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Pompei: The Quarterback Vacuum

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Dan Pompei of the National Football Post had a pretty interesting read about the phenomenon of drafting a quarterback; follow us below the jump as we discuss what he calls the quarterback vacuum.

Basically, the premise of the article is that quarterbacks are often drafted higher than they should be because of a lack of talent at the position in the NFL.

The perpetual lack of talent at the quarterback position in the NFL creates a vacuum that sucks up anything in its path on draft day. Quarterbacks, more than any other position, are chosen higher than they should be chosen. Either teams fudge on quarterbacks grades consciously or subconsciously to justify decisions, or they ignore their grades and pick quarterbacks ahead of better players at other positions.

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If this was a normal year, some of those teams would already have acquired a veteran quarterback and scratched off quarterback from their draft day wish lists. But since the draft is expected to precede free agency, the quarterback vacuum on draft day could be more powerful than ever.

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"Quarterbacks are unique in the sense that you have to have them," one general manager said. "If you identify one you feel has some developmental potential, the value is in the eye of the beholder. If you are drafting on need, and there are only X amount of quarterbacks in the draft, obviously they are going to get pushed. There just aren’t enough of them being developed."

Let's face it. As fans of the Bears, we know a thing or two about needing a quarterback, and as I mentioned in the comments at one point, I find it funny that for once we get to talk about other teams' quarterback issues. However, I don't agree with some of the premise of his article.

First off, the quarterback is very unique on the football team in that there can only be one on the field at a time. They field all (or most, for you Wildcat proponents...) of the team's offensive snaps. He either hands off to the running backs, scans the field and throws the ball to a receiver, or runs it himself.

Second, there's no substitution package for quarterbacks (fine, outside of Wildcat). You can bring in a backup running back to give the starter a quick rest. There are often two, three, even four or five wide receivers on the field at a given time. And each position in the defense has multiples or can easily be substituted. That isn't so with the quarterback. You don't just put in the backup when the starter needs a rest - he only comes in due to injury or ineffectiveness (as we unfortunately got to see both). 

The quarterback's value lies in this uniqueness - he is the keystone holding the arch together, the frontman to the band. The most important player in the offense.

Third, consider the benchmarks around the league and the direction that most offenses have been trending. More offenses are moving towards the passing game where the quarterback needs to be "the guy." It's a passing league. On top of that, consider some of the benchmarks of the quarterback position in the NFL - Peyton Manning. Drew Brees. Tom Brady. It's almost unfair to expect every quarterback to have these kinds of careers, surefire Hall of Fame credentials.

Yet unless you have an elite-level or very good quarterback, it's not enough. That's why, for the most important position on the field, teams are more willing to take the risks that a high-profile, high round pick entail. It's not what I would call a vacuum; rather, a vicious cycle. With the value inherent in the position, and everything expected of the position, the high round pick ensures you get a guy that you are comfortable handing the keys of the car to. If the pick busts out, it's another high pick spent in a following year.

So why are quarterbacks drafted so high? Because sometimes, they deserve to be because of the position itself.

Your thoughts on the quarterback vacuum? Sound off!

(Writer's note: This article was written Friday night, before Pompei's Tribune article on dealing the Bears' first round pick. Sheer coincidence.)