Day Two Quarterback Fits

With the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft in the books, only three quarterbacks have heard their names called. As expected, the Los Angeles Rams selected Jared Goff with the first overall pick, and Carson Wentz was the next pick, second overall to the Philadelphia Eagles. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch finally came off the board at 26, after the Denver Broncos traded up to grab the player they hope is the quarterback of the future out west. Here are Mark’s day two quarterback fits. 

The second and third rounds of the draft might see a number of teams address the position, either by drafting a potential starter or a long-term backup option. Mark Schofield took a look at his board and the teams who might select a QB, and identified a few potential fits.

Cleveland Browns – Pick 32* – Connor Cook

Many draft evaluators are linking the former Michigan State quarterback with head coach Hue Jackson and the Browns with the first pick of the second round. The Browns began the draft process with the second-overall selection and chose to stockpile picks by trading down twice, first  with the Eagles down to eight, and then with the Tennessee Titans back to 15. While adding picks, they also selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman, who brings a playmaking element to that offense that was lacking with the loss of Travis Benjamin and uncertainty over Josh Gordon’s future.

The Browns still might wish to address quarterback in this draft, and Cook is a potentially perfect fit for Jackson’s offense. The MSU QB loves to challenge tighter throwing windows and is accurate when throwing the deep ball. He reminds some of Andy Dalton, a QB that Jackson had great success with the past few seasons in Cincinnati. Adding Cook to this roster would allow Jackson to start Robert Griffin III while preparing Cook to take over down the road.

*Cook is also an option later in the round if, as is being reported, Cleveland trades down from 32.

Detroit Lions – Pick 46 (or Pick 95) – Cardale Jones

At first this might seem like an odd selection, with the loss of Calvin Johnson to retirement and Matthew Stafford entrenched as the starter in Detroit, but hear me out. When Jim Bob Cooter took over in the middle of the 2015 season as offensive coordinator, he inherited a team that was struggling to move the football on the ground and in the air. But the offense took off under his guidance, using a more simplified passing attack that looked to get Johnson open vertically while also targeting the intermediate levels of the field.

Enter Jones. The Ohio State quarterback looked like a future star in during OSU’s run to a national title, and Jones thrived in Tom Herman’s more complex passing game that featured a number of shots down the field and also some deep crossing routes. While the QB took a step back last season running more of a spread option attack, he remains a downfield passer with the huge arm to match. Pairing him with Cooter’s offense gives the Lions both a backup QB who can come in off the bench if necessary and a potential future starter down the road. While picking him at 46 might give my friend Jeff Risdon (whom you must be following on Twitter and reading every chance you get) heartburn, if he is there on the board at 95 it would be a solid move for the Lions. If Jones is gone by the time their pick comes around in the third round, another name to keep in mind is Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum, who brings similar traits to the table but is more of a developmental project.

New York Jets – Pick 51 – Christian Hackenberg

Sigh.

My feelings on Hackenberg are well-known. In my mind, he’s not a remodeling job; he’s a tear-down and rebuild. After a freshman year where he looked like a potential first-round pick running Bill O’Brien’s offense, the QB definitely regressed during his final two seasons at Penn State. His footwork became flawed, his accuracy dipped and his decision-making seemed off. But something else that is off right now is the quarterback situation in the Big Apple. Ryan Fitzpatrick, last year’s starter, is indicating that he will not return to the Jets. The Geno Smith experiment seems to have failed, and last year’s draft choice Bryce Petty might not the the answer going forward. They need to figure out this position for the long term, and Hackenberg just might be the answer. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey utilizes a passing scheme that tries to stretch the defense horizontally and attack the intermediate area of the field. This is similar to what Hackenberg ran under O’Brien at Penn State, and he has the arm strength to attack over the middle and along the sidelines on routes such as digs, outs and comebacks. It would be a good fit from a scheme perspective, and with Smith in place Hackenberg can come along slowly.

