Fanspeak Mock Draft 2.10: QB-needy teams would be wise to heed 2016 draft’s warnings
Dallas thought it was sitting pretty in 2016 after an awful season the year before in which star receiver Dez Bryant missed time due to injuries while Romo missed most of the season after breaking his collarbone twice.
In fact, during the Senior Bowl that year, then-coach Jason Garrett and the rest of the Cowboys coaching staff had the opportunity to watch Wentz up-close-and-personal as they coached the South team while Wentz quarterbacked the North. (Dak Prescott, ironically, won Most Outstanding Player honors for Garrett and the South in the game.)
Dallas had the No. 4 pick in what was widely considered a two-quarterback draft between North Dakota State’s Wentz and California’s Jared Goff.
Cleveland, who owned the No. 1 pick, had just signed Robert Griffin II and was unlikely to draft Wentz or Goff. And Tennessee wasn’t in the market for a signal caller after drafting Marcus Mariota of Oregon with the No. 2 overall pick the year before.
San Diego, which held the No. 3 pick, also wasn’t in the market for a new QB with Phillip Rivers still in his prime.
Surely that meant either Goff or Wentz would wind up in Dallas, right? Even if another QB-needy team swooped into the top-3 and drafted one of the two players – most thought Goff would go before Wentz – the Cowboys were still projected to wind up with the remaining quarterback.
That is, unless two QB-needy teams traded up and moved ahead of Dallas.
And that’s exactly what happened. The Rams moved up to No. 1 and drafted Goff, while Wentz went to Philadelphia with the second overall pick after the Eagles gave up a bounty of picks and prospects in two separate trades.
Sure, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott was a pretty good consolation prize for Dallas, as he was considered the best running back in the league during the early part of his career. And, yes, the Goff and Wentz trades ultimately didn’t pan out.
But Dallas still (lucked into?) drafting its QB of the future in the fourth-round with Prescott, while the Rams and Eagles both won Super Bowls since that trade, albeit with different quarterbacks (Matthew Stafford for Los Angeles and backup Nick Foles for Philadelphia).
Seven years later …
Since that time, Prescott has turned into one of the highest-paid signal callers in the league and was honored Thursday as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year. But he also hasn’t managed to move the team past the second-round of the playoffs, and fans are getting restless with his recent play. Elliott, meanwhile, is a likely camp cut after a heavy workload his first several years finally took its toll.
Then there’s Los Angeles. The team continued making moves – including moving on from Goff – and wound up winning last year’s Super Bowl. But their future is murky with no clear answer right now at quarterback and an aging roster besieged by injuries this season with little young depth and no first-round pick this year, which would have been No. 6 overall.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has managed just fine despite its own QB carousel. The team won the 2018 Super Bowl behind its backup QB, Nick Foles, when Wentz went down with a late-season injury. Then the Eagles drafted current starter Jalen Hurts in the second round in 2020 and traded Wentz the following season after it became apparent that Wentz was on the decline.
Are there lessons to be learned from the 2016 draft?
Goff, Wentz and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch headlined the 2016 QB class, while this year features four who should go in the first round in Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. The latter, though, could be compared to Lynch, meaning he’s still considered a first-round prospect but generally isn’t ranked as high as the others.
However, at least six teams need to come out of this offseason with a new quarterback, including Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Carolina, Washington and Tom Brady-less Tampa Bay.
Add four more teams who are operating with bridge QBs or untested second-year QBs who were taken in the third round: Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta and Tennessee.
That’s 13 teams who have probably at least kicked the tires on drafting one of the top-4 QBs, even if that means giving up assets to move up.
Is that wise, especially during what’s considered an average QB class?
Here are some of the lessons to be learned from that now infamous draft:
Too many picks?
Just because you acquire more picks doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to come away with more talent. The opposite could happen, too. Back then, Cleveland and Detroit acquired a ton of draft capital but didn’t do much with those picks and players.
Chicago, which has the No. 1 pick this year but doesn’t need a QB, is said to be interested in acquiring more picks in this draft. Trade down too far, then the team likely won’t come away with either Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Sure, they’ll wind up with more picks, but this is considered a pretty average to below-average year for first-round talent. What if those extra picks don’t pan out?
Don’t assume you’re in the driver’s seat
Indianapolis has been a team commonly mocked as a trade partner with Chicago for the No. 1 pick. If the Bears and the Arizona Cardinals stand pat at Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, and draft Anderson or Carter, then Indianapolis would be guaranteed of having a shot at one of the top quarterbacks. That, however, increasingly seems unlikely.
Remember, Dallas thought it was in the driver’s seat in 2016, too. So if the Colts feel like they absolutely must come away from this draft with one of those signal callers, then the team has to make a trade with Chicago or Arizona. That would cost them something in the range of this year’s first-, second- and third-round picks and at least next year’s second-round pick.
