August 3, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (12) (left) Graham Harrell (6) (center) and B.J. Coleman (9) (right) are announced to the crowd prior to the family night scrimmage at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
It may seem unconscionable that a team like the Green Bay Packers about to hand out a lifetime contract to a 29-year-old quarterback would turn around and draft another player at his position. However, as we all know, Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson has made far more curious selections before. But why invest another draft pick at a position that is as solidified as any across the league?
It’s the same answers Packers fans always hear: value and depth.
Aug 30, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Graham Harrell (6) during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Chiefs 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
While Aaron Rodgers has proven to be both incredibly effective and durable, there’s no player with today’s heightened player safety concerns who can be relied upon for a full season. Packers management got a glimpse into what life without Rodgers would be like when the 2011 MVP was temporarily sidelined with an eye injury against the Saints this past season. The dynamic offense fumbled on the first snap with backup Graham Harrell at the helm, nearly causing the game to fall for New Orleans. While it’s unfair to judge Harrell based on one snap, his body of work has left a poor impression. The former Texas Tech standout will need to improve considerably if Green Bay is to remain competitive should Rodgers be sidelined again.
Aug 23, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Graham Harrell (6) and BJ Coleman (9) and Aaron Rodgers (12) conference on the sideline during the pre-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports
Harrell isn’t the only in-house option, however. 2012 seventh round selection B.J. Coleman possesses the physical tools you look for in an NFL passer. After spending his rookie season on the practice squad, Coleman is set to go through his first “QB School.” While that sounds promising, it’s important to remember that Coleman never seriously challenged for an active roster spot at any time last offseason, and his small school pedigree suggests he may need another year or two before a spot on the 53 is warranted.
And here is where the 2013 NFL Draft comes in. For teams searching for a franchise quarterback, the talent pool yields more questions than answers. There is a silver lining, however. This draft class contains more quarterbacks with starting potential than any in recent memory.
To be clear, that’s not saying this draft will yield more starters than in years past, but the potential is there. Better still, due to depressed demand for quarterbacks, some quality prospects will be available late on the second day and beyond.
Jan 21, 2013; Fairhope AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad quarterback Landry Jones of Oklahoma (14) during Senior Bowl practice at Fairhope municipal stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
This is where smart GMs like Ted Thompson earn their salary. It is very unlikely that Green Bay will select a quarterback with either of its first two picks. The draft’s top signal callers, Geno Smith and Matt Barkely, could be off the board and in any case do not represent great value to a team drafting at number 26. Similarly, the second round won’t yield a quarterback worthy of the Packers’ draft pick.
After that point, all bets are off.
Underrated prospects such as Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, and Matt Scott will all likely be around between the Packers’ third and fifth round selections. Not only does this second to third tier of passers possess the skill set necessary to become starters, but they all come with a much higher floor than most prospects taken in that range.
Should Green Bay snatch up one of these passers (and there’s more than the three I listed), they’d acquire a player capable of beating out Harrell and Coleman for the backup spot.
Dec 23, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scrambles for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
If you don’t think that’s enough return to warrant the pick, just look to the 2012 Washington Redskins. When starter Robert Griffin III sprained his knee late against Baltimore, rookie Kirk Cousins stepped in and threw the game-tying touchdown pass and two-point conversion. Cousins started the following week with even more impressive results. Not only did these wins represent the difference between winning the NFC East and missing the playoffs, but the Redskins now have a valuable trade chip they can cash in some time in the future. Green Bay would be wise to follow this model. Rodgers, a mobile quarterback in his own right, is just one hit away from missing his next start. Having a backup with starting ability could be a season saver for Green Bay.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.