Too much is happening right now to really make sense of where this team is headed in the future, offensively. The Kansas City Chiefs still have a virtual vacancy at the all-crucial offensive coordinator position. Bill Muir has two legs out the door and under Romeo Crennel, the offensive coordinator is the most important coaching position still left.
Landing Crennel as head coach was a stroke of fortune for the franchise. It’s a good hire; it brings the perfect balance of experience, gravitas, and a continuity for this team that is way underrated. Although Crennel did douse our excitement in ice-cold water almost immediately out of the gate:
I think [QB Matt Cassel]‘s a good talent. He’s a good quarterback and he’s taken us to a playoff. So I anticipate that he can do it again.”
Now we can parse those words in multiple ways, as is the nature of coachspeak. But what a reasonable person can take away from that is that Cassel is in the driver’s seat to start for this team in Week One of the 2012 season.
This is problematic. We’ve written extensively about him on this website, and the general opinion of most seems to be that a new quarterback is, at the very least, going to be needed to provide him competition. At the very most, he needs to be outright replaced on the roster.
These are all supremely dramatic moves, and really sexy ones to write about. Which is why earlier today, Ladner Morse kicked off a discussion of the plain Jane tradition of just drafting QBs at good value in the NFL Draft. You know, the old fashioned way.
This is the path most likely taken by GM Scott Pioli, if he were to take any path at all. So I think it’d be rewarding for me to introduce you to all the major QB candidates coming up in this year’s draft, from the studs to the duds, Top Ten selections to UDFA leftovers. It will lack Morse’s depth from earlier today, but the purpose of this post is to bring breadth to you, the Addicts, to make you more literate in this year’s QB crops than your casual observer who only knows Luck and RGIII.
Let’s get the big dog out of the way right below. After the jump, I have no fewer than 16 other prospects introduced. Share with us who interests you the most, or who you think Pioli is definitely most likely to draft.
Andrew Luck, Stanford — We all know the story on Luck, his elite size, coaching, pro-style system, athleticism, character, accuracy and clutch-ness. He’s the real deal, and any idiot who comes out this offseason saying Luck is anything other than the best QB prospect to come out since Peyton Manning probably needs to whistle when he takes a crap so he knows which end to wipe. The most fascinating thing about Luck is that he makes his own playcalls, and not just the standard audibles either. His ability to understand complex playbooks and translate them into attack lines on another team’s defense in real time is peerless in college football. He will be a Colt by April. Projected round: 1.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor — “RG3″ comes with the most sizzle of any player in this year’s draft. He is incredibly entertaining to watch, and his physical abilities seem to be a direct download of Michael Vick in his later years when the Eagles started grooming Vick to be more a pocket passer. I think RG3 has a little more Cam Newton in him than he does Vick, despite his size similarity to the latter rather than the former. He is a pass-first QB who uses his amazing, unrivaled athleticism to get away from pressure. He’s going to make highlight reels in the NFL. My hesitation is that, for QBs, highlight reels aren’t how you get to the Super Bowl. QBs need to be able, above all other things, to dissect defenses and hit windows. I’ve watched plenty of Baylor, but RG3 is often times not having to hit windows, but instead is breaking down a defense that’s entirely focused on containing his run game and hitting wide open receivers. That strategy won’t work in the NFL as effectively, and I think RG3 is a boom-or-bust. That’s why I’m not totally in love with him as a prospect. I’m sure I’ll be going rounds with the rest of AA over him for the next few months. Projected round: 1.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M — I look at Tannehill, and I get excited. He is a good-sized (6’4, 220 lbs), powerful, mobile QB, with maybe the best arm in the 2012 draft. This past season, he was frequently a force to be reckoned with and had a few games that would have any scout drooling. His ability to run the ball when the situation calls for it isn’t quite in Cam Newton’s stratosphere, but it’s the best of any QB in this draft not named RGIII. He’s a treasure trove of talent when it’s properly tapped into. There’s just no guarantee that it can be tapped into. Tannehill’s game is a lot like Christian Ponder’s from 2011, and his fate will be a lot like Ponder’s, as well. In a QB-starved league, he will get overdrafted in the first round for a team that desperately needs him to start right away. Tannehill is roughly as experienced as Mark Sanchez was when he declared, and is drastically less polished. He’s only played 20 games as starter, and played very poorly against almost all of his best competition. The complete lack of tape teams have on him could lead to the ill-informed decision to treat him as better than he might be. I’d love Tannehill if I had a situation where I could stow him away for a year or two. The Chiefs, like most teams who will consider him in the first, are not one of those teams. Projected round: 1.
