With half the season in the books, the league’s quarterback situation has become clearer for the future. Some teams are in desperate need of a new franchise quarterback, some have a transition at the position to consider, while a few need to address their long-term plans at the position.
Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Connor Cook of Michigan State, Jameis Winston of Florida State and Everett Golson of Notre Dame (all underclassmen) lead a fairly talented quarterback class, giving these eight teams have some young options to solve their position woes. But each team has different needs, scheme, and desires for their next quarterback, and here’s how each team likely will evaluate their options once the season’s finished.
Bad Teams In Need
New York Jets
Even though Geno Smith is in just his second year as an NFL quarterback, his opportunity as the starter in New York appears to have dwindled away. For the future, it’s better if Smith moves on to another team (like Mark Sanchez) and the Jets look to find another quarterback of the future.
At 1-8, they’ll likely be in position to grab Marcus Mariota from Oregon, the clear top passer in the 2015 draft as of now (if he declares). If Michael Vick goes on a run and they win 4-5 more games, they’ll play their way out of Mariota, and need to consider another young passer in the draft. While I don’t think Jameis Winston is worth a first-rounder all things considered, playing with Rex Ryan could be his best bet to not be harshly criticized.
Tampa Bay Bucs
The Bucs have decided to go back to Josh McCown after Mike Glennon (their “quarterback of the future”, though I’m not sure Lovie Smith knows what that means) struggled to lead the team to victories. Regardless, Glennon wasn’t the new regime’s draft pick, and McCown has been a major (and completely unsurprising) failure as the team’s starter.
The Bucs could be in position to land Marcus Mariota, who’s athleticism and arm strength could be a perfect match for the big, physical receiving weapons the Bucs have. If they can’t get him, I don’t see the Bucs going after a veteran, and they’ll likely target a high-character passer (so no Winston) who can lead a balanced attack. Connor Cook in the first round seems to fit, or pass on a quarterback altogether in the first four rounds.
Teams In Transition
St. Louis Rams
With Sam Bradford’s injury history and his salary set to be north of $15 million next year, it’d be wise for the Rams to move on sooner rather than later. Austin Davis has been playing well as a replacement, but it’s evident that he’s a very talented back-up, and not a passer who can lead a team to the playoffs without tremendous support around him.
The Rams could certainly pass on a top passer this year, particularly if they want to continue to add offensive weapons before throwing a new quarterback into the fire. They could target one of the potential free agents next year as a placeholder, like Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez, or Jake Locker. Grabbing a high-upside passer to sit and develop would make sense.
Jeff Fisher likely doesn’t want another passer with mental/off-field issues like Vince Young was (so Winston’s not a lock), but Connor Cook could come in and start right away, while Brett Hundley could be worth developing in the 2nd-3rd round.
The Bills are in the playoff hunt, suprising to many who evaluated their roster and quarterback situation before the season. While everything didn’t go according to plan for Doug Marrone at the quarterback position, Kyle Orton has been an adequate band-aid for the Bills.
After trading their first-rounder this year in the 2014 draft’s Sammy Watkins deal, the Bills are a bit strapped in the 2015 draft. And with needs on the offensive line, tight end, and the defensive front seven, taking a quarterback early may not be possible.
Odds are, Doug Marrone will look to sign a free agent with some upside, such as Mark Sanchez or Jake Locker, than draft a passer in the early rounds. But if he did target a passer, Brett Hundley of UCLA in the early rounds could pique his interest.
The Texans have named Ryan Mallett their starter, and odds are he’ll finish out the year at the helm of Bill O’Brien’s offense. I believe he could be a great fit for the offense and earn a chance as the team’s full-time starter in 2015. However, assuming that a passer the team traded a late-round pick for can be the long-term answer is naïve.
Bill O’Brien would likely love to get his hands on Christian Hackenberg in 2016, but that doesn’t mean the team should rule out all the passers in the 2015 class. Marcus Mariota won’t be around when they pick, but Connor Cook could prove to be a good fit. I doubt O’Brien would want to consider Jameis Winston based on his past.
I’d expect the Texans to stick with Ryan Mallett as the starter, and role with Ryan Fitzpatrick or another veteran as his backup, and potentially target Hackenberg in 2016 if Mallett doesn’t work out.
At Optimum Scouting, we had a 3rd round grade for Zach Mettenberger, feeling his lack of mobility and off-field issues were concerning, but not totally stifling for his potential future as a starting quarterback. He’ll get the starting job the rest of the way for the Titans, with seven weeks to prove he’s worth investing in as the franchise quarterback.
While I think Mettenberger can do it, and he’s a great fit for Ken Whisenhunt’s offense as long as he has ample protection, it’d be unwise for the Titans to assume their 2014 sixth rounder is worth passing on a top passer without at least considering it. For Whisenhunt’s offense, Jameis Winston is a good fit, as well as Brett Hundley and a few other passers.
While Winston could intrigue if he’s there when the Titans pick in the first-round, the Titans will likely pass on a first-round passer, potentially considering Hundley or another high-upside option in the 3rd-4th round.
For the Future
Nick Foles has a broken collarbone, and will miss the entire season. With Foles due for a new contract next year, the Eagles will have to decide if he’s worth investing in as the quarterback of the future. My guess, which seems to be supported by most Eagles writers, is that they don’t believe he’s worth the salary he’ll demand. The team could head to the playoffs, and even win a game or two, with Mark Sanchez at the helm, further driving down Foles value to the team.
While Chip Kelly would love to get his hands on Marcus Mariota, it would take a hefty set of draft picks to do so, and I’m not sure Kelly values the quarterback position that much. I think a much more intriguing option is Everett Golson, who’s a perfect fit for the Eagles offense, has developed remarkably since he 2012, and has the athleticism that Kelly hasn’t had in a passer since Michael Vick went down in 2013.
It’s unclear how many years Peyton Manning has left as an NFL player (this may be his last on), but the Broncos need to start thinking about the future at the position this year. Last year, the team was active in trying to trade up for Blake Bortles if he had slipped past the top six picks, and they may look for an aggressive trade up again this year.
With few needs, the team could look to make a major move up. If they decide a 2015 quarterback is worth it, my guess is they’d target Marcus Mariota and Connor Cook only. Mariota may be behind their grasp. Cook has plus footwork and ample arm strength, and has proven he can have success from the pocket and on the move. Outside of those two, I don’t see a top-two round quarterback worth investing in for the Broncos.