There are very few guarantees in the NFL Draft. Especially at the quarterback position, where the stakes are the highest. The 2011 NFL Draft is no different. Aside from a very raw, but electric Cam Newton and a promising Blaine Gabbert, the vast quarterback class of 2011 could either be among the best ever or truly disappointing.
The Washington Redskins may or may not elect to participate in the quarterback sweepstakes at the draft this year. In fact, Thursday night might actually see Mike Shanahan make the biggest decision yet of his reign as head coach. Will Shanahan pursue a new franchise quarterback for the second year in a row? Or will he play it safe and use the 10th overall pick to improve the Redskins' 31st ranked defense?
Choosing the Best Player Available is always a popular option. The Redskins could target an offensive or defensive lineman in the first round. Offensive tackle Tyron Smith would be a nice fit. Linebacker Von Miller could be a star. But neither seems likely to be available for the Redskins at No. 10. And so we could instead be looking at second tier prospects like Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan or offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo of Boston College.
The past two years, the Redskins made the prudent, intelligent, and obvious choices in the first round. Brian Orakpo was about as close to a sure-thing as you could find in the middle of the first round in 2009. And Trent Williams has from Day 1 looked like the type of bookend tackle who can cement the left side of the line for a decade.
But outside of seeing Gabbert, Smith, or Fairley surprisingly fall to the 10 spot, there may be no obvious choice for Washington this year. And so the right choice for Shanahan and the Redskins might be one that isn't immediately popular with the fanbase. Let's just get it over with already and draft a quarterback!
A quick glance at the teams that made the playoffs in 2010 and the teams that have won a Super Bowl in the past decade tells us that possessing a franchise quarterback is vital to sustained success. Unless the Redskins think Rex Grossman or John Beck is the team's franchise quarterback (we don't, they're not), they need to make a splash, and they need to make it soon. Otherwise they're just treading water. Why wait another year? There's no reason to think that next year's quarterback class will be any deeper. Or that we'll have a higher draft pick than No. 10 in 2012. Or that any decent quarterbacks will be free agents.
In the current NFL, you need a franchise quarterback to win. Well, no one's ever won the lottery without first procuring a ticket. No one's ever been dealt a royal flush without first taking a seat at the poker table.
Is Jake Locker a royal flush? How about Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick? I don't know. None of us do. But I'd sure hate to find out with them on another team's roster and the Redskins stuck with just Grossman and Beck for another year. Which quarterback should the Redskins draft? That decision will be left to the Shanahans. They're the experts.
Trading back from 10th would be acceptable. Waiting until the second round to draft a quarterback might be as well. Skipping out entirely on this quarterback class would not.
We've been dealt a pretty good hand here. A high draft pick and a handful of eligible quarterbacks with potential to be legitimate NFL starters. Don't fold now!
If you're Mike Shanahan, you need to think about the future of this franchise. You need to think about your job security. With so many other needs, drafting a quarterback either Thursday or Friday night may not seem like the obvious choice. But its also really the only one that makes sense.