Nick Foles, Arizona — Ladner Morse and I are, once again, in agreement. Foles is, to my mind, the most likely to end up a Kansas City Chief if this team is insistent on drafting a QB of the future. (I do not personally believe the Chiefs will be drafting a QB, however.) Foles has flown under the radar for most of his career and will undoubtedly be there for the Chiefs to select atop the second round, should they take the priviledge. Foles played four years with mostly dreadful teammates in Arizona. As a result, he’s had to single-handedly win games for Arizona, all the while throwing for a nearly 70% completion rate. Foles can make all the throws, challenges secondaries, and wins far more often than he loses when he does. He is a franchise-caliber 6’5″, 235 lbs, with a powerful arm and a short memory. Since the Chiefs have no shot at Luck or RGIII, they should consider an experienced fighter like Foles atop the second instead of the more inexperienced, erratic Ryan Tannehill. Please read Ladner’s piece on him if you haven’t already. Projected round: 2.
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State — Everybody is incredibly high on Robert Griffin III, and perhaps they should be. He has a sizzle to him that outshines every other player in the 2012 NFL Draft class. But the prospect I’m most high on, aside from Luck, is the incredibly impressive Weeden. Weeden has it all: his size and athleticism are Luck-like, he makes multiple reads, and almost always the smart reads. He’s accurate, takes care of the ball, and is incredibly clutch. He has a Drew Brees-like killer instinct; he loves putting the team on his back and pulling the trigger. Weeden has a couple things going against him: first, he will take a bit of a transition in the NFL, since OK State is not a pro-style system. Secondly, and this is devastating: he will be a 29-year-old rookie. If he were a 25-year-old rookie, he’d be flirting with the first round. If we were doing something crazy like acquiring Peyton Manning, and we weren’t confident in Stanzi to back him up, Weeden would get my vote. I should mention that he out-dueled both Luck and Tannehill this year. Projected round: 3.
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State — Drafting Cousins (6’3″, 200lbs) is the perfect way for an NFL franchise to say to its fanbase: we are completely uninterested in entertaining you. Cousins isn’t a bad prospect, so to speak, but he has zero sizzle and doesn’t exactly have the play or the look of a guy who is going to take you anywhere but a 6-10 record. He won’t be the guy to beat you — only seven interceptions thrown — but he’s not a player the rest of the team can rely on to guide you to victory. He’s a future back-up game manager in the NFL, and there’s a very serious need for that in the league. The Chiefs themselves suffered for a month under Tyler Palko precisely because they didn’t have that. But in a QB-starved league, he’ll be way overdrafted because he has what draftniks call a “high floor”: he’s unlikely to bust. But he’s just as unlikely to… I’m too bored to finish that sentence. Projected round: 3.
Case Keenum, Houston — I don’t expect to be “liking” Keenum for much longer, but boy, can he set the world on fire. Strap in: in Houston’s goofy offensive system in 2009 and 2011 (he was injured during the 2010 season), Keenum (6’0″, 210 lbs) threw for over 11,000 yards on 70 percent completion, 92 touchdowns and 20 interceptions (only five this year). You only see numbers like that once every decade, and that alone earns Keenum the benefit of the doubt. I haven’t seen any games by Houston other than their bowl game against Penn State. Keenum threw for over 500 yards and three touchdowns. He is a cool, calculating machine who has mastered his system. I have no idea if that will translate to the NFL (that’s what the next few months are for), but it’s worth a flyer. Colin Kaepernick was drafted in the second round by the 49ers despite Nevada’s goofy offensive system, so who knows. Projected round: 4.
Brock Osweiler, Arizona State – I’m pretty confident Osweiler is going to be a fad for people who peruse his measurables more than he is going to be any sort of NFL quarterback. Let’s get this out of the way: Osweiler is hilariously tall, at 6’8″ and 240 lbs. That’s actually pretty lanky more than it is muscle; by comparison Cam Newton is 6’5″, 250 lbs. And that size does translate in his play: he can see the entire field like a lighthouse, and has a very impressive arm. He’s super athletic, too, as he’s been a basketball player much of his life. But they do not come any rawer than Osweiler. I’ve watched ASU plenty this year, and Osweiler’s throwing motion will need to be completely re-done. As of now, it seems to take him two minutes to wind up and pitch it. He’s also got fewer starts than every other QB on the draft board, so you’re taking a leap of faith. But with somebody this fascinating, you just know somebody’s going to. Projected round: 5.
