Will there be landing spots for 2013 QBs?

The list of candidates to be drafted in the first or second round of the 2013 draft is long, yet scour current NFL depth charts and the obvious top QB prospects have far fewer obvious potential landing spots.

Suppose they held an NFL draft and no quarterbacks came?

Crazy, the notion of a lottery bereft of prospects at the game's most critical position.

OK, how about a draft with no quarterbacks selected in the first round?

Almost just as absurd, with at least one quarterback going off the board in the opening round of the past 16 lotteries, and four in each of the past two drafts.

There hasn't been a draft minus a first-round quarterback since 1996, and there has been at least two every year since '02. In the past 11 drafts, there were fewer than three quarterbacks chosen in the first round just three times.

But the recent run on quarterbacks -- and the numbers indicate the QB-grab really is a rather recent phenomenon -- prompts a ludicrous-on-the-surface query about whether the league is actually nearing a saturation point at the position. Call it crazy, laughable, insane, or any of the other derogatory adjectives that leap to mind, and then settle down and ask yourself this question: Who are the franchises that figure to be most eager to snatch up a quarterback prospect in the first round 11 months from now?

Granted, with the 2012 season ahead, and myriad variables that can intervene in nearly a year's time, the quarterback landscape likely will be altered from its current state.

After all, at this time a year ago, who could have predicted Peyton Manning, on his way to the Hall of Fame, would never take another snap for Indianapolis and that the Colts would be forced to tab Andrew Luck as the new face of the franchise with the top pick in last month's draft?

For sure, nothing stays the same in the league.

Still, there simply aren't, at least staring into the hazy crystal ball for now, that many clubs that figure to desperately covet a first-round quarterback in 2013. Not that there is a lack of potential candidates. The current ratings of NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang list seven quarterbacks as possible first- or second-round candidates for next April's draft.

Most scouts queried over the past week agree that Matt Barkley (Southern Cal), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) and Aaron Murray (Georgia) rate as potential first-rounders. Guys such as Geno Smith (West Virginia), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech) are in ascent. And that list doesn't include the sudden late-bloomers.

Barkley eschewed entering the draft this year to remain with the Trojans for another season and is the early favorite for the No. 1 spot. But to whom?

Quarterbacks have been chosen at the top slot each of the last four years (and in 10 of the last 12 drafts), but it might take a trade-up scenario to keep that streak alive.

Like every position, the attractiveness of the quarterback spot over the past few years is a function of supply and demand. And as incongruous as it sounds -- feel free to break out the straitjacket if you wish -- perhaps the supply has finally eclipsed the demand. Even given the oft-uttered plaintive lament that there simply aren't enough quality quarterbacks in the NFL, that enough never really is enough when it comes to sport's most conspicuous position, the cup may actually be more than half full and not quite as empty as it's been portrayed.

Fifteen franchises have selected quarterbacks in the first rounds of the last five drafts. Only one of those players, Tim Tebow, is no longer with the club that drafted him; and the Denver Broncos supplanted Tebow with Manning. Of the remaining 14 teams, just two, Miami and Tennessee, figure to begin the '12 season with someone other than the first-rounder as the starter, and it seems just a matter of time until Jake Locker (Titans) and Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) are elevated to No. 1 status. Certainly the two players were chosen with the intent they will be future starters.

So nearly half of the teams in the league are seemingly married, at worst for the foreseeable future, to quarterbacks chosen in the first round since 2008. And then think about the franchises that remain: Chicago paid a king's ransom to acquire Jay Cutler from the Broncos. Green Bay has the league's reigning most valuable player. The New York Giants have a two-time Super Bowl champion. The man with whom Eli Manning will be forever linked, Philip Rivers, might be the game's best passer without a title on his resume. Tom Brady noted this week in New England that he intends to play until they throw him out. New Orleans' Drew Brees is essentially a franchise, not a franchise quarterback.

And the litany goes on.

A longtime area scout with whom we discussed this column suggested Jacksonville as a team that could be in the quarterback market. But the Jaguars invested the No. 10 choice in 2010 on a quarterback and aren't likely to abandon the Blaine Gabbert Experiment so quickly, and choose a first-round quarterback for a second time in three years. Even with the rookie wage scale rendering such moves less prohibitive than they used to be, such maneuvers aren't likely.

The upshot of it all: There simply aren't a lot of teams, at least at first blush, who figure to be seeking a new starting-caliber quarterback in next year's draft. Once you get past the usual suspects like Kansas City, maybe Seattle, perhaps Arizona, the list is unusually short.

Fact is, for all the teeth gnashing over a perceived dearth of top-shelf quarterbacks in the league, most franchises that had a problem at the position have addressed it in recent years.

There have been 10 quarterbacks selected in the first rounds of the last three drafts; just twice since the common draft was implemented in 1967 have there been more first-round quarterbacks chosen in any three-year stretch. Only twice in the same period has there ever been as many as eight quarterbacks taken total in the first round of consecutive drafts. The only other time in which successive drafts each had at least four quarterbacks chosen in the first round was 2003-2004.

In the 35 drafts 1967-2001, there were more than two quarterbacks in the first round just six times, and one or none 14 times in the same period. Since then, there has been an average of 3.1 first-rounders.

Both schematically and in war rooms as well, it's become a quarterback league. That isn't about to change on the field. It will be interesting, though, to see if it does on NFL draft boards in coming years.


Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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