2017 First Round Quarterback Review
The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft was a hurricane, especially regarding the quarterback position. All three quarterbacks were acquired via trade ups. The Chicago Bears moved up one spot to guarantee the selection of Mitchell Trubisky, the Kansas City Chiefs jumped ahead of the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals for Patrick Mahomes, and the Texans shocked the draft community by flying up the draft order to select Deshaun Watson.
Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears)
The Bears got fleeced by the San Francisco 49ers. Unless there was another team trying to swap with the 49ers, the Bears moved up more out of fear than necessity. Already sitting at the No.3 pick, GM Ryan Pace decided to ship off their No.3 pick, a 2017 third round pick (No.67), a 2017 fourth round pick (No.111), and a 2018 third round pick in order to flip positions with the 49ers, who held the No.2 pick.
Trading up for a quarterback is not the problem. If a team thinks they have their guy, by all means, go get him. In this instance, however, it didn’t appear the Bears needed to jump the 49ers. The 49ers just signed head coach Kyle Shanahan to a six-year deal, while also inking quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley to short term contracts. Now, neither of those two journeyman are going to be the 49ers long term option, but they severely lack talent on both sides of the ball. The 49ers were not ready for a young quarterback and there was no reason for them to rush to get one in order to save job security, seeing as 2017 is also GM John Lynch’s first year with the team.
Wasted value aside, adding a rookie quarterback to the mix is good for Chicago. The Bears signed quarterback Mike Glennon this off-season, but they can get out of the contract after 2017 with a moderate $4.5 million cap hit. The Bears now have options. If Trubisky works out year one, they can rid themselves of the Glennon contract without a debilitating cap penalty. Conversely, if Trubisky proves to need more seasoning, they can hang onto Glennon and bring along Trubisky a little slower.
Trubisky is a fine quarterback. He should have been a second round pick (in the Derek Carr-Andy Dalton draft range), but he has plenty of enticing tools that could propel him to stardom in the future. Trubisky has a nice, easy arm action that generates velocity well and can be molded to any throwing platform. His athleticism makes him a legitimate running threat and a menace to bring down behind the line of scrimmage, not to mention it enables him to be a good mobile passer.
Throwing to the short and intermediate parts of the field is Trubisky’s specialty. He is at his best when he can work short two receivers concepts, intermediate in-breaking routes, and underneath routes. For now, Trubisky is not a good deep passer, largely due to his mechanics. He has more than enough arm to throw down the field, but he does not keep his feet under him calmly and he does not transfer his weight forward properly, leaving many deep passes to sail.
Given the Bears’ strong running back corps, quality offensive line, and quick, speedy receiving corps, Trubisky will have many of the luxuries he had at North Carolina. The Bears should be able to comfortably lean on the running game and quick game concepts to keep the offense moving. With the Bears not being in place to really compete, they should be in a good spot to take their time with Trubisky.
Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
The Chiefs are in a similar spot as the Bears. The difference, however, is that improved quarterback play would be all the Chiefs need to be able to make their jump from perpetually competitive to legitimately threatening. Current quarterback Alex Smith is a solid quarterback and he has done a good job of allowing the rest of the Chiefs roster to stay in games. It’s clear Smith can not get them over the hump, though, and the Chiefs can not waste any more time simply being competitive. They need to be more than that.
GM John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid both knew they had to strike soon or they would miss out on their window. The Chiefs traded their original 1st round pick (No.27), their 2017 third round pick (No.91), and their 2018 1st round pick to jump up to 10th overall in a swap with the Buffalo Bills. 10th overall put them ahead of both Cleveland and Arizona, two teams who had been linked to a number of quarterbacks.
Enter Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is the antithesis of Smith. Where Smith would check down to a back, Mahomes would scramble around and try to find Travis Kelce. Where Smith would throw short of the sticks and pray for yards-after-catch, Mahomes would throw ten yards past the sticks to ensure a first down. Smith refuses to throw down the field, while Mahomes would like to do so as often as possible. The two could not be any more different.
