Kevin Tanaka/AP
Kevin Tanaka/AP

The ‘Torturous’ 2014 Draft

That description—courtesy of an NFL head coach, on the process of evaluating this year’s QB prospects—also fits the interminable walkup to the league’s pushed-back May draft. With two weeks to go, here’s what we think we know

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — In my travels over the past week to watch Johnny Manziel game tape with people who know quarterbacks and quarterback play (more about that next week in Sports Illustrated and The MMQB), I had a coach tell me that trying to figure out which passer to pick this year is “torturous.” I’ll have a good chunk about the quarterback dilemma with one under-pressure general manager’s view of the QB market … and why he agrees with the “torturous” description.

But 17 days before the draft begins (Lord help us: Seventeen more mind-numbing days of this), here’s what I’m hearing:

  • Houston, at No. 1, isn’t set on Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, one FORS (Friend of Rick Smith) told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall. I still think the Texans would go with a more sure thing with the first overall pick than a quarterback—and that sure thing could also be tackle Greg Robinson. But imagine Mack, the outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, being the first pick in a stacked draft. Wouldn’t that be something—a second straight Mid-American Conference player (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, by Kansas City) as the top pick in the NFL draft?
  • Jacksonville is the most logical spot for the loser of the No. 1 pick derby between Clowney and Mack. GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley want a pass-rusher, badly.
  • Detroit taking a tight end? I doubt it, but North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, the clear top player at the position in this year’s draft, was asked by one team he visited recently who he thought would pick him. “Detroit,’’ he said.
  • Arizona is sweet on a couple of quarterbacks, Derek Carr and A.J. McCarron, who are first- and second-round possibilities. With coach Bruce Arians’ love of the deep ball, McCarron in round two seems a bit of a reach. I will say this about McCarron: He doesn’t have a great deep arm by any standard, but he’s an accurate deep-ball thrower when he does air it out.
  • Pittsburgh likes Odell Beckham and Brandin Cooks at wide receiver, and one or both should be there at No. 15 if that’s the direction the Steelers go—and they need to replenish the position after losing two receivers in free agency in two years. (I’d go corner if I were GM Kevin Colbert.)
  • Tampa Bay is partial to, among others, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans at No. 7. I’ve watched a lot of Johnny Manziel tape recently, and I’ll say this about Evans: supremely talented, extremely hot-headed. He’d better cure his immaturity on the field, and fast.
  • Hot guys right now: Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Notre Dame tackle/guard Zack Martin, Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Cold guys right now: Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
  • If Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan gets past Detroit (picking 10th in the first round), the Giants (12th) and the Steelers (15th), I doubt sincerely Baltimore would pass on him.
  • Oakland? Clueless there. Sorry, Black Hole people. The Raiders seem like a logical place for Johnny Manziel, but Oakland hasn’t exactly been the bastion of quarterback wisdom in this century. (See Stat of the Week.)

* * *

Why this is a bad year to stake your reputation on a quarterback.

As I said, I’ve been traveling to measure what smart people think about Manziel. In so doing, and in talking to a few of the decision-makers whose necks will be on the line, I’ve reached a conclusion about the position and the men who are charged with picking the passers this year.

It is a torturous decision, as the coach of a quarterback-needy team told me. As a GM, if you take a quarterback in the first round, any of them, you’re going to go home and not sleep well that night. If you pass on a quarterback with some spellbinding tools—Manziel, for instance—you’re going to go home and not sleep well that night, fearing what you’ve passed up.

The measuring for one such team, Minnesota, begins today. The Vikings begin eight days of final meetings to set their draft board this morning at the team facility south of Minneapolis. And GM Rick Spielman knows that his job, and the job of his coaches and scouts, might well ride on the two- or three-year results of what they do on this draft weekend. Because this is the year the Vikings should be in position to get their quarterback of the future.

Whomever that is.

