KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs spent the last several days setting their draft board in preparation for this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The process merely confirmed for new general manager John Dorsey that when it comes to quarterbacks, their homework is only starting.
Opinions on the top available quarterbacks in this year’s draft are that varied.
“There is no quarterback where personnel guys can definitely say, ‘He’s a first-round pick,’ ” Dorsey said. “There were so many inconsistencies in the collective group. There was not one guy that stood up and said, ‘I’m the guy in the position this year.’ There really wasn’t one clear-cut guy.
“There are too many technical flaws, scheme flaws. There are so many different variables that there are a lot of people all over the place on naming the top four or five guys and who those guys would be.”
The Chiefs aren’t the only team having trouble sorting through the top quarterback prospects. From the natural ability of West Virginia’s Geno Smith to the smooth leadership skills of USC’s Matt Barkley to the willingness to take a hit in the face of a strong pass rush of Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, there are plenty of things to like.
There are reasons to pause just the same. Smith faltered late last fall against better competition. Barkley and Wilson had disappointing, injury-marred senior seasons.
This is a particular problem for teams like the Chiefs, who have a gaping need at quarterback. Dorsey didn’t say so specifically, but he didn’t sound like the Chiefs were planning to take a quarterback with the first pick in this year’s draft.
More likely, the Chiefs will select a quarterback later in the draft — if they take one at all.
Dorsey said both he and coach Andy Reid would be in attendance at the workouts of most, if not all, of the top available quarterbacks.
“I think Andy is a really good evaluator of quarterbacks,” Dorsey said. “I want him and I to go to as many quarterback workouts as possible and actually set our own up.”
The quarterback rankings for last year’s draft were determined almost a year in advance. Stanford’s Andrew Luck was a consensus choice to be the top player selected as soon as the 2011 draft was finished. Baylor’s Robert Griffin III came on as a senior to win the Heisman Trophy and make the race interesting, but in the end, Luck was selected first by Indianapolis. Griffin was taken with the next pick by Washington.
“Last year was an easy evaluation,” draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “Automatically, you put Andrew Luck and RG III up there.”
This year, quarterback ratings are scattered. Some teams like Smith, but others have different favorites, like Barkley, Wilson, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon or Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib.
“The year didn’t go the way Barkley and the USC Trojans hoped,” Kiper said. “He began the year number one on my big board. You saw what happened with USC. They lost four games with Barkley at quarterback and lost a couple more when he was hurt. They didn’t have a signature win all year. They dropped down the rankings from number one and he dropped down the rankings from number one.
“Geno Smith started out great. It looked like after Barkley struggled you could lock Geno Smith in. Then he has a disappointing second half of the season, so there are issues in terms of what type of starting quarterback he can be. Glennon was hot for a while even though he had a subpar supporting cast, and he didn’t play great (in the bowl game) against Vanderbilt and didn’t have a wow-you-over Senior Bowl week.
“Things didn’t fall into place at Arkansas, and that affected Tyler Wilson. The wheels came off for all the quarterbacks at some point (last) year. Things just didn’t fall right to allow them to maximize their ability. That’s why the teams are right now in the predicament they are, trying to figure this whole quarterback thing out and not overdraft or push a guy up when he’s not deserving.”
Kiper doesn’t have a quarterback rated among his top 25 players. In fact, in his latest mock draft, Kiper doesn’t have a single quarterback being selected in the first round.
“It’s just a tough evaluation, trying to figure out which quarterbacks in this draft, if any, will be great starting quarterbacks,” he said.
Dorsey said he expects at least two quarterbacks to be drafted in the first round because so many teams have a need. It’s a matter, though, of which ones.
Things could solidify in the next couple of months. The draft doesn’t begin until April 25. Meanwhile, the combine begins this week, followed by pro days on college campuses and then individual workouts.
To Dorsey, at least, personal interviews might be the most important part of the postseason draft process. He said a quarterback can improve his draft standing with a series of strong interviews.
“The most impressive interview I’ve ever had in the last 25 years of doing this? Russell Wilson,” said Dorsey, referring to the quarterback drafted by Seattle last year in the third round. “Wasn’t even close. You could feel that guy as a person, how strong he was, how intellectually deep he was, how mentally tough he was, that he had the charisma to lead other players. I always try to look at kids like I’m in the locker room and I’m a teammate. It was easy to see this guy leading a team.
“A quarterback wants to come across in the interview process as confident, as having a vast understanding and knowledge of defenses, as being capable of leading a group of men. That’s what you’ve got to convey to the teams. On film, his physical traits and skills will come out. But you have to over the next few weeks impress on teams the character of his soul, his ability to lead a franchise.”