Here to analyze the QB class in this year’s draft from a Redskins fan’s perspective is Buck O’Leary.
If you’re reading this you probably already know. The Redskins have the worst quarterback situation in the league. Mel Kiper’s hair just wrote a column about it, young people are tweeting about it, old people are writing letters about it — it’s common knowledge. I realize that there’s a contingent of delusional Sexy Rexy backers that accept his two weekly picks and appreciate that he “makes something happen.” These people generally want to improve the offensive line and live with Rex for another year. These people are insane.
Listen, I get it. The O-line has been historically bad. The interior line needs an influx of talent, but it has also sustained a ton of injuries, and competent QBs often make a line look better than it is. It’s easy to forget, we haven’t had one in over a decade. There are also more examples of teams having success in recent years with bad O-lines than bad quarterbacks (the Bears with Cutler the past two years and the Pack two years ago with Rodgers spring to mind). The Redskins also probably aren’t investing in offensive tackles for a while and the best centers and guards come off the board a bit later.
This is one of the richest QB drafts in recent memory. For the sanity of everyone who remotely cares about this franchise a change needs to be made. Hitting on a quarterback would instill the Skins with the legitimate hope it so desperately needs. In addition, with the new rookie wage scale it makes sense on several levels to get this done through the draft and avoid a potential franchise-killing Kevin Kolb situation.
If you’re not one of these Rex advocates, I apologize for that rant. You’re probably frustrated that I’m telling you something you already know. By now you may have also realized that my last name isn’t Mottram. So why should you listen to me? I’ve lived in the D.C. area my whole life. I’ve been rocking Redskins gear since I could crawl. I’ve been gambling on football since I was 9, when Jake Plummer and ASU lost to OSU 20-17. Although I’m not a professional talent evaluator, Vinny Cerrato was and look where that got us. I think you should trust me, because I’m one of you. I’ve grown tired of the offseason championships, so I’ve overcompensated to ground myself. Due to this pessimism I’ve been conducting QB draft research for the last two years. These are the conclusions I’ve drawn:
Andrew Luck (Stanford, 6’4″, 235 lb., 22 years old, senior, No. 1)
The prototypical QB. Everyone except Phil Simms is in love with his talent and potential. Can make all the throws, incredibly cerebral, has unprecedented responsibilities with play calling and adjustments at the line for a college QB. Impressive athlete who averaged seven yards/carry, good pocket presence. Choirboy personality and NFL pedigree (his dad is a former Oilers QB). Not sure how NFL guys will react to him in the huddle or in the locker room or if he will ever get mean the way the all-time greats like Peyton and Brady do, but he has all the tools to be incredibly special.
Matt Barkley (USC, 6’2″, 220, 21, junior, likely top-five)
Anointed in high school as the next big thing. A bit of a California HS golden boy a la Jimmy Clausen. Not super athletic but mobile enough to buy some extra time, John Beck mobile. Listed at 6’2″, but I have a feeling that he’s going to be significantly shorter than his listed height when he gets to the combine. Has shown significant progress over his career and is exceptionally poised in the pocket. Makes throws into small windows but also throws a lot off his back foot and has a tendency to float a few balls. Has absolutely lit it up over the last six weeks (1,746 yards, 23 TD, six INT). High-character kid, deeply religious and a leader in the locker room. There’s some question if he’s going to come out. His OT Matt Kalil, who’s regarded as the top OT in the draft, is rumored to be staying.
Robert Griffin (Baylor, 6’2”, 220 lb., 21, junior, likely top-15)
Freak athlete, rocket arm, 4.4-4.5 speed, No. 1 high school hurdler in the country. Numbers are ridiculous: 74% completion percentage, 29 TD, six picks, Baylor throws a lot of screens but his YPA is still over 10. Pegged as a runner but is really a pocket passer behind a patchwork OL who runs out of necessity. Shades of an early Randall Cunningham. Graduated in 2.5 years, and wants to be a lawyer at some point. Questions about his height and has a bit of a slight build, had a torn ACL in 2009 but clearly has made a full recovery. High-character kid, throws a ridiculously accurate and pretty deep ball. Occasionally has a three-quarters release point. Not asked to throw a lot of deep outs or digs and takes a lot of snaps from the gun. Will hang tough in the pocket and take hits. Heisman winner.
