Drafting a quarterback in the NFL: the safe pick?
The NFL draft is an interesting concept. At the end of the season the worst teams in the league have the opportunity to hire the best young talent in College Football. Such a system, which appears to reward failure, would be anathema to the British sports fan. The idea of course, is to try to even out the quality of the players in all the teams. This has resulted in there being thirteen different Superbowl winners in the last twenty years. Compare that with only five separate teams winning the English Premier League title over the same period.
As it is such a big part of the sport, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon who is chosen but it is still something of a lottery. The most important position in the NFL is the quarterback. Rarely is a team able to win the championship without having a seriously talented incumbent. It has also been historically the hardest position to adapt to from college and even the best have had years in the role of back ups while they continue to learn their trade.
The 2012 season started with a record of five rookie quarterbacks starting for their teams, in contrast to the previous high of three in 1960. In addition, Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins is the first rookie in franchise history to start a season opener. It could be argued that as these teams held the first, fourth, sixth, eighth and twelfth positions in the draft they were the most in need for a change at the quarterback position to improve.
The five men in question have had an impressive start for their new teams; they have not been thrown into the line up in desperation, but have won their starting positions in training camps during pre-season training. The talent levels of the College players prior to the draft were undeniable and each had impressive College statistics in their own right. However, the step up to the NFL is enormous and they have so far coped brilliantly. The teams who drafted them had a combined record last season of twenty-four wins and fifty-six losses. At the halfway point of this season the rookies and their teams are currently nineteen and twenty-four, a dramatic improvement.
“A lot of it has to do with how much the kids are training at the position in college and in high school, with their work in the summer and in the passing camps,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon on Monday. “When they get to the NFL level, they are so much more prepared than quarterbacks used to be. And the more the guys have success with it, the more it will be expected. There will be another crop coming next year, and they’re probably going to be expected to step right in. It’s a copycat league.”
Andrew Luck, the number one overall pick and touted as “the best prospect since Payton Manning” has so far lived up to the billing. Despite only grading himself a C overall for his production so far in the NFL, at the weekend he threw for 433 yards breaking the rookie passing record for yards in a game set last year by Cam Newton (also a number one overall pick). Tannehill came awfully close as he passed for 431 yards at Arizona in Week 4, representing how competitive the current crop of rookie quarterbacks have been. “The rookies this season have combined for nine 300-yard games — already the most by any rookie class in league history,” pointed out Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY Sports. Brandon Weeden, who plays for the Cleveland Browns, is “actually second among all the new signal-callers with 2,088 passing yards” according to NFL.com and fourteenth overall in the league.
It could be claimed that teams got lucky, as this year just happened to have a very talented draft class. For example, Robert Griffin the third (or RG3), picked number two overall, had only 1.43 per cent of his throws intercepted whilst at Baylor, the lowest percentage in history among major college quarterbacks and Russell Wilson, picked by the Seattle Seahawks, set a National Collegiate Athletic Association record by throwing 379 consecutive passes without an interception. The men excelled at college but it is their performances thus far in the NFL that have really caught the imagination.
The 2013 draft will certainly be geared towards picking quarterbacks, as teams will be more willing to take a chance and throw a young man into the most demanding position in American sport. As the league becomes centered around the passing game and records continue to fall, by the end of the season the 2012 rookie quarterbacks may have changed the way teams scout, plan and shape their franchises.
How does the NFL draft work?
Teams pick players in the reverse order of how they finished the previous season i.e. the worst team in 2011 gets the first pick
Picks may be traded between teams. For example, swapping one pick for a future pick or multiple picks or both.Tagged in: NFL
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