It was all good just a year ago. NCAA programs don’t have to send a trio of future Hall-of-Famers to the pros every year, but this year, college football left casual NFL draft viewers hanging. Quarterbacks weren’t taken, but the focus of the draft was still on the lack of them. The majority of NFL fans don’t have the time or the patience to examine the idiosyncrasies of flawed college football’s quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. They want their stars packaged neatly in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The 2012 edition of the NFL Draft was a blockbuster. The 2013 Draft was like watching the Best Picture Oscar go to a silent film or a low-budget Indie picture. If you kept track at home, only four skill position offensive players were thrown into the first round. Peep the offensive skill players taken in the last five drafts.
When you take a look at those numbers, it’s striking how few highly rated skill position players were available in this draft. There can only be one quarterback starting for every NFL franchise, and the run on quarterbacks has been rampant during the last two. Nine quarterbacks have gone in the first round since 2009. That doesn’t include Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson.
There was bound to be a lull in talent and need. It’s the natural ebb and flow; but after the peak of the last two drafts, this was the valley. The Jets, Bills, Jags, Eagles and Cardinals were the only franchises with an immediate need at the position.
The quarterback pipeline will unclog next season, but the devaluing of running backs has hit a new high. In addition to the temporary quarterback depression, for the first time in 50 years, there wasn’t a single running back taken in the first round. This comes on the heels of Adrian Peterson finishing just nine yards short of eclipsing Eric Dickerson’s single-game record.
It’s no coincidence that the only quarterback taken was an option quarterback who had some serious flaws. Offenses are now gearing themselves for quarterbacks with wheels, players who can roll outside the pocket instead of between the tackles. Workhorse backs have gone the way of B2K – they split ’em up.
The only wide receiver taken in the Top 20 was WVU’s Tavon Austin, who has been described as the “Barry Sanders of wide receivers.”
Instead, the 2013 Draft was about finding quarterback kryptonite. Edge rushers were flying off the board in the first half of the round, and offensive linemen were being snapped up to protect quarterbacks from the growing number of rushers pursuing them with bad intentions.
The truth is that this season, youth ruled college football’s prima donna positions. At times like this, you wonder how the NFL Draft would look if sophomores and freshmen were eligible.
There were no junior offensive skill position playmakers that stamped their names all over college football fields, last season. And a look at the ESPN 150 class rankings is a revealing look into how they got lost in the wild.
Marcus Lattimore, Da’Rick Rogers, Michael Dyer and Robert Woods were among the top high school prospects in the class of 2010. However, Lattimore’s knee has been mangled; Dyer was kicked out of two schools after leading Auburn to a national title as a true freshman; and Robert Woods was obscured in the Trojans offense by the emergence of sophomore Marqise Lee.
Rogers was a top-30 player in the class of 2010 and the SEC’s leading receiver as a sophomore in 2011. He had better measurables and a more productive season than Vikings first round receiver Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, who was playing junior college while he was blowing up the SEC. However, Rogers got the boot before his junior season for testing positive for marijuana.
The only quarterbacks (of the top 64 players rated in that class) were Alabama’s Phillip Sims and USC’s Jesse Scroggins, who both transferred after their freshman seasons. The third quarterback in that mix was Oklahoma’s Blake Bell, who was situated behind Landry Jones but made the best of his situation as the Sooners Wildcat QB in Oklahoma’s Belldozer formation.
Thursday night’s first round was surprising, but we should have read the tea leaves. Don’t fret, though. It’s still an offensive league. Once Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd and possibly Johnny Manziel throw on their flotation devices and make waves by diving into the 2014 draft waters, order will be restored.