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College systems contribute to lack of NFL QB prospects


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Where are all the quarterbacks?

"The college game is killing us," one NFL general manger said. "Not just the quarterbacks, but it makes it tough to evaluate all the positions. But it's really true with the quarterbacks."

There were only seven quarterbacks picked in this year's draft, the fewest since 1955. Teams scrambled to sign some as undrafted free agents after the draft -- hey, you need camp arms -- but the reality is there is a shortage of passers capable of playing the NFL game. And the NFL game, despite what many hope, isn't changing. Why? You can't pay a guy millions and then ask him to expose himself like they do with the quarterbacks in college.

It would be fiscal suicide if that guy gets hurt -- career-threatening hurt. In college, Bobby replaces Billy and life goes on. Sis-boom-bah. In the NFL, season over.

The game is meant to be played in the pocket, but the problem is that it's harder and harder to find those guys. Even Marcus Mariota, who went second to the Tennessee Titans, is a projection because of the system he played in at Oregon. It is far from prototypical, making his evaluation that much tougher, which is why I think Tampa Bay went with Florida State's Jameis Winston at No. 1. He is a pocket passer.

A quick look to the 2016 NFL Draft shows four potential "pocket" passers who could go in the first round -- Penn State's Christian Hackenberg, Michigan State's Connor Cook, Cal's Jared Goff and Cardale Jones of Ohio State, who has a total of three starts on his résumé and opened last season as the Buckeyes' third-team passer.

There are a handful of other pocket passers who have a chance to make it, guys like Gunnar Kiel at Cincinnati, but we are seeing more and more spread quarterbacks who are just as dangerous with their legs as their arms. The problem is that you don't get faster as you get older and it's not sustainable to run around in the NFL. Eventually, you have to get into the pocket and make the reads to make the plays.

It happens to all of the guys who flash early as mobile quarterbacks. Ask Steve Young. He says it all the time.

Getting a franchise passer means you will have long-term success. That's why the Colts are so glad to have Andrew Luck. He is the prototype. The Redskins thought they had their sustainable-success quarterback when Robert Griffin III did some impressive things as a rookie. But when it came time to grow in the pocket after a major knee injury, he couldn't do it without the help of the ability to move. The training wheels came off, and the bike fell. After the draft, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine said his team wasn't going to "over-prioritize the quarterback position." That's spoken like a man who doesn't have one in large part because of the shortage. Those run-around quarterbacks, who the supposed experts predict will revolutionize the game, can do some exciting things, but they flash and then eventually they have a choice to make:

1. Grow up as a pocket passer and go through the progressions and reads

2. Get ready for a career that doesn't quite have the longevity you want in that position.

Who knows, maybe the NFL will get to a point where teams keep three or four of the run-around quarterbacks on the roster and just deal with the consequences of running an offense to suit them. Then it would be Billy replacing Bobby in the NFL, just like in college, with not much drop in offensive production. I can't see that happening, but you never know.

Of course, the teams that have the franchise passers wouldn't have to worry about that. It's just that it's so damned hard to find them, as this past weekend's draft once again reminded us.

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The college game is killing us," one NFL general manger said. "Not just the quarterbacks, but it makes it tough to evaluate all the positions. But it's really true with the quarterbacks."

I don't think anything's changed except the fact that QB's who used to ride the clipboard for a couple years are now expected to get in there right away. Perhaps there should be a farm system like baseball.


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