By Tom Di Benedetto
There were ten quarterbacks selected in this year’s NFL Draft and plenty of intrigue surrounds a majority of the selections. It was a slightly down year in terms of depth at the position (in 2016, 15 QBs were selected and the prior years went as follows: 2015: 7, 2014: 14, 2013: 11, 2012: 11, 2011: 12). However, the top of the draft turned out to be right on par with recent years, as three quarterbacks were chosen in the first twelve picks (first round QBs in 2011: 3, 2012: 4, 2013: 1, 2012: 3, 2015: 2, 2016: 3). Here are some thoughts on each new signal caller selected:
Chicago Bears – ROUND 1, PICK 2: Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
By far the most controversial pick of the entire draft, the Bears elected to trade up and use the #2 pick on North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky. I don’t hate the player, but it was an extremely steep price to pay for a prospect that’s far from a sure thing, especially with so many stand-out talents on the board. Still, I graded Trubisky as a late first round prospect and believe he projects to be an NFL starter. The question is, how good can he really be? Before the draft, I compared his abilities and pre-draft rise to Blake Bortles, who was similarly over-selected at 3rd overall in 2014. Perhaps Ryan Tannehill is a more fair comparison, but the point remains. Bears fans might be thrilled to move on from Jay Cutler, but I’m not at all convinced they just tied their wagon to a player with any more upside.
Kansas City Chiefs – ROUND 1, PICK 10: Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
I am also not a fan of this pick despite again generally liking the quarterback. The tenth pick is a tad high for a player I saw as a second round prospect but the fit is really what concerns me. I was under the impression that Kansas City was in win-now mode and Mahomes is bit of a project. His upside, bolstered by a cannon of an arm and a playmaking flair, is undeniable. But it’s unlikely he will be in a position to unseat Alex Smith and lead this team into the playoffs in the short term. Then there’s the fact that he is basically the exact opposite of Alex Smith as a quarterback. That may not seem like such a bad thing, but Mahomes’ deep ball-bombing, high risk style is a bizarre match for Andy Reid’s historically west coast attack that relies on precision in the intermediate passing game.
Houston Texans – ROUND 1, PICK 12: Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Here’s the pick that I truly love. Although it did not come cheap for Houston, who had to forfeit picks to trade up to #12 after already giving Cleveland picks to unload Brock Osweiler. Watson was my top quarterback in the draft and his championship pedigree makes him a great match for Houston’s ready-to-win roster. The Clemson QB is a big game player and he will almost certainly get the opportunity to play in big games quickly here. The Texans may well have had Trubisky and Mahomes higher on their boards, but I think they lucked out in having Watson fall to them.
Cleveland Browns – ROUND 2, PICK 52: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
This was another exciting selection as Cleveland got fantastic value on Kizer at #52 overall. Rather than reach for a QB with one of their first round picks, the Browns played the board perfectly and snatched up a promising prospect right where he belonged. I believe Kizer, with his 6’4″ frame, fantastic arm and excellent mobility has the highest upside of any quarterback in the class. But his redshirt sophomore year at Notre Dame was a surprising dud and Kizer decided to leave school early in the hopes that his talent alone would carry him to the top of the draft. It didn’t work out this way and Cleveland reaped the benefits of his slide. I actually think Kizer will end up on the field much sooner than most expect and the long-term rebuilding Browns have time to be patient with his development if his tools look to be translating to the next level as well as I expect them to.
New York Giants – ROUND 3, PICK 87: Davis Webb, California
The Giants’ pick baffled me for a couple of reasons. First, the team is clearly in win-now mode and there were many, many players remaining on the board at #87 that could have been potential immediate contributors. Second, I’m just not a fan of Davis Webb. He’s big and has a big arm, but he struggled mightily with accuracy and consistency in his college career. Many analysts had him rated as a second or even first round prospect so the Giants may think they got good value here. I just don’t see him as anything more than a solid backup, and I certainly don’t think he’s anything near a slam dunk as an eventual heir for Eli Manning.
San Francisco 49ers – ROUND 3, PICK 104: CJ Beathard, Iowa
Possibly my least favorite pick of the whole draft, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch clearly see something here that I don’t. I did not have a draftable grade on Beathard and the Niners actually traded up to pick him in the third round. He has an average arm and below average mobility, and more importantly, I vastly preferred Nathan Peterman, who made it into the fifth round. It’s hard to imagine that San Francisco wouldn’t have had an opportunity to make this pick in a later round. Needless to say, I don’t think they’ve found their answer at QB in this draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers – ROUND 4, PICK 135: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs definitely showed flashes at Tennessee, but not nearly enough to project him as a potential NFL starter. At this point, he’s a project with decent upside and evidently Pittsburgh feels that Dobbs can function as a solid backup to the oft-injured Ben Roethlisberger as he develops. I don’t necessarily disagree with that thought, although I do think it will be a while until he is ready for game action.
Buffalo Bills – ROUND 5, PICK 171: Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
This was a great value pick for Buffalo as they snapped up my dark horse QB prospect in the class at a very low cost. Much like the Browns, the perpetually QB-needy Bills played the board perfectly and let a solid prospect land right in their laps. Peterman had two solid years as a starter at Pitt, punctuated by a sublime 22-37, 308 yard, 5 TD & 0 INT performance in a win at Clemson. He has some tools worth taking a look at and will have time to develop while Tyrod Taylor continues to start.
Detroit Lions – ROUND 6, PICK 215: Brad Kaaya, Miami
Purely a long-term, developmental pick, Detroit took a flier on the Miami quarterback as a potential backup. I’m definitely unsure Kaaya has even this in him. He’s tall but extremely thin, and while he throws a pretty ball, he showed very poor mobility in college and his accuracy is easily and dramatically affected by pressure.
Denver Broncos – ROUND 7, PICK 253: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
At the risk of sounding extremely harsh, I’ll be honest here. I really don’t like this pick. I thought Kelly was an overrated QB in college and he demonstrated maturity and leadership issues multiple times at Ole Miss. The choice felt like a favor from John Elway to Chad’s uncle Jim, and this is a huge part of the problem for the young QB. His name has provided him many an opportunity and this has molded a sense of entitlement that has come through in his approach to football. However he does have arm talent and perhaps a slice of NFL humble pie will do wonders for his future. I would have jumped at the opportunity to take a chance on Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans or Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight if I were crowning a QB “Mr. Irrelevant.”
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