Sage Rosenfels is a former 12-year NFL quarterback who writes, does radio, and podcasts about the NFL and college football.
As is the case every offseason, one of the most intriguing pre-draft story lines involves potential landing spots for top quarterback talents making the jump to the NFL.
But how many teams are actually in the market for a signal-caller this time around, and to what degree?
Starting with those in the AFC, here’s a glance at how every team should view its quarterback situation looking ahead to draft day.
AFC | NFC (April 25)
No need to draft a QB
Tom Brady is supposed to be getting ready for his “Kobe” retirement tour of the NFL. That would never happen under Bill Belichick because that would be fun. Plus, despite being 39, the Patriots quarterback may play for four-to-six more years. New England may make waves around the draft not because it will pick a signal-caller high, but because of a possible Jimmy Garoppolo trade. The Pats will probably draft a quarterback in the third round, he will play a couple games over the next three years, and they will trade him for a first-round pick.
Derek Carr is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Oakland has been yearning for a superstar like him to be the face of the franchise. He says and does all the right things. Carr will be loved in Oakland and Las Vegas over the course of the next dozen years. This team is all set at the starting quarterback position.
Though Andrew Luck isn’t quite Aaron Rodgers, he is an elite quarterback. Indy has plenty of big holes to fill other than QB. The problem with the Colts is that their drafts have been a disaster the last few years.
Andy Dalton has put together a strong start to his career despite not receiving much hype. He plays in one of the smallest markets and doesn’t get a lot of love in the press. But, he has played solid football as he enters his seventh season. In 2016, he missed his previous offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, and his play suffered. I believe Dalton is a top-15 NFL quarterback, which is good enough to win a Super Bowl with the right team around him. He isn’t great, but Cincy fans should know they have a signal-caller who gives them a legitimate chance to win every week.
Marcus Mariota was chosen right after Jameis Winston, but hasn’t played at the same level of the 2015 first overall pick. He also hasn’t been a disaster. He is a good young quarterback who is still learning the pro game after playing in the spread at Oregon. This takes time. Mariota improved from year one to year two and I expect the same progression going forward. If he can stay healthy, I can see Mariota taking the Titans to the playoffs, as the AFC South is the worst division in football. Coach Mike Mularkey has changed the culture in Nashville with an aggressive defense and strong running game. His quarterback will continue to improve in the coming years.
Upgrade needed, but good enough for now
Joe Flacco has a Super Bowl ring which seems to give him a lot of leeway when discussing his play for the Ravens. In actuality, he hasn’t played very well since Gary Kubiak left in 2014. The last two seasons for Flacco have been underwhelming. He needs to play better if the Ravens want to get back into the playoffs. Going into his 10th season, he should have plenty of football left in him. If he wants to be a Raven for life, he needs to pick up his play or fans in Baltimore will start wondering if they should be paying attention to the quarterbacks on the first day of future drafts.
Ryan Tannehill is entering a make-or-break year, though Dolphins fans have been saying this for roughly three seasons. He seems to play well enough to avoid being benched, but he doesn’t show much “WOW” either. Miami has been looking for the next Dan Marino for 17 years. I love Adam Gase and believe he is the long term answer for the Phins. Coaching is no longer an excuse in Miami. If Tannehill doesn’t take his game to the next level, Miami should start looking for a new quarterback in 2018.
Like Minnesota, Denver is another city where the quarterback room is in an odd situation. Usually, if a team drafts a pass-thrower in the first round, he is named the starter going into year two. This hasn’t happened with the Broncos because of the surprise play of Trevor Siemian. Though the Northwestern grad didn’t blow away his competition, Paxton Lynch, he proved that he gave the Broncos a better chance to win last year. The first offseason for a quarterback is vital, and I am curious to see what type of improvement Lynch has made since December. This team still has a bunch of dudes on defense and needs to win now. I don’t see it drafting a QB, but rather hoping that it has a long-term answer already on the roster. Both signal-callers need to improve for the Broncos to get back in the playoffs.