“There’s no Andrew Luck, no Peyton Manning,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “It is such a mixed bag with each player—every one of them has positives, every one of them has negatives.”

“The torture part of it,’’ said Spielman, “is you see a player sitting there when you pick who you know can help you right away, a significant player at another position, an impact player as a rookie. Then you ask yourself, ‘How do we feel about our options at quarterback in the second or third round? Is it close? Is there a big separation, or is it close?’ We’ve broken them down in all the ways we could think of. Analytically—measuring them against their five toughest opponents, indoor-versus-outdoor, by psychological testing, and it is such a mixed bag.

“That’s a big reason why we made it a high priority to sign Matt Cassel back. Every one of these quarterbacks … nothing is a sure thing. There’s no Andrew Luck, no Peyton Manning. It is such a mixed bag with each player—every one of them has positives, every one of them has negatives. And if that’s the way you end up feeling, why don’t you just wait ’til later in the draft, and take someone with the first pick you’re sure will help you right now?

“I agree with that coach, whoever it is. It is torturous this year.”

Spielman said the big benefit for Minnesota will be that, on the weekend before the draft, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will get his hands on Cassel and Christian Ponder on the field during head coach Mike Zimmer’s first mini-camp of the off-season. So Spielman would have had his eight days of meetings, and Turner would have had his three days on the field with the quarterbacks, and then the staff would be able to know: How urgent is our need at quarterback, and how much of a consensus do we have on one of the college guys in this draft?

“Ideally,’’ said Spielman, “if we did pick a quarterback this year we would want to redshirt him anyway, and when he’d be ready to go, he’d play. But he’d probably use this year as a learning year. I can say that now, before our meetings, we’ll have the coaches and scouts speak, but if we are going to consider a quarterback at eight, I better have consensus in the building that this is our guy. We all better feel good about one guy.’’

I asked Spielman about the pressure of picking a quarterback in a year when all of them have zits.

“There’s always pressure,’’ he said. “This year, there’s more.’’

This year reminds me of 2011. In fact, GMs should learn from that year. Check out the quarterbacks picked in the top 100 that year:

1. Cam Newton, Carolina                                    
8. Jake Locker, Tennessee                  
10. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville                  
12. Christian Ponder, Minnesota                  
35. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati                  
36. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco                  
74. Ryan Mallett, New England

My point: Don’t put the pressure on Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles by picking them so high. Pick a surer thing in the first round, then a quarterback from a large pool in the second round. Or third.

Just as in 2012, when the Seahawks (Russell Wilson, 73rd overall pick) and the Eagles (Nick Foles (88th) picked quarterbacks at the right time, teams could do the same this year. Should do the same, really.

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215 comments
Shane Mac
Shane Mac

Peter:  As for your Stat Of The Week segment - You can take any team who, in the last 14 years, have had a draft where there were 4 instances of failing to take a better player than the one they drafted.  That the Raiders picked 4 QBs who eventually tanked, the only one that honestly stands out is JaMarcus Russell in 2007.  You do know how many other teams would have taken Russell had the Raiders declined.  That you selected a high second round (#59) and two high 3rd round choices (#69 & #78) to round out your argument is ludicrous.  The high failure rate of Raider management in the last 14 years is indeed true but your example of it was a real reach.

HermanRipps
HermanRipps

U sports gru's don't know any more than the rest of us. Come draft day things change at the blink of an eye. Coach may have his mind made up and name on card, and last second call from owner over rides coaches choice. Draft day this year will be dramatic.

rskins09
rskins09

Know Tommy Prothro (former SD head coach )  used to call around the  league before the draft and would always ask  " does he want to play " ..Hear the the Charger's  had a big party after the Draft when Kellen Winslow, Sr.  was still on the board .. 1979  13the pick ..  1st player picked  was Tom Cousineau  Bills who ended up playing in Canada ,then NFL ..

gary41
gary41

There are people in football who are very good at evaluating talent.  It is the first job of any organization to find those people.  Evaluating talent does not mean collecting information and making lists. 

