St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney’s already got his man in quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft. Asked about the prospect of finding a franchise quarterback in the first round, all he could do was shake his head and smile.
“It’s a good thing we have Bradford because I’d feel a little silly answering that after some of the quarterbacks I’ve been involved with,” said Devaney, a member of San Diego’s personnel department when the Chargers drafted Washington State’s Ryan Leaf No. 2 overall in 1998. “But we do have Bradford. You know what, the on-field stuff is almost easy to look at. Those guys are the highest-paid for a reason. The stuff that they have to go through, and the pressure that’s on them away from the field, that’s the hardest thing to judge. How is a kid going to handle that?”
Up to a dozen teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, seek a quarterback in this year’s draft. What makes this year’s quarterback class even more worrisome for coaches and general manager is that none of these signal-callers is a sure thing to become a franchise quarterback.
All have their shortcomings, including potential No. 1 overall selection Cam Newton (off-the-field issues), Blaine Gabbert (did not play in a pro-style offense), Jake Locker (accuracy), Christian Ponder (shoulder and elbow surgeries), Ryan Mallett (maturity), Colin Kaepernick (awkward throwing motion) and Andy Dalton (average arm strength).
“It’s a good year,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said about this year’s quarterback class. “I think it’s really a unique year because all of these guys are so different. I mean, wow. You go through seven guys and they’re all just completely different cats.”
According to www.draft metrics.com, 46 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round over the past 20 years. Twenty of those players started in their rookie season, with varying degrees of success. They include dominant performers such as Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers, and colossal flops such as JaMarcus Russell and Leaf.
It’s why general managers take a cautious approach in selecting a quarterback in the first round, exhaustively pouring over as much information as they can gather to make sure they are making a wise investment.
The result has been a better success rate in drafting productive quarterbacks in the opening round, with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez of the N.Y. Jets, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman and Bradford all showing signs of performing well among first-round quarterbacks selected in the past three years, with the jury still out on Denver’s Tim Tebow.
Some league general managers and personnel men say as many as six quarterbacks could be chosen in the first round. The last time that happened was 1983, in a draft class that included Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
The next highest number of quarterbacks taken in a first round was in 1999 when five were taken (in the first 12 picks), including some forgettable names such as No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch, Akili Smith (No. 3 overall) and Cade McNown (No. 12).
The Seahawks have reason to be leery about selecting a quarterback in the first round. Seattle selected Dan McGwire No. 16 overall in the 1991 draft. The younger brother of major league slugger Mark McGwire, Dan McGwire, at 6-foot-8, never showed the accuracy and mobility need to be successful in the pros, and was out of the league five years later.
Two years into the McGwire experiment, Seattle selected Rick Mirer No. 2 overall in 1993. After a strong rookie season Mirer’s play regressed, and the Notre Dame product was shipped to Chicago in 1997. Mirer finished his NFL career as a journeyman, playing for five teams in eight seasons.
The Seahawks traded three picks, including a first-rounder in 1988, for the rights to Kelly Stouffer, who held out for an entire season after the St. Louis Cardinals selected him No. 6 overall in the 1987 draft. Stouffer retired after five mostly uninspiring seasons in Seattle.
The combined win-loss record of those quarterbacks with Seattle was 27-45.
The Seahawks are considering taking a quarterback in the first round because veteran Matt Hasselbeck will be a free agent whenever the lockout ends. Although his priority remains re-signing with the Seattle, there’s a possibility he will not return.
The two sides attempted to work out a contract before the lockout began, but Hasselbeck now sits in limbo. He’s expected to receive interest from multiple teams seeking a veteran quarterback, potentially including Minnesota and division rivals Arizona and San Francisco.
Currently, reserve Charlie Whitehurst is the only quarterback on Seattle’s roster. Whitehurst finished 1-1 in two starts last year, including a 16-6 win over St. Louis in the regular-season finale to propel the Seahawks to the playoffs.
However, Whitehurst enters the final season of a two-year deal, and is set to earn $4 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2011. Whitehurst did not receive enough of an opportunity last season for the Seahawks to determine if he’s the long-term solution.
The Seahawks reportedly are interested in Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb, with the Eagles likely seeking at least a first-round pick in compensation in a trade. But the competition for Kolb’s services will be high, with San Francisco, Arizona, Minnesota, Cleveland and Cincinnati possible suitors.
Whichever team ends up with Kolb will have to face the prospect of signing the former Houston Cougar to a lucrative, multi-year deal.
Other trade or free-agent possibilities for Seattle include two USC products – Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, who said he will retire instead of play for the Bengals for another season, and Matt Leinart, who fizzled in Arizona and served as Houston’s No. 3 quarterback last year. Leinart is a free agent, while Palmer still has four years and $50 million left on his contract.
Both offer some familiarity to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll because they played for him at USC.
The Seahawks have had Locker and Mallett in for visits at the team’s Renton headquarters, and reportedly are high on TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. However, all three have weaknesses and are not sure things as potential franchise quarterbacks. And with the Seahawks having so many other needs, they might be inclined to pass on taking a quarterback in the first round and instead take a developmental quarterback such as Alabama’s Greg McElroy or Idaho’s Nathan Enderle later in the draft.
“Some of the clubs that I’ve been with, some of the worst drafts we’ve had are where you get nervous and you feel like you’ve got to have a guy,” Schneider said. “And maybe you give up something to go get a guy, or you push a guy based purely on need, and that’s where you can get into a lot of trouble.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/