This was widely believed to be a weak quarterback class with none deserving of the No. 1 overall pick for the desperate Cleveland Browns. But by looking at the results of the first round, you’d never know so many people were down on the players in this year’s group.
Three were taken in the first 12 picks, all of which were surprising in their own right. What made it even more shocking was the fact that the Bears, Chiefs and Texans all traded up to land their quarterbacks – the first time in the modern draft era that three teams moved up in Round 1 to take a quarterback.
The shuffle of quarterbacks on Thursday night will have real implications not only this season, but for years to come. Some benefited from the moves, while others lost out big time.
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Loser: Mike Glennon
Poor Mike Glennon. Well, not literally. He still got $18.5 million guaranteed from the Bears, which he’ll receive whether he’s the starter or a third-string quarterback. Still, it wasn’t a great night for the Bears’ big offseason addition. Chicago traded up from No. 3 to to No. 2 to land Mitchell Trubisky, hoping to solidify the quarterback position for years to come.
He probably won’t start right away as Chicago should at least see the Glennon addition through, but the pressure is on. At the first sign of struggle, Bears fans will jump all over Glennon and call for Trubisky to start – even if he’s not ready. That’s the difficult reality Glennon now has to live with.
Winner: Deshaun Watson
Watson couldn’t have landed in a better situation. He now gets to work with a quarterback-friendly coach in Bill O’Brien, is surrounded with elite talent at the skill positions, and has a defense that will cover for any mistakes he might make. That’s not something he was going to get in Cleveland or New York.
He’ll be put in a position to succeed right away, potentially leading a Super Bowl-caliber team to the playoffs in Year 1. Watson fits perfectly in O’Brien’s West Coast offense and has the mobility to make plays with his legs, too. Overall, it was a terrific night for not just Watson, but for the Texans as a whole. They got their guy after trading up from No. 25 to No. 12.
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Loser: Alex Smith
Smith is used to looking over his shoulder in the quarterback room, doing so in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick. This, however, is a different situation. He knows his job is on the line with Patrick Mahomes waiting in the wings after the Chiefs traded up 17 spots to get Mahomes at 10. Smith is probably safe for 2017, with Mahomes needing time to develop and learn, but at this time next year, the veteran will most likely be looking for another job.
The Chiefs can cut Smith before the 2018 season and save $17 million in cap space, and there’s very little chance they keep Mahomes on the bench for two years – even as raw as he is.
Smith is firmly on his way out of Kansas City, and if Mahomes is more prepared for the NFL than expected, the veteran's exit could come sooner rather than later.
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Winner: Christian Hackenberg
Some thought the Jets would take a guy like Deshaun Watson with the sixth pick, but they stood pat and picked the best defensive player available: safety Jamal Adams. The biggest winner from this development is Hackenberg, who will seemingly get his first chance to start for the Jets. He didn’t get that opportunity last season, but in Year 2, he should be able to beat out Josh McCown and Bryce Petty.
The Jets could easily still take a quarterback like Davis Webb or DeShone Kizer, but doing so won’t carry the same implications as taking one in the first round. Had they gone that route, it undoubtedly would’ve spelled the end of the Hackenberg “era” in New York before it even got a chance to begin.
The Browns passed on taking a quarterback twice – once at No. 1 (thankfully), and again at 12 when they traded down with the Texans, who took Deshaun Watson. They could have easily remained at No. 12 and drafted their franchise quarterback in Watson, but they felt it was better to trade down and push back their need at the position.
Unfortunately, they’re now left with a big question mark heading into 2017. Will they take someone like DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb? Or will Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler duke it out in training camp? Either way, the Browns are setting themselves up for disappointment next season despite wisely bolstering the defense in the draft.
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Winner: Patrick Mahomes
Throughout the pre-draft process, all the talk surrounding Mahomes was his raw talent and need to sit for a year before becoming a starter. Lucky for him, he landed with a team that will afford him the ability to do exactly that. Andy Reid now has a developmental quarterback to mold and groom into his next Donovan McNabb, which should make Mahomes very, very happy.
He won’t be forced into the starting lineup with a team like the Browns, and he’ll be able to learn from a savvy veteran like Alex Smith. Don’t get me wrong, Mahomes needs a lot of work. However, if there’s a coach and system that will benefit him greatly, it’s Reid and Kansas City’s scheme.
Loser: DeShone Kizer
Kizer predictably fell all the way out of the first round, forcing him to sit anxiously in the green room for more than three and a half hours. It was somewhat surprising that a team didn’t come up to grab him at the end of the first round to net a fifth-year option, but seeing him slide was pretty much expected.
Now, his options are thinner than they were when Thursday night began. The Browns and Jets still need a quarterback, but it’d be hard to see either taking him in the second round. The Cardinals might be his best landing spot as an heir to Carson Palmer. Regardless of where he’s picked, he lost out on a lot of money after falling out of the first round.