The notion doesn't need to be sugarcoated -- it's practically a certainty that our quarterback of the future is not currently on the roster, or (for that matter) in the NFL.
And as we are wont to do in a lost season, it's never too soon to start talking about the draft.
Thus, in an effort to narrow down the pool that has already become smaller with Mariota deciding to return to Oregon for another year, I came up with basic criteria for evaluation. I'm a ‘big picture' kind of guy, so I don't get too in depth -- but hopefully it is suitable for your reading pleasure.
So (to quote a classic) go on an indulge yourself -- that's right -- kick off your shoes, put your feet up. Maybe crack open a cold one. This is gonna be fun.
I'm of the opinion now that when it comes to a franchise QB, there better not be anything missing from the equation. Accuracy, arm strength, pocket presence, savvy, mobility, a quick release, professionalism, leadership, work ethic... it's all gotta be there, man. You whiff when you skimp on the essentials, and any one of those missing attributes can make the entire house of cards tumble quickly -- and if any of the attributes are missing, that QB better make up for it by exceeding the status quo by a wide margin on just about every other measurement.
I decided to analyze the top passers in the league -- mostly looking at career numbers, but I threw in a couple new guys who have climbed their way up the ranks this season, just for good measure. My criteria included:
- Completion %
- Adjusted Yds/Att
- TD:INT Ratio
- Passing Efficiency Rating
Coupled with the other intangibles, this is really what it comes down to in the end. If you are among the elite in these categories, you have a better chance at achieving long-term success in the league -- which, as you may have guessed, should translate to a better football team in general.
Included below is a table of the top passers in the league and their college stats. Also included below is the round each QB was drafted in -- more on that later.
What do these QBs have in common?? On the whole, they have everything I listed above when considering what a team should look for in their franchise QB. Moreover, with the exception of Tony Romo (which may explain why he went undrafted), all of them progressed from their penultimate college season to their final year in college football.
And outside of a few exceptions (Brady/Brees, and Foles who doesn't have a full starting season under his belt), every QB on the list has two or more criterion that are above the average for this group (highlighted in yellow); some are so close to the average it might as well count (highlighted in orange).
Does this mean we can project NFL success simply based on these college stats?? Of course not. But it's an interesting baseline reference, and coincides with what I mentioned before -- the more categories you are elite (or, at least, above average) in, the better chance you have at long-term success as a starter in this league.
(And before anyone asks, in case you were wondering if any of the current Vikings QBs exceeded any of these average ratings in their college years... between Ponder, Cassel and Freeman, not a single criterion was met. Weird.)
What I find most interesting is that half of the players listed in the table above were drafted outside the 1st round -- just for fun, I averaged them out to find a hypothetical ‘sweet spot' for drafting a franchise QB, which ended up being toward the tail end of Rd 2. Obviously this isn't scientific data; but play along with me, here -- because...
This actually fits in very well with my personal philosophy for the 2014 draft. Our defense is bad on a scale of historical proportions. Some of that is certainly the scheme we run, but some starters for most of the season ranged from Marvin friggin' Mitchell to Letroy Guion to Chris Cook (who still doesn't have an INT in four NFL seasons). We are likely to own a Top 10 pick in the draft, and will have a shot at several elite defenders, such as LB Khalil Mack, or NTs Ra'shede Hageman or Louis Nix III.
On the other hand, we aren't guaranteed one of the top QBs. If we're sitting at #6 like we currently are, who is to say three QBs aren't drafted ahead of us?? Do we ‘reach' for a QB just because we need one?? Shades of the 2011 Draft in that scenario, no??
So, where does that leave us?? Outside of trading down to acquire more picks (always an option if the price is right) or trading back up late into the 1st (although there's only so much you can do that before your depth suffers)... just my personal take, if the top two QBs are off the board before our first pick, which is entirely likely, I believe we should draft an elite defensive player in Rd 1 and roll the dice on a Day 2 QB.
Oh, if only there was a way to pin down who that might be... well, I'm glad you wondered that, my friend!!
Here are the top 12 QBs ranked courtesy of CBS Sports (they all fall within the Top 200 prospects), also with the same criteria from the previous table. I'm comparing it to the same NFL average, as well (comparing the data against itself actually produced a slightly higher average, so the original average works a little in the players' favor). The same highlighting rules apply (yellow = exceeded average; orange = close enough):
The only column that is different is the final column, which indicates if a QB has statistically regressed from last season. Obviously there are still Bowl games to be played, but this should hold for the most part.
Now, let's break out the 8-Ball and see what each QB brings to the table...
Well, there isn't much to be said, here. It would be quite a shock if Teddy didn't declare for the draft, and it's been speculated pretty much all season he'll be the first QB off the board. Of course, that's what was said about Geno Smith last season, and look how that turned out. Teddy appears to have a good head on his shoulders, though, and the consensus should keep all the way until draft day.
Unless we end up with the #1 pick, we are unlikely to land Teddy -- and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be willing to mortgage the future a la the Redskins to draft a QB who has no guarantee of being ‘the guy'.
Magic 8-Ball says: DON'T COUNT ON IT
Carr appears to be shooting up the boards, and justifiably so. Could he be this year's EJ Manuel?? Perhaps. He has the arm strength, quick release and size requisite of a starting-caliber QB. I'm sure some question the level of competition he has faced at Fresno State, which is a valid concern. Personally, I have never put too much emphasis on that, as some great QBs have come from schools that also didn't face elite competition at the collegiate level.
In the end, he'll probably be one of the first QBs taken. Whether or not he falls out of the 1st rd is another story altogether -- but I wouldn't bet on that.
