March 22, 2018

Busting NFL Draft Myths: Only Quarterback Can Be Selected Number One

Radio hosts who are asked to give their opinion daily will often say things that are far out there and end up being false, but that’s the nature of the job. Everyone makes mistakes and if you’re quoted and asked to give predictions that often, you’re obviously going to get a few wrong. I don’t get worked up over the standard missed prediction, but when I see articles like this, I can’t let it go unchallenged as truth.

If you haven’t read the article click here. OK, ready? Let’s continue.

If you’ve read my past articles on this site you know that I’d prefer the Texans take a quarterback if one worth taking number one is available, but since I believe there is not, my choice currently is Clowney. I think that opinion is pretty reasonable, but the radio host in question apparently thinks anyone that wants the Texans to select Clowney is crazy. His reasons to back up that claim are as bad as you would expect for a claim like that. My guess is that since this host is an Aggie, he’s probably one of the many Manzealots who flood the sports talk airwaves every day. Maybe not, but that’s my guess. My top quarterback is Teddy Bridgewater but regardless of which quarterback you like the best, the discussion should still be the same. Is there a quarterback available that you feel comfortable taking number one overall because you think there is a great chance he’ll become a star? If the answer is yes, take him. If the answer is no, take Clowney. Once you’ve evaluated the quarterbacks, the decision should be easy.

Below are a few of his quotes directly from the article, word for word. I’ll do my best below to explain why each statement isn’t true.

The numbers all add up for Jadeveon Clowney, goes the storyline: Big. Fast. Safe. Build with defense. Bookend with J.J.Watt. Find a serviceable quarterback with potential later in the draft.

First no draft pick is safe; it’s an educated guess at best on every prospect. Second, assuming that only “serviceable” quarterbacks can be found in rounds 2-7 is false. Since the Texans came into the league in 2002, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Patrick Ramsey in 2002, Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman in 2003, J.P. Losman in 2004, Jason Campbell in 2005, Vince Young and Matt Leinart in 2006, JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn in 2007, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman in 2009, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow in 2010, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder in 2011, and Brandon Weeden in 2012 were all drafted in the first round and they’re all busts. Three of those quarterbacks were selected first overall and five others were selected in the top 10; drafting a quarterback early in the first round does not guarantee they’ll be successful.

In recent years Colin Kaepernick (2nd round 2011), Nick Foles (3rd round 2012), and Russell Wilson (3rd round 2012) have all turned out to be more than just “serviceable” quarterbacks and they were all selected after the first round. What if Bill O’Brien thinks Zach Mettenberger or Jimmy Garoppolo is the best quarterback in the draft? Should the Texans take that quarterback number one overall when they would still be available with their second round pick? Of course not, take Clowney in that situation and take the quarterback with either the 33rd overall pick or use some of the extra picks to trade back up into the late first round.

They hired O’Brien in part because he’s a quarterback guru who’s worked with great quarterbacks and helped turn around average players at the position. If they trusted his evaluation skill enough to make him the head coach, shouldn’t they trust his evaluation in which quarterback to draft? If O’Brien doesn’t think Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, or Teddy Bridgewater has what it takes to be a great quarterback, then why should we force him to pick one with their first selection? Of course quarterback is the most important position in all of sports but isn’t the goal with each draft choice to get the best player possible? After months of studying these guys and picking them apart, if they believe that Clowney is the best overall prospect by far (and he plays a need position also) and the quarterback they like the most is valued as a second or third round prospect, why in the world would they force a quarterback they’re not comfortable with into the first overall pick? A great quarterback can carry a team farther than any other position, but if the coaches and scouts don’t think any of the quarterbacks we all discuss in relation to the first overall pick are capable of becoming that player, reaching for one over the best pass rushing prospect of the last ten years would be foolish. Decision making like what the talk host has endorsed turns teams into the Browns and Raiders.

Has everyone forgotten that in a dozen years of futile attempts at becoming a relevant Super Bowl contender there was one reason and one reason alone the quest failed every time.

Quarterback. Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback.

The claim that there is only one reason and ONE REASON alone as to why the Texans have failed to reach the Super Bowl over their twelve seasons is in a word lunacy, to borrow the talk show host’s own term. David Carr, Sage Rosenfels, Matt Schaub, Tony Banks, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Matt Leinart, and Dave Ragone have all come up short and failed in their ultimate goal, but in a sport that uses 22 starting players, they were far from the only reason for the team’s annual ineptitude. Aside from the players on the roster, the Texans have never had a head coach that I would rank inside the top half of the league, have had below average defensive coordinators for almost their entire existence, and in the early years changed quarterback coaches nearly every season.

To the non-quarterback players, the Texans had an abysmal offensive line for their first several seasons, have never had a great compliment to Andre Johnson at the second wide receiver spot, went through periods of time starting guys like Ron Dayne and Stacey Mack at running back, and have put defenses on the field that finished the season ranked 20th or worst in points allowed in eight of their twelve seasons as a franchise.

