Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

MANY QUESTIONS HAUNT CLASS OF QBS CHOICES ABUNDANT, BUT ARE ANY OF THEM WORTHY OF SELECTION AMONG TOP 10 PICKS NEXT THURSDAY? Series: ON THE CLOCK: NFL Draft 2014

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

MANY QUESTIONS HAUNT CLASS OF QBS CHOICES ABUNDANT, BUT ARE ANY OF THEM WORTHY OF SELECTION AMONG TOP 10 PICKS NEXT THURSDAY? Series: ON THE CLOCK: NFL Draft 2014

Article excerpt

One decade after three quarterbacks were selected among the top 11 picks and went on to impact the league dramatically, at least that many could hear their name called in the first 10 selections next week in the NFL draft.

Problem is, which quarterbacks will be selected early remains as big a mystery as which teams will select them.

That's because, unlike the 2004 class that produced Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, too many questions surround the top quarterbacks in the draft -- none more telling than whether any of them deserve to be drafted that high.

And, by the time the first round of the draft begins next Thursday, that could be enough to scare off some of the five teams who are seeking quarterbacks -- Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota -- and bring some sanity back to the process.

Blake Bortles of Central Florida, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Teddy Bridegwater of Louisville are considered the top three quarterbacks in the draft, with Derek Carr of Fresno State making a late push to join them. But opinions on which is most ready to play in the NFL, or even if they will have a significant impact in the league, vary as greatly as their abilities.

"I can pick apart all three," said draft expert Mike Mayock of NFL Network. "I could not pick apart Andrew Luck."

"I don't really have a first-round grade on any of [the quarterbacks]," said former quarterback and CBS analyst Rich Gannon.

No position in pro sports is as important as quarterback, and NFL teams fall all over themselves trying to find the one who will produce a Super Bowl championship. Most of those quarterbacks tend to come from the first round. In the past nine Super Bowls, seven have been won by quarterbacks drafted in the first round, including two each by Roethlisberger and Manning from the Class of 2004.

Granted, the most recent Super Bowl was won by a quarterback drafted in the third round (Russell Wilson). But that might not stop at least three teams from taking a quarterback before the draft is 10 picks old.

The Steelers hope they do. With the 15th overall pick in the draft, the more quarterbacks that are selected before them, the more likely they could land one of the four players who intrigue them -- wide receivers Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State and cornerbacks Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State. The Steelers do not expect Evans to be available.

"Are we going to force a quarterback at No. 8?" Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL combine. "We're going to take the best player, unless we're absolutely in love with a guy. There will be enough depth in this class where you can potentially get a quarterback maybe in the second round, third round, fourth round, where that guy can potentially be a franchise guy for you. …

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