It’s not easy to feel truly “sorry” for higher-ups with NFL teams, if for no other reason than the salaries that come with jobs that a whole lot of people would pay to do. But along with the escalating interest and buzz developing in the final run-up to the 2018 draft comes an inevitable and understandably rising level of tension, particularly with teams whose mission statement includes line in boldface type: Find a quarterback – now.
Most of those losing teams are in dire straits anyway; they’re usually drafting high in the first round for the obvious reason is that they are losing teams, and a usual reason for being a losing team is that you have missed at getting the quarterback position right. (See: Bears, Chicago).
But the tension around this year’s draft is different. The reason is that the players ranked at the top of the position group just maybe aren’t all that good. As New Orleans coach Sean Payton told MMQB, “I’d feel a little bit uneasy if I were at the top of this draft and I decided I had to have a quarterback.”
For the Browns, Giants, Jets and any other team in the red zone of QB need, this is serious and significant.
The problem with drafting quarterbacks is that simply being the best quarterback in a particular draft equates to exactly nothing in whether the particular prospect is actually as elite as the draft slot. David Carr, Tim Couch, Jeff George, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and JaMarcus Russell were all No. 1-overall picks. Somebody has to be the best in a class; but they don’t then correspondingly become best-anything in the NFL.
Bears GM Ryan Pace did his time in the QB crucible a year ago. He had to address the quarterback position after he and John Fox tried to make a go of it with Jay Cutler for two years, which the organization may have appreciated from a monetary standpoint but ultimately didn’t work. Pace felt very, very good about Mitch Trubisky so his stress level might be a tick below what this year’s quarterback-seekers are feeling. As long as Trubisky turns out to be an A-lister, even if Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson are better, then Pace got that position taken care of.
The Bears can sit back and watch the QB tumult playing out in the seven picks before theirs, a personnel maelstrom that is already both intriguing and entertaining. They did meet with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson at the Combine but don’t appear to have had targeted any quarterback for a private session as they did last year with Trubisky and Watson in particular.
What borders on near-comedic this year is the dance-partnering going on: as in, The Giants have had the five top QB draft prospects in for private visits, they’ve gone to pro days of Sam Darnold at USC and Josh Allen in Laramie, Wyoming. This is happening while the New York Post, quoting several NFL sources, reports that the Giants don’t like any of the five enough to take at No. 2 overall.
(Hope that clears things up in New York.)
The Cleveland Browns skipped Mahomes, Trubisky and Watson last year, then made their move for DeShone Kizer in round two. Kizer is now in Green Bay. And Cleveland is now looking at a dubious quarterback class while holding the No. 1 and No. 4 picks.
Truly expert analysis is elusive. More than a couple of draft experts last year, sounding a little like Payton recently, called the 2017 QB choices poor enough that one might not even go in the first round. Then not only did three go in the first 12 picks, but all three went to teams (Chicago, Kansas City, Houston) who traded up to get the guys they wanted.
If there’s a “worry” for Pace and the Bears, it might be that teams ahead of them come to conclusions that at least some of the quarterback class isn’t worth top-10. What if only two, not four quarterbacks go off the board in the seven picks ahead of the Bears? What if perhaps, say, Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Tremaine Edwards, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Quenton Nelson and Denzel Ward are gone? Not likely, but best guess is that Pace and staff will have posited that and other similar scenarios in their mock drafts.
Best other guess is that this is why the Bears have reportedly had private sessions with all within that cluster besides Barkley and Edwards, and with a handful of others expected to be under strong consideration for inclusion in Pace’s draft “cloud” of prospects judged worth that No. 8 pick: LSU rush linebacker Arden Key, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith and Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea.
Sorting through those candidates has a stress level all its own, which is what is a given for a GM about to make his fourth top-10 pick in as many years.
But at least he isn’t stressing over which of a dubious quarterback class he has to take.