If New York waits, perhaps a good fit for them later in the draft would be Kevin Hoganthat’s just for my friend Jeff Lloyd, who would prefer Nate Sudfeld. Jeff might have an issue with the Hackenberg idea as well:

Dallas Cowboys – Pick 67 – Cody Kessler

The Cowboys need a solid option behind Tony Romo who can come in and run the offense should the incumbent starter suffer an injury. As Dallas fans – and coaches – saw last season, the lack of a capable backup can sink an entire season. Enter Kessler. While he might not have the pure arm strength to thrive as a long-term starting QB in the NFL, he is a smart, experienced and accurate passer who can make quick decisions in the passing game and throws with timing and anticipation. He might not have the ceiling of a Pro Bowl-level starting quarterback, but there is real value in having a number two guy who can run the offense, give you about 75% of the production of the starter, and allow the team to win games. Kessler can do that for Dallas early in his career, giving the Cowboys a decent insurance option if #9 goes down again.

San Francisco 49ers – Pick 68 – Vernon Adams

I know, it won’t happen.

But by not selecting a quarterback in the first round, the organization seems to have signaled that the Blaine Gabbert Era is upon us. That still leaves the question of what do with former starter Colin Kaepernick, and I cannot imagine the answer there is keeping him in San Francisco as the backup. Anticipating that Kaepernick leaves town, the 49ers need a QB who can run Chip Kelly’s offense and come off the bench if needed due to an injury or if Gabbert struggles.

Adams is the ideal fit as a quarterback who ran a facsimile of Kelly’s offense last year at Oregon. He is a quarterback who thrives off-structure, but can also make throws from the pocket. He can work through progressions, and has enough arm talent to push the football vertically and to the boundaries. When you add in his athletic ability, he can be an asset in the run game given that he is enough of a threat with his legs to keep defenders honest with the read option.  These factors all point to a potential beneficial marriage between player and team.

But I know, it won’t happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Pick 89 – Jacoby Brissett

I have this pick in mind more from a mentor/mentee perspective than anything else. Brissett is a quarterback who keeps plays alive in the pocket with strength. He can shrug off a potential sack, extend the play with his feet, keep his eyes downfield and find a target in the scramble drill for a big play.

Remind you of anyone?

The Steelers are another team set for the near future at QB1 with Big Ben Roethlisberger, but might need an upgrade at QB2. Landry Jones struggled in limited action last season and might not be the long term answer in Pittsburgh. Brissett can come in, learn the offense, learn from a quarterback with a similar play-style, and, if needed, can make the throws offensive coordinator Todd Haley asks of his QBs. Pittsburgh has incorporated a number of RPO looks in their offense, something Brissett ran while at N.C. State, and Haley also likes to push the ball vertically a bit, which fits well with Brissett’s ability throwing deeper routes. This has the makings of a beneficial relationship for both player and team.

New England Patriots – Pick 90 – Kevin Hogan

New England tends to select a quarterback every few drafts, and there were signs that the organization was going to pick a developmental-type QB in this draft anyway. But it is perhaps more of an issue given recent … legal … developments. With the increasing likelihood that New England is without the services of Tom Brady for four games, the Patriots need someone who can back up Jimmy Garoppolo and is experienced enough to come off the bench as early as week 1.

Kevin Hogan fits the mold of what New England looks for in a quarterback. He is athletic enough to keep plays alive in the pocket, has enough arm strength to attack in the short and intermediate  areas that the New England offense is built around, and is by all reports a smart quarterback who soaks up coaching. When you also factor in his experience running a passing game based off of play-action, something the Patriots also do with frequency, it seems like a perfect fit.

If the Patriots decide to wait until Day 3 to select a quarterback, they may seek more of a developmental QB.

Follow @MarkSchofield on Twitter.  Buy his book, 17 Drives.  Check out his other work here, or Vad Lee overcoming fear, and the no-throw decision with Jake Rudock.

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