The first round of the NFL draft is in the books, and three quarterbacks heard their names called, all in the first dozen selections. This is in line with what some were expecting, given the number of teams picking in the top 12 that needed to address the quarterback position. However, the order in which they were selected, and the teams picking those players, was much different than anyone could have predicted. Let’s take a look at the three players as well as their potential fit in new surroundings.
Mitchell Trubisky – Second Overall Selection – Chicago Bears
Heading into the draft it was thought that trades would be a big part of the process. New 49ers general manager John Lynch wasted no time, switching spots with the Chicago Bears, who began the night with the third overall pick. Chicago used their third- and fourth-round picks in this draft (selections 67 and 111) as well as a 2018 third-round pick, to move up the one spot? The reason: Mitchell Trubisky.
Back in February I put together my one and only QB mock draft, and slotted Trubisky to the Bears with the third-overall selection. But the Bears did not take any chances, and moved up to the second pick to grab their guy. In Trubisky, they’ll get an athletic quarterback with a big arm, and some toughness in the pocket. I have my reservations with Trubisky, particularly from a decision-making standpoint, as well as a mechanical standpoint. But the Bears have to believe he is the face of their franchise for the next eight years.
What I like about this move is that they have a bridge in place, in Mike Glennon whom they signed during this offseason. Of the “Big Four” quarterbacks, I believe that Trubisky needs the most time before he’s ready to take over as the starting quarterback. Here, there might not be a pressing need from an organizational standpoint to hand him the keys.
A reservation that I have is that when you move up to the second-overall pick, there will be external pressure to play him sooner rather than later. For Trubisky’s development, fighting that urge to play him early would be best for his future in the NFL. Especially when you look at Chicago’s schedule to start the season. Not that we can know for sure how teams will look sitting here in April, but the Bears start like this:
@ Tampa Bay
@ Green Bay
@ New Orleans
That is not the best road map for a rookie who needs some developmental time. Ultimately, how soon he is pressed into action might just determine his developmental arc. Now we saw in Trubisky, growth over the course of one season in college football as a starter. His tape against Georgia in his debut was well behind what he showed against Stanford in his final collegiate game. My concern right now is that there will be pressure to move him into the lineup early. Something that might not exist with the other two quarterbacks selected in the first round.
Patrick Mahomes II – Tenth Overall Selection – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were one of two teams in the mid-twenties of this draft who were dark horses to address the quarterback position, particularly if players that they were high on fell to them. Kansas City has a ton of talent on their roster and made it to the Divisional Round last year after winning the AFC West. But they might have gone as far as they can with Alex Smith at the helm. The idea was that if a quarterback fell to them in this draft at the 27th overall selection, it would make a great deal of sense to get their next quarterback and bring him into Kansas City now, and give him a little time to learn.
Maybe the Chiefs didn’t want to wait. Because they traded up from 27 to 10 to get their man. In the process, they gave up a third-round selection in this draft (pick 91) as well as a first-rounder next year.
That seems like a haul right now, but in Mahomes the Chiefs get their hands on a quarterback coming from Texas Tech who has the raw traits to execute Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. Mahomes gets knocked for the Air Raid style of offense, but in reality the scheme he was running down in Lubbock was more like “Air Raid on steroids.” As Ted Nguyen pointed out to me, he might actually face a less complex playbook in the NFL than he did in college. Coach Kliff Klingsbury put a lot on his plate in college, and Mahomes was able to run their offense extremely well.
Now, Mahomes moves to a team that does not need him to start right away. He can learn from both Reid and Smith, and refine the parts of his game that need work. He’ll need to be more precise with his footwork and more consistent with his mechanics. In addition, he’ll need to dial back the aggression just a bit, and not take so many chances with the football. There might not be a better mentor for that than the aforementioned Smith. Finally, while there will not be pressure to play Mahomes right away, if he’s pressed into action the Chiefs have weapons like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce – a perfect security blanket – to put around him.
Deshaun Watson – 12th Overall Selection – Houston Texans
I’m shopping for a Texans jersey.
I’ve told anyone who would listen that I was on Watson Hill until the end. This might be the ideal fit for him from both a talent and a schematic standpoint. The Texans moved from 25 up to 12 to snatch the former Clemson quarterback, giving the Browns next year’s first-round pick in the process. In Watson, the Texans get a quarterback who is very astute in the pre-snap phase of plays, often ruling out routes or options based on the secondary and the leverage from defenders. Watson is very accurate in the short area of the field, and can excel on routes to the outside and deep using timing, touch, and anticipation. He is also very adept at making the back shoulder throw, and his pass to Jordan Leggett with 19 seconds left in the National Championship Game against Alabama this past season stands out as one of many such perfect throws.
Similar to Mahomes, Watson goes to a team that has pieces in place. From DeAndre Hopkins, Jaelen Strong, and Will Fuller V on the outside, to C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin at the tight end spot, the Texans have weapons to put around a quarterback. They also run an offense, Bill O’Brien’s Erhardt-Perkins system, that thrives on timing and anticipation. That’s where Watson is perhaps at his best.
