Quarterbacking the NFL Draft

Arguably no position in team sports is as important as an NFL quarterback. Pitchers can dominate in baseball. But they only do it once every five days. NBA point guards are somewhat similar to quarterbacks. But a team can have a mediocre point guard and do well using the passing skills of the rest of the team. Think of the Los Angeles Lakers. Derek Fisher is hardly anyone’s top player.

NFL teams are finalizing preparations for the April 25-26th draft in New York. It’s probably wise for each team to take a look at the most important position in sports first. Detroit picks first. They had a historically disastrous 0-16 record last year. This is the consolation for a year of truly bad play, after multiple years of simply bad play. But it won’t be enough to vault the Lions into the elite of the NFL. Even if they get the best out of their picks, they probably won’t rise to the middle of the pack yet. That’s because the draft is more like a stocking stuffer than a full Christmas tree.

A team might find two or three solid players or even a gem. Ultimately, though they have to find ways to build beyond one year’s draft. By drafting a quarterback, a bad team is in some sense making a poor gamble. That quarterback needs protection on the offensive line and someone to throw to who can do something with the ball.
Otherwise, a quarterback who looked like Peyton Manning in college might look more like a guy underneath a pile of defensive linemen.
Having said that, it appears that Detroit is set to spend its first pick on Georgia’s Matthew Stafford.

At 6-3 and 237 pounds, Stafford has the size he’ll need to take a beating as Detroit tries to build around him. Stafford threw for 3,459 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, capped off with 407 yards and five TD’s in the season-ending game against Georgia Tech.
Detroit is also considering Jason Smith out of Baylor. He’s a 6-5, 305-pound offensive tackle who could provide exactly the protection a young quarterback needs. Of course, Detroit can’t have its cake and eat it too. The likelihood is they’ll go with the high-quality quarterback. It’s too important a position to ignore a potential superstar.

Smith will slip at least to the second spot, where the St. Louis Rams have a tricky decision. St. Louis has a history with offensive linemen. The exact guy they are looking to replace is Orlando Pace.
12 years ago Pace was the Rams’ first overall pick. That has never been a source of regret. Still, St. Louis may well be tempted to also go the quarterback route. USC’s Mark Sanchez, another 6-3 quarterback, will be hard to resist. He threw for 3207 yards and 34 touchdowns last year. He has had a bit of a checkered history.
He does have a few nagging injuries and one suspension for an accusation of sexual assault.

Whoever picks him will no doubt be hoping they don’t get that Mark Sanchez. They’re hoping for the one who took the Rose Bowl MVP with a 413-yard, four-touchdown performance against Penn State.
Sanchez has a real gun and a flair for the big play, as his highlight reel shows. Sanchez has been rising as teams increase their evaluations.
If he isn’t taken by St. Louis, odds are the Seahawks won’t slip him slip past the fourth pick as a backup to Matt Hasselbeck.
Kansas City picks third. They will probably stay away from the quarterback carousel and go with the guy considered the most talented overall player in the draft.

That’s Aaron Curry out of Wake Forest. He’s an outside linebacker with the speed and strength to be a mainstay of the defense for years to come. That leaves the Cleveland Browns to round out the top five. They will most likely go with Michael Crabtree, wide receiver from Texas Tech. Cleveland may also go for Virginia’s Eugene Monroe. He fills a need on the offensive line. But they would love to steal Smith if he’s still available.

Rumors are also floating that Detroit might be willing to trade the first pick if they can get enough in return. This might be a great choice for them. This is not a team that just needs a quarterback to get it over the hump. If an attractive trade is available, look for Detroit to pull the trigger to get three or four quality players and wait another year for that megastar quarterback.

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