There are not 32 good QBs in the NFL. That means that some teams are still looking for good QBs. Those teams are busy studying prospects for the upcoming draft, hoping to find the next Andrew Luck, RG3, Russell Wilson, or Colin Kaepernick. I don’t think that will happen this year.
We’ll hear a lot about arm strength, mobility, size, athleticism and things like that. QB is a much more complicated position. He is the one guy that can really take over a game. He touches the ball on every offensive snap and the special ones make the players around them better.
Think about the top QBs in football and what they did in college.
Peyton Manning – Legend at Tennessee. 39-6 as a starter. Led Vols to SEC title as a Senior and played in the Orange Bowl. Was 11-2 that year. Set various passing records in his career.
Tom Brady – Went 20-5 as a starter at Michigan. Beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl as a Senior as UM went 10-2 that year. Only losses were by 3 and 6 points. Set multiple Michigan passing records.
Drew Brees – Set all kinds of Big Ten passing records. Led Purdue to the 2001 Rose Bowl, their first appearance in that game since 1967. If he was 2 inches taller, might have been a Top 10 pick. Instead, went in the early 2nd round.
Aaron Rodgers – Played 2 seasons at Cal. Led Cal to a 10-1 record (narrow loss to USC) and No. 4 ranking. Cal controversially lost their spot in the Rose Bowl to Texas and the Bears ended up playing in the Holiday Bowl. Rodgers set some school and national passing records.
Ben Roethlisberger – Led Miami OH to a 13-1 record in his final season there. They beat Louisville in a bowl and finished the season ranked 10th in the nation. Ben threw for 4,486 yards and 37 TDs that year. Posted great numbers in his 3 seasons.
Eli Manning – Had a great career at Ole Miss. Led them to 3 bowl games, winning the last 2 (over Nebraska, Oklahoma State). Won the SEC West as a Senior. Threw for 10,000-plus yards in his career. Ole Miss was 10-3 in his Senior season. Set a variety of passing records.
Joe Flacco – Started off at Pitt and then transferred to Delaware, where he became a star. In 2007 he threw for 4,263 yards and 23 TDs in leading the Blue Hens to an 8-3 record. He then led them through the I-AA playoffs to the title game against Appalachian State. Delaware lost that game, but gave up 49 points. That was on the defense, not Flacco.
And now think of some of the young stars…
Andrew Luck – Did great things at Stanford. Led them to a pair of BCS games. Runner-up for the Heisman in 2011. Had an amazing college career.
RG3 – Won the Heisman in 2011. Baylor went 10-3, won a bowl game, and upset both Texas and Oklahoma. In retrospect, those shouldn’t have been considered upsets. RG3 was that good. Baylor also played in a bowl game in 2010.
Russell Wilson – Played 3 years at NC State and then transferred to Wisconsin for a final season. Led the nation in Pass Efficiency in 2011. Led Wisconsin to an 11-3 record and the Rose Bowl. They lost a 45-38 shootout to Oregon in that game. The only losses in the regular season came on a couple of Hail Mary passes. Wisconsin easily could have been playing for the national title. While at NCSU, Wilson was 1-1 in bowl games. Threw for 11,720 career yards.
Colin Kaepernick – Amazing college career. Incredibly durable and productive. First player in FBS history to throw for more than 10,000 yards and run for more than 4,000 in a career. Nevada got better each year. 6-7 to 7-6 to 8-5 to 13-1. As a Senior he beat Cal, Boise State, and Boston College. Only loss was at Hawaii, 27-21. Turned himself from a mid-major developmental prospect to one of the best players in college football.
Cam Newton – I don’t really need to even look things up. Won the 2010 Heisman. Led Auburn to an undefeated season, SEC title, and national championship. Simply dominated college football in his one year at Auburn. Did things we’ve never seen before.
Andy Dalton – A star? He’s led the Bengals to consecutive playoff appearances. That is rare stuff. Did great things at TCU. Went 8-5 as a Freshman and 34-3 in his final 3 seasons. Lost the Fiesta Bowl as a Junior and then won the Rose Bowl as a Senior. TCU was 13-0 and finished #2 in the nation. Threw for more than 10,000 yards in his career. Also ran for 1,600 and 22 TDs. Not a gifted athlete to be sure, but maybe better than people realize.
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Now think about the class of 2013.
Geno Smith posted phenomenal passing stats, but his team finished 7-6 this year. A lot of that was bad defense, but RG3 had an awful defense in 2011 and still managed to find a way to win 10 games. Geno did lead WVa to a 10-3 record and Orange Bowl destruction of Clemson last season. Overall he went 1-2 as a starter in bowl games. As much as you want to get excited by Geno’s passing numbers, they are largely due to coach Dana Holgorsen’s explosive system, and a lot of them came in the form of RAC yards from elite playmaker Tavon Austin. Against Kansas State this year, Smith was 21-32-143 with 2 INTs and a TD. The Mountaineers lost 55-14. Go check Luck and RG3’s stats. You won’t find a bad game like that from their final season. WVa lost 5 straight games in 2011, a couple by a single point. Is this the guy you want to spend a Top 5 pick on? There is no question that Smith is a talented passer. The question is whether he’s special enough to be the guy you take early and build your team around.
Ryan Nassib went to Syracuse when that school was at rock bottom. Nassib started his final 3 seasons. He led SU to a pair of 8-5 seasons and wins in the Pinstripe Bowl. He played pretty soft schedules in those years. Nassib didn’t do anything all that special statistically. He was 18th in Total Offense as a Senior. Ryan threw for 9, 190 yards and 70 TDs. Nassib has NFL talent. He would be solid value in the 2nd round, but still compare his career to what 2nd round picks like Dalton and Kapernick did.
