There have been a lot of mixed opinions on the 2013 quarterback class. In the wake of the success of last year's quarterback class on the field last fall, it's going to be hard for this year's contingent to measure up.
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NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has gone on the record saying three to four quarterbacks could go in the first round even though he himself doesn't have any of the quarterback prospects ranked in his own top 20.
That means for clubs in the top half of round one that are looking for quarterback help like the Chiefs (1st overall), Browns (6th), Cardinals (7th) and Bills (8th) they might be best served to go with the best player on the board in round one and address quarterback in round two.
"I'm a big believer in value and if you have a top 10 pick, you want to an All-Pro," Mayock said. "If you look at a Geno Smith he could be a top ten pick in some people's eyes. He and Barkley to me are more like 20 to 32. That's where I'd feel more comfortable (taking them)."
Mayock addressed the needs of both the Browns at six overall and the Bills at eight. Both need linebacker help on defense and a quarterback on offense. With a new staff in Cleveland it's up for debate as to whether head coach Rob Chudzinski wants to move forward with last year's first-round pick Brandon Weeden.
"I think I'd be more comfortable if I'm the Browns at the linebacker position, trying to upgrade that at six, because I think I'd probably get a player worthy of that," Mayock said. "Whereas, at quarterback in my opinion, I'm reaching.
"I don't have a quarterback that I think can go before No. 20. Those two quarterbacks Geno Smith and [Matt] Barkley to me are 20 to 32 at best bottom third of the first round. So I'm not a proponent of any quarterback at number six for Cleveland."
Two spots later at eight Mayock is still hesitant to risk taking a quarterback for the Bills though he knows there will be groundswell of outside pressure to take one.
"There are going to be people that say Buffalo should take a quarterback at eight regardless of what the quote value is," he said. "With Geno Smith I see flashes of everything you want in a top 10 quarterback. I see a lot more inconsistency than those flashes. There's a real risk-reward scenario there. That's a long way of saying a lot of people are going to be talking about quarterbacks."
Mayock's caveat with his argument is with the new rookie wage scale under the 2011 CBA the risk of taking a quarterback in the top 10 is less than it was a few years ago in terms of dollars and cents, making the move easier to justify.
"It's a lot less expensive to take a flyer on a top 10 quarterback than it used to be," he said. "If you made a mistake on JaMarcus Russell it cost you 50 million dollars you had a problem. If you make a mistake on a kid today at eight and it cost you 20 million it's a little different, even though I don't subscribe to that."
The alternative for both Cleveland and Buffalo is addressing their linebacker position where the pool of talent is not only more bountiful, but more of a fit in terms of value according to Mayock.
"If you get into that linebacker discussion at eight there are a bunch of different names that will come up," he said. "One of them is going to be a polarizing figure and that's Ogletree out of Georgia. He's a kid that's made for the NFL with the ability to drop and cover. He's a former safety. He's fun to watch on tape, he flies, he's explosive. He's not great against the run, but boy in today's NFL of spread offenses he's a great fit. Given the off the field issues and the DUI recently he's going to be one of the more intriguing guys to follow in the draft. I think you get the best player you can get, and it's probably going to be one of those defensive ends or outside linebackers."* *
Other players deemed to be in that range according to draft prognosticators include Georgia's Jarvis Jones along with Oregon's Dion Jordan and LSU's Barkevious Mingo, though Mayock believes the value for Jordan and Mingo is more fitting of a pick in the middle of round one.
Mayock thinks a more prudent approach for quarterback needy teams is to consider one in round two or move into the bottom of the first round by trading back or trading up from the second round.
"I'm big on having a game plan as far as value when your pick comes up each time," he said. "Let's say (with your first pick) you get a good football player, and all of a sudden you're getting toward the end of the first round, beginning of the second round, what if Matt Barkley's sitting there?
"You look at his junior tape and you like his junior tape. Do you want to take a chance to draft Matt Barkley at that point (early) in the second round or trade up to 29? I think those are the kind of things that as this process develops, you're going to make some decisions on."
Mayock thinks Mike Glennon will also be examined in the same vein as an early two or possible late one due to his arm strength and potential. Ultimately, all of these teams have time and Mayock thinks they should use it all to help make the picture at quarterback clearer heading into the draft in late April.
"I think you've got to kind of let the process play out," he said. "And right now, if I'm (the Browns or Bills), I've got to get the best football player I can get at six or eight and start thinking about a quarterback later on, if it makes sense."