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

The NFL draft is now waterboarding? "Torturous" is now being used in other scenarios these days....just let it play out Mr. King, you'll be fine. Have a beer... 

RemytheGrizzly
RemytheGrizzly

The Texans obviously need a QB, so that will be their first pick.  Jaguars will take a pass rusher simply because they don't have one.  As for the Steelers, they either need a cornerback or wide receiver.

TimPappas
TimPappas

when i say the "sports reporters" the first thing that came to mind was Sizzlers must be closed

gary41
gary41

2011 was a remarkably weak group, with several selected not even on some draft lists.  It is no mistake that the worst teams draft first, yet have difficulty making intelligent decisions.  Certainly it helps to do your homework throughout the year in areas of known weakness.  Of course college QB's have zits--this is another statement of the obvious.  The QB position is special and deserves special full time consideration, for all teams, whether they are lined up by need to draft in the first several rounds or later.  Some teams consistently draft a QB in later rounds for a reason.  Those who can't make a QB decision this year should be on the sidelines.   

DolFanAllen
DolFanAllen

This is why coaches and GMs get fired.  They know they need a QB first and foremost to win in the NFL and then do the 2 step around the obvious.  Seven of the top 10 teams picking in the draft all suffer from Bad QB play.  Thus, they're drafting at the top of the draft.  If they continue to ignore the obvious, they'll be drafting in the same spots again next year.  INSANITY.


Teddy Bridgewater should be the #1 overall pick.  He was pretty much rated the top QB in the class by most going into his Pro Day.  The talk that his stock has slid due to his Pro Day is ridiculous. If a GM or Coach is allowing a meaningless Pro Day to override what's on tape, both of them need to be fired.  I'm finding it hard to actually believe that a team would actually do something that amateur.  We'll see on May 8th.

MelchiorMelchior
MelchiorMelchior

The Vikings need a dependable running back also.  Yeah, I said it.

RalphTheGardener
RalphTheGardener

The only reason that Russell Wilson got to play was because Flynn developed tennis elbow during camp. Same with Foles when Vick kept getting injured. The last thing the Vikings need after Ponder is a Bridgewater.

Mike N
Mike N

Other than Newton and Kaepernick, those other QB's on the list above are busts!

JohnnyNacho
JohnnyNacho

In today's NFL the top pick should likely be Quarterback, Pass Rush or 5 Star Offensive Lineman.  Although Mack seems to be a very good player you just won't get value w/ the top overall pick on a linebacker.

VIPOD4ever
VIPOD4ever

It's Raider Nation, not "Black Hole People" !  (sounds very patronizing and border line racists)


Secondly, the Manziel link to Oakland is so yesterday. 


Reggie will pick from these 4 depending on who remains when #5 is on the clock:


Clowney,Watkins,Mack or Robinson.







2656wdb
2656wdb

Peyton was recently (last couple of weeks or so) in the Oklahoma football facilities.  It would be interesting to know if Gase was also there.

Aussie TEK
Aussie TEK

Clowney shouldn't be first pick.  His work ethic should cost him being picked first.  Plus Texans need offensive help.  They should pick Watkins first and get QB and RB later rounds.  Lack up RB depth last year cost them many games.  

Ciscos
Ciscos

I've been saying since the season ended, Jadeveon Clowney isn't a lock at the first pick. Smart money says in the end, he probably will be, but that's not a given. That's the quandary Bill O'Brien has. Does he draft a QB? I'm not excited about any of this years crop of picks. All of them are picks and sits. I don't expect any, with the exception of Bortles or Manziel to come in and be the face of the franchise - and that's only by default because neither Cleveland nor the Jags have a QB that gets anyone excited. That leaves Clowney.

