What the 2014 NFL Draft Taught Us About the State of the NFL

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By know you have read 12 different people’s NFL Grades, in depth breakdowns of nearly every prospect and heard enough of Mel Kiper Jr.’s voice to last a lifetime. So instead of trying to assign value to draft picks that are still 4 months away from meaningful football, let’s look at the overarching themes that were present at the 2014 NFL Draft. (I have to admit I love NFL Draft Grades as much as anyone but figured a more macro level approach for a NFL Draft recap was needed to identify some of the larger interesting league wide trends)

Teams are Proceeding Cautiously with Quarterbacks

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Just three years ago Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker all went in the top 11 picks. Now with hindsight it is easy to say those were all terrible picks but even at the time it was surprising to see teams invest such a high draft pick on quarterbacks with so many issues instead of superior players at other positions.

Fast-forward to this year’s draft and multiple quarterback needy teams—namely the Texans—were content on filling out the rest of their roster instead of reaching for a quarterback. The Browns were another example as beefed up their secondary with Justin Gilbert before moving up a couple of spots to grab Johnny Manziel in the late 1st round.

Compared to other drafts like the Gabbert, Ponder and Locker year, teams were extremely cautious in their decision to draft a quarterback. Part of that might have been the flaws in this year’s once hyped quarterback class, but my personal opinion was that teams have released putting a young quarterback in a bad situation – poor offensive line, no weapons etc.—can significantly alter a quarterback development.

The development of quarterbacks also raises another interesting question can teams realistically expect quarterbacks to grow when they don’t play. The prime example of this is Ryan Mallett and the Patroits. Drafted in the 3rd round Mallett was supposed to be Tom Brady replacement but the Super Bowl MVP has played longer than expected which has prevent Mallett from playing in the regular season—Mallett has thrown just four regular season passes in his three seasons in New England.

Is it realistic to expect Mallett to progress into a starting quality quarterback if he doesn’t ever see the field? I can’t imagine that is true and situations like this speak to the NFL failure to create an environment to develop quarterback talent. The NFL desperately needs to create a developmental league to allow the young fringe talent get exposed to real game situations and hone their skills reading defenses, throwing under pressure and leading a team instead of holding a clipboard.

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