Myth Busters: First Round Quarterbacks
By: Ian Kenyon
April 26, 2011
Andy Dalton - 1st Rounder?
Over the past three months, there have been countless rumors about this year's quarterback class. Following the Senior Bowl it appeared that Jake Locker could be headed to the third round and that Colin Kaepernick may go in the first round, essentially flip-flopping their projections prior to that week. The combine brought a new shuffling of position rankings, as did individual workouts. These rumors happen every year, but this year's talks have spiraled out of control.

This year there is heavy speculation that there could be as many as seven quarterbacks taken in the first round this year. Not only is that illogical for many of the teams who are picking in the first round, but history tells us that it will not happen. The last time that six quarterbacks were taken in the first round was 28 years ago in 1983. That draft featured perhaps the greatest quarterback class of all-time with John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino all being selected in the first round. This year's quarterback class is nowhere near the level of the 1983 class. In fact, when Andrew Luck declared that he would be returning to Stanford next season, many hailed it as the worst quarterback class since 2000, which featured only one first round quarterback, Chad Pennington, who was selected 18th overall. It was a foregone conclusion back in January that the Carolina Panthers would be selecting a defensive player with the number one pick because there was not a single quarterback worthy of a top five selection in this draft. Since that time, none of the quarterbacks have played in a single game, with the exception of college all-star games, and yet their stock continues to rise.

Donovan McNabb
The reasoning seen most often to support the theory that we could see seven quarterbacks go in the first round this year is that there was no free agency before the draft so teams were not able to fill their vacancies at quarterback. However, that is not how NFL teams will look at the situation. In the past, teams who needed a quarterback were aware that they wouldn't be able to sign Player X in free agency so they needed to draft a quarterback. Now, you're going to have several teams who need a quarterback, but will remain optimistic about their chances about signing a guy in free agency. Teams will look at the laundry list of guys who may be moved before the season starts (Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer) and look at their draft board on day one and ask themselves if they should draft Andy Dalton right now or go after one of the vets in a few months. For most teams, that answer is simple; draft the best player available. In fact, you might be hard-pressed to find an NFL general manager who has more than three quarterbacks in the top 30 of their draft board for this year.

Colt McCoy
It is true -- there are 10-15 teams who could be looking at drafting a quarterback this year. But, even teams who need a quarterback know how to draft with value. A perfect example of this would be the Cleveland Browns during the 2010 NFL Draft. Heading into the draft there were rumors that the Browns were linked to Colt McCoy, a West Coast style quarterback, to play for Mike Holmgren. McCoy was being talked about as a late first to early second round prospect. So, when he was available at pick #38 and the Browns were on the clock, that pick seemed like a lock. Wrong, the Browns selected safety T.J. Ward, who would go on to start at safety and lead the team in tackles. The Browns came up again at pick #58, and McCoy was still on the board, so the Browns couldn't possibly pass on him again, right? They did, selecting running back Montario Hardesty, who missed his rookie campaign due to injury. Finally, the Browns come up again at pick #85 and selected Colt McCoy.

Jimmy Clausen
Despite having an immediate need at the quarterback position, the Browns still avoided taking a signal caller until the third round, using their earlier picks to acquire players that were higher on their draft board and also filled a position of need. Similarly, Jimmy Clausen was being talked about as a top ten pick yet ended up sliding into the second round, with many teams who needed a quarterback passing on him to select players they had higher on their draft boards.

NFL teams do not select players simply because they need a player at that position. These teams spend millions of dollars and countless hours to evaluate the full draft class and pick players to assemble the best team possible.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of drafting a quarterback this year comes in the preparation for next season. Due to work stoppage, teams are not only unable to negotiate contracts with their rookie draft picks, but they are also not able to provide any coaching or coaching materials (playbooks) to players. Quarterback is the most demanding position on the field, it requires the most preparation, and often takes players a couple years to figure out. Assuming a collective bargaining agreement isn't agreed to until August, rookies will only have a few weeks to learn plays and get adjusted to their teammates before hitting the field. Therefore, a team who needs a quarterback to step in and start this year would probably rather make a play for a veteran like Palmer, McNabb or Kolb, all guys have been in the league, understand the lingo, know how to command an offense and can pick up a playbook quickly, rather than take their chances on an unproven rookie who has to pick it all up within a few weeks.

When looking at all of these factors added together with an uninspiring class of quarterbacks, not only does it seem unlikely that there will be seven quarterbacks taken in the first round this year, it seems completely crazy. Expect no more than three quarterbacks to come off the board on Thursday night.

(April 28) -- In case you missed it, Sideline Scouting's Draft Guide PDF (391 pages) is now available for $5, so be sure to equip yourself with the most comprehensive draft coverage available. The NFL Draft gets underway tonight in primetime and our final updates have now been posted. They are as follows:
   • 7-Round Mock Draft »
   • Top 100 »
   • Big Board »
The Big Board indicates where these players "should" go and the Top 100 indicates where they "will" go.

*Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn
Von Miller
LB, Texas A&M;
*Marcell Dareus
DE, Alabama
*A.J. Green
WR, Georgia
*Patrick Peterson
View Mock Draft »