Mock drafts are just that – mocked up. But looking through the large number of them on the web causes headaches and brings up a lot of questions.
So, why do these draft prognosticators seem to think that the Panthers need a quarterback? Isn’t Jake Delhomme’s rehab going well according to all reports? Isn’t Matt Moore a solid backup that could be counted on?
We’ll start with Delhomme.
Some talk surrounding the Louisiana native among fans has been that his arm strength was declining and that his passes had begun to resemble wounded ducks. They argue that he just wasn’t the same prior to his injury.
However, prior to his injury last season, Jake was on pace for over 4,000 yards, over 40 TD’s, and had a QB rating of 111.8. Further, Delhomme had been careful with the ball throwing only 1 interception.
I’m not sure that the stats support the claim that Delhomme had lost anything from his game. He was off to a fast start. Sure, the argument can be made that the Panthers hadn’t played the best teams up to that point (St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta) but numbers like Jake’s are nothing to scoff at in this league.
Another knock against him is that he focused too much on Steve Smith and didn’t go to his other receivers Drew Carter and Keary Colbert enough. Some of that has to fall on Delhomme but it’s only natural for a quarterback to lose faith in receivers.
Honestly, looking at the stats a little more closely, none of the Panthers’ receivers were exceptional last year. Steve Smith caught 58% of the passes thrown his way, Drew Carter 48% and Keary Colbert 46%.
Also, in the three games that Jake started, the stats bear out a disparity but not one that is a major concern considering the inconsistency shown by Carter and Colbert. More importantly, Steve Smith has been the big play guy in Carolina now for several seasons. He’s been consistent and has shown the ability to turn a routine play into a spectacular play. One rule in this league is to get the ball into the hands of your playmakers – Smith is certainly that. (Smith 16 rec, 281 yards, 4 TDs; Carter 5 rec, 86 yards; Colbert 5 rec, 86 yards)
We can throw numbers around all day. But there is are two numbers that can’t be ignored: 2 and 1. Those are the number of wins and losses respectively the team had when Jake went on injured reserve.
But even numbers can lie. On occasion, we’ve seen Delhomme put up less than gaudy numbers while helping the team to victories. This brings up the intagibles that he brings to the position. And those intangibles were in short supply with Jake out of the lineup.
Those intagibles were nearly absent until a youngster by the name of Matt Moore stepped into the lineup to stay in week 14 versus Jacksonville. Moore’s stats were steady if not spectacular as the starter in the three weeks that followed – 49 of 79 (62.1%), 564 yards, 3 TDs, 2 ints. But his most important stat was a 2-1 record in those games.
Certainly, some will argue that he was playing for a team that was simply finishing a disappointing season and even faced opponents who were doing the same. That simply wasn’t the case in his first start as he faced a Seattle Seahawks team fighting for a playoff berth and managed to come out with the win.
Maybe the team will receive a lot of criticism for relying on a former undrafted quarterback out of Oregon State as their primary backup. But I can’t see that being any different than putting a starter out there each week who went undrafted eleven years ago.
Maybe Delhomme’s experience amounts for something. But Moore’s situation isn’t much different than Jake’s with the obvious exception that he didn’t get playing time in Europe. But to knock a guy because he wasn’t drafted is silly in the first place. The scouts don’t always get it right.
So, what do we make of all of this talk about taking a quarterback in next month’s draft? I’m not sure we can make a lot of it at all. Much of it is just that – talk.
The TV talking heads have to have something to say to fill airtime. And, on occasion, saying something that gets fans upset is good for ratings. But this talk doesn’t stop with them.
The web is now filled with news (some good and mostly bad), blogs (mostly those who simply regurgitate what they read in the news) and forums and message boards. All of this spurs the talk even more. It adds weight to a lot of discussions that wouldn’t make it farther than the water cooler otherwise.
But, we felt it was necessary to dive into this draft and take a closer look at some of the players available at this most critical position. Even if it is an exercise in futility.
Matt Ryan, Boston College: Ryan is considered the top quarterback in this draft by most scouts. He has the physical tools to do well in the NFL along with the intangibles that NFL teams look for. His leadership on the field, especially in tough situations or with the game on the line, make him the most coveted prospect at his position.What might hurt Ryan is a less-than-impressive showing at his pro day. Herm Edwards of the Chiefs was the only coach that showed up to watch him. His passes seemed to be forced under the watchful eye of scouts. Further, he didn’t throw at the Combine which could fuel talk that his stock may now have him outside the top five picks in the draft.Why the Panthers could take him – Only if Ryan’s draft stock takes a major hit in the coming weeks will he even fall that far. It’s also possible that other players may see their stock rise to the point that teams begin to value them over Ryan. Then, and only then, will he make it as far down the draft board as the thirteenth pick. With few outstanding quarterbacks expected to be in the ’09 draft, the Panthers would have to consider him. But the chances that he falls outside of the top 7 picks is remote at best.
Why the Panthers won’t take him – First, he won’t be there. Second, the Panthers seem to be satisfied enough with Delhomme and Moore to wait until late in day one or early in day two to take a shot at a quarterback.