Clowney has all the physical tools. But so did Mario Williams (minus the 40 speed). To Mario's benefit, his coach never tossed him under the bus about his work ethic. Spurrier tossed Clowney and so have several analysts.  Having your work ethic questioned is as bad as it can get for a first round pick. A questionable work ethic denotes elements of being lazy. Maybe Clowney was bored in college. But that's on him. He should have found ways to motivate himself week in and week out. Maybe Clowney didn't want to get hurt. Then he was playing in fear. That's not a selling point either.


I almost feel bad for Bill O'Brien. Draft Clowney and the boo birds will go crazy if the negative points about him hold true. Pass him up and deal with the consequences of him being one of the most dominating players of the oncoming decade. Predictions are a mother. 


I think Bill either trades down and avoids the heat, or bows into the pressure and takes Clowney.

gbgentleman
gbgentleman

Good news: The coffee’s better. Bad news: It’s not 40 cents anymore."

eh...I buy quality coffee beans online, grind them myself, use half and half and still pay less than 40 cent per cup.

Gabriel Perez
Gabriel Perez

I think you should check out Turn on AMC.  I am still worried about what the Cowboys will do during the Draft.  It will be a move, but whatever decision Jerry Jones makes, I hope it is worth with so many holes in Dallas.


GuyMontag
GuyMontag

"The circumstances around the death, which took place in a firefight with enemy forces near the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan, remain a mystery."


Not really.  Jon Krakauer in his book ,"Where Men Win Glory" (2010 revised paperback edition), described the friendly-fire incident and how Gen. McChrystal supervised the Pentagon's cover-up to use Tillman's death for propaganda (I would also recommend watching the DVD "The Tillman Story" and Mary Tillman's book "Boots on the Ground by Dusk").


However, what is a still a "mystery" is what I've called "The [Untold] Tillman Story" of the bipartisan whitewash of Gen. McChrystal (and others responsible) started by the Bush Administration and continued by the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress (for details, see the Feral Firefighter blog posts "Defend Your Integrity" and "Something to Die For").

JayReardon
JayReardon

How Tillman got killed is a mystery?  Now that is a mysterious statement.  The second, third and fourth investigations -- forced by the Tillman family in the face of the Bush/McChrystal cover up -- ascertained that friendly fire killed him in a typical military ClusterF***.

Stuartaeye
Stuartaeye

Speaking as a former Starbucks Assistant Manager, the Starbucks at BWI is most likely a franchise and Starbucks won't do much about it. 

DanTanna86
DanTanna86

Haha. More fake "sources" just to get a blog out.

Freethot
Freethot

A "Friend of Rick Smith" is referred to as FORS?  Seriously?  Would that make a family member of Rick Smith to be FORS KIN?  .. just sayin'

RogerPaul
RogerPaul

aren't you on the wrong thread ,guillaume?


guillaume.bdamour
guillaume.bdamour

Dear Mr King, Dear Americans,

You really need to open your eyes about your country, your army and the people that run it.

The way you talk about soldiers as ‘’heros’’ that ‘’protect your country’’ is absolutely mind boggling.

Is terrorism in decline because you went to Irak/Afghanistan?

Was the rebuilt successful in Irak/Afghanistan?

Was even Bin Laden caught in Irak/Afghanistan?

The answers to those questions are all a big NO. Al-Qaeda is present all around middle east and Africa, why only invade Irak and Afghanistan? The reason America sent a huge amount of troops to those places were never

‘’to protect’’ your country. It was all for oil and money, everybody outside the US knows it.

How do you treat those ‘’heros’’ after you give them a little medal and a standing ovation on opening day? You let the ones who have psychological problems die alone. 22 suicides a day in your military because of post-traumatic stress. Where’s the help your ‘’heros’’ need? Nowhere. Sorry, ‘’not enough money’’.

I’m sure Pat Tillman was a great man, but thinking about putting him in the Hall of fame is absolutely ridiculous. He wasn’t a ‘’hero protecting your country’’, he was a sacrificial lamb sent to ‘’war on terrorism’’ only to satisfy the insatiable thirst for money and power of your egomaniacal leaders.

