The Tex­ans pick at No. 25 and need a QB, but choices are slim. What are the op­tions?

UN­LIKE PRE­VI­OUS YEARS, EX­PERTS’ BIG BOARDS ARE MISS­ING QUAR­TER­BACKS AT THE TOP

Houston Chronicle - - TEXAS SPORTS NATION - BY ZACH BER­MAN // THE PHILADEL­PHIA INQUIRER

For the past two years, there was no de­bate at this point in April about the first two picks in the NFL draft. They would be quar­ter­backs. The mar­quee play­ers in both drafts played the league’s mar­quee po­si­tion. With the draft in Philadel­phia this year, that’s not the case. This is not con­sid­ered as top-heavy of a quar­ter­back class as the past two years, when Jameis Winston and Mar­cus Mar­i­ota went Nos. 1 and 2 in 2015 and Jared Goff and Car­son Wentz did the same in 2016. Teams can al­ways take quar­ter­backs ear­lier than ex­pected be­cause of the po­si­tion’s value, but there’s no con­sen­sus on whether any of the quar­ter­backs will go in the top 10 picks this year.

“It’s just go­ing to make the doc­u­men­tary and the story in five, 10 years even bet­ter when­ever they start talk­ing good about us,” said Clem­son’s De­shaun Wat­son, a pro­jected first-round pick who led the Tigers to the na­tional cham­pi­onship last sea­son.

The quar­ter­backs atop the class are Wat­son, North Carolina’s Mitch Tru­bisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, and Texas Tech’s Pa­trick Ma­homes II. The first three will at­tend the draft at the Art Mu­seum next week.

Draft an­a­lysts dif­fer on how they view this class. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. pre­dicts that Tru­bisky will be the first quar­ter­back taken at No. 6, while col­league Todd McShay projects Wat­son go­ing at No. 7 be­fore Tru­bisky. The NFL Net­work’s Daniel Jeremiah, a former Ea­gles scout, doesn’t have a quar­ter­back ranked among his top 25 play­ers in the draft.

“I know there’s been a lot of shots taken at this class,” said NFL Net­work an­a­lyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout. “But I do be­lieve there’s some young de­vel­op­men­tal play­ers at the po­si­tion that are in­trigu­ing prospects. Even the guys that will come off the board at the top of the board, they will be picked apart, kind of talked about how they’re not ready to play. But I do be­lieve in time that one or two of th­ese guys can emerge as stars at the po­si­tion, kind of carry the torch from some of the old guard that will be kind of fad­ing in the next two or three years and be­come stars in this league.”

Teams’ needs vary

Much will de­pend on the sit­u­a­tion the quar­ter­back en­ters. The Cleve­land Browns still need a so­lu­tion at quar­ter­back af­ter pass­ing on select­ing Wentz last year. The Browns have the Nos. 1 and 12 se­lec­tions — fer­tile spots to pick a passer.

They can choose Tru­bisky, a one-year starter for the Tar Heels who grew up in the Cleve­land area and would wel­come the chance to play for his home­town team. They can take Wat­son, whose pedi­gree for the Tigers in­cludes 28 wins and two na­tional cham­pi­onship ap­pear­ances in the last two years, and the game-win­ning touch­down pass against Alabama to se­cure the ti­tle in Jan­uary. But his in­ter­cep­tions in­creased last sea­son, and he is left an­swer­ing ques­tions about how he’ll tran­si­tion

from Clem­son’s spread at­tack to a pro-style of­fense.

Kizer and Ma­homes are not as her­alded — and nei­ther led his team to a win­ning record last sea­son — but they still en­tered the draft as un­der­class­men with tools that could make a team want to in­vest be­cause of the longterm po­ten­tial.

The New York Jets and Tex­ans both could have com­pe­ti­tion for start­ing spots in 2017, but even teams with es­tab­lished quar­ter­backs such as the New Or­leans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Charg­ers, and Kansas City Chiefs could en­ter the quar­ter­back mix be­cause of the down-the-road out­look at the po­si­tion.

Lack of ex­pe­ri­ence

Tru­bisky, who is 6-2 and 222 pounds with a 4.67-sec­ond 40-yard dash, threw 30 touch­downs and only six in­ter­cep­tions last sea­son while com­plet­ing 68 per­cent of his passes and av­er­ag­ing 288 yards per game. But he spent his first two el­i­gi­ble years at North Carolina as a re­serve, leav­ing only 13 starts for teams to eval­u­ate.

“That’s a ques­tion ev­ery­body’s ask­ing,” Tru­bisky said of his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence. “I think I def­i­nitely have enough ex­pe­ri­ence. I only have 13 starts but I played in 30 games. . I’m a stu­dent of the game and I’ve seen a lot of de­fenses, and I think that’s go­ing to help me. And just my abil­i­ties, I feel like I’m in a re­ally good spot right now to take my game to the next level and I feel re­ally con­fi­dent.”

Wat­son doesn’t have that prob­lem. He started 35 ca­reer games and ac­cu­mu­lated 10,168 yards, 90 touch­downs and 32 in­ter­cep­tions while com­plet­ing 67.4 per­cent of his passes. He also rushed for 1,934 yards and 26 touch­downs. That ex­pe­ri­ence is what Wat­son be­lieves sets him apart in this class.

“Every­one works hard, every­one is mo­ti­vated to be the guy in that fran­chise,” Wat­son said. “I’d just say my past his­tory, start­ing back in high school, the way I was raised, com­ing from the projects home and be­ing able to get out of that. Be­ing the face of col­lege foot­ball for two years, han­dling the suc­cess, han­dling all the crit­i­cism and the ad­ver­sity. And then be­ing 48-8 in high school and win­ning a state cham­pi­onship and then go­ing to the col­le­giate level and be­ing 33-3, so one thing that trans­lates from col­lege to the NFL is win­ners, and I think be­ing a quar­ter­back, that’s the big­gest thing be­ing rec­og­nized, win­ning games. That’s all I’ve been do­ing.”

Sys­tem is­sues

So why isn’t he thought to be the likely No. 1 pick? Wat­son said the “big­gest ques­tion” he’s hear­ing from team of­fi­cials is whether he can change pro­tec­tions, run a pro of­fense, and rec­og­nize de­fen­sive cov­er­ages. The in­ter­cep­tions are also a blem­ish. So he must show that his skill set can trans­late to the NFL.

When the quar­ter­backs go off the board will be one of the big­gest sto­ries next week. This class is his­tor­i­cally deep at other po­si­tions, but drafts are of­ten head­lined by the quar­ter­backs. Wat­son, Tru­bisky, and Kizer have a chance to make their walk on the Rocky steps an im­age re­mem­bered for years to come if they can prove that the crit­i­cism of this year’s class is in­cor­rect.

“Who’s to say this quar­ter­back class can’t be one of the best? Only the fu­ture will tell,” Tru­bisky said. “I think there’s a lot of tal­ented guys here and that’s what we’re here to show, and hope­fully it will through­out our ca­reers.”

John Weast/Getty Images

Jeff Gam­mons / Getty Images

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