NFL team needs
With the NFL season in its final month, Daniel Jeremiah takes a look at the draft order if the season ended today, with the top three draft needs for each team. **More ...**
Pretty amazing stat when you think about it. Stability at the quarterback position has been absent for several years now in the NFL. Impatient owners. Coaches trying to save their jobs. Injuries.
Did we mention injuries?
Quarterbacks are like left-handers in baseball -- teams can never have enough of them. The numbers are there; emphasis of early development at the high-school level has increased the pool in recent years. But quality remains an issue.
And this year? Pretty good depth in the pool; I'm just not sure how many will still be swimming two years from now.
At this point, and it's early, here's how I see the top three tiers of potential quarterbacks in this upcoming draft:
Tier 1: Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, and Fresno State's Derek Carr. Bridgewater and Manziel are underclassmen but have given every indication they are coming out early. In my opinion, all three have an above-average chance of going in the top 10.
Tier 2: Alabama's AJ McCarron, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, Georgia's Aaron Murray (torn ACL but could be a late steal), Clemson's Tajh Boyd, San Jose State's David Fales and LSU's Zach Mettenberger (ACL tear).
Tier 3: Missouri's James Franklin, Ball State's Keith Wenning, Cornell's Jeff Matthews, Miami's Stephen Morris, TCU's Casey Pachall (great arm, suspended last year), Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch (reminds me of Roger Staubach at Navy -- competitive, good runner, but doesn't throw the greatest ball).
(These lists would change if underclassmen like UCLA's Brett Hundley and Central Florida's Blake Bortles decide to enter the draft, but both remain undecided.)
So while we can argue all day about the quality of this quarterback class, the numbers will be there, and there will be no shortage of teams snatching them up in the draft. I've created two categories of teams that need to address their QB situations next May: "must-have" and "depth collection."
New York Jets:Geno Smith wasn't the answer for the Jets this season. The question is, will he ever be the answer? I don't think one year is enough to get a true evaluation on a player, especially a quarterback, but teams are impatient these days. They feel they can't afford to spend two to three years trying to figure it out, especially in New York. The Jets are a middling 6-7 and might not be in position to take one of the top guys.
Jacksonville Jaguars:Blaine Gabbert is healthy, and the Jaguars are still not playing him. That should tell you everything about whether he fits into the team's long-term plans. Chad Henne is a nice backup but has limitations as a full-time starter. It's a bit unfair to judge how he has done this season, because the Jaguars lack talent around him.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns have been getting some production out of Jason Campbell, but Josh Gordon can make a lot of quarterbacks look good. Campbell is more than serviceable as a backup and replacement starter. He shouldn't be seen as more than that in Cleveland or anywhere else. Only four teams currently have a worse record than the Browns, so they could be drafting pretty high.
Oakland Raiders: Like Cleveland, the Raiders are heading for a top-10 pick. Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor aren't long-term answers, but the draft could provide it. So could free agency, where the Raiders are expected to have somewhere between $40 million to $50 million in cap money to spend. If they address quarterback there, other holes could be filled in the draft by trading down to acquire additional picks, like the Raiders did last year.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings could be looking at a top-five pick when all is said and done. Ponder has been OK, but can he take a team to the playoffs? I'm not sure. And I can't figure the Josh Freeman thing out. He's been active for only one game; why isn't he playing? It seems that neither have starting futures in Minnesota. All three of my Tier 1 QBs would be upgrades.
Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker is, as they say, what he is. He will always look good in practice but lacks consistency in games. In high school and at Washington, under new USC coach Steve Sarkisian, he was never a terribly accurate passer, and that trend has followed him into the NFL. I think the Titans need to go get themselves another quarterback for the future.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams own Washington's first-round pick, which is looking better and better each week. I don't think they would take a quarterback in the first round, especially as high as they'll be drafting. Maybe the second or third round. They'll be looking to groom someone behind Sam Bradford.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Personally, I'm a little surprised by how well Mike Glennon has played as a rookie. He might be the answer. I saw a guy who wasn't very accurate, especially to his left. I also had questions about his athletic ability, but he has shown surprising athleticism. Even if the Bucs think Glennon is their guy, they still need a backup.