Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.
The 2012-13 NFL Regular Season was nothing short of remarkable. It was a season that should radically change the way we view Quarterback prospects. In the wake of the success that talents like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have enjoyed, we must now question just what our criteria should be for a “Franchise Quarterback” moving forward. With 35 players hearing their name called before Kaepernick and 76 before Wilson, it’s fair to assume that our current definition for the ideal signal caller may be outdated.
A “Worthy” Pick
In any discussion of the immanent 2013 NFL draft, seemingly the first point made is that there is no clear-cut “Franchise Quarterback” available. Not only is that statement completely unfair to those prospects, it is unfair to the people who evaluate them. Let’s examine just what makes a player a “worthy” selection in the NFL Draft.
When personalities like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd Mcshay decry this year’s Quarterback class, they do so based upon prospective draft value from a largely economic perspective. These draft experts didn’t rate Russell Wilson based upon what they thought he’d eventually become in the NFL – Although that is a small part of their thinking – they were rating him based upon his value in a draft scenario. To put it another way, draft pundits base their rankings heavily upon availability at any given time during the draft. From their perspective, the timing of a draft selection is just as important as the quality of the prospect.
Keeping that in mind, when the statement “There are no first-round caliber Quarterbacks in this year’s draft” is made, in no way does that mean there is no Quarterback worth drafting. That is a leap that many Philly fans seem to have made and I hope, for their sake, that the Philadelphia Eagles organization has not. If, at any point during the past few months, Chip Kelly or Howie Roseman saw something special in a prospect, their perceived value in a draft scenario should not enter into their decision making process.
In summary, it is absolutely absurd to proclaim that the Philadelphia Eagles cannot find their Quarterback of the future in this year’s draft. Players like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and, yes, even Tom Brady are active testaments to that sentiment. What is important is whether or not the Eagles believe in his skillset enough to make him an early pick.
Playing a Name Game
Chip Kelly claims that he can adapt his system to any player. Until he proves otherwise, I’m inclined to believe him, especially considering his only youthful alternatives are Nick Foles and Dennis Dixon. Ignoring their perceived “Draft Value,” there are certainly a bevy of intriguing prospects at the Quarterback position in 2013.
Geno Smith tops the list as the most prospect most likely to be selected early on. In short, he’s a stud talent with great tools. Smith is capable of being everything you’d want your franchise Quarterback to be. He’s accurate, tall, athletic, and above all, he makes good decisions. The drawback with Geno Smith is the fact that his production fell off a cliff down the stretch during this past college season. There’s also the issue of his drop off in decision making when placed in high pressure situations. Overall, the potential outweighs any cause for concern.
Where I stand on Geno Smith: I’ll take him.
Matt Barkley is not Mark Sanchez. I have to tell myself that at least three times a day as long as he remains a candidate for the Eagles’ starting Quarterback position. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve followed his career religiously. Any opinion I have about Barkley stems from about four or five nationally televised games that I made it a point to watch. That being said, I didn’t see anything in those opportunities that would make me think about spending a pick in the first two rounds on him.
At a glance, the offense that he operated seemed to be of the down-the-field, low-percentage variety. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how his numbers could have changed so drastically from one year to the next. Still, inconsistency at the Quarterback position can be infuriating to a fan base and I can’t imagine Philadelphia fans giving him too much time to sort things out.
Where I stand on Matt Barkley: HE’S NOT MARK SANCHEZ…HE’S NOT MARK SANCHEZ…HE’S NOT MARK SANCHEZ…
Tyler Wilson is an interesting prospect…okay I lied, he totally isn’t. In Wilson, you’ve got possibly the most stereotypical Quarterback that could go in the first round. Don’t get me wrong, that could be a good thing in the long run. I know everyone is swooning over Colin Kaepernick and this new “read-option” mobile attack, but as we’ve seen, these things are cyclical in the NFL. Despite what Trent Dilfer might think, someone is going to “write the book” on that offense and the teams employing it will be forced to adjust. If you’re looking to avoid that eventual obstacle, you might be inclined to take Wilson, an accurate, intelligent pocket passer with good size and some athleticism.
Where I stand on Tyler Wilson: Not a great fit.
Mike Glennon is a guy that I’d like to avoid for one simple reason; he’s inaccurate. Above all, my biggest pet peeve regarding Quarterbacks is an inability to hit your targets consistently. A player like Glennon could have major struggles in the NFL.
Where I stand on Mike Glennon: I’ll pass…
Landry Jones would be a solid addition to any franchise. He’s accurate, experienced, and as statistically consistent as a college prospect can possibly be. Jones has played in plenty of important games and won some on the road. the University of Oklahoma enjoyed their time with him and I believe that the city of Philadelphia would as well.
I have no real criticism to offer regarding Landry Jones. I like him a ton and wouldn’t fault the Eagles for taking him off the board as early as the second round.
Where I stand on Landry Jones: I like him.
Tyler Bray reminds me a ton of Jay Cutler. I like Jay Cutler. I hate Jay Cutler. This could be one of those toss-up relationships where either the fan base despises him or adores him. He’s got a sensational arm, great size and a bad attitude. I’ve seen him stick his facemask right in the grill of a defensive lineman after the whistle. I don’t know what was said between the two players but Bray was grinning from ear to ear. In short, I think this could be a homerun pick for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is an immense talent, a strong leader and doesn’t take any guff. Inconsistent in the best possible way, if anyone else on this list is a first round caliber talent, Tyler Bray is as well.
Where I stand on Tyler Bray: He’d look good in green.
So You Have Your Quarterback
Regardless of which Quarterback (if any) the Eagles eventually settle on, it will become Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur’s (Shurmur? Really, guys?) responsibility to make sure that the offensive system is tailored to suit his strengths. This isn’t as simple a task as one might initially assume. Though we’ve seen Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and the Shanahan(ahan)s have early success in this area, there are also ample examples of this sort of endeavor dooming a coaching staff, i.e. Shurmur’s Browns and Mike Mularky’s Jaguars.
I’d like to think that, given enough time to polish things off, any coach could cultivate a system that would suit their specific talent at the Quarterback position. The problem, however is that few coaches can reasonably expect to be afforded that kind of time before organizational changes are made. The trick to being successful in this situation in maintaining patience within reason. The Philadelphia Eagles have hired a coach in Chip Kelly whose approach to football allows for that patience while also demanding constant measured evaluation. In theory, Kelly seems like the best possible candidate for the job. Still, as Eagles fans have been made painfully aware of in recent years, what looks good on paper doesn’t always come to fruition.