Zac Dysert had losing seasons 3 of his 4 years at Miami OH. He did lead them to a MAC title as a Sophomore, but went 8-16 in his final 2 years. Dysert didn’t have great talent around him. He had to deal with coaching changes. Still, you have to get nervous about whether Dysert can help an NFL team win the Super Bowl. Does he have the physical talent? Yes. Does he have the intangibles? Huge question.
Mike Glennon led NC State to an 8-5 record in 2011 and expectations were high for his Senior season. Things didn’t go so well. Final record was 7-6. The low point was a 33-6 loss to Virginia. Not much better was a 10-7 win over UConn. We know Glennon can throw the ball. Can he lead a team?
EJ Manuel went 25-6 as a starter. FSU was 12-2 this year. They played in the Orange Bowl. That all sounds great, but the numbers aren’t as impressive when you look closer. FSU played a pair of I-AA teams this year. They ACC title game was flawed since some teams were ineligible. The Noles faced a MAC team in the Orange Bowl and methodically beat Northern Illinois 31-10. The Noles had an elite defense the last 2 years. Only 4 times did they give up more than 30 points. Manuel won plenty of games at FSU, but never lived up to the hype. He was supposed to be an elite star. He threw 47 career TDs and 28 INTs. Manuel ran for 11 career TDs.
Matt Barkley came to USC expecting to be the next Trojans star. Then Pete Carroll left and trouble came. Barkley stayed put and did everything he could to lead USC back to the top. Didn’t work. The Trojans were 10-2 last year. One of the losses came to Stanford in 3 OTs. Unfortunately, USC couldn’t go to a bowl. They did this year, but it was just the Sun Bowl and they lost to Georgia Tech. Barkley was hurt and unable to play. I think Barkley did reasonably well given the circumstances, but you can hardly look at his career as one of accomplishment. He went 0-4 vs Stanford and 1-3 vs Oregon. There just weren’t many compelling wins.
Tyler Bray played half-seasons in 2010 and 2011. This year he stayed on the field the whole time and Tennessee went 5-7. They didn’t have a winning record in any of his 3 years there. Bray was 5-10 as a starter in SEC games. 4 of those came vs Vandy or Kentucky. Ouch. Tennessee had plenty of individual talent in this time, but was a bad team. Bray was highly inconsistent and a big part of the problem.
Tyler Wilson is a guy I actually feel some sympathy for. He led the Hogs to an 11-2 record in 2011. They had good talent coming back and expectations were sky high. Then coach Bobby Petrino was in an accident that led to a scandal and his firing. The team had to settle for hiring an interim head coach and things went downhill from there. Arkansas was 4-8 for the year. The wins came over I-AA Jacksonville State, an awful Auburn team, an awful Kentucky team, and they barely beat Tulsa, 19-15. Ugh. Wilson got hurt in Week 2 and that didn’t help matters. He publicly questioned the effort of some of his teammates. That didn’t help matters. If Petrino hadn’t been such a jackass, Wilson and Arkansas might have had a strong year. Still, when things do go wrong, you expect a special QB to be able to right the ship and carry the team for a few games. That didn’t happen.
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I didn’t list the QBs in any particular order so don’t read anything into that.
All of these guys will be drafted and have a chance to play in the NFL. They have shown NFL talent. My point is that these players failed to do great things in college so you have to be careful about how you project them into the NFL.
Jay Cutler is a player that made me nervous coming out of Vanderbilt. He did his best, but Vandy had bad teams. Jay learned bad habits and I think those habits still plague him in the NFL. There is no question about his physical ability. He just seems to make mistakes at critical times in some big games. He’s also wildly inconsistent.
I think you can look at the information above and see that Super Bowl winners and the best QBs in the NFL all accomplished big time things in college. Maybe it was a BCS game. Maybe it was dominating the MAC. Maybe it was I-AA. They were successful players, often overachievers.
When you spend a 1st round pick on a QB, you expect a good starter or Pro Bowl level player. In the 2nd round, you want a solid starter. After that, you acknowledge that you’re drafting a guy that might be a starter or might be a backup. I have no problem with the 2013 QBs at a certain point in the draft. I think taking Geno Smith in the Top 10 or the others in the 1st round is highly questionable. There is an argument to be made for it, but the facts listed above don’t lie. Based on what he did in college, Geno Smith isn’t likely to win you a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean he won’t be solid or even pretty good, but that ties in to how high you draft him. Are you better off building the overall team than forcing a pick on a QB?
Quick note…don’t misread this to mean that guys with great records should be over-valued. Just because Kellen Moore won a ton of games at Boise does not make him a top prospect. He’s small and has a mediocre arm. When getting ready to spend a high pick on a QB, you are looking for a player with the right measurables, physical ability, NFL passing skills, and a college career of accomplishment and success. As you get into the 2nd and 3rd rounds, you can take more chances. The Chargers did that when they took short Drew Brees. The Seahawks did that when they took short Russell Wilson. The Niners did that when they took Colin Kaepernick, who needed work on his throwing motion. And so on.
The 2013 QB class has a lot of talent and potential, but just as many flaws and questions. Be careful about rolling the dice on a player that history tells you has an uphill battle if you expect him to become a star or lead your organization to the Super Bowl.