I haven’t even mentioned the general managers who threw away money on awful free-agent signings like Morlon Greenwood, Todd Wade, Ed Reed, and Ahman Green, or wasted draft picks on busts like Bennie Joppru, Tony Hollings, Travis Johnson, Amobi Okoye, Sam Montgomery, Vernand Morency, or Charles Hill. Saying that the Texans failures have been ONLY because of the quarterback position is laughable and silly.

Of course Clowney might become a great player — the operative word being might. Clowney Truthers also seem to forget that his own coach, Steve Spurrier, gave his effort and attitude a back-handed compliment, saying Clowney’s work ethic was, “OK.”

First I find it funny that he felt the need to stress the word ‘might’ when talking about Clowney. Every player is only a ‘might’, he says that as if the quarterback he likes is a lock. Second the work ethic knock is overrated. I think this Clowney work ethic claim is a byproduct of having way too much time between the end of the season and the start of the NFL draft. Most people made up their mind on these prospects weeks if not months ago but with over three months of wait time until the first round begins, fans and media members often look for flaws that aren’t there and begin to over think things. No player ever plays 110% for all 80 to 90 plays a game during every game of every season. Whenever I watched Clowney he made plenty of big plays; sacks aren’t the only way to measure the impact of a defensive player. Plus don’t forget that if the Texans draft Clowney, one of his teammates will be by all accounts the hardest worker in the NFL, J.J. Watt. At least some of that will rub off on Clowney.

When a player has as dominant a season as Clowney did his sophomore year, teams will naturally focus almost their entire game plan on slowing down that player. Clowney was double or triple teamed nearly every play, had running backs and tight ends chipping and cutting him, and teams would run their run plays away from Clowney’s side. If teams made the same effort to game plan against other great players like they did with Clowney, their numbers would drop off as well. Bruce Smith also came into the league with a questionable work ethic and earned that criticism early in his career, but learned how to be a pro and ended his career with an NFL record 200 sacks. Draft analyst Jayson Braddock did a great job of busting this myth after watching his game tape in March; make sure to read this article if you still aren’t convinced.

Remember also: A position change would be necessary in order for Clowney to fit in with the Texans’ 3-4 defense.

So you’re saying that drafting Clowney would include having to figure out through your evaluation if he’s capable of doing something different at the pro level then what he did in college? Fair point, but we all know if the Texans draft Clowney, they’d ask him to rush the quarterback 90% of the time so I don’t think the transition would be that difficult.  However if you are truly concerned about how he would transition to a different style of play, I could make the same argument against Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. Yes, I know they aren’t changing positions, but neither player will be successful in the NFL if they play the exact same style at this level as they did in college.

Both players ran spread offenses in college that used read-option plays at times; something they won’t do nearly as often in the NFL. I’m not saying read-option plays will disappear completely, but I think we can all agree that those plays were used less last season because of the injury risk and opponents figuring out how to play it better with an off-season to study tape. The offenses at Texas A&M and UCF both also called more screen passes than either quarterback will throw at this level. With Manziel, he often would make one or two reads in the pocket and if the quick throw wasn’t there, he would scramble and use his legs to make a big play. While that was exciting, there’s no denying that he won’t be able to play the same way at the pro level. Both quarterbacks played in the shotgun instead of under center and both played in spread offenses and have little experience in a pro style offense; evaluating them takes just as much projection and guessing as the evaluation of Clowney.

Finally, the talk show host said on the air that, and I’m paraphrasing here, nearly every draft has had a franchise quarterback so it is the job of the Texans to figure out who that is and select him number one. This statement is so flawed I almost don’t know where to begin. First, the host already conceded that every draft does not have a franchise quarterback when he said ‘nearly’ so what if Bill O’Brien and their scouts believe this draft doesn’t have one? Second, saying that they have to find out who the franchise quarterback is implies that the draft is an exact science and that if they don’t take that player, they either didn’t try to find out who he is or they didn’t want a franchise quarterback. Neither of course is true and the draft is 180 degrees different from an exact science.

Bill O’Brien and their scouts are looking for that quarterback and if they find him they’ll take him, but there may not be one in this draft and even if there is, no team’s talent evaluators nail every evaluation. If they did and this was an exact science Tom Brady wouldn’t have been a sixth round pick, Ryan Leaf wouldn’t have been selected second overall, Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t have fallen to the 24th pick, and Dan Marino wouldn’t have slipped to the 27th overall pick. Saying that there is a franchise quarterback in this draft and they should select him is way over simplifying the process. I don’t believe the Texans organization is run by a bunch of people who got to where they are now by making bad decisions on a regular basis. They’re not perfect, but if they believe their future quarterback is available in this draft, they’ll take him. If he’s not, they’ll take the best overall prospect. They may miss either way, but criticizing the selection of the top overall prospect on every single draft board would be, in a word lunacy.

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