Even if Jay Cutler comes back next year, it will only be as a bridge to the future of the franchise, his replacement at quarterback. There’s one glaring problem, though—this is a difficult year to be drafting a quarterback.
Bleacher Report tells us: “we don't think this is a bumper crop of quarterbacks.” Not to be outdone, Rotoworld explains that “This year's crop appears to be especially top heavy in that [only two quarterbacks are] definitely worth drafting in round one. After the aforementioned go off the board, it wouldn't be surprising if the entire second round passes without a single QB chosen.” Additionally, “With little buzz surrounding many of the quarterbacks and little optimism about each having the ability to become a true franchise quarterback, all eyes are looking toward [next year].”
Yahoo Sports gets in on the action. “The NFL draft hasn't been viewed as this mediocre for quarterbacks since 2000.” Then there’s Huffington Post’s claim that “nearly all the quarterbacks on this list have serious flaws that could lead to disaster if they start right away.” The mothership at SB Nation itself is no gentler: “By now, just about everyone knows the poor quality of the quarterback class.” Finally, NFL.com quotes one scout as saying: "I'd hate to be a team in need of a quarterback.”
Just one thing—none of those quotations are from the same year. In fact, they march down the line referring to quarterback classes from 2009 (Bleacher Report), 2010 (Rotoworld), 2011 (Bleacher Report), 2013 (Yahoo), 2014 (Huffington Post), 2015 (SB Nation), and 2016 (NFL.com). I skipped over 2012, as there was no way to write around the praise lavished on Luck and Griffith back then. Even 2012 was considered a mediocre class in that “the only two quarterbacks worth first-round selections will be drafted with the first two overall picks” (per Rotoworld).
Yet, somehow, from 2009 to 2016, quarterbacks were found. Not every team is starting Andrew Luck, and the players are consistently underestimated. Of the 94 quarterbacks drafted from 2009 forward, more than 50 have started a game, more than 30 have been designated as the primary starter of a team for at least one season, and 11 have been named to the Pro Bowl.
That top-heavy draft class from 2012 (the one that supposedly had only two good players) also saw Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Ryan Tannenhill, Brock Osweiler, and Kirk Cousins. That’s the same Kirk Cousins who inspired Rotoworld to say “if Cousins was ever asked to start a game the team should look to replace him.” Instead, in his first full season as a starter he led his team on three game-winning drives.
Negativity is popular and it’s easy. Imagine for a moment that I am a draft expert. If I project that ten guys are going to be bad and one of them turns out to be okay, then I can always say “someone had to get lucky,” or “he’s not good, but the pieces around him let him succeed.” This seems much more intelligent and thoughtful than blind optimism. If I say ten guys are going to be good and then injury or reality catches up with half of them, I look like a fool. Experts and armchair commentators have learned from the lesson of Mel Kiper in 2010, when he said of a certain Notre Dame product: “If Clausen’s not a successful starting quarterback in the NFL, I’m done.” Kiper’s not done. Instead, he’s just more nuanced and careful about his proclamations.
Consider this year’s top quarterback steal so far, Dak Prescott. His NFL.com profile lists him with a 5.38 grade (good for an NFL backup or special teams player). Gems from his profile include “the tape shows a player who must improve his mechanics, poise and quickness through his progressions if he is to become a full-time starter in the NFL,” and “there are absolutely draftable traits and upside, but he will need extended work to smooth out his flaws.”
In March multiple WCGers mentioned Prescott was possible as a developmental quarterback late in the draft somewhere around rounds five or six. On the other hand, when Prescott was mentioned by name, it was just as likely to get the following commentary: “reminds me of Geno Smith, measurable almost identical, bad mechanics, playing style about the same” or “I'd rather the Bears take Hackenberg then take someone like Cardale Jones, Dak Prescott, Brandon Doughty, Kevin Hogan, or Jacoby Brissett.”
Go read Jack Silverstein’s piece [Link] on where Super Bowl quarterbacks come from and try to keep in mind that Russell Wilson “will have a long career as a backup,” as one draft profile noted. Jack tells us the Bears should look to the draft. They should. More than that, they can.
It’s easy to be down about the direction of the Bears right now. I have gone on record as saying that I wish Pace had already drafted a quarterback. However, it’s also important to keep some perspective.