When Joshua Dobbs was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft, many questioned what exactly the meaning of the pick was. Is he the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger? Is Dobbs the next Dak Prescott? Heck, is he even better than Landry Jones? While it has been called everything from the value pick of the draft, to a wasted pick, opinions can be everywhere. However, after much evaluation, the best way to look at Dobbs is the heir apparent to Jones much more than the heir apparent to Roethlisberger
Josh Dobbs is the Heir Apparent to Landry Jones, not Ben Roethlisberger
Since the year 2000, 125 quarterbacks were drafted in the fourth round or later. 72 of them or 57.6% have never started one NFL game. This includes former Steelers draft picks Tee Martin and Omar Jacobs. Of the 53 who have started one game, 37 have started less than 16 games or one full season. That includes nine players with just one start. It also includes Steelers draftees Landry Jones, Dennis Dixon and Brian St. Pierre who have combined for eight regular season starts. Of the 29.6% of the quarterbacks taken who have started less than one full season, the 37 gunslingers average 5.8 starts per career.
Then there are the 16, or 12.8% of the late round quarterbacks who were able to start more than one full season in their career. Of those, four of them were on teams that posted a winning record in their career. The combined record of the teams who started the other 12 is 211-309-2. Kirk Cousins is 19-21-1 in his career while Tyrod Taylor has 14 wins and 14 losses when he starts. They are the only two active quarterbacks who can find a way into the elite four that were drafted so late and won more than they lost as starters. Of course, those two have also been in contract disputes each of the last two seasons and neither franchise will commit to them as their starter for more than a year by year basis.
The four quarterbacks or 3.2% of the quarterbacks drafted this late to post more than 16 starts and have a winning record in that span is Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, David Garrard and Kyle Orton. Garrard and Orton have career records two games above .500, Prescott is still a mystery after his rookie season and then there is Tom Brady.
So yes, Dobbs could be “the next Dak Prescott” and every time a quarterback is taken this late every fan will still point to Tom Brady. However, the reality is that the chances are 18 times greater that Dobbs will be the next Omar Jacobs or Luke McCown. It is about nine times more likely that he is the next Dennis Dixon or T.J. Yates. It is about four times more likely that he is the next Tyrod Taylor or Derek Anderson. Heck, it is just as likely that he will be the next David Garrard or Kyle Orton rather than the next Dak Prescott.
Considering how far apart Prescott and Brady were selected, and all of the failures in between, those are some optimistic glasses being worn to think that teams will strike on Prescott and Dobbs in back to back years. Just like how the year after Tom Brady was selected, J.T. O’Sullivan and Steve Bellisari were taken within four picks of Brady and turned out just like him. Oh, wait.
While odds are not on his side, his play does not warrant this kind of thought either. Some have mentioned how smart and cerebral he is as a case for him being a future starter, he is an aeronautic engineer after all. However, while he is smart, and will likely present value in the film room from Monday through Saturday, it does not show on the football field.
Dobbs has questionable mechanics, accuracy, and decision making. He does show poise and smarts navigating the pocket. He can step up and find room in muddy waters to make throws. However, when he does move in the pocket, his mechanics get all sorts of messed up. It affects him throwing at every level, and all of the sudden his ability to handle pressure is not as strong as it looks. Sure, he avoided a sack, but he threw an incompletion or a pass that could have been intercepted. Then there are his accuracy issues. His short to intermediate accuracy seems to vary throw to throw, and his ability to lead receivers for extra yards is limited. Add in that he hesitates to take his eyes off of his first read, and forces throws into coverage a lot and there is a lot to be worked on.
Can Dobbs be a backup?
In terms of being a starter, let’s not hold our breath. However, his battle with Landry Jones will be mighty interesting. Not to say that Jones isn’t smart, but Dobbs likely can bring just as much if not more value to the film room every week given his understanding. Dobbs has redshirted one season, and in his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, injury shoved him into two unexpected games against Alabama. While he did not light the world on fire in those games, he was able to jump in, show his playbook understanding and keep his team in the game.
Jones is a free agent after the 2018 season and the Steelers would save $1.9 million by cutting him after the 2017 season. Dobbs has made spot starts, he has been thrown into the fire due to injury and he has value off of the field and in the locker room and video room. While the odds of Dobbs being a long term starter are slim to none, the odds of him being a long term backup are above average. He has a lot of good traits and while the Steelers do search for the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, it would be relaxing to know that a stable and committed backup is in place to ease the starter or along or be there for any high-risk bets on a starting option.