Shame on you for putting your heads in the sand and calling it patriotism

el80ne
el80ne

@RemytheGrizzly Why wouldn't the Texans wait to the first pick of round two to pick a QB rather than take the high risk of drafting a bust while burning the first overall pick doing it? That makes no sense.

el80ne
el80ne

@DolFanAllen Do you know why pro days are used by scouts and personnel to judge a player? I'm not saying pro days should be the only thing used to scout a prospect, but considered along with the host of other evidence at their disposal like game tape. It's not unreasonable to downgrade a prospect for a poor pro day. It was his choice to not workout at the combine, if he did he could have given them more looks.

el80ne
el80ne

@RalphTheGardener That's not the only reason. Wilson completely outplayed Flynn in the preseason games, particularly the finale. Flynn developed the same 'sore arm' issue with the Raiders, leading to Terrelle Pryor starting the season for them. It wasn't a fluke.

Mike N
Mike N

@VIPOD4ever


Right because we all know Raider fans aren't racist, correct?

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@Ciscos  Hey Johnny D:  I didn't realize Bill O'Brien was the Texas GM.

Mike N
Mike N

@Ciscos


Correctomundo!


If Clowney took plays off in college trying to impress the scouts, imagine how many more plays he'll take off when he gets a $20+MM guaranteed contract?

Mike N
Mike N

@gbgentleman


I'll bet you also take 1st dates thru the MickeyD's drive thru, no?

Ciscos
Ciscos

@Gabriel Perez The only decision Jerry Jones needs to make is when he needs to sign the checks. Last year I actually think he listened to his coaching staff and let them decide instead of him channeling his inner Al Davis and grabbing someone he likes instead of what they need.

Aussie TEK
Aussie TEK

@JayReardon  Friendly fire has killed many soldiers from all countries.  If Obama is investigating the Tillman death you will definately not get the truth.

el80ne
el80ne

@DanTanna86 King's not a talent evaluator/scout, but he is known for cultivating high placed sources on teams and providing legit info when he quotes them.

hayhowesq
hayhowesq

@DanTanna86  What makes you think he is faking sources? I doubt he would have risen to the top of his profession if he made up sources.

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@guillaume.bdamour :  Pat Tillman became disillusioned - especially with our presence in Iraq.  He didn't see any reason with us being there once the initial assault was over.  It is hard to know if he felt he was being heroic when he took the tour in Afghanistan and probably would be most dismayed by whom his killers actually turned out to be and how his death was covered up and turned into an obscene display of "heroism".  The last thing he wanted to do was die

HermanRipps
HermanRipps

@guillaume.bdamour Some of what U say is correct, but the part about Pat Tillman is Bull S  T! Pat Tillman joined of his own free will and regardless of how he was killed in combat, he was killed in combat. He is looked at as a hero because he had it made with a nice contract to play pro football, and he turned it all down to extract a pound of flesh from your distant relatives for 911.

Your in America now which still allows you to say what you want, Relax take the Towel of your bald head, and enjoy your freedom.

el80ne
el80ne

@guillaume.bdamour Yeah like we really need you to lecture us about the mistake of Bush. FYI, most of us didn't vote him into office.

CarlEdwardJansen
CarlEdwardJansen

@guillaume.bdamour  Absolutely correct, you are more of a hero for stating these unpleasant facts than 99.999% of the military volunteers that went there. Thanks!

DolFanAllen
DolFanAllen

@el80ne @DolFanAllen  The Combine and Pro Days are irrelevant.  There are sooooo many players who had horrible showings at these events and went on to be Great players.  Tom Brady and Terelle TD Davis to name a few off the top of my head.  Kurt Warner wasn't invited to the combine and didn't have a pro day.  There are tons more where that came from.  

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@HermanRipps :  Then you must have a poor job, eh Ripps?  Save your agenda for your next Tea Party tickle fest . 

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