Multiple NFL draft big boards have a common theme. It’s a bad year to need a franchise quarterback, or for any quarterback, period.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper doesn’t have a quarterback listed in his top 25, while ESPN’s Todd McShay only lists West Virginia’s Geno Smith in his top 32.
Say what you want about John Elway “wasting” a second-round pick in 2012 on Brock Osweiler to help last year’s team, but it’s a gamble that might pay off considering the risk at the time.
“At first, I thought the Broncos should draft Brandon Weeden because I had concerns about (Peyton) Manning staying healthy,” said former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist. “In hindsight, it was a great pick because he likely would have been better than any quarterback in this current draft class and now he’s had a chance to marinate in the Broncos system.”
Smart general managers look beyond the horizon line, projecting the next couple drafts to find a coveted franchise quarterback. No one knows if Osweiler will be that guy, but one more year of seasoning at Arizona State would have likely shot him up the draft board in a weak quarterback class. The Broncos would have never gotten Osweiler with the 28th pick in April.
Just to refresh, here was the scouting report on Osweiler coming out of college:
He has good arm strength, a quick release, good scrambling ability and quickness. He throws well on the run, is not afraid to get hit and will fit well into a pro-style offense. Another scouting report added, “Osweiler’s pure physical talent gives him a chance to develop into a Pro Bowl player.”
The downside was consistent and succinct: He’s very raw, needs some work and lacks experience.
The Broncos thinking at the time was that Osweiler was the light at the end of the tunnel after Manning retires. It’s too early to determine if that’s the case.
Contrarians would argue selecting Osweiler was a train coming the other way if Manning gets hurt. Since it never happened, and Osweiler was easily a better option than Caleb Hanie, Elway’s gamble paid off.
Another argument against taking Osweiler was about winning now. And Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David seemed to be the perfect pick for Denver a year ago. With D.J. Williams suspension and Wesley Woodyard fading at the end of the 2011 season, the linebacker corps appeared to be the weak link on defense. David had a nice rookie season in Tampa Bay, but Woodyard played at a Pro Bowl level.
Many would argue a number of other drafted players could have made more of an impact than a guy who held a clipboard, but no player is more valuable than a potential franchise quarterback. I’m not saying he will be, just saying he was worth the risk in the second round despite the Broncos small window with Manning. And remember, if the Broncos didn’t take Osweiler or a quarterback in this year’s draft, was it worth the risk of having a rookie QB going into Manning’s third season in Denver?
The other knock against the Broncos for drafting Osweiler was he was Elway’s son’s buddy. This might be one of the most ludicrous and shortsighted assessments of the pick.
First off, Elway didn’t do Osweiler a favor. It’s not as if Osweiler was lucky to get drafted. The kid has talent, but Elway got to know him personally unlike any other scout or general manager. An interview with Osweiler was nothing more than a formality. Elway knew the answers before they were asked.
What’s pathetic about the Osweiler situation is that he’ll have to play like an All-Pro to ever get the benefit of the doubt when he eventually does play. Some Broncos fanatics have a delusional belief if the team didn’t draft him, the franchise would be celebrating its third Super Bowl title. If the team only would have taken a player who could have made an immediate impact, suddenly the Broncos would have beaten the Ravens following a remarkable 13-3 regular season.
I have no idea if Osweiler will be a bust or not, but neither does anyone else. And to rip picking a guy who’s a prototypical pocket passer with tremendous upside and athletic ability despite his lack of experience is shortsighted.
Elway gambled on Manning staying healthy all season by taking Osweiler and he won. Elway gambled on a weak quarterback draft class knowing Osweiler would likely be the best QB available if he stayed for his senior season and he won again.
No one wants to see Osweiler play until Manning retires. And when that happens, Elway will be forced to go “all in.” So far, he’s won the last two hands he’s played, and the odds for his third one might be in his favor.
Eric Goodman hosts Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman from 3p-6p Monday through Friday on Mile High Sports Radio (AM1510 | FM 93.7).
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