The Eagles are showing a lot of interest in quarterback prospects for the upcoming draft. This is smart. It isn't often that the Eagles have a top 10 pick. When you're up that high it makes complete sense to strongly consider taking a quarterback. That is a special position. If you have a franchise quarterback, it gives you a chance to compete for a Super Bowl. If a team has a quarterback graded high, go get him (unless the cost just becomes overwhelming). Hitting on the right guy can change everything.
There are three big targets this year - Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Carson Wentz. They should all be gone in the top 15 picks, possibly the top 10. The Eagles should be able to come away with one of the top quarterbacks, if they so choose.
Beyond the top three, there are a lot of interesting quarterback prospects who will go in rounds two through seven. Some people think the Eagles would be wise to spend the eighth overall pick on a player who can immediately help the team and then add a quarterback of the future in later rounds. This sounds good in theory, but shows a lack of understanding about the quarterback position.
Some say to wait and take a chance on Cardale Jones, the cannon-armed Ohio State product. He helped lead the Buckeyes to the national title in 2014 and has NFL ability. If you could get him in the third round, wouldn't that be a steal? That's one way to look at it. You could also talk about the fact he got benched this year. He threw just eight touchdown passes and the offense struggled in a big way. How many prospects with only a handful college starts become good NFL starters?
The Eagles could go for Christian Hackenberg, the Penn State star. He showed promise as a freshman, but his level of play dropped off after a coaching change. He also had inconsistent blocking in college. The thinking is that if you put him in the right scheme and give him a good supporting cast, he can become a good player. That's fantasyland thinking. You cannot count on giving a player a strong offensive line. The Eagles had arguably the best line in 2013, but injuries in 2014 put backups on the field and Nick Foles was running for his life at times. If a player can't overcome adversity in college, how can you expect him to do that in the NFL?
Dak Prescott led Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking in the country in 2014 and had a great college career. The problem is that he's more of a playmaker than a polished passer. You have to teach him a lot about how to play the quarterback position. Jake Locker was a physically gifted playmaker who needed to develop as a passer. How did he work out for the Titans? Heck, doesn't that describe Tim Tebow? Anyone want him?
Go get Vernon Adams in the later rounds. He would be a huge steal, right? Adams just had a terrific season for Oregon. Yes, he's short, but Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have shown that you don't need to be huge to succeed. Nothing like comparing a late-round prospect to one Hall of Fame player and another who has been to two Super Bowls. Wilson was bigger and better physically coming out of college. He spent three good years at N.C. State before transferring to Wisconsin. He led the nation in passing efficiency and help the Badgers go to the Rose Bowl. Beyond that, Wilson was a special athlete. He played minor league baseball and most thought he could be a major leaguer if he would give up football and concentrate on his hitting.
As for Brees, he had a great career at Purdue, setting all kinds of passing records. He played against elite competition and thrived. Brees led Purdue to the Big Ten title in 2000 and they played in the 2001 Rose Bowl, the school's first appearance there since 1967.
I think we sometimes forget how special some players were in college. Comparing Adams to Brees and Wilson is an insult to those guys. They were special in their own way. Adams was a good college player and I loved watching him this past season, but the odds tell you he won't succeed in the NFL. Study NFL history. Most draft picks don't pan out. Add in the fact he spent three years at Eastern Washington and is undersized and the odds stack up against him.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the Eagles in the weight room during their offseason workout program...
You can find quarterbacks outside the first round, but understand how hard it is for them to pan out.
Tom Brady is the greatest late-round quarterback of the modern era. You'd have to compare him and Johnny Unitas for the all-time title and that would get really complicated because of the eras. Brady is another player who people forget about in terms of college success. He started 25 games at Michigan and went 20-5. He was the starter for two years and won two bowls games, including the 2000 Orange Bowl over Alabama. Brady specialized in comebacks, earning him the nickname "The Comeback Kid." I watched him do this to Penn State in 1999. He threw a late touchdown to steal the game away and it was crushing. Brady was only a full-time starter at Michigan for two years, but left the school in the top five in most key passing categories.
Compare that bio to mid- and late-round prospects this year. Most of them won't come close to stacking up to that.
It is fun to study up on a player who is going to be a mid- or late-round pick and fall in love with him as a sleeper-type prospect. I get that. History says that player is probably going to fail. He might succeed, but the odds are overwhelmingly against it. One of the problems is quarterback development. There aren't enough reps to get the backups the amount of work they need. This is especially true for the No. 3 guy. A backup linebacker can get on the field on defense or special teams. He gets a lot of chances to impress the coaches. A quarterback is limited with his opportunities. It is also tough on the coaches. They would love to put a lot of time and attention on the backups, but end up focusing on the starter the vast majority of the time.
I hope the Eagles are able to land one of the top quarterbacks. If the Eagles can't pull that off or decide to go elsewhere, there are some non-first-round prospects I do have interest in.
Kevin Hogan is my preference outside the first round. He will likely be a third- or fourth-round pick. There are definite flaws in his game, but he started a ton of games at Stanford and seems to really get the mental side of things. Hogan is more athletic than you think. He is an accurate passer, despite a somewhat awkward motion. I also was impressed by the way he played in some shootouts. Hogan made some absolutely clutch throws in the 38-36 win over Notre Dame late in the season.
Brandon Allen had a strong senior season at Arkansas. I don't know if he'll ever become a starter, but he has some potential. I get a lot of questions about Dak Prescott. At first, I didn't like him at all. He's grown on me, but I still have concerns about his ability to become a consistent passer in the NFL. Jeff Driskel from Louisiana Tech grew on me the more I watched him.
The Eagles will add a quarterback somewhere in the draft. He might be a future starter or might simply be a player to develop. You do have to be willing to take some chances and miss on some picks because it is so hard to find quarterbacks. It is far from an exact science, but the payoff is so great that the risk is worth it.