Finally, with Tom Savage on the roster, they still have a potential bridge from last season to getting Watson on the field. But for my money, the former Clemson Tiger is ready to play right away, and given the pieces around him, he can have success early. Let’s remember, this is a team that made it to the Divisional Round with Brock Osweiler at quarterback, winning a playoff game in the process. Furthermore, the Texans had the number one defense in the league last year, without J.J. Watt. The Texans needed to find one piece, a quarterback. And they did.
First Round Surprises
I’ll admit, I was starting to find myself believing in the Davis Webb first-round hype. When the Browns traded back into the first round, I thought it would be to pick the California quarterback. But he’s still available, as is Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. I came into this draft convinced that four quarterbacks would be picked in the first, but only three punched their ticket to the NFL last night. Meaning there are going to be some great options for teams in Rounds Two and Three. So… where do they end up? Here are some predictions for the second night of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Davis Webb – 45th Overall Selection – Arizona Cardinals
With both Webb and Kizer on the board, I think the Cardinals go with the California product. Kizer might be the more talented quarterback, but Webb fits the mold of what Bruce Arians is looking for in a signal-caller. Webb has the arm talent to thrive in a downfield passing attack, and that’s what he would be stepping into with a move to the desert.
Nathan Peterman – 49th Overall Selection – Washington Redskins
Wait, no Kizer?
We’re getting to him soon. But this is an idea planted in my head by my man Shane Alexander down at the Senior Bowl. If you’re Washington, the status of Kirk Cousins is still up in the air, and you have not locked down an extension with him. In Peterman, you’re drafting a Kirk Cousins clone. He’s a player who can run Jay Gruden’s offense, and it would be a great schematic fit for him. In Matt Canada’s style of play, Peterman was given lots of designed rollouts, half-field reads, and easier progressions. He’ll see a similar offense with a move to Washington. If Washington cannot reach an agreement with Cousins – or they trade him to Cleveland or San Francisco – they draft a replacement here.
DeShone Kizer – 62nd Overall Selection – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Kizer slide stops here.
Similar to the Chiefs and Texans, the Steelers are in a position where they can try to address the next quarterback without rushing them into action. Ben Roethlisberger made some waves after the loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game by mentioning retirement, but he’ll be back for the upcoming season. However, Pittsburgh would be wise to at least bring in a quarterback in this draft. With Kizer falling, they get a player who, between the lines, looks the part of an NFL quarterback. He is strong in the pocket, willing to slide around, climb the pocket, and keep his eyes downfield looking for an open man. He has the arm talent and velocity to make throws to all levels of the field, and at times has great touch on the deep ball. The issue with Kizer has been more of the off-the-field variety, as questions arose regarding his relationship with Brian Kelly. But in an organization such as Pittsburgh, he’ll get the time to grow into the position, rather than struggle in a crowded quarterback room or with a coach who seemed tough to play for at times.
Joshua Dobbs – 65th Overall Selection – Cleveland Browns
Entering this draft, most people expected the Browns to address quarterback shortly after taking Myles Garrett with the first pick. But Cleveland went in a different direction, trading down and then drafting Jabrill Peppers, and then trading back into the first round to get tight end David Njoku. But they still need to add a quarterback, as Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and Osweiler are their current options.
Hue Jackson coached Dobbs down in Mobile, and got to see him up close. Dobbs was inconsistent throughout the week, much like he was throughout college, but is a talented quarterback. He can give you full-field reads, is athletic in the pocket and when extending plays with his feet, and displays the ability to make timing and anticipation throws. I think there is something about Senior Bowl week that gives Jackson confidence in taking Dobbs, and that’s why I think he comes off the board here…or if Cleveland really likes him, as I believe they do, you might even see a trade up for Dobbs.
Brad Kaaya – 67th Overall Selection – San Francisco 49ers
If you watched what Kyle Shanahan was doing with the Atlanta Falcons last season, you saw an offense rooted in West Coast concepts, but also relied heavily on play-action passes as well as designed rollouts and bootlegs. Brad Kaaya would fit perfectly in such a style of play. While at Miami, Kaaya was used often on designed rollouts, or on plays based off play action looking for the tight end in the flat. He would be a great fit in Shanahan’s offense, and I’ve been saying that a West Coast system would be an ideal landing spot. The 49ers wait a bit, but they get a quarterback who can run their offense and grow into the position. With Brian Hoyer on the roster, there is no need to rush Kaaya.
Jerod Evans – 83rd Overall Selection – Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota is coming back from a fractured fibula, and behind him the Titans have veteran Matt Cassel and the untested Alex Tanney. There’s a need to upgrade at the backup spot, and in Evans they get a quarterback who can step in and run their offense. Evans is a bit raw as a quarterback, but has the athletic ability to run Tennessee’s offense and keep defenses honest on the back side of zone-read type plays and similar run/pass option concepts. He also has the ability to make throws in the downfield passing game, which fits well with how the Titans approach the aerial attack.
It was an interesting first round and there are still some talented QBs left on the board. There is great value out there for teams looking to upgrade their quarterback rooms, and perhaps find their next starting QB.