Seven different passers were chosen among the first 100 selections during the 2016 NFL Draft, but it was the eighth quarterback taken off the board last April who enjoyed the best rookie season.
Though he waited until the 135th overall pick to hear his name called, Mississippi State product Dak Prescott helped lead the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs as a rookie, and drew high praise for his ability to step in and find immediate success in the NFL.
This offseason, the Arizona Cardinals aren't necessarily looking for the next Prescott --they still have a healthy Carson Palmer in the fold-- but they are searching for the quarterback of the future for the franchise.
Last Wednesday, head coach Bruce Arians met with the media at the NFL owners' meetings and explained how important a quarterback's demeanor is to his success, and said that the players he looks for need to have certain qualities to lead an offense.
"You go through the chalkboard things, how do they learn, can they regurgitate it, how smooth are they in a presentation, then you get around them," Arians said. "What kind of moxie do they have? Do they have a presence, do they have a swagger? They've got to have something to get in the huddle."
Arians said one of the most challenging aspects of transitioning from college to the NFL for quarterbacks is going from no-huddle, up-tempo offenses to more traditional pro-style offenses in which quarterbacks must interact with their counterparts in the huddle. As the game becomes more complicated, leadership qualities become more important, and a player's ability to command respect and trust from their teammates in the huddle is integral to their overall capabilities.
"This is the biggest problem with the young kids today is they've never got in a huddle and looked at 10 other guys who've got families to feed and had to call a play," Arians said. "They just look to the sideline, kick their foot and roll. That is the hardest thing for these kids to come in minicamp and get in a professional huddle and try to lead these guys. First of all, you have to give them a wristband, because they can't spit it out, or you have to tell them three times and now all the guys are getting pissed off in the huddle because he can't call the play. You give them a wristband so they can read it, but reading something, I'm not making eye contact with you, and you don't got a whole lot of confidence that I know what the hell I'm talking about."
Arians said he first noticed the impact the no-huddle offenses that have proliferated throughout the college game are having on the NFL when he was coaching in Pittsburgh and the franchise drafted former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon. Arians said Dixon had all of the talent necessary to succeed, but he never developed a feel for calling plays and lost his confidence in the huddle.
"So that has been the last, since I got Dennis Dixon in Pittsburgh, that has been the biggest problem," Arians said. "We had a young guy in Pittsburgh who had all of the talent in the world, but he could not call a play and he could not go to the line and use a snap count. He just struggled with it and he lost all of his confidence."
As the Cardinals continue to evaluate prospects in this year's NFL Draft, Arians said he's looking for a signal-caller who is willing to take ownership and accountability for his mistakes.
The Cardinals' head coach said that one of the key points he makes in pre-Draft meetings with draft-eligible passers is showing clips of a player's worst plays and asking that quarterback about what went wrong. Arians said a coaching staff can learn a lot about the type of leader a quarterback is from these situations, and it's imperative to have an understanding of this heading into the draft.
"Oh yeah, I want to see, I've got our offense," Arians said. "Byron (Leftwich) will put it up there and teach him three basic plays and about eight formations. Then we're going to go watch his offense, and it'll be a bunch of his bad plays. Tell me what you're thinking or why did the ball go here and if they start blaming other people, okay, that tells me something. I just screwed it up, I tried to make something out of nothing, the first read wasn't there, so I like this guy. He's honest, first of all, and he's got a reason for what he's doing. So you can work with that. That's the fun part of getting to know these guys is that you can work with them and evaluate them and what's their ceiling mentally."