(Okay, I paraphrased a bit…)
Mike Mayock said on the NFL Draft Tracker podcast that Geno Smith “is the only guy that, if I was a general manager, I’d even think about taking late in the first round. … Regardless of round, quarterbacks get pushed up higher than their value should indicate.”
That’s why Mayock is not a general manager.
What Mayock’s trying to point out, I take it, is that many members of the 2013 quarterback class don’t excite draftniks the way past first round quarterback selections have. That’s a terrible reason to value a prospect.
Jon Gruden offered the ideal rebuttal to this sort of thinking: “It’s supply and demand. In this league, you need a quarterback, and if you’re a general manager or a coach you can’t just operate with the idea you’re content to wait until you’re in the perfect position to take a can’t-miss prospect.”
I’ll admit, Gruden sometimes gets carried away with his schtick to the point of foregoing real analysis. But Gruden has made personnel decisions in the NFL, and it shows here.
To take one example, the Philadelphia Eagles have two quarterbacks of any moment on their roster. One is a turnover machine, and the other didn’t exactly light up the highlight reels in his opportunities under center. Smith is better than either option, assuming Vick can’t find a miracle cure for his chronic fumblitis and interception disease.
Does that force Philly into taking Smith? Not necessarily. Kansas City avoided a similar question by trading for a 28 year old quarterback with the best completion percentage in the League last year.
But Philly will have limited opportunities to draft or trade for a quarterback that can hold his own in the NFL. Passing on Smith foregoes one such opportunity. Assuming the Eagles can avoid another string of four-turnover performances, they may be drafting lower in upcoming drafts. And other teams don’t exactly dangle great starting quarterbacks as a general rule. These windows close awfully quickly.
If the Eagles could fire Andy Reid after a few losing seasons, don’t think they wouldn’t do the same to Chip Kelly. He knows it. The one player on the field who can affect the length of Kelly’s tenure more than any other is the quarterback. All the Tavon Austins and Eric Fishers in the world won’t get the Eagles back to .500, much less to the playoffs, if their quarterback continues to throw four interceptions…and fumble…and whiff on 23 other throws, all in the same game. (Believe me, if the 2012 Chargers could win seven games with an undrafted rookie and the Couch Potato Formerly Known as Jared Gaither starting at left tackle, the Eagles can get by without Fisher…)
So — draft busts like Ryan Leaf and Blaine Gabbert aside, and Mayock’s “grade” on Smith suggests we’re not in that territory — drafting a flawed-but-awfully good quarterback in the top ten is not drafting him “higher than [his] value should indicate.” It may, depending on the prospect, constitute a calculated risk on a player that occupies the single most critical position on the field.
In other words, it’s drafting the quarterback for his value, not in spite of it.