Draft experts have spent the past couple of months dumping on this year’s crop of quarterbacks.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he’s not “banging the table” for any of the top quarterbacks, and several recent mocks don’t have a quarterback being drafted until No. 12, by Cleveland.
Only once in the past 16 years has a quarterback not been taken in the top 10: E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback drafted in 2013, when Buffalo selected him with the 16th pick.
But as the draft creeps ever closer and quarterback-needy teams begin to question whether they really want to start the season with Cody Kessler (Browns) or Mike Glennon (Bears) as their starters, there’s a growing buzz that at least one quarterback could be drafted in the top 10.
The biggest variable is going to be quarterbacks. Obviously, we’re not in the market for a quarterback. But there’s a lot of guys being talked about.
Carolina Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that the Browns are still considering North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky for the top overall pick (Cleveland has the first and 12th selections).
And after watching Bears coach John Fox, general manager Ryan Pace and several other coaches and scouts descend on Clemson for Deshaun Watson’s pro day, I still have this feeling Chicago could snag Watson with the third pick.
If even one quarterback is selected ahead of them, the Panthers’ options at No. 8 would increase.
“The biggest variable is going to be quarterbacks. Obviously, we’re not in the market for a quarterback. But there’s a lot of guys being talked about,” Carolina assistant general manager Brandon Beane said. “And you see it every year – there’s a premium for that position. So ideally, some of them go in front of us.”
Having Watson or Trubisky picked in front of them would not necessarily help the Panthers land LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who is believed to be among Carolina’s top targets – if not the top target.
Most draftniks and league insiders now think Fournette will be go to Jacksonville at No. 4 – although Jaguars first-year coach Doug Marrone has now had ample time to study the many deficiencies of quarterback Blake Bortles.
For Fournette to fall to Carolina, the Panthers likely would need Jacksonville to take a quarterback or perhaps Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, whom they were often linked to earlier in the pre-draft process.
And then there are the Jets, who could be interested in Fournette at No. 6. The Jets have three quarterbacks (Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg) in the mix for their starting job, which means they don’t really have a quarterback.
Still, most draft analysts don’t see the Jets going after a quarterback. Both ESPN’s Mel Kiper and NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah slotted Alabama tight end O.J. Howard to the Jets in recent mocks.
But there’s a reason Beane brought up the quarterbacks last week when asked whether there were fewer variables facing Carolina this year with a top-10 pick:
Having one or more of those QBs go early would create a domino effect that could allow Fournette – or even Stanford edge rusher Solomon Thomas – to slide into the Panthers’ thankful hands.