QB Review: Asking the Question

Dave Kolonich gets help from Aaron Aloysius of DraftBreakdown.com in answering the questions: Is this year's group of quarterbacks really that bad?

When we last left off, I was trying to scratch the surface of the Quarterback question as it relates to the Browns’ upcoming draft.

Of course, this was a monumentally stupid task given the context of the Browns.

So from this, I conclude the following:

1. As it if wasn’t obvious enough, the Browns still haven’t figured out that whole matching a system to a quarterback thing – that is unless Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner are busy installing a shotgun only, two-read, throw to Justin Blackmon because he gets open against Big 12 defenders kind of offense.

2. Scouting Quarterbacks is ridiculously impossible for the people who get paid to do it – let alone for those who pretend to have such credentials.

3. As such, wouldn’t it be great if the Browns actually found their proverbial franchise quarterback in this month’s draft?

4. But about that draft….

Like most years, I’ve watched a lot of a few top quarterbacks and naturally, it baffles me why some of these players carry such a distinction. Some I have seen in person through various FSO endeavors and others I had to be convinced of their existence. How about that Mike Matt Scott? As for the group as a whole, I can’t claim expert knowledge on all – which is why in times like these, it’s best to turn to those who do.

Or in other words, since we always know that the QB question will be asked in Cleveland – let’s ask another question:

Is this year’s group of quarterbacks really that bad?

Helping out today is Aaron Aloysius of the sneaky great draft video vault, DraftBreakdown.com

Without even doing any serious prep work for such a discussion, it’s easy to tell the three emerging narratives regarding this year’s crop of quarterbacks.

1. Geno Smith has been designated the best of the bunch – albeit in a backhanded and completely subjective manner that is typical of amateur draft prognosticators (I’m mainly referring to lazy football writers and ESPN here.)

2. Ryan Nassib is this year’s draft climber – a veritable upstate New York version of Ryan Tannehill. Nassib’s ascension (which is probably a wildly euphemistic descriptor) has much to do with the safe efficiency of Syracuse’s often punchless West Coast offense.

3. Matt Barkley serves the dual function of being both a name brand and non-entity – and will become that guy who gets virtually stalked in the draft’s Green Room until early in the Second Round.

Anyway, regarding Smith – his name is firmly projected at the top of what is a weak class. Yet, according to Aloysius the separation between Smith and the others is thin.

“For some, the separation between Geno and the rest of bunch may be minute, even non-existent. In fact, both Greg Cosell and Russ Lande have Ryan Nassib rated higher.”

Speaking of Cosell, in case you haven’t already – do take some time with his common sense scouting guide.

Yet, as it always tends to happen with the NFL and quarterbacks, the best questions asked regard the specific types of offenses teams run. Nassib is certainly rising, but doesn’t appear to be a fit for the Browns’ latest passing system.

“However, for the type of offense the Browns plan to run, Nassib would be a less than ideal fit,” Aloysius said. “He delivers the short to intermediate stuff with plenty of zip – too much zip, in fact – but struggles to connect on some of the vertical throws Chud is expected to feature in his offense. Also, while Nassib did run some zone read at Cuse, he’s not the type of athlete (4.95 40) who’d excel in that role at the next level.”

And as we have learned in recent years watching Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, quarterbacks who can’t combine both deep throwing and basic accuracy tend to handcuff offenses. But then again, so did Pat Shurmur – a coach who would likely fall for the precision swing passes of Nassib or Barkley.

So, naturally the conversation comes back to Smith – again.

“For those reasons and others, I’d have Geno Smith rated much higher on a Browns-specific draft board,” Aloysius said. “Would-be-competitors like Nassib & Barkley drop down the list because they don’t appear to be great fits for where the team is headed.”

Of course, the book on Smith is not a dramatic departure from the one written for Weeden a year ago. Both quarterbacks are strong-armed shotgun Spread operators who worked with stellar offensive talent. Smith in particular was probably enhanced by the likes of Tavon Austin, while Weeden rode Blackmon to a first-round NFL contract.

