Tale of Two Quarterbacks
Much of the debate this off season leading up to the draft has involved where the top two quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen should fall, and whether it is worth drafting them ahead of other more talented players. The answer to the second question is dependent on each team, for a team like the Redskins who have one of the leagues worst offensive lines and skill player sets, it doesn’t make sense to add a quarterback to a team that can’t support one. For a team like the Rams who at least has a solid-good offensive line and a top notch running back, it makes a bit more sense to add a young quarterback. Now as to the answer to the first question as to where these quarterbacks should fall, I think it will take a bit more insight.
The hardest thing about slotting quarterbacks is figuring out who really needs a young signal caller. Going back to our earlier example of the Rams and the Redskins, the Rams are a no brainer, considering Keith Null started the last 4 games of the season for them last year. The Redskins on the other hand didn’t make nearly as much sense (though plenty of people in Washington thought so). Sure the Redskins would love to draft the next Manning or Rivers, but there is absolutely no guarantee that either Bradford or Clausen will become that. What there is a guarantee of is that neither quarterback would perform better than Jason Campbell, who put up good numbers last year in a bad offense. Maybe three years down the line they could be better quarterbacks, but for the hear and now they didn’t represent an upgrade and the Redskins had bigger needs along the offensive line to fill. Which is exactly why they traded for Donovan McNabb instead of drafting an unproven rookie.
So in looking at need you can cross the Lions and Buccaneers off the list, because they spent first round picks last season on quarterbacks. And you can probably cross the Chiefs and Seahawks off the list because they have ‘filled’ their need as well (I think it is pretty debatable that their quarterback positions are set, but given the value they traded away I don’t see either team using a first round pick on a QB). So that leaves the Browns, Raiders, Bills and Jaguars as top 10 teams that could have a need at quarterback. The Jags are on the fringe because Pro Bowler (how he ended up in the Pro Bowl is beyond me) David Garrard is there and is an average quarterback. Jacksonville could use a dynamic signal caller, but will probably look to the defensive side of the ball in the 1st round. The Browns went out and acquired two placeholders at quarterback, and while they need a long term answer my guess is they will target Colt McCoy in Round 2. The Raiders are a possibility, but it is almost impossible to predict what they will do. Bills seem like the most likely target for a quarterback. They do have serious offensive line issues, so they aren’t the best fit for a young guy. At the same time though, fortunes have been so bad in Buffalo and the offense so anemic, that a lack of a quarterback has been what is holding them back.
While at this point it is a foregone conclusion that Sam Bradford will be drafted first by the Rams, leaving Jimmy Clausen as the quarterback wondering where his next home will be, I think the Rams were a bit too hasty in their decision. For me, I think Clausen is the better option than Bradford. To be honest I love and hate both quarterback prospects. I love them because I see their skills and potential, but I hate them as early first round picks because I think there are too many questions about them still unanswered. Again, I get why the Rams are drafting a quarterback number 1, but I don’t understand the who and I have doubts that they will find that next great signal caller.
Bradford and Clausen might be major upgrades over the Keith Null’s and Kyle Boller’s of the league, but neither one strikes me as a top-notch quarterback. Particularly if they are going to start from day one, which more often then not stunts a quarterbacks growth. For me, I have more faith in Clausen because he came out of a pro style system, and has much better experience dropping back and reading defenses from behind center. I also saw a lot of development in him over the years, and he no longer seems like the entitled 18 year-old freshmen he was when he started with the Irish. His arm strength isn’t fantastic, but I do believe it’s good enough almost nearly equal to Bradford’s.
As for Bradford, while he looked healthy in his Pro Day, and I’m sure his individual workouts, you have no true litmus test to see if his arm is truly 100%. You don’t know how it feels the next day after throwing, you don’t have a baseline to compare the week-in-week-out. And you have no idea how his arm will hold up after it gets hit a few times. On top of all of that concern about his health, I think not seeing him this past year behind a weaker Sooner team should have some cause for concern. I was very interested to see if he could rise to the challenge with so many new offensive starters. Remember Jevan Snead gets blasted for putting up worse numbers despite losing key offensive linemen and weapons. It is quite possible that Bradford might not have handled the change well either. I’m not saying it should be a knock on Bradford, just that I believe there were legitimate questions going into last season, that one year later remain unanswered. For me, all those old questions are there, about the system, adjusting to lower quality personnel, and new ones have risen about his health. I can’t put Bradford ahead of Clausen. The Rams will go in a different direction, but I would be a little worried if I were a Rams fan if it’s the right direction.