The Advance Scout: "Not The Right Vick" by Jimmy Mohr Michael Vick Return to Houston Pro Football.com If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Jimmy Catch up on past installments of The Advance Scout What do you think? Let us know in our message forum, Post Patterns
April 23 , 2001
Not the Right Vick
by Jimmy Mohr
Now that the Houston Texans are on the clock, Charley Casserly and company must begin to develop a game plan for their first major challenge: finding, and then selecting a franchise player in next year’s NFL draft, a person capable of becoming a Texan cornerstone for years to come. At this early stage, all we know for sure is that said player won’t be Michael Vick, who opted to leave school early in order to enter this year’s draft.
But what if the Texans did have to make a decision on Vick? Let’s assume, just for a second, that the Texans drafted this weekend with their new comrades — would they have grabbed Vick (as the Falcons did) with the first overall pick? This is more than just a fantasy exercise, because by examining the ins and outs of drafting someone like Vick, a raw, undisciplined prospect, we can begin to understand just how monumental a challenge that awaits the Texans in 2002.
That’s because there is one obvious, yet major difference between the Texans and whoever has picked first in years past: expansion. Houston is starting from ground zero, and presently has no roster to speak of, meaning they have 22 starting positions to fill. Existing teams such as the Chargers and Falcons have a number of quality players already in place, and are thus drafting to fill particular needs, not to start a team from scratch. That being established, Michael Vick is probably a good pick for a team like the Falcons, who are just two seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Atlanta coach Dan Reeves can let Chris Chandler tutor Vick for a season or two, and feel no pressure to showcase their newest star. But as a Houston Texan, chances are Vick would have been the starter from day one. And Vick would have likely enjoyed an offensive line full of free agent castoffs, a backfield of Larry Moriarty’s and a receiving corps worthy of the XFL.
Thus, as an expansion team, if a quarterback is at the top of your board, you’re likely better off trading down and picking up a few extra draft picks, especially if the guy’s as raw as Vick. You may think this sounds crazy, but let’s take a look at the history of quarterbacks taken number one.
Since the AFL and NFL merged in 1967, ten quarterbacks (not including Vick) have been selected with the first pick overall. Of those ten players, only three have taken their drafting team to a Super Bowl (Troy Aikman in Dallas, Drew Bledsoe in New England and Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh). Only four out of the ten have won Super Bowls — Aikman and Bradshaw, plus Jim Plunkett and John Elway, who won for teams they were traded to after draft day. Note that none of the above quarterbacks were selected by an expansion team.
Now let’s look at a guy who was drafted by an expansion team. Tim Couch was the Browns’ first overall pick in the 1999 draft and look where he is three years into his career. The Browns are on their second coach and were the third worst team in the NFL last year by record. In those first two years, Couch seemed to play with a target on his jersey, considering how many times he was sacked. The beatings were so brutal, it eventually knocked him to the IR last year, costing him and the team valuable development time.
What good is a top quarterback if he lacks the supporting cast to excel? Especially if the QB needs a few years to develop? Doesn’t that make the building process all the more difficult, because you’re then having to draft and sign free agents you hope will still be in their prime two, three years down the road when your franchise quarterback is finally ready? Years ago, this might have been a viable plan, but not in the salary cap era. Speaking of the salary cap, that also means more talent, even quarterback talent, is likely to be readily available unlike any other time previously — another reason to maybe hold off on sinking your first-ever pick into a quarterback you’re not sure about.
As teams find themselves struggling for cap room, more high dollar players are finding themselves looking for a new team. This offseason alone, Troy Aikman, Steve Buerlein and Super Bowl-winning Trent Dilfer were all released by their respective clubs due to cost considerations. Other quarterbacks looking for work this year included Brad Johnson, Doug Flutie and Elvis Grbac, to name just a few. All of these players have experience starting in the NFL. With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense for the Texans to draft a stud offensive lineman, just as the expansion Jaguars did with Tony Boseli, and the Oilers did in the eighties by drafting Bruce Mathews, Mike Munchak and Dean Steinkuhler, all in the first round? Offensive linemen generally are not high picks, so Casserly could trade down and pick up an extra second or third round pick, vital to a team starting from scratch. He could possibly even land a valuable position player as an added bonus, just as the Chargers did with Tim Dwight. Houston would be better off allowing a free agent quarterback to spend the first few seasons running for his life, not a supposed franchise quarterback. And since the team is going to lose often in the beginning anyway, they’ll have several chances to draft a quarterback later, when more pieces are in place.
Of course, that all depends on which underclassmen decide to leave school early and declare themselves eligible for the draft, as Vick did this year. Is it a risk to assume there will be a franchise quarterback a few years down the road? Not really, considering Vick is the third consecutive QB taken first overall. Right now, seniors Kurt Kittner of Illinois and Joey Harrington of Oregon are quarterbacks who might deserve consideration next year, but looking down the road, a guy like junior Chris Simms could be a tempting pick for the Texans, and possibly reason enough to wait. He begins his first full season as the starting quarterback at Texas this year. Also, Ole Miss’ Eli Manning, who, like Simms, is about to begin his first season as a full-time starter, is talented and just a sophomore, so it’s likely the Texans don’t need to reach in their first draft, which is why I would have stayed away from Vick.
The last player to be selected first overall by a Houston team was Earl Campbell, and we all know the impact Earl had on the Oilers. The chances of another player of Earl’s caliber being selected next year are slim at best. Thus, the Texans should sign as many quality, young free agents as possible before the draft, and then use it as way to fill in the holes with young talent, because it’s highly likely Houston won’t find their way to the Super Bowl by drafting a quarterback with their pick next year.
Prior to joining the HPF.com staff, Jimmy was a prolific heckler, once drawing the ire of the entire Oklahoma Sooner men’s basketball team, who graciously asked that he meet them behind G. Rolie White.