Hot Read: Pass On Early Round QB

Brett Favre's successor is out there, waiting to be drafted. And hopefully, he's waiting for a while. The fifth or sixth round would be great. Maybe even the fifth or sixth round next year. Or the year after that.<p>

If Green Bay is serious about making a run at another championship, if the Packers can't get the bitter taste of 4th-and-26 out of their mouth, if the firing of defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was a reflection of what needs to be fixed, then drafting a quarterback in an early round of this April's draft would be a big mistake.

Nothing against North Carolina State's Philip Rivers or Tulane's J.P. Losman, two seemingly gifted quarterbacks who might be around when Green Bay's 25th pick in the first round comes up, but there's absolutely nothing they could do to help the Packers win a Super Bowl this year, next year or probably the year after that. That is, of course, unless they can rush the passer, cover a receiver or return punts. A high-priced player holding a clipboard, who will force everyone to endure more ‘How much longer will Brett play' storylines, serves no purpose.

It's no secret that Favre is still one of the most dominant players at his position. While that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon, it will eventually. Some would say that's all the more reason to grab a quality quarterback in this year's draft who can learn from one of the all-time greats. But if you've already got one of the all-time greats and he's still leading the league in touchdowns, as he did in 2003, then don't you want to surround him with everything he needs (i.e. defense, a better return game, maybe another quality receiver) to make another Super Bowl run? Look too far into the future and you'll miss out on the present. (And, if that's not in a fortune cookie, it should be.)

Besides, the Packers have already been grooming a young player named Craig Nall, whom they selected in the fifth round of the 2002 draft. The name may not have the sizzle or sexiness compared to some of the names in this year's quarterback class, but how excited were Patriots' fans when their team drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft? Or what about Carolina, last season's other Super Bowl participant? Do you think Tobacco Road lit up when the undrafted and unheralded Jake Delhomme signed on with the team? Yet both teams are undoubtedly pleased with the results.

Drafting a quarterback in the first round is about as risky as MTV producing your halftime show. You could get Peyton Manning or you could get Ryan Leaf. Akili Smith with the third pick or Daunte Culpepper with the 11th. But if we've learned anything in our Quarterback History 101 class, it's that success under center has little to do with how high your drafted -- or in the case of Carolina's Delhomme -- if you're drafted at all.

When the Bucs won two seasons ago, they were led by ninth-round pick Brad Johnson, who was with his third team. The year before that, Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins battled it out. Both were first-round quarterbacks, but neither was with the team that originally drafted them. You have to go back to John Elway in 1999 for a first-round quarterback who won it all with the team that thought he could do it.

At best, it's a crap shoot. And while Delhomme's story has plenty in common with Kurt Warner, the NFL's ultimate Cinderella quarterback, success stories in the later rounds of the draft like that of Johnson are a little more common, especially now that the draft is only seven rounds. While guys like Akili Smith, Cade McNown and Shaun King were getting fans hot and then bothered in their respective draft cities, it was fourth-rounder Aaron Brooks who turned out to be the third best signal caller from the class of 1999 behind Donovan McNabb and Culpepper.

Chad Pennington was the only quarterback drafted in the first round of 2000 and appears to be the real deal, but how about steals like Mark Bulger and Brady in the sixth round of that draft, along with San Francisco's Tim Rattay in the seventh? Sure, Mike Vick was a first round no-brainer in 2001, but look how Drew Brees has fallen short of expectations in San Diego after slipping into the top of the second round. That year's draft also featured a fifth-round surprise in the form of Philadelphia's A.J. Feely, who showed he's got what it takes to start in this league.

But landing a stud quarterback in the later rounds is no easy task, either. For every sixth-round gem like Brady, there's a host of Spurgon Wynn's (who went 16 picks ahead of him) or Ja Juan Seider (who went just six picks later). The difference is, missing the mark on the second day of the draft is much more forgivable.

Scan the umpteen mock drafts out in cyber space and you'll see more than a few predicting the Pack to take a quarterback with their first pick. There have been the inevitable comparisons of Losman to Favre to go along with stories of the two hanging out together. Green Bay attended a workout by Ben Roethlisberger, thought to be the second slinger taken in this year's draft, and a player they have no shot at landing barring a blockbuster trade. The team has also fueled the speculation by flirting with quarterbacks from Drew Henson (a sixth rounder in 2003 who thought baseball was his profession) to Cleveland's Tim Couch, the former No. 1 overall pick from 1999, signing neither.

So what gives? Are they looking for Favre's successor now? Did striking out with Henson galvanize their intentions to land a QB in the draft? We're just over two weeks away from finding out. But considering what the Packers really need to reclaim the Lombardi Trophy, they'd be smart to audible out of any plans to take a signal caller early in the draft.

(W. Keith Roerdink is a freelance writer from Wausau, Wis. and a longtime contributor to the Packer Report. Check out his next Hot Read column on Thursday, April 29th, following the draft.)

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