Landry Jones (Oklahoma, 6’4”, 230, 22, junior, likely top-15)
Strong but not quite elite arm strength, generally accurate but sails some balls, in a simple offense doesn’t have to make many reads, has that Favre gunslinger mentality and will take chances down the field, always in the gun and will have to adjust to taking snaps from under center — although recently NFL teams have been running stuff out of the gun so much that I’m starting to think this doesn’t matter as much. Good feet. Makes some questionable decisions and will force balls into coverage. Great supporting cast. For some reason he screams Jeff George to me. Incredible mustache. Stock has been falling of late and there are now murmurs that he may not declare.
Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M, 6’4”, 222, 23, senior, mid- to late-first round)
Former WR had 800 yards and five TD receiving as a freshman, fifth all time in receiving at A&M. Deceptively athletic, bit of a project due to inexperience (started eight games last year, will only have started one full season of college, which Parcells and some NFL personnel people hate). NFL size and bulk. A&M doesn’t take many shots downfield — they throw a lot of 8-10 yard intermediate routes so it’s tough to tell if he really has NFL-caliber arm strength. Low release point has a lot of balls batted down at the line of scrimmage. Talented but inexperienced and a bit streaky.
Tyler Wilson (Arkansas, 6’3”, 220, 21, junior, mid- to late-first round)
Burst onto the scene with a huge game (332 yards, four TD, two INT) in a loss to Auburn last year after an injury to Ryan Mallett. Poised, not particularly mobile, could be more accurate, strong arm, has struggled against top competition in the SEC. All in all big numbers, likely to be one of the first QBs (if not the first) off the board next year.
Nick Foles (Arizona, 6’5”, 245, 22, senior, late first- to early second-round)
Big pocket passer, put up huge numbers on a bad team. Not athletic—stationary QB, in a gimmicky system, inexplicably Trent Dilfer’s favorite QB in the class (for whatever that is worth), good throwing talent– utilizes a variety of arm angles and shows touch, makes bad decisions. Not sure he’ll be able to read more complex coverages. Someone will fall in love with the physical skills but I’ve never been a big fan.
Kirk Cousins (Michigan State, 6’3”, 203, 23, senior, third-round)
Very strong arm, throws a pretty deep out. Traditional pocket passer. Not very athletic. Will stand tall in the pocket and take hits. Forces some throws, rarely throws balls away. Earlier in his career would sometimes self destruct (or “Romo”) but has shown steady improvement over his career. Reminds me of Patrick Ramsey.
Kellen Moore (Boise State, 6’1”, 191, 22, senior, third- to fourth-round)
Absolute gamer, ice water in his veins, college play worthy of clichés. Puts up huge numbers and makes impeccable decisions. Average athlete with great pocket presence. Probably shorter and smaller than listed. Doesn’t have a big arm, but the ball always seems to get there. Incredibly smart. Could do a lot worse than him as a developmental prospect. Looks like an overgrown sixth grader, but if he gets the ball on his 20, down three with two minutes left he’ll march down the field and put you away nine out of 10 times.
Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma St., 6’4”, 220, 28, senior, fourth-round)
This year’s Chris Weinke. Incredibly mature mentally, as he should be, great arm strength, doesn’t always show great touch. Huge numbers and high completion percentage marred a bit by a simple offense. Good mechanics and high release point. A bit oblivious in the pocket. Will force throws into coverage. A bit above-average athletically but nothing special.
Brock Osweiler (ASU, 6’8”, 240, 21, junior, third- to fifth-round)
Absolutely huge with an elite arm, in a funky offense. Can make all the throws but due to the offense throws a really high percentage of screen passes — lots of RAC yardage. Not unathletic but due to sheer size a bit of a plodder. Also plays on the ASU basketball team and was offered a scholarship by Gonzaga. First-year starter — really raw. Makes some questionable decisions and throws some picks. A bit of a project. Would need to be behind an established O-line to be productive. Less-talented Ryan Mallett without the character issues. Will probably stay in school.
Russell Wilson (Wisconsin, 5’10, 201, 23, senior, fourth- to fifth-round)
Undersized, manages the game well, put up huge numbers at NC St. and Wisconsin. Doesn’t make many mistakes. Picked up a new offense at Wisconsin in impressive fashion. Really good feet – not a runner but can extend plays. Low release point/funky mechanics, which may need to be fixed. Good not great arm strength. Nice backup prospect. Troy Smith-lite.
Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois, 6’2”, 220, 21, junior, fifth- to sixth-round)
Hot and cold mid-major prospect. Prolific statistically. Only real offensive threat for his team. Doesn’t look like an NFL starter to me. Reminds me of Charlie Frye. Really good feet and athleticism. Makes plays outside the pocket. Average arm strength — underthrows a lot of deep balls. Is in a spread system where he’s making a lot of simple reads and throwing to WRs with huge open windows.
Dan Persa (Northwestern, 6’1”, 210, 23, senior, fifth- to sixth-round)
Savvy vet. A bit undersized but makes up for it with smarts and really good speed/athleticism. Solid arm, really accurate, great ball placement. My sleeper pick out of these late rounders to have a long NFL career. Good pocket presence. Throws well on the run. Makes a ton of plays for a team that doesn’t have much else on offense.
E.J. Manuel (FSU, 6’4”, 245, 21, junior, fifth- to sixth-round)
Big and athletic. Really good arm strength. Benched earlier this year due to poor decision-making. Heavily recruited out of high school. A less athletic more cerebral Daunte Culpepper-type. Will probably stay in school.
Case Keenum (Houston, 6’0”, 210, 23, senior, fifth- to sixth-round)
Ultra-productive, good arm strength, small and relatively unathletic, doesn’t have to make a lot of reads and is in a gimmicky system, not a great decision maker. Lack of height is more of a problem because of his low release point. Doesn’t have great pocket presence probably due to his system. Developmental prospect.
Jacory Harris (Miami, 6’4”, 200, 21, senior, sixth-round to undrafted)
Strong arm, shows nice touch. Has tools but makes a lot of horrible decisions. Throws a lot of picks and takes a lot of sacks. A project.
There are a few schools of thought here. Even with the emergence of Helu (and brief but exceptional performance from Hanky) the Redskins have lots of holes. They could trade for a Matt Flynn or Brian Hoyer, but the price is going to be steep. They’re also just as unproven as a lot of rookies. The advantage of that strategy is that they could take either a stud interior lineman like David DeCastro or a stud WR like Justin Blackmon in the first and the inverse of whichever position they didn’t take in the second. While it’s appealing on paper, this approach puts too much faith in backup quarterbacks who have been groomed in other systems and have limited playing experience.
The other option, which I’m in favor of, is to draft one of these guys in the first round and try to fill in the other holes through the draft and free agency. Shanahan has always been a bit infatuated with QBs who can move: Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, John Beck (theoretically mobile), etc. Fortunately for Shanny this draft has a lot of guys who fit that mold.
A lot of people have expressed interest in Barkley for the Skins. While Barkley will probably be a solid pro I’m much more excited about Griffin’s talent and upside. In short, there are things Griffin can do that Barkley (and 99% of other QBs — outside of perhaps Aaron Rodgers, Mike Vick and Cam Newton) can’t. There isn’t anything I’ve seen Barkley do that Griffin can’t. This is an offense that has desperately needed to be explosive for a long time, and Griffin gives it that dimension.
The ideal scenario is taking Griffin in the first, drafting interior offensive linemen in the second and third rounds (a new center would be really nice) and throwing top WR in the league-type money at Mike Wallace, who’s a restricted free agent. Wallace is a burner who has improved leaps and bounds as a route runner and would be dangerous if paired with a deep-ball thrower like RGIII. He’s also only 25. Maybe Pittsburgh steps up and matches, maybe they don’t. They’re a franchise that prides itself on disciplined spending and replacing seemingly irreplaceable pieces through the draft. While Washington is trying to emulate that, there isn’t shame in paying someone like a superstar if they’ve shown production on par with that.
Assuming they re-sign Fred Davis at a slight discount thanks to his recent indiscretions, these moves would give the Redskins a promising young QB with legitimate weapons to throw to. The linemen taken in rounds two and three would provide a huge talent (and depth) upgrade up front to protect the investment and pave the way for Helu. For the first time in a long time Washington would have an exciting, young offensive nucleus that — when paired with a solid defense — could put them in position to control of the division and compete for championships.
It starts with one pick.
(Robert Griffin image taken with love from Burgundy Blog and someone named Mitch Miller, I suppose.)