Be careful of how many assets you give up
It’s possible one of the top four QBs falls to Carolina, who has pick No. 9. With that said, if Young, Stroud and Levis are all gone by the fifth pick, the Panthers might consider moving up – and the cost to move up two to three picks isn’t overwhelming (it would likely cost Carolina this year’s first- and -second-rounders and at least next year’s second).
Washington, on the other hand, would have to give up a huge haul to move into the top-five. According to Calculator Soup, even Washington’s first six draft picks wouldn’t be enough! Consider what Philadelphia had to give up in 2016 to move up from No. 8 to No. 2: The Eagles also gave up its third- and fourth-round picks that year, plus its first- and second-rounders the following year. Washington would have to give up even more than that to move up 10-plus spots.
The Lynch/Richardson conundrum
Denver moved up in 2016 to draft Lynch, trading its pick at No. 31 and its third-round pick to Seattle to take Lynch. It was a risky move at the time, but Denver felt it was one QB away from contending long-term, so they pulled the trigger. Obviously, it didn’t work out, as Lynch was out of the league before finishing out his rookie contract.
That’s not to suggest that Richardson will face the same fate. However, both QBs had (or have) elite traits that helped mask other issues.
The fact that Lynch didn’t work out is a fact of life when it comes to drafting QBs – sometimes, these things happen and teams get unlucky. But giving up a Day 2 pick to draft him made it a little more painful, especially since Lynch might have still been available at pick No. 31. (That third-round pick Denver traded to Seattle, by the way, wound up being Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett. Two Pro Bowl players, safety Justin Simmons and linebacker Joe Schobert, went three and four picks later, respectively.)
In other words, teams should be weary about moving up too high for a player like Richardson. This line from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler in his latest mock draft should scare scouts and executives: “Thanks to his size, athleticism and arm, Anthony Richardson is a total freak show with a high ceiling, but he’s still figuring out how to be a consistent passer.”
In other words, the quarterback – whose job is to pass the football – has trouble with … passing the football. However, if Richardson is still on the clock at pick No. 16? Then the Commanders almost have to draft the Florida redshirt sophomore. At least, in that scenario, Washington wouldn’t give up any draft assets, making the blow a little more palatable if Richardson doesn’t work out.
1. Indianapolis Colts (TRADE via CHI): QB Bryce Young, Alabama
This is probably the best scenario for the diminutive Young, as the Colts arguably have the best offensive line of all the contenders for Young’s services. Still, Indianapolis would have to give up a hefty price for this pick.
2. Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The only certainty about this draft is that Houston will select a QB in the first round. They could try to get cute here — especially if it really wanted Young and he’s taken one pick ahead of them — and take one of the SEC defenders, then hope one of the remaining top-four QBs is still available with pick No. 12. Then imagine the howling among Texans fans if all four QBs are gone by 12, and Houston has to go with Davis Mills for another year. Again, common sense says they take a QB with their first pick.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama
Arizona is at a crossroads: If the team isn’t careful, then it’ll wind up needing another quarterback in a year or two. For now, they should go BPA.
4. Washington Commanders (TRADE via CHI): QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Make no mistake, moving up 12 spots would be extremely costly. Think this year’s first-, second- an third-round picks, plus at least next year’s first and second. Maybe toss in a third premium pick in 2025, too. But this at least gives Washington fans hope right now. The Commanders’ O-line isn’t terrible, they have some decent skill players on offense, and the team’s defensive line ranks among the league’s best when healthy. The team is already close to competing with the rest of the division; adding a young QB could push them over the top. But this is very much a swing-or-miss trade. If Levis doesn’t work out, then Washington won’t be left with many draft assets the next few years to overcome the “miss.”
5, Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Is anyone desperate enough to take Carter or Florida’s Richardson? Seattle would like to know …
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR): Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
This would give Detroit three pass rushers selected in the first two rounds in two drafts. Overkill? Not at all – the Lions’ defense was among the worst this season.
7. Carolina Panthers (TRADE via LV): QB Anthony Richardson
The team would likely have to give up at least its second-round pick to move up two spots, but at least new coach/QB guru Frank Reich gets a young signal-caller to mold.
8. Atlanta Falcons: S Brian Branch, Alabama
Safeties don’t go this high in the draft unless they’re all-but-assured of having a major impact as a rookie. Branch is one of those safeties.
9. Las Vegas Raiders (TRADE via CAR): OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Taking Johnson at No. 7 might have been a tad bit high; this is, too, but at least the Raiders acquire another Day 2 pick and a tackle to bookend with Kolton Miller. The team, by the way, is reportedly looking to add a veteran QB rather than taking one in the first round.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
The Eagles figured something out this year: If opposing QBs never have enough time to throw, then you’re going to win your fair share of games. With that said, Murphy is a player to watch as a potential slider, according to various media reports. Safety Brian Branch is a candidate here, too.
