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The Quarterback: Good Help Is Hard To Find

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Whether he's elite like Tom Brady or a good game manager like Trent Dilfer, they impact the game. Because of this, more times than not, teams often draft a quarterback because of need, not because he's the best one for the team...

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Far too often NFL teams draft a quarterback because they need one. Patience has worn thin with allowing a young quarterback to develop, by letting them sit a season or few. Nowadays you are drafted to play. This is terrible news considering that the vast majority of quarterbacks entering the NFL today are not good pocket passers. It doesn't matter what kind of quarterback the team has - elite, legit, or game manager - you have to be able to consistently throw from the pocket to string together wins in the NFL.

If your quarterback struggles to throw from the pocket, you will not succeed. Teams can watch enough film that they figure out ways to stop the running ability of quarterbacks, and they can drastic slow the improvisation. Does this mean that you have to be a statue in the pocket? No. Mobility is welcomed, and actually preferred. Mobile quarterbacks can have success - i.e. Russell Wilson, Steve Young, and Aaron Rogers - but only if they can go through their reads and throw from the pocket.

ELITE

A quarterback that is truly capable of taking over a game and consistently single handedly leading the team to victory. This is a special and rare breed of quarterback as they are the only ones that can LEAD the team to the playoffs and even LEAD the team to a championship. They literally elevate the play of their teammates. They are guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer's.

LEGIT

These are what you call really good quarterbacks. They have multiple pro bowls and a knack for making big plays. They usually thrive the most when you put some really good talent around them. They make a name for themselves by playing very well in key games during key situations. Some will win championships and very few will even sneak into the Hall of Fame.

MANAGER

This quarterback is only relied upon to not lose the game, and never to win the game. Putting these quarterbacks in a situation where they must lead their team on a game winning drive, more times than not will result in a loss. The good news about a good game manager is they don't necessarily need a lot of pro bowl talent around them on offense. Since their job is to not lose the game they simply need a good run game, good tightend/versatile running back, and a decent possession receiver. A strong defense usually is what leads this team.

BUST

This quarterback has received this title from one of many ways. Some are picked and plays for a team that refuses to give them any talent to work with and they eventually lose confidence and interest. Some play behind a horrible offensive line for so long that they begin to hear footsteps (David Carr). Some just simply don't have a coach competent enough to give a system that fits their strengths. But most simply cannot play at the highest level. ALL usually flame out as starters and some out of the league, sometimes there are revival stories where the player goes on to have an ok career (Alex Smith).

Finding an Elite quarterback is the hardest thing to do for an NFL team. It's similar to winning the lottery. No seriously, its really that hard. Throughout the history of the NFL, since 1937, there has been 966 quarterbacks drafted. There are 30 quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame, and one - Warren Moon - was not even drafted. Of those drafted about 17 were viewed as being truly elite. And about 7 have been argued as being the best of all time. The rest were simply legit. That means only 12 quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame made it without being the best of the best. Needless to say it's pretty hard finding the next Peyton Manning, or even Phillip Rivers. Neither quarterback comes around that often.

What you do find a lot of is game managers, and busts.

DRAFT YEAR

1st RD QB TOTAL

2nd RD QB TOTAL

PREFERRED STARTER's

NOT IN NFL

2014

3

2

3

0

2013

1

1

0

0

2012

4

1

2

0

2011

4

2

3

0

2010

2

1

1

1

2009

3

1

1

2

2008

2

2

2

1

2007

2

3

0

4

2006

3

2

0

2

2005

3

0

1

0

2004

4

0

3

1

2003

4

0

0

3

2002

3

0

0

3

2001

1

3

0

2

2000

1

0

0

1

Talk about a telling breakdown...

Here we see that 58 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first two rounds over the last 15 drafts. Excluding the 2014 draft, of those 53 remaining quarterbacks drafted, only 16 are the preferred starting quarterback for the team that drafted them, and 20 are no longer in the NFL, which means 36 of the 53 felt felt they got it wrong leaving only 17 right. I say felt because there are some like Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, or Michael Vick, that went to other teams and were able to perform at pro bowl levels, although if not for legal trouble Vick may still be a Falcon.

And over the last 15 drafts only three of 18 second round quarterbacks - Brees, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick - have had any success. As for those three, only Drew Brees appears to be the real deal. Dalton struggles terribly with inconsistency, and Kaepernick is in a distant third, as he has yet to improve from his first start to his most recent. Moving forward, avoiding underdeveloped second round prospects might be a smart idea...

It's hard to find the right player for your team. Especially when it's so easy to get caught up in the glitz and glimmer of college production. But the one thing that has to be kept in mind when evaluating these young players, is the ability to throw from the pocket.

What does it mean to be able to throw from the pocket?

Throwing from the pocket includes having the following qualities:

  1. Good pocket presence – the ability to feel pressure and understand when to get rid of the ball without turning it over or taking unnecessary sacks
  2. Composure – Understanding when to step up as opposed to taking off and running, and maintaining good mechanics, with bodies around your feet, and hands on your jersey, but keeping your eyes down field
  3. Toughness – willing to stand in the pocket and deliver an accurate pass while being hit head on during the pass rush
  4. Patience – going throw your reads and not running out of the pocket because your first read is covered
  5. Intelligence – knowing how to look off the safety and read coverage’s

Throwing from the pocket is all mental. This is what makes it so hard for young players to succeed in the NFL that are not used to being asked to do these things. Especially quarterbacks that have grown to rely so heavily on their mobility. There are very few occasions where certain system quarterbacks that rely on their mobility or easy read spread attacks can transition into a quarterback that can throw from the pocket, but those players are very few.

Because of what history has shown us, and what we know about what it takes to succeed in the NFL at the quarterback position, players like Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Bryce Petty, or Dak Prescott have a very slim chance of succeeding in the NFL, although Mariota has a much greater chance than the others.

When drafting a quarterback you have to take into account of what they are used to doing and what you are built to do, as well as what you're good at coaching. If you are good at coaching deep, explosive plays (Bruce Arians), why would you draft a quarterback that struggles with deep accuracy and reading the safety like Dak Prescott? If you're built to run ball and want to attack the intermediate area if the field off play action (Pete Carroll), why draft a player that struggles with intermediate throws like Bryce Petty? Or if you want someone that can sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary with smart accurate throws (Bill Belichick) - consistent accuracy is something all four quarterbacks struggle with - why would you draft Marcus Mariota or Brett Hundley?

This years quarterback market seems to be thin. Jameis Winston is easily the most talented and pro ready quarterback. Marcus Mariota is the second best, and third place isn't even close. There's a very thin quarterback market approaching this off-season between the draft and free agency. This would not be as much of an issue if quarterbacks were allowed time like they once were, or were not forced into the first round because of hype and need. But seeing as how those are the times we live in, it is now more important than ever to take time to remove favoritism and not get to antsy because of need, and be honest with yourself about who you are bringing to your team, and what your expectations are.

For all teams looking for a quarterback, get ready for a bumpy ride. If history has shown us anything it's going to be just that, and then some...