The case of the most difficult position to figure out in the draft can go in any number of directions … but if you want to look at the importance of position and where the best players are drafted, one need only look at the quarterbacks.
For every Peyton or Eli Manning going at the top of the draft, you’ll see a Tom Brady of the Patriots or the Seahawks Matt Hasselbeck getting drafted in the sixth round. Joe Montana was a third round pick and Johnny Unitas went in the ninth round. The big quarterback draft was in 1983 draft when there were six quarterbacks taken in the first round – John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino in that order – all of them experiencing varying degrees of success in their careers. More recently, Vince Young, Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart all went in the top 11 in 2006.
Comparatively you look at the 2007 draft. Sure, JaMarcus Russell went first overall to the Oakland Raiders, playing in four games with little success. Highly publicized Brady Quinn stunningly slipped to 22nd in the first round to the Cleveland Browns, and free agent Derek Anderson ended up beating him out. Nobody else went in the first round..
“Quarterback is the hardest position to evaluate of all the positions,” Seahawks vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster said. “We’re lucky we have Matt because they’re so hard to find.”
Clearly, it’s not just the physical tools, but the mental ability to make decisions on the fly while knowing what every player on the both sides of the football are doing on a particular play. That being said, that all has to happen with the full knowledge that a 240-pound linebacker with sprinter’s speed or a 325-pound defensive tackle may be unloading on you just as the ball is released.
In the vernacular, it requires plenty of guts to gain a little bit of glory. Win or lose, the focus is always on the quarterback – most of the time gaining either too much praise or criticism depending on a victory or defeat.
“They’re hard to find because you don’t know what they’ll be like until they’re under fire at this level,” Webster said. “You want them to have enough arm strength and accuracy is a premium, but you also want them to have a little athletic ability. More than ever they need to be able to move well because the rushers are so good now to avoid them is becoming more important.
“And maybe most important is they’ve got to be good decision-makers … they’ve got to be able to go through their progressions and make good decisions. Toughness is also important, just like any other position – it’s hard to play that position if they’re not tough because they will take their share of shots because they are vulnerable. They have to be smart because they’re processing so much information It’s a difficult position to play and that’s why it’s so hard to find the right guy – whether in the first round or as a free agent, they all develop at a different rate.”
This year’s group is comparable to last year. Not only did Russell and Quinn go in the first round, but Kevin Kolb (Eagles), John Beck (Dolphins) and Drew Stanton (Lions) went in the second round. Heisman Trophy-winner Troy Smith didn’t go until the fifth round to Baltimore.
This year’s group is led by Boston College’s Matt Ryan, who could very well go in the top five, while Brian Brohm from Louisville is expected to go late first round or early in the second round, with Michigan’s Chad Henne and Joe Flacco from Delaware likely second round picks with Kentucky’s Andre Woodson. Reflective of the indecision on quarterbacks, however, will be Ryan. He has been projected to go anywhere from first overall to the possibly double-digits – although both are highly unlikely unless trades undo everything.
Either way, Ryan is prepared, and that includes sitting on the bench for a year or two as most have done, or get thrown into the fire right away.
“It’s exciting to be mentioned (as a possible No. 1 overall pick),” Ryan said. “But for me I just hope somebody gives me an opportunity to go in and compete and help try to make an organization a winner. It doesn’t really matter what number pick that is, as long as someone gives me a chance.
“There has been a bunch of different ways for quarterbacks to come into the league and have success. Carson Palmer sat for an entire year. Peyton Manning played the first snap and played the first year. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it. But in my opinion and what I’m going to be trying to do next year is go in and compete and try and win that starting job and make the decision as difficult as possible for the organization. But ultimately you have to respect their decision and do what’s best for the team.”
Brohm has been more interesting to follow, but his stock has been all over the board. His father and two brothers also played football at Louisville, with his brother Jeff playing a couple of years with the 49ers, and now the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Cardinals. Jeff, 13 years old, has prepared him for this since he was 8 years old. So with all that background, he is confident but also realistic as his name goes up and down the board with Henne and Flacco gaining ground.
“There’s nothing really to be worried about,” Brohm said. “I’ve always been about going out there to perform. Wherever that puts me in the draft, that’s where it puts me. So I’m not going to worry about it. I’m not going to get stressed out about it. I’m just going
to go out there and show what I’ve got.”
The following is an alphabetical list of the best quarterbacks in the draft by a consensus of draft information compiled by the writer, and is not reflective of the Seattle Seahawks personnel department
1. Erik Ainge, Tennessee, 6-6, 225, 5.02
2. John David Booty, Southern California, 6-3, 218, 4.82
3. Colt Brennan, Hawaii, 6-3, 207, 4.79
4. Brian Brohm, Louisville, 6-3, 230, 4.83
5. Joe Flacco, Delaware, 6-7, 236, 4.79
6. Chad Henne, Michigan, 6-3, 230, 4.92
7. Josh Johnson, San Diego, 6-3, 213, 4.55
8. Kevin O’Connell, San Diego State, 6-5, 225, 4.61
9. Matt Ryan, Boston College, 6-5, 228, 4.89
10. Andre Woodson, Kentucky, 6-4, 229, 4.81
Also considered: Dennis Dixon, Oregon; Matt Flynn, Louisiana State; Sam Keller, Nebraska; Bernard Morris, Marshall; Paul Smith, Tulsa.