As many as four quarterbacks have been mentioned as possible first-round selections in this year’s NFL Draft.
But there is no consensus on how they rank, and that’s about all the NFL analysts and decision-makers agree on.
“I thought I had a little bit of a consensus on (Mitchell) Trubisky,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during a teleconference this week, “but (fellow analyst) Todd (McShay) is going (Deshaun) Watson, so we’re split there.”
Moreover, Kiper concedes that in a quarterback class like this one, in which beauty lies in the eye of quarterback-needy teams, a fast-rising prospect such as Texas Tech gunslinger Patrick Mahomes II could overtake both Trubisky and Watson on draft day.
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“Patrick Mahomes has jumped way up there,” Kiper said. “Some think he could be the No. 1 quarterback in this draft. You can’t argue with the arm talent; I mean, he’s exciting.”
Beyond those three, Kiper said, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer could also figure into the first-round mix, followed by Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman, Cal’s Davis Webb, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs. The latter four could go anywhere from the second to fourth rounds.
In short, there’s no shortage of options awaiting the Chiefs, who figure to add a young quarterback in one of the early rounds when their number is called next month. They have just three quarterbacks on the roster right now — including unproven Tyler Bray and Joel Stave — behind starter Alex Smith, and they have a history of carrying four quarterbacks during their soon-to-begin organized team activities.
When asked about this year’s quarterback crop, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey smiled coyly.
“I’ve always said every draft has some strengths and weaknesses,” Dorsey said. “And I think some positions of strength this year, I think there are some really good running backs in this draft. I think there’s some linebackers in this draft that people are going to (make people) go, ‘Wow.’ I think the quarterbacks, there’s some really talented athletes.”
Then Dorsey laughed.
“I think there’s also a point where there’s a lot to be learned in the pro game, that will take some time,” he said. “But there are some phenomenal potential players in this draft.”
Dorsey’s words on this point — “there’s a lot to be learned” by the rookie quarterbacks — is important but not damning when it comes to the Chiefs’ chances of selecting a quarterback who might eventually contribute in a meaningful way.
It’s doubtful any of the top four quarterback prospects are capable of being Day 1 starters in KC — all four come from spread attacks that lack the complex verbiage of coach Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. But the Chiefs don’t need one to be ready this year, not when Reid is set on giving Smith another season to build on his 41-20 record as the Chiefs’ starter since 2013.
“I’m very comfortable with him,” Reid said of Smith. “And that doesn’t mean I don’t challenge him with things. But he is a self-driven guy, man. He’s possessed. First one in, last one out. I think everybody knows he’s in charge. I think he’s a good football player.
“Can he continue to get better? Absolutely? I think we just keep surrounding him with good players and he keeps on going. I wish I would have had him as a rookie. I love him. I love the way he goes about his business.”
Smith will be under some pressure this season, though. His deal runs through 2018 and he can be released next year to clear $17 million in cap space. Smith probably needs to lead the Chiefs beyond the divisional round, where their season has ended the last two years, to remain atop the depth chart in 2018.
And while the Chiefs will likely argue that the selection of a quarterback early in the draft should not be viewed as an effort to hedge their bets on Smith, adding a talented, young, cost-controlled player at the game’s most important position for at least the next four years would be smart business. If the Patriots were willing to spend a second-round pick on Jimmy Garoppolo as Tom Brady protection a few years ago, one could argue the Chiefs would be wise to do the same with Smith next month.
In terms of quarterback prospects who hail from a college offense with long play calls, only one — Pitt’s Peterman — qualifies. But Reid indicated that doesn’t automatically give Peterman a leg up on rookies from spread systems.
“I guess it’s valuable (experience),” Reid said. “But you want to find someone who is smart, who can do it if they haven’t done it. It’s not something they can’t learn.”
It’s Dorsey’s job to determine whether any of the quarterbacks the Chiefs have spent the last several months evaluating have that potential.
“You have to have a certain capability, and I’d say 95 percent of them do have it,” San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s not like we’re asking them to be a doctor or anything. We’re trying to ask them to repeat after us and get the verbiage, which isn’t easy.
“But most of the people that work at it and put the time in, it comes. But you do have to put the work and the time in. And that’s really what it’s more about: Is this guy going to work at it every day?”
Multiple Chiefs quarterbacks, both current and past, have noted that spitting out Reid’s long play calls is easier said than done. Dorsey has sought to gauge each player’s aptitude during recent interviews.
The Chiefs had formal interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine with Watson, Trubisky, Mahomes, Kizer, Kaaya and Peterman. They’ve also played host to several of them during recent predraft visits, according to reports from ESPN and NFL Network.
“That’s why you sit and talk to them,” Dorsey said.
If one passes the test, and the Chiefs pull the trigger on draft day, both Reid and Dorsey are confident in their coaching staff’s ability to customize their offense to that quarterback’s strengths.
“That’s one of the nice things about our offense, because you can do a little bit of everything with it,” Reid said. “But whether it’s a receiver, quarterback, running back, you make it fit that person.”
2017 NFL Draft
Round 1: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27
Rounds 2-3: 6 p.m. Friday, April 28
Rounds 4-7: 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29
2017 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: QUARTERBACKS
Chiefs’ need at this position: Very high. They have only three quarterbacks on the roster after the free-agent departure of last year’s No. 2, Nick Foles, and traditionally keep four during offseason workouts. Add that to the fact Alex Smith has just two more years remaining on his contract (while Tyler Bray is scheduled to be a free agent in 2018), and the Chiefs desperately need to add another young, talented, cost-controlled player to the mix, perhaps as early as the first round, in next month’s draft. The Chiefs interviewed several quarterbacks at the recent NFL Scouting Combine and have had many in town for precious predraft visits. All signs point to the Chiefs being willing to invest a top pick in the game’s most valuable position.
RB: Story/rankings, to come
FB: Story/rankings, to come
WR: Story/rankings, to come
TE: Story/rankings, to come
OL: Story/rankings, to come
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EDGE: Story/rankings, to come
ILB: Story/rankings, to come
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S: Story/rankings, to come