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FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2013, file photo, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel warms up during NCAA college football practice in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M coaches and players are talking only about Rice, their opening opponent Saturday. What they're not talking about is Manziel and the NCAA investigation into whether he was paid for autographs. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider, File)

Patric Schneider

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2013, file photo, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel warms up during NCAA college football practice in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M coaches and players are talking only about Rice, their opening opponent Saturday. What they're not talking about is Manziel and the NCAA investigation into whether he was paid for autographs. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider, File)

NFL Draft lacks sure-fire QBs

By Michael Cunningham

Cox Newspapers

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ATLANTA – There’s a chance some NFL team is going to make a big mistake on a quarterback early in the draft.

As many as five teams drafting in the top 11 positions of the draft could use a quarterback. Yet, it’s not clear any of the prospects in this draft have the kind of ready-made, franchise-changing talent that such a pick demands.

Teams can forget about bringing along a highly drafted quarterback slowly because the clock starts ticking immediately. The expectations to become a star are immediate.

Fans demand it and coaches and general managers stake their jobs on it.

But quarterback is the premier position in the game and finding a good one in the draft can change a franchise’s fortunes.

“It’s hard to evaluate quarterbacks now because you are not giving them three years to develop,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “You are done by their third year. You are finished.”

That’s why the latest crop of quarterbacks likely is causing some consternation for talent evaluators who want a quarterback but don’t want to be burned. Among the teams drafting high who need a quarterback are the Texans (No. 1 overall pick), Jaguars (No. 3), Browns (No. 4), Raiders (No. 5) and Vikings (No. 8).

Consider that the quarterback who could be at the top of a lot of draft boards, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, “needs a year” to develop, according to Kiper. Bortles even agrees.

“I have no problem with that,” he said. “I need coaching, I need help and I’m going to work my butt off to do everything I can to be the best that I can be to help a team be the best that they can be.”

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater might be the most polished of the top quarterback prospects. Bridgewater played in a pro-style offense in which offensive coordinator Shawn Watson gave him a lot of responsibility to make pre-snap adjustments.

“It just prepared me for some of the things that an NFL quarterback has to do nowadays with making the checks at the line of scrimmage, sliding the protection ... getting the offense in and out of the right plays, signaling the hot routes to the wide receivers,” Bridgewater said.

Bridgewater produced, won games (23-3 during the past two seasons) and is rated highly for his intangibles. Yet, Bridgewater had a lackluster showing at his pro day workout, causing scouts and personnel executives to take a closer look at his game play.

“Everybody goes back and looks at every game and scrutinizes that,” Kiper said. “You saw some inaccurate throws. You saw some throws that didn’t have the velocity you wanted.”

Then, there’s Johnny Manziel, the wild card among the top quarterbacks in the draft.

Manziel’s swashbuckling style helped make Texas A&M a winner in the SEC but there’s some question as to whether he can do the same in the NFL because of his small size and the discipline required to be an effective pro.

Kiper said Manziel’s talent is so unique that he doesn’t fit the paradigm of quarterback evaluation.

“Manziel is in a class by himself as far as quarterbacks,” Kiper said. “You don’t rate him against the other quarterbacks. He’s a pass/fail quarterback. You either really want him or you don’t. He doesn’t fit any system. You have to find a way to maximize his improvisational ability and his unique talent.”

Those quarterbacks just won’t have much time to prove their new employer right.

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