Like Trubisky in Chicago, Mahomes could force Smith out after 2017. Smith’s contract has a $3.6 million cap penalty for cutting him after 2017. Granted, if Smith wasn’t cut after 2017, he would only have one more year left on his contract, so it would make sense for the Chiefs to hold onto Smith for the remainder of the contract for security reasons. Either way, the Chiefs are loaded with options at quarterback.
What makes the Mahomes-Smith competition interesting is that the Chiefs do not need Mahomes to start in year one in order to make the playoffs. The Chiefs are a playoff team with or without Mahomes, which grants them the luxury of sitting him for an extra few games early in the season or redshirting him for the entire year.
Mahomes has the skill set to grab the starting job immediately. He is a smart, fearless, athletic quarterback. No throw on the planet could scare him off, yet he has enough control and intelligence in the short game to be able to move the offense along slowly, if need be. Additionally, Mahomes has rare arm talent. He can sling it 65 yards off of his back foot and drop the ball right in the bucket. He looks very Derek Carr-like, in that regard.
Of course, Mahomes has his blemishes. While he can do well in the short game, he often gets too hung up with throwing down the field. He will need to tame himself a little bit. Likewise, Mahomes has moments where he throws mechanics out of the window and banks solely on his arm. He has the arm to get away with it sometimes, but he has to figure out how to bring his shoulders and hips along with the rest of his body when throwing from various platforms. Lastly, NFL pockets will look and feel vastly different than the pockets he had in Texas Tech’s air raid. There is really no telling how well he will adjust to that. To his credit, he isn’t afraid of pressure or pass rushers, but navigating NFL pockets is a skill that he hasn’t been able to showcase much yet.
The Chiefs made the right move. They couldn’t count on Smith forever. His time in Kansas City had to come to an end. With a playoff-ready team already intact, the Chiefs’ fate for 2017 and beyond already lies in the hands of Mahomes. Hopefully he can elevate them to true contender status.
Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)
This absolutely feels like a Bill O’Brien pick. Last go around, it was GM Rick Smith who chose the Texans’ starting quarterback. He signed Brock Osweiler to a ludicrous deal and it all came down in flames immediately. Now, it feels like the Texans gave the keys to O’Brien and told him they would do whatever it took to get his guy. Evidently, it took the Texans’ current 1st round selection (No.25) and their 2018 1st round selection in order to grab the No.12 pick from the Cleveland Browns.
O’Brien’s “guy” is Deshaun Watson. Watson is the most NFL-ready passer in this class. His intelligence is unrivaled and he has proven to have ice in his veins in big moments. Quarterbacks with his confidence and poise are rare. Watson may not be the most impressive physical specimen, but he doesn’t have to be. There is no doubt Watson walks into training camp as the best quarterback on the roster.
Houston’s offense fits Watson perfectly. Watson predicates his game about being efficient in the short and intermediate game, while taking calculated risks in order to get his playmakers the ball. He is not reckless, per se, but he is more than willing to toss it up to his favorite receiver and let him go to work. With a jump ball fiend in DeAndre Hopkins and a speedster like Will Fuller, Watson will have plenty of nice weapons to be able to get aggressive if he wants to. At the same time, the Texans have a solid running game and their tight ends make for good targets in the quick game. The Texans will be able to be as efficient as they are explosive.
O’Brien continually produced winning seasons with, at best, borderline starting caliber quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, and Tom Savage make up the list of quarterbacks O’Brien has been forced to play under his tenor in Houston since 2014. From 2014-2016, the Texans have gone 9-7 each year, even despite never having good quarterback play. Watson can and will change that. Watson is better than any of the quarterbacks that O’Brien has been forced to throw out there to this point. If the Texans showed they could stay above .500 without Watson, the addition of Watson is exactly what will propel the Texans to division titles and AFC Championship contention in the near future.