The Advance Scout | HoustonProFootball.com
September 24, 2001
To QB or Not To QB
by Keith Weiland
David Carr’s meteoric rise has muddied an already befuddling list of college seniors atop the Texans’ draft board. Though it’s still early in the college football season, the Fresno State quarterback has thrown it into high gear and led the Bulldogs to a perfect 4-0 start, his performance impressive in each. And a relative cream puff schedule of WAC opponents awaits him the rest of the way. Within reach will be a BCS bowl berth should Carr and his Fresno teammates take care of business, and it may take that long for this Texan fan to get comfortable with the idea that he could be the first player taken by Houston in next April’s draft.
That is, if I ever get comfortable with that idea at all. Robert Herrick once advised the youthful to "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," and the Houston Texans should take similar heed. "Rosebuds," in this case, are not limited to just quarterbacks. If General Manager Charley Casserly retains the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, that player will be expected to develop into one of the best, if not the best, player at that position in the entire league. He has to. If no such player exists in the draft, then Casserly’s only choice is to trade down.
Value is the key. As top draft picks go, quarterbacks are as risky a position to draft as any other. Far too often, professional teams are willing to make a reach on a player that may have unlimited potential but eventually fail to realize greatness during their career. It is a luxury afforded only to good squads with deep rosters. The Texans will have neither in 2002, much less 2003.
There is undue pressure on Casserly to select the top quarterback on the board with the first overall pick in the collegiate draft. He has mentioned that he would take a quarterback in that position if one was worthy of such a high pick. It will not be a surprise when, in just seven (excruciatingly long) months, he uses that pick to fill one of his other twenty-one pressing needs on offense or defense.
The 2002 draft class for quarterbacks may be one of the weakest in recent memory, and that would still be true even if many of the top underclassmen declared eligibility. The play of Carr, after just four wins, albeit convincing, epitomizes that statement. To many, he has skyrocketed past other top senior quarterbacking prospects, like Oregon’s Joey Harrington and Illinois’ Kurt Kitner. This has happened so quickly only because a true stud quarterback does not exist in the college game this season.
So, the answer then is to take a quarterback with a second or even a third round pick then, right?
Not necessarily. What next year’s draft may lack in bankable, risk-free QB prospects, it will make up for in unpolished talent. To an expansion team with only fourteen college draft picks at its disposal, each pick should be treated as if it were solid gold. It should be difficult to burn a pick on a quarterback that may not be a significant contributor for years to come, if ever, when there is other bona fide talent available that can make an immediate impact elsewhere on the field. Each of those fourteen picks is too essential to a new franchise to waste on a pipe dream.
The last two expansion teams to draft a first round quarterback have had mixed results. The Carolina Panthers selected Kerry Collins of Penn State with the fifth overall pick in 1995, and he promptly led then to the NFC Championship Game in just his second year. Collins, though, was supported by a much more veteran team in Carolina compared with what the Texans will field in the foreseeable future. As that free agent talent on the Panther roster eroded, so too did Collins’ fire to play the game. He quit on his team just two years later only later to revitalize his career with another team.
The Cleveland Browns selected Tim Couch of Kentucky with the first overall pick in 1999, but they are now beginning to hear murmurs from others around the league that he may be a bust unless he makes significant strides this season. In contrast to Collins, Couch has not had the luxury of a veteran supporting cast, again, something that Houston’s quarterback will likely not have either. Fair or unfair, tough expectations await Houston’s first pick.
Interestingly, both coaches on the Texans’ staff have experience with these two young quarterbacks – Head Coach Dom Capers with Collins and Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer with Couch – so each has probably shared with Casserly their own firsthand knowledge of their past situations. Coming up empty in the search for a legitimate first-round quarterback this year, and knowing what pitfalls lie ahead even if they do find one, should make the decision to draft a player at another position a simple one.
So enjoy watching the strong arm and leadership abilities of David Carr as he outshines his WAC opponents, but unless he falls to the middle rounds of the draft, he will be the third-string quarterback for another NFL team next fall.
Keith Weiland is impressed that Charley Casserly’s Redskins won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks, but it only makes him more concerned that Casserly’s ability to spot talent at that position (Heath Shuler, anyone?) is suspect. David Carr Home
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