April 24, 2017

McDEVITT | Breaking Down the Quarterbacks in the NFL Draft

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Draft Day is nearly upon us.

It is perhaps the most important day of the offseason, and teams are getting ready for Thursday night to make moves that will hopefully boost their stock for next season. This draft is deep defensively, especially at the top. Players like Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M), Solomon Thomas (DT, Stanford) and Jamal Adams (S, LSU) are sure to be the hot commodities inside the top six this year.

But with all this defensive talent, much of the buzz this year seems to be about something else: quarterbacks. Obviously, the quarterback is the most important position on the field, and some teams are currently lacking one. The Cleveland Browns and New York Jets come to mind most of all.

There are three quarterbacks that have first round potential: North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. The general consensus seems to be that Trubisky has a slight edge on Watson, with Mahomes a bit behind the pair in upside potential.

There is a big concern, however, with Trubisky. He started just 13 games in his only season at the helm in Chapel Hill. His inexperience leaves a big question mark that many believe is answered by dominant performances when it mattered most, like his 405-yard, three touchdown effort to end Florida State’s 22-game home win streak last October. His resume is impressive, although thin, and he has a real shot to crack the top 10.

Watson is a freshly minted national champion, and he turned in one of the most impressive performances in recent memory against Alabama’s stingy defense in the title game. Watson’s two year success record may give him a leg up on Trubisky in the first round, while Trubisky’s mechanics are slightly more impressive. While I think Trubisky will go before him, I do not think Watson will fall very far behind.

Mahomes is a scrappy quarterback with impressive arm strength. His game lacks in decision making and pocket presence, which is why he will likely lag behind his two counterparts and perhaps even fall out of the first round. The best landing spot for him is probably late in the first round, perhaps to the Houston Texans at 25 or the Kansas City Chiefs at 27.

Let’s sort out the most likely scenarios for Trubisky and Watson. The Browns are probably looking to take a quarterback at some point during this first round, as it is their most glaring need. They pick first and 12th overall, and they are likely to use the top pick on Garrett, who is undoubtedly the most talented player in this draft.

The Browns seem to be higher on Trubisky than Watson or Mahomes, but I think 12 is a bit high for any of them. If the Browns agree, they could trade down to later in the round to get Trubisky at a better value. Otherwise, I think it’s pretty likely they’ll snag Trubisky at 12, if he’s there. If the Browns think he’ll go earlier, expect them to trade up to grab him.

Among the teams that the Browns should be concerned with in this regard are the Jets, who own the sixth pick and may be liable to use it on a quarterback, likely Watson or Trubisky. The Jets have taken a defensive player in the first round in eight consecutive drafts, and despite being 30th in total offense during that time span, there seems to be no indication from the front office that any of these quarterbacks is their guy. Sixth overall is way too high for any of them, and GM Mike Maccagnan is probably aware of that.

The Jets would be incredibly wise to show some restraint and take a high upside defensive signal caller like Adams, or a real offensive playmaker like OJ Howard, the spectacular tight end from Alabama. Perhaps the Jets are able to find a suitable trade partner and pick up some later picks or add some useful role players to assist in the rebuild. All things considered, I do not think the Jets will go with a quarterback in the first round. If Mahomes or Watson falls out, and the Jets have a chance to move up and grab one of them in the early second round, then they could very easily capitalize on that opportunity.

I see the Browns as more likely to end up with Trubisky, given that their set of picks is more conducive to getting him at the right value. Then again, nothing is more unpredictable than draft day, and the only certainty is that nothing is certain.

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