By far the most important position on the field in the NFL is quarterback. An NFL team is only as good as the man calling signals behind center. It’s been that way since the dawn of football, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. It makes sense then, that NFL teams often reach for quarterbacks in the draft, desperate to assure they claim a top prospect. NFL fans and media shouldn’t simply look at the NFL Draft order to determine the hierarchy of teams that need a franchise quarterback. After an off-season of free agent madness, and with the NFL Draft fast approaching, this is your top-five teams who need to address the quarterback situation in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Which Five Teams Are Most Desperate for a Quarterback Heading Into the 2018 NFL Draft
Losing out on the “Kirk Cousins Sweepstakes” seemed like a death sentence to the Jets’ 2018 playoff hopes. But, if we’re being honest, there was no chance that the Jets were going to land the best quarterback free agent in the last five years. Instead, the Jets settled for their plans B and C: signing former first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater and NFL journeyman Josh McCown. As it stands before the draft, Bridgewater and McCown will compete with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. None of those options sound viable for the Jets to fight their way out of the AFC cellar.
However, the Jets traded up in the draft to the number three overall pick in a swap with the Indianapolis Colts. The trade is presumably for the Jets to select their next franchise quarterback. While the Jets have been quiet about which quarterback they plan on taking, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that until the Jets find themselves a viable starting quarterback, they have no chance of competing in the AFC, especially with the New England Patriots in their division. Some might put the Jets higher on this list, but the combination of Bridgewater/McCown’s starting experience is more than some teams on this list can say they have on their current roster.
How can the Giants be fourth on this list with two-time Super Bowl quarterback Eli Manning still on the roster? The answer is simple: Manning is in the twilight of his career. Entering the season at the age of 37, Manning’s play significantly declined last season, leading some to believe the Giants might have even traded Manning this off-season. Alas, under new head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants appear ready to continue with Manning at the helm. Manning’s contract is also set to expire at the end the 2019 season. The Giants will need to look towards the future due to Manning’s age and his recent decline in play. After a historically poor season, the Giants are in the driver’s seat to find Manning’s successor with the second overall pick.
The Giants have been linked to multiple prospects in various NFL mock drafts. From standout running back Saquon Barkley to defensive end Bradley Chubb to any of the top four quarterbacks in the draft. Perhaps the Giants have already foreshadowed themselves taking a quarterback in the upcoming draft. Compared to the Jets, who currently have four quarterbacks on the roster, the Giants only have two: Manning and career backup Davis Webb. The Giants will surely need a third arm for the purposes of training camp, which very well may be one of the top quarterbacks in the draft.
Not number one? For a team that has performed historically bad since returning to the league in 1999? How are the Browns not number one on this list? Tyrod Taylor is the answer. Early in the off-season, the Browns swapped picks with the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Taylor. Taylor’s ability to be seen as a franchise quarterback varies depending on who you ask, but two things are virtual certainties:
- The Bills did not believe in Taylor enough to keep him for another year.
- Taylor gives the Browns a starting-caliber quarterback while they search for (or develop) their next franchise quarterback.
With the first overall pick, it is almost a guarantee that the Browns will select a quarterback with one of their two top-five selections. While the Browns likely see Taylor as a “bridge” quarterback, his presence on the roster makes the need for the Browns much less significant than others on this list. Having Taylor on the roster means that the Browns don’t have to rush their newest draft selection into playing right away, a luxury the top two teams on this list might not have.
Surprisingly, many don’t seem to think the Cardinals are in need of a starting quarterback. Each and every one of those need to reevaluate where the Cardinals stand at the quarterback position. After Carson Palmer‘s retirement, there was a brief moment when the Cardinals did not have a single quarterback on the roster. The Cardinals were forced to pick up the leftovers at the position, signing Sam Bradford to a one-year $20 million contract. Bradford is a very talented quarterback, but has a horrible track record for being injury-prone. In his eight seasons in the NFL, Bradford has only played in all 16 games twice. After suffering yet another knee injury last season, he was never able to beat out Case Keenum for the starting quarterback job on the Minnesota Vikings.
This isn’t simply a matter of if Bradford gets hurt, but more of a question of when. As a unit, the Cardinals offensive line allowed 52 sacks in 2017. At 3.2 sacks allowed per game, the Cardinals tied the Denver Broncos for 29th in the NFL in sacks allowed. The Cardinals also signed quarterback Mike Glennon for depth at the position. Glennon’s NFL journey is most recently remembered for being beaten out of the starting quarterback job by rookie Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago.
The Cardinals face a difficult position here: their need for a quarterback is great, yet they only hold the 15th pick in the draft. Five quarterbacks could come off the board by the time the Cardinals make their selection, making a trade-up almost a necessity. Without much trade ammunition to do so, the Cardinals will need to get creative to have a chance at landing a top quarterback in this year’s draft.
The Bills are in the worst shape in the NFL when it comes to the quarterback position. After trading Taylor to the Browns, the Bills signed former Bengals backup A.J. McCarron. Currently, the Bills have only McCarron and second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman. To put that into perspective: McCarron has started only three games, none since 2015, and Peterman finished the season with a dismal 38.4 quarterback rating over the span of four games. Combined, both quarterbacks have the following stat lines: 56.9 completion percentage, 1,172 passing yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions over the span of 13 combined games.
The Bills really put themselves in a bind when they traded Taylor without a realistic plan for his replacement. The Bills face the same dilemma that the Cardinals do: their earliest draft pick number 12 – which is far too late to select one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Unlike the Cardinals, the Bills have the draft ammunition to trade up. With an additional pick at no. 22, the Bills could possibly swing a trade with any of the teams picking in the top five/six to secure the quarterback prospect they’ve seen as the best fit for their team.
One thing is for certain: the Bills absolutely cannot enter the season with McCarron/Peterman as the only options at quarterback on the roster. Last season, the Bills miraculously ended a 17-year playoff drought with Taylor at the helm. Unless the Bills can find themselves a viable starting quarterback, 2018 could be the beginning of yet another long playoff absence for the city of Buffalo.