Will the entire first round of the 2013 NFL Draft pass without a quarterback selected? ESPN's Todd McShay doesn't think so, but he thinks that with the talent available, teams could be smart to pass until later.
McShay said multiple times in a conference call Friday afternoon that he doesn't grade out any quarterbacks as first rounders. The draft analyst said he'd spent the last four days watching nothing but tape of quarterbacks in pressure situations -- grading how they react when they've been hurried and need to move around the pocket -- and still has nobody graded as a first-rounder. However, he spoke of the class' depth, naming six quarterbacks he feels are second-round talents: Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray, and Landry Jones, with Ryan Nassib also having the potential to come off the board in the second round.
In fact, if this year's talent was transposed into last year's class, he said nobody from this year would be among his first four selected, with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Ryan Tannehill all better prospects than any quarterback in this class.
Although McShay said it "won't make for great television," he said he's "fascinated" by when each guy will come off the board, and that they could go in rapid succession after the first leaves the board in the second round. He thinks one of them will get picked in the first round, just because of how important quarterbacks are, and that teams are incentivized to do so since rookie pay scale ensures teams won't pay through the roof for quarterbacks after Sam Bradford got his payday.
McShay thinks Smith is the top all around quarterback in the draft, but that he's worried about his consistency and ability to make reads if his first option isn't there, thinking the quarterback is too slow reacting to things that don't go right. He said each quarterback has a flaw that keeps them from being a first rounder: Barkley doesn't have any elite physical tools, Glennon isn't accurate enough and doesn't have the "it factor" needed to lead, and wondered whether Bray "gets it."
When asked about specific teams, such as the Cardinals and the Bills, who could use quarterbacks, McShay emphasized that there's too much talent at other positions in this year's draft. For the Cardinals, who pick seventh overall, McShay recommended a left tackle: Even if top tackles Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan are off the board, McShay thinks they would be smarter to reach slightly for Oklahoma's Lane Johnson than to reach a round early for a quarterback.
With the Bills, McShay emphasized that it would be a "big mistake" for them to take Ryan Nassib despite the fact that his college head coach, Doug Marrone, is now in charge in Buffalo. He recommended Chance Warmack, calling the guard "possibly the best player in the draft," and Dee Millner, asking "why not draft a really good cornerback and wait until the second round to get your quarterback?"
Some more points from McShay's conference call:
- Although several young quarterbacks took the NFL by storm with read option play this past year, McShay doesn't think there's a lot of players capable of doing so this year. He praised the scheme, saying it helps young players adjust and that NFL defenses still have to figure out how to deal with the numbers disadvantage created by it, but that without a quarterback capable of being a serious threat with the ball, there is no numbers disadvantage. He doesn't think Geno Smith has the physical capability, saying he'll likely run a 4.8 at best, and that later round quarterbacks E.J. Manuel from Florida State or Zac Dysert from Miami (OH) are the best options to potentially run option at the next level.
- Jadeveon Clowney would be the top pick in this draft in McShay's eyes, but he doesn't think the South Carolina defensive end should sit out the upcoming season. McShay wouldn't take a gander at whether that move would hurt Clowney's draft stock, but said that Clowney was "far from perfect," and that with the NFL pay scale preventing huge rookie contracts, Clowney's best chance at maximizing his NFL earning potential will come on his second contract -- and that he has work to do to earn himself an enormous deal down the road.
- Denard Robinson is too talented to not make it to the NFL, but McShay expressed serious concerns about whether or not the Michigan quarterback is a good enough "natural pass catcher" to climb the draft board. Although "he's just too good of an athlete" not to be in the NFL, Robinson didn't look great catching punts and passes in the Senior Bowl practices, causing McShay to add that if he were Robinson, he would spend every day from now until April practicing catching to show teams he's determined on improving.
- In the same way quarterback is a position where players get selected higher than they've been graded, McShay feels left tackle is becoming the same way. With Joeckel, Fisher, and Johnson the top three guys, he feels teams like Chicago and Baltimore with needs at the position could go wanting. He feels D.J. Fluker is a very talented prospect, but better suited to right tackle than left.