Dominique Davis, East Carolina — Every year, people see incredible play out of a smaller school program quarterback and are convinced he can sleep his way up the NFL Draft. At this point, that guy will be Dominique Davis for this upcoming draft season. Davis is a decently sized (6’3″, 215 lbs) athlete with damn good accuracy (65+%) and the ability to blow minds from time to time. He is a gunslinger who isn’t only willing to carry a team, he wants to carry a team. That shows in his fantastic touchdown numbers (62 over the last two seasons) as well as his excessive interception problem (34 in the same time span). Nonetheless, a lot of QBs need to be brought along slowly to build their confidence; Davis will more than likely need to have his ambition restrained in the first few years while he develops. Projected round: 5.
Austin Davis, Southern Mississippi – I love to hate on Southern Mississippi prospects. One always comes through the veins every other year. They are almost always low-round prospects with fascinating measurables, and you follow them a bit in the NFL to see if they pan out. Which they never do. So while I’m predisposed to hating on a guy like Davis (6’2″, 220 lbs), I think he’s actually done a good job of avoiding the pitfalls of traditionally unpredictable, boom-or-bust types of his alma mater. Davis has started for four years, has routinely had a 60+% completion rate, a 3:1 TD-to-INT rate, and scrambled for over 1,000 yards. That’s pretty good reliability, and it doesn’t hurt that he is a good character guy as well. I think he’s got legit backup potential in the NFL, so long as things check out. He’s considerably less raw than you’d think. Projected round: 6.
Kellen Moore, Boise State – Don’t get me wrong, I liked Todd Reising, too. Moore reminds me a lot of him: a fiery leader who is incredibly popular in the locker room, but very, very physically limited. I haven’t seen his 40 time, but he looks like the slowest QB in this draft class when he scrambles. He’s listed as 6’0″, 190 lbs, but even those numbers look inflated. And his numbers in college have been phenomenal, but he’s been playing largely inferior competition with legit NFL receivers for much of the time. Some team will take a swing on him in the late rounds, but he’s somebody who will do you far more good on the scout team than on the field. Projected round: 6.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin — Wilson is a great prospect in the wrong era. The NFL is trending towards more bigger, more physically imposing quarterbacks who are capable of carrying a team on their shoulders should everything else on offense start sputtering. Wilson is my favorite late-round prospect because he is such a smart, accurate talent. His completion percentage during not just his time at Wisconsin (70%+) but at North Carolina State (nearly 60% with no supporting cast) is indicative of a player that can take care of ball. He has a good arm, not great, and plays his best when the situation calls for it. His biggest problem is that he is at least a couple inches shy of 6’0″, and he looks well short of 200 lbs. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s 5’10″, 190 lbs. At the very least, some team will bring him on as a practice squad developmental prospect. Projected round: 7.
Dan Persa, Northwestern — I always have a soft spot for Northwestern, and I think Persa (6’1″, 210 lbs) may be the kind of QB that Scott Pioli would consider in the last round of the draft or even undrafted free agency. He is virtually the mayor of Evanstan, Ill., the home of Northwestern’s campus, as his incredibly gritty performances call to mind some of Tebow’s work over the past couple of years in the NFL. Like Tebow, he has a lot of the intangibles down and because of his poor team, has had to extend countless plays to invent something out of nothing. But unlike Tebow, he’s actually got a pretty consistent throwing motion and is incredibly accurate (70+ percent completion percentage). Persa belongs on somebody’s practice squad or even on someone’s 53-man roster. Projected round: UDFA.
John Brantley, Florida — Even under the guidance of Charlie Weis, it’s hard to like what you see in Brantley. His completion percentage has hovered around 60 percent for most of his career, but he’s just not an NFL QB. He has decent size (6’3″, 220 lbs) but he just isn’t a playmaker. I know it’s a defensive conference with the SEC, but when you’ve only thrown 11 touchdowns in a season, you’re not the answer. Projected round: UDFA.
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois – Harnish is still, to me, a total mystery. I never would list a guy from a small program like Northern Illinois but he’s showing up everywhere so I feel like I have to at least list him for completeness’ sake. I haven’t watched any Northern Illinois, but I do see that Harnish (6’2″, 220) has some really great numbers: nearly 3,000 with 26 TDs this season, 5 INTS with nearly 1,500 on the ground with 11 more TDs. The problem, of course, is that he’s from a really small program and has mostly played other really small programs. He faced off against Wisconsin, and that went as well as you’d expect it to, but what’s a guy to do? I don’t see why anybody would draft him. Projected round: UDFA.
Both LSU QBs: Jordan Jefferson & Jarrett Lee — This is not a reaction from the national championship game. They’re just both very bad quarterbacks. Projected round: UDFA.