Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Can a QB fall again?

Before the Super Bowl, I wrote a post about the "fall" of Ben Roethlisberger to the Steelers at the No. 11 spot in the 2004 draft. Two years later, Roethlisberger helped Pittsburgh win the Super Bowl, while most of the teams that picked above the Steelers hadn't improved much.

The point was that, in drafting a quarterback with a high first-round pick, and committing the money that the position and high draft status demand, a team that already has a young quarterback in place is hesitant to take another. Plus, everyone remembers Rick Mirer, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch and Akili Smith, among others, and knows that they were all drafted within one place of Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning, or Donovan McNabb. The downside of taking the wrong guy is immense.

Pittsburgh got lucky that two other highly rated quarterbacks (Eli Manning and Philip Rivers) were rated ahead of Big Ben on the board, and only two other teams were ready to take the risk of drafting a quarterback high. It wasn't the first time something like that had happened. In 1983, the Dolphins watched Dan Marino fall to them at the 27th pick, after five other quarterbacks had gone before him. One can say that Aaron Rodgers' fall to the Packers at the 24th pick last year was even more dramatic, and reminiscent of the same trend. But until we see what Rodgers can do, we can't know if that will pay off for Green Bay.

This year the draft, like in 2004, features three quarterbacks jockeying for position high in the first round -- Matt Leinart, considered the safest and most pro-ready pick of the three; Jay Cutler, a scout's darling who excelled in pre-draft workouts; and Vince Young, who made everyone's mouth drop in the Rose Bowl, went through every critic's wringer, and now seems to have comfortably settled in as a guy who needs some work but has too much upside to pass up.

Can one of these three fall this year? Let's look at the draft order and what teams might do. I'm going to stretch the scenario a little bit, but hear me out:

1) Houston -- The Texans will take Reggie Bush if they keep the pick. But if some team (the Jets?) covets Bush, they might be able to put together a package that provokes the Texans to trade down. Houston has a solid running back in Domanick Davis, and while Bush has greatness written all over him, running backs have among the shortest shelf lives in the league. The Texans desperately need help at more positions than quarterback and running back. Regardless, they're not taking a quarterback, and it's doubtful anyone would trade up to No. 1 and take someone other than Bush.
2) New Orleans -- They signed Drew Brees to a huge contract. They will either trade down or keep the pick. If they keep it, they're not taking a quarterback. If they trade it, likely a team will be drafting one of the Big Three. But, for argument's sake, let's say the Saints keep the pick and take someone like Mario Williams.
3) Tennessee -- The Titans probably will take a quarterback. Steve McNair is persona non grata at the team's practice facility, and Billy Volek isn't a long-term answer. A reunion between Leinart and Norm Chow is a virtual certainty if the USC quarterback is available. So, in this scenario, let's say one of the three quarterbacks is off the board.
4) N.Y. Jets -- Again, stay with me on this: Let's say the Jets trade up and take Bush. Houston moves down and they're probably taking D'Brickashaw Ferguson. If they don't, David Carr will officially sue the franchise for criminal negligence. If the Jets stayed at the fourth pick, a second quarterback would probably go. Again, I'm going to stretch this and say the Jets move up, Houston takes Ferguson, and two quarterbacks are still left.
5) Green Bay -- Brett Favre might or might not be back. He might or might not have lunch tomorrow either, and I sure hope he calls a press conference to tell us his decision. Regardless, the Packers now have Rodgers pegged to be their quarterback of the future, and they need help at other positions more than they need another quarterback controversy.
6) San Francisco -- Alex Smith looked lost at times as a rookie, but he was the No. 1 overall pick last year. So the Niners, who were so many levels of bad last year, have to look at other positions.
7) Oakland -- The Raiders' nature would be to take a guy like Young, though they just signed Aaron Brooks in the offseason. Al Davis loves to do things people don't expect, so could it be possible that he passes on Young and takes a player like Young's college teammate, the hard-hitting safety Michael Huff -- who fills a greater need for Oakland. Again, pushing the envelope, I'll play this out that the Raiders do so and leave two quarterbacks on the board.
8) Buffalo -- J.P. Losman is too young to give up on, having gone late in the first round in 2004. The Bills have bigger needs, like a long-term stadium deal.
9) Detroit -- Matt Millen has needed a quarterback for so long, but instead waited out Joey Harrington. Now he has signed Jon Kitna and Josh McCown, so it's hard to believe he'll cloud the issue with another quarterback. The long treadmill ride continues for Lions fans.
10) Arizona -- The Cardinals have Kurt Warner, who will likely be the starter this year as the team tries to make a run at the playoffs. Arizona means business, signing Edgerrin James in the offseason. Denny Green has always been one to take the best player available, and if both Cutler and Young are still here, he'll be hard-pressed not to take one. I'll say that he does, and this will help cover me if Oakland takes a quarterback and the Cardinals pass. Two off the board, one to go.
11) St. Louis -- The 11th pick, just where Roethlisberger went. St. Louis has a decent, but erratic and injury-prone, starting quarterback in Marc Bulger. They have a new coach in Scott Linehan who made Daunte Culpepper look great in Minnesota and Gus Frerotte credible in Miami. While the Rams have other needs, it's doubtful that Linehan would pass up a chance to draft the team's quarterback of the future. A combination of Cutler and Linehan (if Oakland took Young, for example) would give Rams fans visions of the Greatest Show on Turf again.

So I'll predict all three quarterbacks are off the board by pick #11. It's conceivable, however, that one could still be left at this point. In that case ...
12) Cleveland -- Not taking a quarterback -- Charlie Frye emerged last year and coach Romeo Crennel is a defense-minded guy.
13) Baltimore -- As long as Brian Billick still has faith in Kyle Boller, he'll keep giving him chances. They're not taking a quarterback.
14) Philadelphia -- Donovan McNabb will be healthy, and the Eagles have far greater needs.
15) Denver -- Like Linehan, Mike Shanahan would love a chance to develop a young quarterback, but my guess is that player would probably come later in the draft. Jake Plummer is likely the starter again.
16) Miami -- The Dolphins just traded for Culpepper. They're out of the quarterback picture.
17) Minnesota -- I can't see one of the top three quarterbacks falling past here. Minnesota is counting on Brad Johnson, who will be 38 in September, for this year. They need someone for the long term. If either Cutler or Young is there, Minnesota probably has to take him and keep him off Lake Minnetonka.

The draft is the ultimate gamble, as often is the case in gambling, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. We'll see if any of these quarterbacks turns out to be another Roethlisberger -- or another Mirer or Couch.



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