have started to think about who's the next quarterback, who's in line," GM Jerry Reese said back in January. "So we'll look into that as we move through the offseason."

Sorry, but free-agent signee Geno Smith is not the long-term answer.

I'm cooling on the concept of Big Blue using the No. 23 overall pick on a QB. This team can still contend with Eli, but it needs help at running back and/or along the O-line. That said, it's a weak O-line draft, and RB value should be there in later rounds. What if Watson falls? What if the team is really high on the developmental potential of Mahomes?

One way or another, I expect the Giants to pick a quarterback in the first four rounds. It's time to truly begin planning for life after Eli.

8) Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger's official Twitter account follows me. Which puts me in the minority among football scribes. So I hope this doesn't get me blocked, like seemingly everyone else.

Like the Giants, the Steelers need to start searching for their next franchise quarterback. Roethlisberger flirted with retirement this offseason, and while his eventual commitment to the 2017 campaign surprised no one, the two-time Super Bowl champ could be closer to the end than most believe.

I'll be stunned if Pittsburgh dips into the quarterback pool in Round 1. There are holes to fill on defense to make the 2017 Steelers a true contender that can push towards the Super Bowl. But taking a quarterback between Rounds 3 and 5 would make sense. I think we all know Landry Jones isn't the guy to take the torch from Big Ben.

9) Los Angeles Chargers

Yep -- Eli, Big Ben and Philip Rivers are linked again, with the 2004 draftmates filling out the last three sections of this piece. The Bolts also need to have an eye on the future.

I don't know if the Chargers would spend a high pick on the position. Despite going 5-11 last season, this team could be closer to competing than most assume (given some better injury luck). But what if Anthony Lynn falls in love with someone like Kizer, a talented -- but raw -- prospect you can groom for a couple of years?

Eventually, Rivers is gonna call it quits. And you can't have a team in L.A. without a quarterback. Ask the Rams what that was like last year.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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