Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. A quarterback doesn’t have the same impact that one basketball player, like Kevin Durant or LeBron James can have, but that’s more of a function of only having 10 athletes on the field of play, not the positional importance of “small forward”. Sure, it can be argued that a dominate starting pitcher could also be in the discussion. I mean look at what Madison Bumgarner did in the World Series. If you can’t hit, you can’t score. If you can’t score, you can’t win. The problem with starting pitchers is they only play 1 out of every 5 team games. Yes baseball players play every day and football players only once a week but only participating in 18-20% of your team’s contests disqualifies you.
It’s definitely quarterbacks. They touch the ball on every play. They often change the called play. The balance of the game not only hinges on their athleticism, but on their decision making. The decisions that the quarterback makes matter, all the way from pre-snap until the play is over. In this league, if you don’t have a quarterback, you really don’t have anything.
Rarely are franchise quarterbacks available in free agency. It almost only happens in the wake of frightening injuries. The Chargers feared that Drew Brees would never return from a shoulder injury the same way that the Colts were uneasy about Peyton Manning’s neck. Just look at this year’s free agent class at QB: Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer, Michael Vick. Ick! That’s why hitting on QB in the draft is so very important..
Class Strength: 3/10
I am not at all impressed by this class of QB’s. The battle at the top for me is uninteresting. I don’t trust Jameis Winston. Not only does he make awful decisions and exhibit lots of immaturity off of the field, but he’s not an excellent decision maker on it, either. During his senior season at Florida State Winston had 18 interceptions against just 25 touchdowns. He also fumbled 7 times, losing 2 of them. Those aren’t the numbers that I want to see out of a guy with “character issues”. If I’m drafting a guy with “character issues” at #1 overall he better be flawless on the field.
Then there’s Marcus Mariota. The antithesis of Jameis Winston. A model citizen and efficient beyond compare. Mariota sported a video-game-like TD/INT of 42 to 4. He sports a 6’4″ frame and rushed for almost 800 yards and 15 TDs this season. Mariota’s quality as a human being and his raw numbers would tell you that the decision is a no brainer, but the fear of Oregon QBs as “system” players terrifies NFL GMs. The consensus is that Mariota’s ceiling is lower than Winston’s, coming with a much higher floor.
As you can probably tell by the way that I wrote the two preceding quarterbacks, I prefer Mariota, and for me it really isn’t close. I believe you can fit a system around his talents, or let him sit for a season and learn your system, whichever. The rest of the QB class is where it gets dicey. I don’t see anything after Winston and Mariota that I wouldn’t call a “project”. In fact, there might only be 10 draftable QBs in this class. Brett Hundley needs polish. Bryce Petty is another “system” QB. Garrett Grayson doesn’t have one single elite trait and Sean Mannion lost a lot of football games at Oregon State.
Packers Positional Situation: A++++++++++++++++++++++++
Aaron Rodgers. (In future versions of this piece, this paragraph will be longer. It is not necessary in this case.)
The Packers don’t currently have a backup for the league’s MVP under contract for the 2015 season. I am of the belief that either Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien (not both) will be brought back and that the 3rd string or “developmental” QB will be selected in the draft or signed immediately after its completion as a UDFA.
Packers Level of Need at QB: 5/10
Despite having the league’s MVP and premier signal caller, the Packers actually should draft a QB in this year’s draft. Rodgers has no backup currently signed to a contract. Even if Tolzien or Flynn comes back, neither of those players are viewed as potential trade chips or someone that could get the Packers through a season if #12 were to go down. It’s very obvious that the team isn’t looking to replace a starter at the QB position, but it is almost imperative that they acquire one on draft day.
Round to Start Targeting QB: Round 5
I’m not sure that I want the Packers using a top pick on a signal caller this season. As we’ve seen in the past the Packers are capable of drafting an impact starter anywhere in the first 5 rounds (Micah Hyde, Mike Daniels, Corey Linsley, David Bakhtiari) . I would prefer they didn’t “waste” that pick on someone who can’t immediately help the team.
With that said, I think it’s time to spend a little bit more draft capital on a QB than in the past. The last time that the Packers selected a quarterback was BJ Coleman in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Coleman was a big, strong armed prospect, but was never able to pull the backup QB job away from Graham Harrell. As Mike McCarthy would say, that’s not “pawsitive”.
I think it might be time to select a QB in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. It might be time to select a guy that’s in between the level of the guys expected to play right away and the undrafted guys.
My Favorite Fit for the Packers: Sean Mannion, Oregon State- Rounds 5-7
I am aware that I disparaged Mannion in this very article, saying that he lost a lot of games. This is true. He did lose a lot of games at Oregon State, but a lot of that had to do with a pretty poor Oregon State defense and having to play in the Pac 12. The bottom line for me is that Mannion is 6’6″ and 230 pounds. He’s a passable athlete and he he’s got a pretty big arm.
Mannion is exactly the kind of quarterback that you would want to go into the McCarthy/Clements QB school. The QB development of McCarthy and Clements has taken a bit of a bad rap thanks to the failures of Graham Harrell and BJ Coleman in Green Bay and of Matt Flynn elsewhere. I would argue that those players consist of 2 7th round picks and an undrafted guy. Not exactly a rich pool of talent. Remember, Mike McCarthy resurrected Brett Favre’s career in 2007 and developed Aaron Rodgers into the game’s premier QB. I’d like to see what he can do with a guy like Mannion.
Other options: Connor Halliday, Taylor Heinicke, Bryan Bennet