The National Football League has a place in many people’s hearts, and for younger men with the dream of playing in the NFL, the NFL Draft is a dream worth striving for. For some of these men, the opportunity to help their nuclear family financially is their motivation to succeed. For others, a luxurious lifestyle through large contract signings motivates them to succeed. What I have seen throughout the years is that in order to succeed in the National Football League, the love of the game must exist.
With the revised rookie contract signings rule, large contracts are not imminent and have to be earned in latter years. Large contracts impact a team’s salary cap space, decreasing the number of other free agent signings, and can negatively affect the organization. What organizations should look for in the NFL Draft are not necessarily the most athletic players in the draft, but are the “more intelligent” players on and off the field.
What I like to do before each NFL Draft is think of 3 players at every position that will succeed and are more likely to win Super Bowls before other popular choices. Because quarterbacks are said to be “the most important player on the football field” because they have to construct offensive success, I will provide the three players not only from this year’s draft, but will from 2012 as well.
2012 NFL Draft
The 2012 NFL Draft was only two years ago, but, considering the quick success of some of these quarterbacks, the standard of rookie starting quarterback became a topic of conversation.
|2012 NFL Draft Top 3 QBs||My 2012 Top 3 QBs to succeed first|
|1.1 Andrew Luck||1.1 Andrew Luck|
|1.2 Robert Griffin III||3.75 Russell Wilson|
|1.8 Ryan Tannehill||3.88 Nick Foles|
Andrew Luck, Round 1, Pick 1
Andrew Luck was first on my list going into the 2012 NFL Draft, which was a quarterback loaded draft, because of his physical and intelligence intangibles which were being compared to John Elway. Even though he has not won a Super Bowl at this current time, he will make the Colts a yearly contender for the AFC South championship or playoff berth, which means he will gain more playoff experience.
He brought a dismal Indianapolis Colts franchise through the post-Peyton Manning era to a respectable level. Even as the first overall pick, his impact on the Colts has exceeded expectations for his first two seasons.
Russell Wilson, Round 3, Pick 75
Russell Wilson was second on my list going into the 2012 NFL Draft. Many had Robert Griffin III at Pick 2 or even Pick 1 overall. When comparing the collegiate careers of RGIII and Russell Wilson, Wilson went to two different institutions and succeeded at both North Carolina State and Wisconsin. I had my doubts about Robert Griffin III going into the draft because of his running-natured quarterbacking and I feared what actually occurred in the playoffs. Russell Wilson is a throw-first quarterback who can move out of the pocket with the awareness of “incoming traffic” and be able to make a front-footed throw on the move.
Watching Wilson succeed in two different collegiate offenses showed that he can learn a playbook of any offense and be able to utilize it in a way that works for him. Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll brought out the best in Russell Wilson right when he was drafted and it showed when defeating Matt Flynn for the starting QB job.
After the 2012 NFL season concluded, Seattle went to Washington, where RGIII led the team in the nation’s capital, for the NFC Wild Card Round. After seeing the two different quarterback styles of these two individuals, I knew that Wilson had progressed more than RGIII had because of RGIII’s knee injuries and felt Seattle would win that game. After seeing RGIII’s ACL tear, I knew that Griffin III’s playing style would be forced to change where Wilson adjusts to the game’s requirements.
In Wilson’s first Super Bowl appearance (vs. Denver Broncos), he had a 72% completion percentage (18/25) for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not only was he effective with his passes, but he was virtually unstoppable on 3rd downs when they mattered most. Wilson had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when passing to both Doug Baldwin Jr. and Jermain Kearse, two young receivers. Wilson prepared his team more than Peyton Manning did in that Super Bowl, and the 43-8 score shows that.
Nick Foles, Round 3, Pick 88
Nick Foles was the third rated quarterback on my draft list, and many gave an interesting look when I said his name over RGIII’s. Foles was at a disadvantage when he was drafted because of Andy Reid‘s personal tragedy in training camp, but he remained humble throughout his entire rookie season. When Vick had to leave the game at Tampa Bay with an injury, Foles was asked to come in and end the Eagles‘ 8-game losing streak in Reid’s final season with Philadelphia. Foles led the comeback of the season with a game-winning TD strike to Jeremy Maclin, who was injured for all of 2013 and will return for 2014, to lead the Eagles past the Buccaneers 23-21.
Foles played against a Chip Kelly-coached Oregon Ducks team multiple times while he attended Arizona University as a Pac-12 rival and as a sports fan, I saw the intrigue in Kelly’s eyes. As a young fan striving to be a sports historian, I realize that Chip Kelly became the Eagles head coach to not only coach Michael Vick, but also Nick Foles.
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback competition between Vick, who won the job after Preseason Week 3, over Foles, who was neck-and-neck with Michael but a red zone INT vs. Carolina in Preseason Week 2 sealed the job for Vick. Both were motivated to start the season and it paid off when Nick and Michael had their joint-press conference after Vick injures his hamstring at the NY Giants. Foles then starts at QB and produced the highest passer rating in the 2013 NFL season and earned a playoff berth with the NFC East title. His 119.2 passer rating (PR) was higher than Peyton Manning’s record-breaking season (55 TDs, 10 INTs, 5,477 yards, 115.1 PR) with 27 TDs, 2 INTs, and 2,891 yards. The playoff loss against the New Orleans Saints will not only help Nick during this offseason, but will also help Chip Kelly understand the playoff atmosphere better. What is very encouraging for Foles is that he does not turn the ball over and will give Philadelphia a chance to win each and every week.
Looks as of now that my 2012 Top 3 Quarterbacks to Succeed list is one to be proud of, and let’s hope that 2014’s predictions give similar successes!
2014 NFL Draft
Blake Bortles, University of Central Florida (UCF) senior
Blake Bortles has been a quarterback I have been looking at since his junior season, and there has been growth in every game he plays in. His potential as a pass-first quarterback with the build to make time and improvise is quite high. He makes decisive, quick throws but completes shorter passes to build a drive rather than throwing deep on 1st down. He plays with a higher QB IQ than some quarterbacks in “major” conferences, but his BCS Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor put his name on most people’s radars.
Bortles did not disappoint at both the NFL Combine and the University of Central Florida Pro Day and is to some long-time analysts a top 10 pick in the draft.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois University (EIU) senior
Jimmy Garoppolo is an interesting quarterback who I see being successful, not because of EIU alum Tony Romo, but because of the confidence he provides for his team. He has the quickest throwing release I may have ever seen, and he can throw the football without using the laces, which is quite remarkable to me. Critics may question the level of competition, but an invitation to the Senior Bowl in place of A.J. McCarron very much benefited Garoppolo.
Garoppolo had a beautiful red zone touchdown pass in the Senior Bowl game and his mechanics are very fluid.
Aaron Murray, Georgia University senior
Aaron Murray was a very good QB, plagued by sub-par defenses and injuries, at Georgia. The level of competition is not nearly at question as the before-mentioned quarterbacks, but the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and other storied universities. Auburn’s run to the 2014 National Championship was at the expense of Murray being plagued by his own defense once again. Murray was the starting quarterback of Georgia when fellow teammate Zach Mettenberger transferred to LSU to compete against Georgia and the SEC. As long as Murray has fully recovered from his injury, he should be able to develop into an NFL starter.
Murray may be a steal for certain organizations in this draft but, with the case of all 6 QBs I chose, each needs to be with stable teams with great coaches. Just from these two drafts alone, we can see potential become boom or bust, but having “intelligence” over “athleticism” is crucial to drafting a quarterback, especially as a first round pick.