During the 2011 preseason, everyone and their mother were proclaiming the perils of drafting rookie quarterbacks. In particular, they were warning us not to draft Cam Newton. I searched long and hard, but could not find anyone that liked his chances for success in his first season. Remember how flawed his mechanics supposedly were, how inaccurate he was, and how bad he looked in preseason games? As I watched him compete on the field, I kept wondering if I was in an alternate universe. I watched every snap Cam Newton made in those exhibition games and I kept scratching my head wondering if we were watching the same player. I’m not a pro scout, but he seemed to make good decisions the majority of the time and he was fairly accurate when he had time to throw. The only time he ever seemed to struggle was when he was under duress. Since that shortcoming came in a package of freakish athletic skills and since he had Steve Smith as a weapon, what was the big problem with taking a late-round flier on him? After all, he went undrafted in a lot of leagues. How did the fools who drafted him fare? He was the 4th best fantasy QB, behind only Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Fast-forward to 2012 and we heard similar warnings about Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck. After Newton’s success, there were some who believed in the top 2 overall picks, and that drove their respective ADP’s up into the 10th and 11th rounds, but overall the pundit commentary was negative. Cam Newton was a fluke and the sensational showing we saw in 2011 would never happen again, and only novices would chase that dream, sensational combine showings be damned. Well, in fantasy terms RG3 repeated the exact same feat, finishing 4th in points per game, while the rookie out of Stanford managed a respectable 9th.
Fast-forward once again to 2013 and the first signal caller taken in the draft was EJ Manuel out of Florida State. EJ’s 40 time of 4.65 isn’t going to match the 4.41 that Robert Griffin put up, but he’s a little bigger (6-foot-5, 237 lbs.) and stronger, making him more adept at breaking a tackle or two. Manuel will be tasked with an up-temp offense that will implement some form of the read option as part of its attack. CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are potent ground weapons that will draw in safeties. When they do, this will open things up for Steve Johnson and Robert Woods (4.51 40). The former Seminole is mobile, accurate, raw and smart, and will give defensive coordinators plenty to think about if he climbs to the top of the Bills depth chart. Standing in his way at the moment is Kevin Kolb. Once the next best thing out of Philly, the battered Cardinal behind Arizona’s paper machet offensive line enters a potentially much better situation, but he must prove his mettle on the field. Either quarterback is worth a speculative play if they win the job. Tavaris Jackson technically has a shot at starting and has familiarity with the west coast scheme the Bills want to implement, but I wouldn’t bet on him winning that job.
The point in all of this is not to listen to me. I’m often wrong just like everyone else. There is no substitute for watching game tape. Don’t give too much credence to the hype or the haters. Watch as many preseason games as humanly possible. Scout with your own eyes and go to war on draft day with YOUR guys, whether they are a rookie or a veteran. There is nothing worse than doing proper scouting and then letting yourself get talked out of taking ‘your guys.’