The big news out of Quarterback-Draftmania 2012 yesterday was Robert Griffin III’s refusal to work out for the Colts. I have no issue with this. Andrew Luck is going first, and Jim Irsay’s public announcement of Griffin’s refusal to make the pointless journey to Indianapolis is a classic dick move made by the Vice President of dick moves – in an ironic twist Griffin will end up playing for the President of Dickmovelandia, Dan Snyder.
Unfortunately there just isn’t much drama at the top of the draft this year, and there usually isn’t. Last year, Cam Newton was a franchise changing pick for Carolina. Looking back, the idea that Blaine Gabbert was close to being the Panthers selection seems insane and disastrous. Gabbert’s rookie season can be neatly summarized in one word: awful. His -825 Passing DYAR was the fifth lowest ever measured by Football Outsiders. Gabbert finished last in yards per pass and passer rating behind football legends Curtis Painter and Rex Grossman.
The purpose of this post isn’t to pile on Gabbert. Instead it’s intention is to highlight the yearly ritual of over hyping second tier quarterbacks. Jake Locker and Christian Ponder also benefited from the quarterback inflation bubble last year. In 10 games as a starter for the Vikings, Ponder, the 12th pick in the draft, produced a 70.1 quarterback rating – good for fourth worst in the league. Ponder’s completion percentage also came in at fourth worst and his interception percentage of 4.5 was better than only John Skelton and Carson (‘they traded what for me?!) Palmer. Locker sat behind Matt Hasselbeck for most of the year.
This year it’s Ryan Tannehill benefiting from the hype. We talked about him here and here - scouts have become enthralled. Cleveland and Miami are both smitten. With that in mind, let’s look back at what the draftniks said about Gabbert and Ponder in the lead up to last year’s draft. Perhaps there are some similarities…
After the combine:
“Christian Ponder looked more like a first round pick this afternoon than Cam Newton did,” said Tony Pauline, draft expert for Sports Illustrated.”
Rob Rang of CBS Sports:
Blaine Gabbert is the safest quarterback in this draft and that’s why I have him as my No. 1 quarterback in this draft. He doesn’t have the spectacular production that a Cam Newton did, but he was a very productive quarterback in his own right. He’s a very accurate passer with a strong arm and he his ability to make every throw and the fact that he will be coming from a little bit more of a traditional offense increases his value.
Greg Gabriel, voice of reason:
Overall, Ponder has a lot of tools to work with. He knows and understands the game and has good work habits. He is still a work in progress and has to improve on his decision making. I think it is confidence more than anything else. I would not take him in the first round but if I was with a team that had a quarterback need I would give him consideration in the second round (but I would rather take him in the third).
The Jaguars should’ve listened to Wes Bunting:
However, the biggest concern I have watching [Gabbert] on tape is his overall feel and instincts in the pocket. He’s a guy who doesn’t look real comfortable any time he feels a rush and fails to consistently step up and buy time for himself in the pocket. He also prematurely drops his eye level and will flush himself backward out of the pocket.
It’s incredibly easy to second guess the decisions made by Jacksonville and Minnesota last year. Both Gabbert and Ponder played on bad teams, and they still have the potential to become legitimate starters in the NFL. However, their rookie seasons showed that they’re the definition of projects who warranted a second or third round selection at best.
Tannehill wowed scouts at his Pro Day just like Gabbert and Ponder did one year ago. His meteoric rise to the top 10 can’t help but bring back memories of years gone by.