NFL DRAFT: Quarterbacks and off-the-field issues dominate first round. (Credit: OMNISPORT)
The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl with sub-standard quarterback play last season, but – along with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles – further emphasised the importance of the position in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Despite having had to virtually carry Peyton Manning for much of last term, the Broncos were able to win the Lombardi Trophy for a third time on the back of their defense.
However, after losing Manning to retirement and backup Brock Osweiler in free agency, the Broncos were clearly keen to find someone who can run the offense effectively for years to come, hence why general manager John Elway was willing to give up a third-rounder to swap first-round picks with the Seattle Seahawks and move from 31 to 26 to grab Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
That move followed two huge trades already made prior to the draft, with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles moving up to picks one and two respectively to land the quarterbacks they coveted in California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.
Los Angeles already boast a stellar defense and Goff could be the missing piece of the puzzle needed to take them to the playoffs, yet Wentz and Lynch – who are not considered as pro-ready as Cal’s former star man – are likely to be spending a lot of the early portion of their careers on the bench.
With both Wentz and Lynch unlikely to see the field in their rookie years and having arguably a greater learning curve to overcome than Goff, it is fair to question the thought process behind these deals, particularly in a class filled with elite prospects at other positions near the top.
Philadelphia’s move for Wentz saw the likes of San Diego Chargers, Jacksonvlile Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers take top-level defensive talents in the form of Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey and DeForest Buckner.
Yet in typically dramatic fashion, the draft delivered a riposte to those who question teams for giving up multiple picks for a quarterback with two slides down the board that are likely to be remembered for some time.
Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil dropped to the Miami Dolphins at 13 after a video of him smoking marijuana through a gas mask was posted on his Twitter page shortly before the start of Thursday’s events.
The video was hastily removed, with Tunsil insisting his account had been hacked.
Tunsil will have to go some way to repay the faith shown in him by Miami after that episode but it remains to be seen whether UCLA linebacker Myles Jack will have the chance to prove his point.
Jack remains on the board after round one, with concerns over sketchy medical reports surrounding a knee injury hurting his stock and leaving him looking a forlorn figure in the green room by the end of the first day in Chicago.
Both Tunsil and Jack had been considered potential top-five picks earlier in the draft process and the disappointment endured by the former – previously thought of as a ‘safe’ pick – hammered home the point that there are very few risk-free selections.
There is no guarantee that Lynch, Wentz or even Goff – despite his polished appearance on and off the field – will thrive in the NFL but, in a league driven by the passing attack, the Broncos, Eagles and Rams will argue that the risk is better off attached to the quarterback position where the reward for having success is far greater than at any other spot on the roster.