11. Tennessee Titans: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
It must be boring for Tennessee fans to see the team picking an offensive tackle in almost every mock draft. That doesn’t change the fact that tackle remains one of the team’s most-pressing needs.
12. Houston Texans (via CLE): DL Brian Bresee, Clemson
A Stroud-Bresee pairing is quite a Day 1 draft haul.
13, NY Jets: G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
On the one hand, this pick could be seen as a reach (even though the Jets need a guard). But if Torrence helps solidify the Jets’ line and plays 10-plus years in the league, no one will care that he was taken 10 to 20 picks higher than the “experts” said he should have gone.
14. New England Patriots: WR Jordan Addison, USC
This has more to do with TCU’s Quentin Johnston than it does with Addison. Johnston has been trending down slightly, with his route running and focus drops coming under the microscope.
15. Green Bay Packers: Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
This draft is short on Round 1 talent, so it’s about this spot on Day 1 when teams would be wise to just take the highest-rated player whenever plausible. Van Ness would be that sort of player for Green Bay – he might not play at a position of great need right now for the Packers, but he would be hard to pass up.
16. Chicago Bears: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
Chicago doesn’t have much to show for its trades lately, with just eight draft picks. By trading all the way down from No. 1 to 16, that would change in a hurry – in this draft and beyond. Jones would be a great pickup for the Bears at this spot in the draft, and now they have more ammo to still go after a receiver or a pass rusher.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Wright has been steadily moving up draft boards. He has positional flexibility and can play left or right tackle. Hard to pass up if you’re in need of an upgrade along the offensive line. Plus, this draft is short on quality OTs – there’s no guarantee one will still be available at the top of the second round.
18. Detroit Lions: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Mayer might not be the slam-dunk “elite” tight end he was thought to be when the season started, but he’s still the top one in this draft and a potential 10-year veteran at the next level.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
It’s crazy to think the top-rated prospect in this draft could fall all the way to No. 19, but that’s just the nature of how teams view running backs these days.
20. Seattle Seahawks: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Not a great spot to be in: the best tight end, guard and pass rushers are already off the board. Ringo, though, would give the Seahawks the biggest, most athletic young boundary corners in the league.
21. Miami: FORFEITED
22. LA Chargers: WR Quinten Johnston, TCU
Maybe this is where Johnston lands. He certainly fits the Chargers’ mold of receivers: big and strong.
23. Baltimore Ravens: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
As badly as Baltimore needs a receiver, they need a corner, too, especially if Marcus Peters leaves in the offseason.
24. Minnesota Vikings: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
It would be tempting to take a receiver here, especially if Adam Thielen is a cap casualty. But cornerback is still a big need, and many analysts say Gonzalez is the best of the group.
25, Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
A recent Walter Football Hot Press report says Jacksonville could take as many as three CBs in this draft. Witherspoon is a great start.
26, NY Giants: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
This pick could turn into a steal if JSN can stay healthy. With that said, the Giants would be smart to draft another receiver, especially after Smith-Njigba missed most of this past season.
27. Dallas Cowboys: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Dallas had pretty good luck the last time they drafted a Penn State player in the first round, Micah Parsons.
28. Buffalo Bills: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
You could make a strong argument that a guard, defensive tackle or running back are the bigger needs for Buffalo. But you’re not going to find a tackle of Jones’ caliber later in the draft, even if this is a tad high for the 21-year-old.
29. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
Teams that need a tackle may be willing to reach slightly late in the first round if they don’t think a tackle worthy of starting as a rookie will still be there late in the second. Hence, the reason Harrison and Jones are Day 1 possibilities.
30. New Orleans Saints (via DEN): RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Running back is a sneaky need for the Saints. Alvin Kamara has seen his production take a slip dip the past two seasons. Plus, he’ll be 28 once the season starts, and he faces a potential league suspension after an off-field altercation in Las Vegas. Besides, with a Gibbs-Kamra duo, does it really matter who starts at quarterback?
31. Kansas City Chiefs: DL Mazi Smith, Michigan
Imagine how dominant Chris Jones would be if he was next to a beast at the other defensive tackle spot?
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State
Philadelphia may have to load up on defense if it loses starters to free agency. However, it may take Harrison a year or two before the talent catches up to his potential – he has top-5 traits but Round 5 stats.
Los Angeles Rams, second round: OT Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse
Cleveland Browns, second round: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
Miami Dolphins, second round: DL Keanu Benton, Wisconsin
Denver, third round: OT Tyler Steen, Alabama
San Francisco, third round: CB Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He also covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective in this subReddit. And his big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft.