Perhaps the Los Angeles Rams have already found their quarterback of the future in Stetson Bennett. Without making any predictions of his future, I don’t want to dismiss all possible outcomes for the fourth round pick out of Georgia, as the NFL has unearthed plenty of value picks on day three such as Tom Brady and Dak Prescott.
Or even undrafted grocery store clerks.
However, history is clear when it comes to the chances that a team has just drafted their long-term answer at quarterback and that’s whether you go in the first round, the fourth round, or the seventh round: The best odds come in the first round and even then it’s less than 50/50. Very few long-term starters have been drafted after round three.
In fact, if every presumed Week 1 starter this year is at the helm when the season begins, then the quarterbacks drafted after round three will be Gardner Minshew (unless the Colts start fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson), Prescott, Sam Howell, Brock Purdy (if he’s healthy enough), and Kirk Cousins.
It would be irresponsible to talk about the Rams future at quarterback without acknowledging that the Rams should be keeping their eyes open to investing in a future at quarterback. There is no question that L.A. had a close eye on the prospects in the 2023 draft, eventually deciding on Bennett over picks they could have made on Will Levis (with a small trade up), Hendon Hooker, and Jake Haener. The team also picked Bennett over Aidan O’Connell, Clayton Tune, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Sean Clifford, and Jaren Hall, who were picked shortly after.
Winning two national championships at Georgia several years after being a walk-on and transferring to a small school, then back to the Bulldogs, Bennett didn’t show much prowess as a dual threat. Or at least, Georgia didn’t ask him to be.
Bennett threw for 8,429 yards and 66 touchdowns during his career, rushing for 530 yards and averaging 3.8 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns. In 2022, he increased his rushing scores from one to 10, year over year, but his special skills don’t center around being a running quarterback even if he could be a bit of an improviser like Purdy.
However, the most recent trend for franchise quarterbacks does involve finding players who can do more than just throw the ball.
In 2021, the San Francisco 49ers picked Trey Lance over Mac Jones because Kyle Shanahan wanted to have a mobile element at quarterback that opposing defense weren’t accustomed to when having to defend his offense. Shanahan (and Sean McVay’s for that matter) offensive concepts have become so popular around the NFL that it is imperative for coaches like him to keep tinkering with the system. This point was hammered home by Albert Breer on The Herd recently.
Lance hasn’t worked out so far for the 49ers, but the thinking behind the Trey Lance pick is even more prevalent today than it was two years ago.
The Colts picked Richardson despite the fact that he only had one season of experience at Florida and was one of the worst passing quarterbacks in all of college football. He possesses unique arm talent and strength, yes, but his accuracy is as bad as we’ve ever seen from a first round quarterback, let alone top-five.
Number one overall pick Bryce Young (who will be coached by OC Thomas Brown, former Rams assistant HC) is a mobile quarterback. His career at Alabama came shortly after Jalen Hurts, now one of the highest-paid players in NFL history after rushing for over 700 yards in each of the last two seasons. The highest-paid in NFL history is now Lamar Jackson. And at number five is Kyler Murray.
All three of those quarterbacks possess arm talent and strength, but wouldn’t necessarily be paid nearly as much if they couldn’t also pose a threat on the ground. Additionally, former Rams assistant Matt LaFleur is going more of a dual threat route with Jordan Love finally replacing Aaron Rodgers, who of course can also move a little bit but isn’t a runner.
Patrick Mahomes also possesses a different kind of mobility than those three and won’t rush for 1,000 yards ever, but he is mobile and he’s averaged over 350 rushing yards in the past three seasons. Doesn’t seem like a lot? In the history of the Rams organization, the most rushing yards by a quarterback is 212 by Tony Banks in 1996.
When you look at the playoff last year, the final four quarterbacks were Mahomes, Hurts, Joe Burrow, and Purdy (prior to injury). Josh Allen and Daniel Jones reached the divisional round.
And when we look ahead to the 2024 draft, USC quarterback Caleb Williams will be first off the board, and his dual threat ability is compared to Mahomes. While UNC’s Drake Maye rushed for 698 yards and seven touchdowns last year and will be more expected to develop closer to someone like Allen if he ends up going in the top-5 of the draft.
Either way, “dual threat quarterbacks” will be all over the draft board in 2024 and that’s a dramatic difference to the Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford era that Sean McVay has lived through over the past six seasons. That could also be the best thing for McVay and the Rams, to not only have the threat of a deep and accurate mid-range passing attack, but also a quarterback who defenses will have to account for on the ground. That is not what they have right now in Stafford and it’s probably not going to be Bennett’s specialty either.
But it could be a wrinkle added to L.A.’s offense in the near future.