NFL Spring Cleaning: The Baggage of Drafting a Quarterback
In this tweet, NFL Network shows the Patriots’ formation for the final play of Super Bowl LI. They highlight each player, showing which round they were drafted, to emphasize the diversity of the draft-round discrepancy present on the Patriots. They fail to include one player in this graphic. This player is Tom Brady, who was drafted in the sixth round and would have only contributed to the meaning of the graphic. So, maybe the NFL completely forgot to include him. I wouldn’t buy that for a second, but I suppose it’s possible. It’s much more likely, however, that the NFL has a newfound level of contempt for Brady after the “deflategate” lawsuit. The league literally spent millions of dollars in an attempt to bring Brady down for an equipment infraction. I think it’s interesting then to observe the discrete, behind-the-scenes politics of the NFL. They’re an enormous business. Don’t let yourself believe they don’t have bad blood with certain people. Just an interesting thought.
This weekend the 2017 NFL draft unfolded in Philadelphia where all 32 NFL teams added new talent to their rosters. As expected, there was a clear strength at the cornerback and safety positions this year. The first round included many of the big names at defensive back, including Marshon Lattimore, Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams, and several others. The surprising theme of this draft was the evident desperation for a quarterback by several teams. The quarterback class this year, as I alluded to in last week’s article, isn’t exactly robust based on projections. In what appeared to be a complete rejection of draft analysts’ predictions, many front offices proverbially bit the bullet to acquire a new signal caller in this year’s draft.
The first round had the San Francisco 49ers positioned to draft the second overall pick. Before their selection, the Chicago Bears traded up one spot to grab the second pick. The amount of assets the Bears forked over in exchange for the #2 pick is staggering. Chicago surrendered their 3rd round pick (No. 67 overall), their 4th round pick (No. 111 overall), and their 2018 third round pick. While San Francisco was able to acquire several picks by simply moving down one spot, Chicago was able to claim North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky as the future of their franchise.
Chicago has had a far from ideal situation at the quarterback position for a considerable length of time. After Rex Grossman proved to be far from competent in the 2000s, Chicago traded for Jay Cutler in 2009. Cutler, who was supposed to resurrect Chicago to its former NFL glory, proved to be an 8-8 kind of guy at best. For years, Bears fans had to watch Cutler sulk around the field, hurling ill-advised passes in every direction, and being humiliated at the hands of Green Bay any time there was a glimmer of hope for a postseason appearance. Chicago released Cutler from his lucrative contract this offseason and signed NFL journeyman Mike Glennon. Glennon had very little success in Tampa Bay, but that can mainly be attributed to the fact that he wasn’t given much playing time. He’s a poor starter and an apt backup. Either way, Glennon is not going to provide the Bears any kind of long term solution at QB. It was inevitable, then, that Chicago would draft a quarterback within the next few years. It wasn’t expected, however, for them to trade away several mid-round draft picks so they could select Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was projected to be taken in the mid-to-late first round. There were a lot of questions regarding his NFL-readiness, and he only started one season for North Carolina.
The trade up by Chicago shows a lot about the state of the franchise. Their willingness to trade away so many valuable assets leads me to believe that Chicago is extremely desperate to put together a respectable season. Head coach John Fox is likely going to lose his job if the team doesn’t perform well next year. They’ve been a legitimately bad team for a while, and their instability at QB has soured the fans’ perception of how functional the organization actually is. If Trubisky ends up being a quality franchise quarterback, then the move will be worth it. However, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of an upside in giving away so many picks in such a deep draft. The Bears could have beefed up their defense with those lost picks, but are now instead banking on the hopes that they found their next franchise QB.
The Kansas City Chiefs traded up to get the No. 10 overall pick from the Buffalo Bills. In order to do this, Kansas City gave up the No. 27 and No. 91 overall picks. With the upgrade, the Chiefs selected Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes. I found this move to be peculiar, especially for a well-run organization like Kansas City. The Chiefs have a talented roster and they’re capable of making a deep playoff run. This year they needed to fill holes at linebacker and defensive back in order to make a push towards the Super Bowl title they’ve been coveting during the Andy Reid era. By selecting one of the many big name defensive prospects at No. 27, I think there would be a real chance for Kansas City to win a championship. Their window is very much open. Selecting a quarterback to play as Alex Smith’s backup for the upcoming year was too conservative for my taste. Smith will likely be on his way out within the next year or two, but there simply was no need to expend so many resources for a quarterback who had a 13-19 record in college. I would think that Kansas City has a lot of pressure to “win now,” but from this decision it appears that they’re looking to the future. I don’t agree with this move, but, as with Chicago, if Mahomes proves to be a long term solution at QB, the trade will be worth the lost draft picks.
The Houston Texans, in true Houston Texans fashion, traded their No. 25 overall pick and their 2018 first round pick to Cleveland in exchange for the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft. After trading up, it was inevitable that the Texans were going to take Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. Two QBs had already been selected, and it was common knowledge that Houston had no solution at quarterback for the upcoming season. They traded Brock Osweiler to Cleveland, ironically, earlier this offseason. When Tony Romo retired in April, it became mission-critical for Houston to find a quarterback. The issue for Houston has been much of the same for the last five years. They’ve built a formidable team with talent all over the field, especially on defense. They’ve been on the brink of a 13-3 kind of season for an exhausting number of seasons. The only thing holding them back is the instability at the quarterback position. Matt Schaub fell off the face of the Earth after a dreadful 2013 campaign. 2014 and 2015 were defined by a revolving door of less-than-ideal signal callers, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer, and Brandon Weeden. Yikes. The Texans were desperate, and acted accordingly in this year’s draft by going after Deshaun Watson. There’s a lot of varying opinions on Watson’s ability to convert to the professional level, but with his tremendous success at Clemson, I don’t think Houston had much of a choice other than to draft him. I believe that while Houston expended two first round picks in order to grab Watson, their trade-up made the most sense given the current state of the franchise. There’s now a lot of pressure on head coach Bill O’Brien to put together a deep playoff run. Given the rising trajectory of the other AFC South teams, Houston needs to be sharp this season for that to happen. A lot of that responsibility is now nestled on the shoulders and helmet of their new rookie quarterback.
Keep those eyes peeled for NFL Spring Cleaning, every Monday morning! Follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already, @andysweeps. Cheers.