It has been said that rookie passers need to sit and learn for a while. Don't count on it with this year's bunch. Since 2006 only three drafted quarterbacks have sat their entire first season and gone on to start at least 48 games for the team that selected them. With practice time reduced—as prescribed by the collective bargaining agreement—the only way for a young QB to get reps is to make him a starter. So, what will that look like for this year's top four signal-callers?
Bears ROUND 1, NO. 2
CHICAGO fans didn't like this selection, especially considering that GM Ryan Pace, to move up one spot, had to give the 49ers his No. 3 pick, his third- and fourth-rounders this year and next year's third-rounder. But if Trubisky pays off, few will care about the price. Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains runs a lot of quick-strike passing concepts, especially out of three-receiver sets, so Trubisky will operate in spread formations similar to those he ran at North Carolina. Chicago also drafted tight end Adam Shaheen (Ashland College) in the second round, suggesting that the Bears will often run out of two-tight-end formations. Sets with two tight ends can force defenses to react with predictable looks. And that's important for easing a young QB into the league.
Chiefs ROUND 1, NO. 10
MAHOMES'S GREATEST chance at NFL success is to buck the aforementioned trend and sit and learn from the sideline for a year or two. Fortunately, the Chiefs, with 32-year-old QB Alex Smith and a secure coach in Andy Reid, can afford to wait. Let's hope they do. If asked to run Reid's offense tomorrow, Mahomes simply couldn't. Reid's system is predicated on coverage reads and a sharp understanding of field angles; he doesn't ask his QBs to make plays, but rather to facilitate them for others. This is the opposite of how Mahomes played at Texas Tech, where, despite being in a highly structured quick-strike Air-Raid offense, he routinely went into sandlot mode. His mobility and strong arm carried him through—but in the NFL, that won't be enough. He has much to learn.
Texans ROUND 1, NO. 12
THE PRESSURE is on. Not only is Watson the most recognized 2017 draftee—the object of comparisons to Michael Jordan, no less (thanks, Dabo Swinney)—he also cost his new team two first-rounders. And this is a squad with immediate Super Bowl aspirations. If the Texans are to have any chance to fulfill that goal, coach Bill O'Brien will have to tweak his offense to suit the former Clemson QB. Some of Houston's complex full-field reads and option routes must be replaced with simpler half-field reads. (O'Brien did this for Brock Osweiler, but Osweiler didn't have a fraction of Watson's mobility.) To make Watson comfortable, O'Brien must translate many of those half-field reads into moving pockets so Watson can take advantage of his legs. Likewise, Watson has to hone his drop-back game. Neither will happen overnight.
Browns ROUND 2, NO. 52
NEVER MIND the Notre Dame quarterback's bluster about possessing Cam Newton's body and Tom Brady's brain. The reality: Kizer is a gifted thrower and a capable athlete, but wild inconsistency led to a 4--8 Irish record last season and a drop for him into the second round of the draft. Second-year Cleveland coach Hue Jackson is noted for his work with quarterbacks; he'll have to strip Kizer down to the studs and rebuild him in a way that eliminates his bouts of inaccuracy. Kizer must also become a steadier decision-maker. Still, Jackson's offensive scheme is passer-friendly, and Kizer made a lot of pro-style reads in college. If he can become a disciplined quarterback, he has a good chance of finding success in Cleveland.
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