We’ll just keep beating this to death then, shall we? Let’s consult history.
QB’s coming off of successful college seasons and entering the NFL Draft are like 7 footers in the NBA Draft : If you take one and he’s a bust, you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t take him and he’s a stud, you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s a perfect Catch 22.
I’m reminded of the Green Bay Packers in 1989; Dallas takes the golden boy Troy Aikmen and Green Bay opts to take Tony Mandarich 2nd overall despite Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders and Derrick Thomas on the board. Mandarich was a knock out tackle and Sanders was a risk; Talented and elusive but will that play in the pros? Will his size work? The Pack took the safe road and got burned like he was Darko Milicic. Sanders? Hall of Fame along with Aikmen and spent his career rubbing (then) Central Divisional Rival Green Bay’s nose in it with his massive success (sans a ring, sadly).
And thus the question, do you take that risk? Is Matt Stafford going to be that guy, the next Aikmen or … uh… Can you name a top five QB that is having a good career since Peyton Manning? Palmer started strong and has since fizzled under injury, Eli Manning is about to be sent out of town on a rail and Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, David Carr, Mike Vick and Joey Harrington? Yeah.
We’ll give Philip Rivers an honorable mention and Matt Ryan has been producing some serious grit and the numbers to match. So they are in fact out there, but when you look at the draft and where the star QB’s of today have come from, its overwhelmingly not the top 5. Joe Flacco has also proved that you can get value at QB at pick 18. Ben Roethlisberger also had a stunning Superbowl Victory in his rookie season, picked at #11. Granted he also had a punishing defense, a determined ‘Bus’, a lot of luck and some keen officiating, but that’s what it takes to get a ring. Ask Eli. Especially about the luck and defense part.
When you take the safe road, you can be punished like the ’89 Packers, but sometimes going for the sexy pick like Ryan Leaf turns into an unmitigated disaster as well. You are rolling the dice when you bring that card up to the podium, but history tells us that you will likely fail if you continually go with the sexy pick. We’ve seen that in the Millen Era here in Detroit for around 5 of it’s 8 years with the 3 wide receivers in a row and the failed franchise QB. Yet Harrington was not set up to succeed and that is the organization’s fault. You can’t just draft a kid and throw him into the shark tank that is professional football and expect him to perform well. The defense is faster and instead of one or two smart defenders, they are all smart. There needs to be a support system around a Quarterback or he will fail. Steve Young was terrible in Tampa Bay, yet he was a Superbowl quality stud when he landed on the 49ers. Baltimore was a similar situation this year, they needed a QB for their already solid system and Flacco was good enough to deliver all the way up to the AFC Championship.
My vote is to take the safe route and get Andre Smith first overall. We need to build a system.
My feeling is that the Lions will take Matt Stafford because… well… It’s the Lions.