Brian Brohm, Louisville: Brohm is an interesting prospect that has the size and the arm strength to succeed at the next level. Staying in college for his senior year may have helped and hurt him at the same time. What he learned during that extra season at the collegiate level will likely be a factor in his maturity. However, he could have been a lock to go in the top five last year.His performance at the Combine was impressive putting up a 4.83 in the 40 and looking very accurate in throwing drills. In fact, some still have him listed as the top QB in the draft, though they are few and far between.Why the Panthers could take him – This kid is about as prepared to play in the NFL as any quarterback in this draft. His work in college under Bobby Petrino, among others, has helped to teach him the game. The touch he displays on his passes is impressive. Each of the teams ahead of the Panthers have pressing needs at several positions making the first twelve picks difficult to predict. But Brohm would make for a very solid quarterback of the future.Why the Panthers won’t take him – There are likely suitors for Brohm ahead of Carolina (Baltimore and Kansas City to name two). Honestly, he’s no more likely than Ryan to still be available at thirteen. Further, the team enters this draft with pressing needs at OT and safety making players like Jeff Otah, Ryan Clady and Kenny Phillips more attractive.
Chad Henne, Michigan: Henne is an interesting pro prospect. Some have wondered if he stayed in school one year too long. His outing against Ohio State was not impressive and his completion percentage dipped below 60%. He had consistently been above that mark in prior seasons. However, he has always shown great poise and was also a four-year starter at a big-time program against some tough defenses. He has good size (6’2″, 226) and a sufficient NFL arm.Why the Panthers could take him – If there is a quarterback on this list that’s getting a lot of buzz across the net among fans, it’s Henne. He’s a likely second-round pick that has fans of many teams calling for him to be their team’s second pick. Because of the level of competition he’s faced, his physical tools and his impressive showings at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, Henne could be a very likely pick for the Panthers should he fall to them.Why the Panthers won’t take him – Henne has some scouts concerned over his foot work when the play breaks down. To complicate things even more for him is that he was hurt during his senior season at Michigan. Those concerns could hurt his stock. That could also play into the hands of an NFL team like Carolina. But the team may also have their eyes on a safety or even a tackle in round two (where Chad is probably coming off the board) that they would take ahead of a quarterback.
Joe Flacco, Deleware: For a guy who couldn’t make the lineup at Pitt and transferred to tiny Deleware, the prospects aren’t too bad. He put up pretty good numbers in college but was facing lesser opponents. He answered those critics with a very solid showing at the Combine as he wowed the scouts with the best arm strength in the group. His accuracy was also impressive. Flacco has become the feel good story of the draft.Why the Panthers could take him – Flacco has been impressive, no doubt. He’s looking more and more like a pro prospect all the time. With all the buzz about him, he could go as high as the late first round and could still fall as low as the late second round. It’s just hard to judge what could happen with him. But the Panthers could have him on their radar come draft day.Why the Panthers won’t take him – Flacco was unable to beat out Tyler Palko at Pitt which will be a fact that sticks with scouts. Keep in mind, however, that the team was being coached by Dave Wannstedt so that works in his favor since Wanny isn’t exactly known as a quarterback guru. But Flacco will have to overcome this as well as doubts about the level of competition he faced in college while at Deleware. The Panthers could still wait until at least the third round to take a quarterback should they be looking for one.
Andre Woodson, Kentucky: Woodson has been sliding up and down draft boards for months. The question has to be why. He was impressive in college showing that he’s careful with the ball going 325 consecutive attempts without an interception. He did throw 11 picks but also had 40 TDs to his credit in his senior season. Woodson is elusive in the pocket and can make throws on the move.Why the Panthers could take him – It’s hard to determine where AW will be taken. Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the late first round to completely out of the second round. If this kid lasts as late as the third round I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wearing a Panthers uniform next year. He’ll be 24 at the start of the season so he should be a mature kid.Why the Panthers won’t take him – There are several reasons I can cite here. Among them is that Woodson has an awkward throwing motion a la Vince Young, he has shown a habit in college for taking unnecessary sacks (though he reduced that number last year), and the Panthers probably won’t have a shot at him unless they pull the trigger in the second round which is unlikely.
I know a lot of pundits are out there. They’ll say that the Panthers are in dire need of a quarterback. If you listened to last week’s podcast you’ll hear one of them. But I’m not so sure I agree.Delhomme is now 33 years old and may not be able to play a lot longer though he does only have 9 season under his belt while taking far fewer hits than the average QB his age. But age is still a factor and could work against him.Yet, I see Moore as a solid pro. Whether he can be the full-time starter in the event of an injury to Jake is yet to be seen. But he sure looked like a special player at the end of ’07. I’m not sure he’s Brett Favre but I also don’t think he’s Tim Couch either.
The bottom line is this – John Fox has yet to show that he’s terribly interested in taking offensive players early in the draft. If he finds a guy he likes on day two we might see a new face at QB next season and then I doubt it’s anybody we mentioned.