Just a year ago, most Jaguars fans assumed they had their man at quarterback. But after a disastrous third year, some wondered if Blake Bortles would see a fourth season in Jacksonville. I don’t see them drafting a quarterback high this season as it would destroy the little confidence Bortles has left. This is a do-or-die year for Bortles. If he doesn’t vastly improve his play, Jacksonville will move on after this season.
I like Tyrod Taylor more than most NFL analysts. I think he is dangerous and effective enough to lead the right team. He has played well in Buffalo despite the fact that the old coaching staff seemed like it was in disarray. If Sean McDermott’s new staff can maximize Taylor’s strengths, he could be the long-term answer in Buffalo. Taylor’s contract is set up so that the Bills can move on after the season if they so choose. I don’t see management drafting anyone high, but if Taylor plays poorly this season, the Bills could go in a new direction next year.
All Alex Smith does is win, get into the playoffs, and deal with speculation about his replacement. He doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers. He doesn’t wow you with his arm. He just finds ways to win year after year. Smith is such a good athlete that, if he chooses, could play for a half-dozen more seasons. At worst, Smith is everything you’d want as a backup. Kansas City could very easily draft someone, sit him on the bench, and start him in 2018. I love the idea of Patrick Mahomes playing in K.C. It’s not far-fetched to see Andy Reid trying to tame a talented gunslinger again. After watching Smith the last few seasons, Kansas City fans would love to have a quarterback with a huge arm. This team will have their eyes on a signal-caller or two on draft day. The Chiefs won’t reach in the draft, but if the right one is available, Andy Reid will be aggressive.
Near the end of the road
Phillip Rivers will be in the Hall of Fame but won’t have a Super Bowl ring. Sorry Chargers fans, that’s just a fact. Year after year, Rivers competes and carries that organization on his back. The issue is the organization, not Rivers. Because of the way Phillip takes care of his body and his physical stature, he has a few good years left in him. His play in 2016 wasn’t up to his usual standard, but overall he still played at a higher level than most NFL starters. Sooner rather than later, the Chargers will draft a quarterback in the early rounds to succeed Rivers. This could be the year, but with a poor college class, my guess is the Chargers wait until at least the 2018 draft.
Big Ben is back, but for how much longer? That is a major question in Steelers Country. Roethlisberger brought his team to within a game of the Super Bowl last year, but his body has been beat up more than any other quarterback in the league. I doubt this is Ben’s last year, but 2018 could very well be. Pittsburgh is looking to the future and could take a quarterback in this year’s draft. Ben will play well in 2017. His body may fail him before his play fails the Steelers.
We need someone now
No team is in a worse situation than the Browns. Though Hue Jackson has a solid history as an offensive mind, the Browns’ quarterback play has been putrid in recent years. They currently have Brock Osweiler who played so poorly in 2016 that Houston gave up draft picks just to rid itself of his contract. There are no Peyton Mannings or Andrew Lucks in this draft so Cleveland will fill other holes before getting a quarterback. With their history of drafting the wrong QB since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, they may want to draft three and hope for the best.
The Jimmy Garoppolo sweepstakes may play out in the days leading up to the draft, and Cleveland has a plethora of picks to trade for him. This is its best option to get a legit quarterback this spring.
Along with the 49ers, the Jets signed a veteran to fill their quarterback need until they find a long-term solution. This is one of the most difficult franchises to play under center for as the media in NYC are relentless, and the Jets aren’t exactly run as professionally as their North Jersey counterparts. It’s likely they will pick a quarterback in the first two rounds, the only question is which one. Good luck to whoever goes there. You will need it.
It’s cliche, but “Houston, we have a problem.” After the failure of David Carr, both Gary Kubiak and Bill O’Brien were hired because of their ability to find and nurture a long-term franchise QB. Neither have succeeded, yet. If you are one of the quarterbacks being mentioned as a possible first- or second-rounder, this is where you want to end up. They have a top-rated defense, weapons at the receiver position, and ran the ball effectively last year. I still believe O’Brien is a great offensive mind and the right quarterback will excel in his offense. The Texans won’t have much patience with whoever plays for them this year. If they don’t like who is available when they pick, they may be a team who takes a flyer on Cutler or Kaepernick.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.