2016 NFL draft illustrates return to normalcy for SEC quarterbacks
There’s been a lot of consternation about the quarterback position in the SEC for the last two-plus years. But this year’s NFL draft prep is one of several indications those worries are overblown, or at least were short-lived.
The class that emerged after the 2014 season fits a sub-par label, as not a single one of those SEC quarterbacks got drafted.
Some classified 2015 as another substandard year at the position in the SEC.
Even so, it appears that the conference’s current quarterbacks migrating from college to pro football meet the definition of “normal” and “average,” even by the SEC’s high standards.
Here’s a look at all 11 SEC quarterbacks drafted since the end of the ’08 season. That seems like a good time distinction because it’s arguably the height of the SEC’s all-time peak and also the overlap of the Urban Meyer/Nick Saban eras.
Missouri and Texas A&M quarterbacks who spent their entire careers in the Big 12 are listed in italics:
|2009||Georgia QB Matthew Stafford||Detroit||1st (No. 1 overall)|
|Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee||Dallas||4th|
|2010||Florida QB Tim Tebow||Denver||1st (No. 25 overall)|
|Tennessee QB Jonathan Crompton||San Diego||5th|
|2011||Auburn QB Cam Newton||Carolina||1st (No. 1 overall)|
|Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert||Jacksonville||1st (No. 10 overall)|
|Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett||New England||3rd|
|Alabama QB Greg McElroy||New York Jets||7th|
|2012||Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill||Miami||1st (No. 8 overall)|
|2013||Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson||Oakland||4th|
|2014||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||Cleveland||1st (No. 22 overall)|
|Georgia QB Aaron Murray||Kansas City||5th|
|Alabama QB AJ McCarron||Cincinnati||5th|
|LSU QB Zach Mettenberger||Tennessee||6th|
That’s 11 SEC quarterbacks (plus three Big 12 quarterbacks from current SEC members) in six years. So, ballpark figures, that’s about two per year.
Even including the Big 12 trio, six of those 14 were first-round picks, including two at No. 1 overall: Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.
The draft is not the only lens through which to evaluate SEC quarterback play. But through this filter, there are three main things working against the SEC.
- The 2014 NFL draft was a banner year for SEC quarterbacks. It included a first-round selection (Johnny Manziel) and four total picks, including some all-time college greats (Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron).
- No SEC quarterback got selected in the 2015 draft. Auburn’s Nick Marshall signed as an undrafted cornerback. Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Alabama’s Blake Sims never got long looks.
- The 2016 crop of SEC quarterbacks does not contain a top-tier guy.
Still, as far as SEC quarterbacks are concerned, the ’16 draft has a chance to be very average by SEC standards. And that’s not meant to convey a negative connotation.
- Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is the rare mid-tier quarterback. He seems destined for the third or fourth round as an immediate backup with upside. The kind of player who could develop into a starter in two or three years with the right coaching.
- Alabama’s Jake Coker, a Combine snub and a late bloomer in college, nonetheless fits the prototype physically. He’s 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, tough, and now he’s got a national championship victory on his resume. Another developmental project, he’s a solid bet to at least get drafted.
- Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2015 as one of the offensive surprises of the entire conference. He attended the Combine and projects as an NFL backup. There’s a solid chance he gets selected in the draft.
So, to recap, this current class of SEC quarterbacks should produce two or maybe even three draft picks at the end of April.
With Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly looming as a potential first-round pick in ’17, and a much-touted group of young SEC signal-callers possibly emerging from the ’15 and ’16 classes, whatever temporary drought that the league went through at the position may have already ended.