Before I begin, I wish to note that Jerry Jones has essentially ruled out the Dallas Cowboys taking a quarterback at fourth overall in the 2016 draft. Also, none of the big three (Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, or Paxton Lynch) has been brought in for a private visit yet. But nonetheless I'm going to stir things up a bit in the hopes that when the dust settles, so will we.
The "quarterback at four" debate has been a persistent one. A lot of confusion seems to surround this issue. As resident quarterback-truther I feel obliged to clarify the position and address some misconceptions that I have seen tossed out in the commentary here at BTB. So, without further ado...
"I don't want to take a quarterback at four just to take a quarterback"
That's good. Neither do we. The whole truther position is predicated on the idea that there is a legitimate franchise quarterback at four. If none of these guys fit that bill, we wouldn't be advocating for the pick. The pick alone does not equal the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback. We get that.
"There's no franchise quarterback in this class"
Nobody can know the absolute answer about a franchise quarterback until players actually play, but many draft scouts agree that there are at least two guys that can come in and start immediately and three or even four worthy of a first-round pick. While it's true that there isn't overall agreement on who the best in the class is, there is universal agreement that Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Paxton Lynch are all worthy of a first-round pick.
The idea that none of these guys is worth a pick at four is perhaps best addressed by NFL.com's player comparisons for these guys. I've seen it said over and over again that there's no Marcus Mariota in this class. NFL.com disagrees as that's exactly who they project Paxton Lynch as. People have said that Goff doesn't project as a top prospect, yet NFL.com compares him to Matt Ryan. Finally, Carson Wentz gets the "lowly" Blake Bortles for his career projection. But before you scoff at that, remember that the young Bortles, though he led the league in interceptions, also threw twice as many TDs, good for second in the league. He also was top ten in yardage with over 4,400, and all this behind a line so bad that he is already ranked on the all time NFL sack list after two seasons. We're talking David Carr-like sack numbers here.
But the bigger point is that all three of those guys (Mariota, Ryan and Bortles) were deemed worthy of pick four, because they all went before it, so the idea that none of this year's class is worthy of pick four is one that a lot of experts dispute.
"We shouldn't use pick four on a QB with such a weak class"
My problem with this argument is twofold. First off, this is not a weak class. We have consensus three projected first-rounders, with Connor Cook also being mentioned occasionally as a first-round prospect. The three first-rounders are getting compared to previous top-5 picks. In the last ten years, only twice have more than three quarterbacks been taken in the first round. This class is as strong as any in recent history.
But, further, a weak draft class is not a reason to avoid using such a high pick. In fact it's quite the opposite. The weaker the class, the more draft capital you'll need to spend to get a good player. If anything, a weak class is argument *against* the ideas of trading back or taking someone in later rounds. If you're concerned that pick four is wasted on a quarterback, what makes you think pick 34 is better?
"You can't pay a guy that kind of money just to hold a clipboard"
Chase Daniel - $7m a year, $12m guaranteed
Brian Hoyer - $5m a year, $5m guaranteed
Josh McCown - $4.7m a year, $6m guaranteed
Franchises do it all the time, and for quarterbacks who will never turn into a franchise guy. How much would a good back up have been worth to Dallas in 2015?
"This team needs an impact player to win now"
Depending on how you view the team, they are either way more than one player away from competing, or they are in a position to compete already. One of the last two years was a fluke. If it was 2014, no one available at pick 4, not Ramsey, Jack, Bosa, or Elliot, will bring it back. If it was 2015, then the biggest need at 4 is unquestionably a QB who can win games when Tony Romo goes down.
Some would argue that 2014 was the result of DeMarco Murray, but Murray's trip to Philly combined with Darren McFadden's career year would seem to indicate that the line had much more to do with 2014 than Murray did. The disparity in the team's capabilities in those two years combined with the amount of money shelled out to the two players tells me that it was far more about Romo and Dez Bryant than anyone has yet considered.
You want impact? The team will be returning its NFL top ten (being very conservative) quarterback, its NFL top five wide receiver, and its best cornerback to full health after missing all three for most of the season (I know Dez played several games, but he was nowhere near himself, under-performing the much maligned Roy Williams). That's impact where it is desperately needed.
Do they need a defensive end? Certainly. I do not believe either Joey Bosa or Deforest Buckner are the guy to suddenly turn this into a monster sack-generating team. Could they use a Myles Jack? Who couldn't? But Dallas already has an injury-riddled but otherwise all-pro caliber Will LB in Sean Lee. Does the idea of Jalen Ramsey look really nice next to Byron Jones? It's beautiful, but the Cowboys were average to slightly above in giving up deep passes last season, so I'm not sure improving both safeties would have the level of impact most are anticipating.
The main thing here is, as Bob Sturm said in today's news round up, you have to use this kind of draft capital on the future of your franchise, not to win now. Look at the way the Dallas Mavericks have floundered about, throwing away their draft picks in attempts to score a big-name free agent signing... and that's in the NBA, where one man dramatically changes the makeup of the team. In the NFL, the ultimate team sport, it's even more important to build a team through consistent drafting. Dallas needs to look to the future, because in short order, the future will be now.