Magic 8-Ball says: REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN
Oh, Johnny Football, how polarizing of a character you are in this drama. To be perfectly honest, I am not a fan. There's only a certain level of doucheness I can tolerate, and Manziel is up there. Some people are able to overlook the ego and the ‘me' attitude, so long as the player performs well on the field. To each his own, but I can't go that far -- because eventually, more often than not it comes back to bite you in the ass. Problems naturally follow problematic players, and that kind of selfishness just doesn't jive with my formula for a franchise QB.
(And, just a gut feeling, I wouldn't be surprised if Johnny stayed at Texas A&M for another year. Call me crazy, but when you're practically a god on campus, and you have the kind of swagger he does, that's a great recipe for milking life while you can. He may look like a first-rounder now, but what happens after the Combine interviews?? I'm sure a lot of teams will have red dots next to his name. Not to mention, Sumlin is staying put, and that might be an indication that Manziel is thinking about doing the same. He's only a redshirt sophomore, so another year could likely solidify his draft status in 2015, and he could use that time to prove he isn't a schmuck. Again, just a hunch, but don't count your chickens on Johnny just yet.)
Magic 8-Ball says: CANNOT PREDICT NOW
It's been a peaks-and-valleys kind of season for Hundley. He has all the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback, but (and just another gut feeling, here) I think Hundley will take a page out of Mariota's book and return to UCLA for one more season before taking a stab at the NFL. Similarly with Manziel/Sumlin, Mora is staying put as HC, which may ultimately have a big impact on Hundley's decision.
Magic 8-Ball says: MY SOURCES SAY NO
Now we're getting to the nitty-gritty, ladies and gents. Who remembers the Chik-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve last year, when Clemson came back to beat LSU in the final seconds?? I certainly do, as I had my eye on DeAndre Hopkins -- but Boyd took command of that game. He may not have prototypical size, but his athleticism and poise are a solid foundation for a QBOTF. Boyd has a better combination of accuracy and arm strength than anyone currently on our roster, and comparisons to Russell Wilson have been made -- can't say I disagree.
He'll be in that ‘sweet spot' I talked about earlier, and will be a Day 2 candidate for our favorite team. Think he'd look good in Purple...??
Magic 8-Ball says: AS I SEE IT, YES
I can't understand why so many people are against McCarron as a pro. Is it because he plays for Alabama?? Is it because there's no ‘wow' factor and he's a ‘conservative' prospect?? I've stated I would be just fine with McCarron as our QB because he's efficient, and regardless of the head coach we are likely to be a run-first team. But, he doesn't have elite arm strength, and he's technically regressed his senior year -- granted, he had a very good junior year and he'll make up almost all the ground he ‘lost' in ‘Bama's bowl game, but... I have to stick with the criteria, here.
Magic 8-Ball says: BETTER NOT TELL YOU NOW
Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray
I'm lumping these players together because they both recently suffered torn ACLs -- which has understandably torpedoed their draft stock. Solid value later in the draft?? Perhaps. In Mettenberger's case, he comes from LSU's pro-style offense... but there's also a little story about sexual battery when he was at Georgia that will certainly come back to the forefront when these QBs are dissected to the fullest extent. Some of you may think, "kids will be kids", but there's no excuse for that kind of behavior -- you can still have your kicks in college while being a gentleman.
And with Murray, he regressed his senior season well before his injury. Doesn't fit the bill for me.
Magic 8-Ball says: OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD
Jimmy finished just shy of the criteria average across the board, which was enough to pique my interest -- so I dug a little deeper. Naturally, there are Tony Romo comparisons given he plays for Eastern Illinois -- but also, all 32 teams (including two GMs) have visited campus, and apparently Urban Meyer called Garoppolo, "one of the best quarterbacks I've ever seen". Alright, now you have my attention.
Garoppolo is having a stellar senior season (65%, nearly 4500 yds, 9.1 yds/att, 48 TDs and only 8 INTs); and while some may question the level of competition (again, that doesn't concern me as much), I'm a bit interested in ‘ol Jimmy. Let's see how he performs at the Combine, and likely the Senior Bowl prior to that. Consider him a...
Magic 8-Ball says: YOU MAY RELY ON IT
Somewhat of an underdog in these conversations, Fales looks to be a Day 3 guy. He's very similar to McCarron in this comparison -- despite fulfilling all the criteria, he lacks arm strength and regressed very slightly from his junior year. It's ticky-tacky, but this one feels a little too ‘safe' for my taste.
Magic 8-Ball says: CONCENTRATE AND ASK AGAIN
Stephen Morris and Logan Thomas
These guys are just... yeah. Nothing to see here. Move along, folks.
Magic 8-Ball says: MY REPLY IS NO
- Bridgewater -- in all likelihood, he'll be off the board.
- Hundley -- in my [early] opinion, he's returning to UCLA.
- Manziel -- immaturity issues can't be overlooked (and I wouldn't be surprised if he stays in college for another season).
- Mettenberger and Murray -- injuries mean a ‘no go'.
- Morris and Thomas -- probably not starting-caliber QBs.
- McCarron and Fales -- decent options, but more like ‘safety nets' than anything.
- Carr -- definitely worth considering if he's there in the 1st rd, but only if the elite defensive talent is already off the board.
Tajh Boyd and Jimmy Garoppolo!!
As I mentioned before, I think we should target an elite talent at either LB or NT in the 1st rd, and wait on a QB until Day 2 of the draft. Boyd and/or Garoppolo should be available when we pick in the 2nd rd, and I would be content with giving either of them a shot at being our franchise QB.
So, what do you think??