However, the most common shared trait has to be each quarterback’s difficulty in adjusting to real defensive pressure – something that often defines a quarterback at the NFL level.

If you tear through Cosell’s detailed quarterback analysis, you’ll realize that most of this year’s top prospects share this struggle. Smith usually benefited from a well-designed offense, but didn’t exactly display the kind of awareness or pocket movement required at the NFL level.

But then again, neither did Barkley, Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray, occasionally Tyler Wilson and E.J. Manuel. In fact, very few quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck or not ridiculous athletes like Robert Griffin III exhibit such traits in college.

However, if they did – suddenly the flaws of each of these quarterbacks become minimized. Or, Mike Glennon isn’t such a statue and instantly possesses one of the strongest arms in the game. Likewise, Tyler Wilson can take an occasional shot down the field and become a tangible target. The same could apply for Zac Dysert – who is likely the most athletic of this year’s QB crop – but also the candidate most likely to scramble his way into a Charlie Frye oblivion.

But again – it’s pretty easy to poke holes in all these players. This time of year, there’s literally not one player who comes as a finished product. With this in mind, the question has to shift to potential. As Cosell has repeatedly noted, this year’s group of quarterbacks are essentially unfinished products – something that Aloysius touches on regarding Florida State’s E.J. Manuel.

“As for Manuel, I’d like to get on the bandwagon. He’s got the tools, no doubt, but doesn’t efficiently make use of them. His strong arm is negated by questionable decision-making, especially injudicious downfield throws. Also, he hasn’t always made efficient use of his legs, throwing the ball when he could run past the sticks or being reckless with ball security. He’s reportedly impressed teams with his mental makeup, so the potential’s there, but I still consider him a gamble, even more so if he does go in the top two rounds. Apparently, at least some NFL personnel men agree.”

There could be a tangible Browns’ connection to Manuel – at least based on recent reports. Of course, that could be true of pretty much any quarterback prospect. Another name that has popped up recently is Matt Scott – who has become something of a phantom whisper in recent weeks – or maybe just a reminder of the bygone Mike Holmgren era of QB procurement.

“Matt Scott is an intriguing developmental talent,” Aloysius said. “He and the Arizona offense struggled against some of the Pac 12′s top defenses, but that’s almost to be expected from a quarterback with limited starting experience. The question becomes whether Cleveland finally has the infrastructure in place to groom a “raw” quarterback. For a time, Holmgren & co. looked like the crew to make that happen. Hopefully, Chud and Turner will prove to be less of a mirage.”

Judging by last week’s trade of Colt McCoy – and at least based on the unsettled nature of Weeden as a starter – it would appear that Browns are ripe for developing a quarterback prospect. That is unless Thaddeus Lewis made you a believer during his garbage time run against Pittsburgh.

It’s probably fitting that we discuss a project like Scott – especially as we approach the end of this annual and often fruitless exercise. Unless the new Browns’ personnel department have their eyes locked in on the next Russell Wilson – or from our own uniquely Cleveland perspective – the next Derek Anderson Kelly Holcomb, all of this is likely to be repeated.

However, the would-be salvation seems to lie more in the potential of this year’s crop of quarterbacks – rather than in the pursuit of the proverbial finished product. As we’ve been told before, this is becoming the year of both the true believer, as well as the year of the Developmental Quarterback. And in a very weird and extraordinarily sad Browns’ context, this may be good news.

Given the constant coaching changes in Cleveland and based on the essentially raw nature of this year’s QB class, this is probably the year for the Browns to buy low on what could be a future quarterback. Given that Chudzinski and Turner are beginning what will at least be a 2-3 year run, the prospects of the Browns stashing away a Quarterback to ripen are intriguing.

But in making such a statement, we get nudged back to that original question.

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