QB Or Not QB.

Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft was indeed historic, with no less than half of the first 12 selections being quarterbacks.  Not only did that equal the classic 1983 draft that produced three eventual Hall of Famers (John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino), but that bounty took more than twice the number of selections (27) than did this year’s haul.

The first half of this class went off pretty much like chalk, in spite of the myriad of rumors and fears that many fan bases had stoked by the possibilities of some ridiculously desperate team offering a trade that could not be refused for one of the top draft choices.  Instead, Caleb Williams did indeed become a Chicago Bear, and, what’s more, they gave him yet another top talent to throw to, as USA TODAY’s Robert Zeglinski wrote last night:

If you were a Bears fan entering Thursday night, you couldn’t have imagined the draft haul your team received. Seriously, it was picture-perfect in every way. Not only did Chicago draft a generational quarterback prospect in Caleb Williams, but it also stood pat and took a star receiver prospect in Rome Odunze. He is a player who already seems to have a close chemistry with his new quarterback.

And while opinions varied on whether or not they got the right fits for the challenges ahead, both the Washington Commanders and New England Patriots used their respective second and third picks to find new younger leadership.  Zeglinski and Christian D’Andrea were tepid at best about the Commanders’ choice, LSU standout Jayden Daniels:

Daniels’ high ceiling was too much for a rebuilding franchise to pass up. At his best, he plays like Baker Mayfield imported to NCAA Football ‘14 and playing on rookie mode. He’s a dual-threat nightmare who can be Washington’s best quarterback since … Mark Rypien? … Joe Theismann? But he’ll be forever linked with (Drake) Maye, and if he can’t outplay the quarterback who directly followed him it’ll be yet another loss for the Commanders.

Maye instead goes to New England, and earned plaudits aplenty from Zeglinski:

I never once bought the recent reports and concerns about Drake Maye. The consensus was that the evaluative gap between Caleb Williams and Maye wasn’t all that big for months… until we got closer to the draft process (and “silly season” regarding draft stock started to play a role).

So far, so meh.  But I challenge you to show me your DraftKings autorization for who wound up with the fourth quarterback selection.  And our pundits were incapable of hiding their contempt for Atlanta’s management or the empathy they felt for their fans:

Rather than draft another playmaker for Kirk Cousins or fortify a defense that really needed a foundational franchise talent, the Falcons reached for soon-to-be 24-year-old quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and his extensive injury history. At the risk of hyperbole, it is likely one of the most shocking selections in NFL history. Shoot, even Cousins himself seemed to be taken aback by the move after getting $100 million guaranteed from Atlanta.

The Falcons’ opportunity to double down in such a seemingly wasteful manner was caused in large part by the New York Football Giants’ blind faith in the full recovery and potential of Daniel Jones, heading into the last year of his $40 million chokehold despite having only one winning and healthy season to date.  They somehow believe that finding him targets will make him a winner, and they indeed got one of the best talents available in Daniels’ favorite long-distance target in Baton Rouge, Malik Nabers.  But if the pre-2022 version of Jones or, worse, Drew Lock winds up behind center, it’s gonna be awfully difficult for even Nabers to take full advantage of his abilities.  And if you’re a Giants fan, you’re conditioned to expect that worst.

And speaking of beleaguered New Jersey football fans bases, the one significant draft pick swap that was made last night was between the Jets and the exceptionally desperate Minnesota Vikings, who after losing Penix were willing to throw additional draft capital to move up exactly one place to assure themselves the ability to reel in Michigan’s J.J McCarthy, where he will get the chance to throw to an established J.J., Justin Jefferson. Which means the Jets are indeed committed to an aging quarterback coming off a devastating season-ending surgery, and unlike the Falcons, who are facing a similar situation with Cousins, they chose not to at least secure a viable alternative.  Yes, the Jets were able to address yet another glaring need with a top offensive line talent, Penn State’s Olumuyiwa Fashanu, but as is the case with their stadium-mates, you need to have a healthy and capable lead in order to take full advantage of a supporting cast’s talents.  As the overhyped 2023 season proved, there are no such givens with the Jets.

Six more rounds are still to come, and as true football fans know, the wheat is separated from the chaff in these less hyped and hooplad surroundings.  Perhaps there will be a lesser name or two that will emerge to solve the glaring issues that the Falcons, Giants and Jets have.  Undoubtedly, their respective managements will eventually spin such a narrative.  And given the fact that this draft falls squarely at the mid-point of the NFL off-season, we’ve got an awful lot of time ahead to debate and decry these choices until a single snap is taken.

Appropriately, it sounds like a drama of Shakespearian proportion awaits.  Have at it, folks.




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