What we learned: Weak QB class just valuable enough

How valuable is a franchise quarterback?

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Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi used to tell his cronies that football is the perfect team sport with the exception of one glaring imbalance — the quarterback is too important.

It’s no secret that sustained success correlates to steady quarterback performance. We witnessed the flip side of that truism Thursday night in the first round of the 2017 Draft.

When organizations struggle to find relevancy at professional sports’ most influential position, their exhaustive quarterback searches deplete resources otherwise spent stockpiling young talent.

Less than two months after handing $18.5 million in guarantees, the Bears surrendered three extra draft picks to vault one spot over the 49ers for North Carolina’s , a quarterback with 13 college starts.

After watching choose the broadcast booth over the AFC South, the Texans relinquished next year’s first-round pick to move into the Browns’ No. 12 spot for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. That bold maneuver came in response to last month’s decision to flip their 2018 second-round pick to the same Cleveland franchise willing to take Brock Osweiler’s bloated salary off of Houston’s hands.

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Whereas the Bears and Texans entered the offseason with a mandate to find a solution under center, Alex Smith has led Kansas City to the NFL’s best winning percentage (.793) since the middle of the 2015 season.

Roughly 48 hours after the New York Jets were one of 28 NFL clubs to watch Mahomes’ pro day workout on Friday, the club wanted an even closer look at the former Texas Tech quarterback. Mahomes worked out for the Jets on Sunday, according to the Houston Chronicle. That makes six teams that have worked out Mahomes, along with the , Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, and . And with three-plus weeks left before the draft begins on April 27, there is plenty of time for other clubs to do the same. In fact, the Buffalo Bills will work him out next week, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

No fewer than 18 teams have scheduled either a workout or visit with him, making for a wild pre-draft ride for one of the NFL draft’s most exciting quarterback prospects. The Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles were the only four teams not represented at Mahomes’ pro-day workout, per the Chronicle.

The Jets certainly qualify as a team that would have a need-based interest in a quarterback, be it Mahomes or someone else. The club has journeyman veteran Josh McCown, and two unproven youngsters in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, at QB.

Nike Bengals #15 John Ross Black Team Color Men's Stitched NFL Vapor Untouchable Limited Jersey“The Bills pick No. 10 and then the Browns’ second pick is No. 12. There is the thought process that the Bills want Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina, that if they pick a quarterback, (he) would be their top quarterback,” Rapoport said Thursday on Good Morning Football. “And he also may, in fact, be the Browns’ top quarterback. If the Browns want this guy, they’ll have to leapfrog the Bills. You start to look at where that actually can be. The at No. 8 — I would not be surprised if they were willing to move back. What about the Bengals at No. 9 jerseys cheap? Could there be an intra-division trade between the Browns and the Bengals helping each other out? Maybe that’s a little far-fetched, but that’s what everyone is looking for in the first round.”

While we are dead center in the cough-inducing, eye-burning thickness of pre-draft smokescreen season, this is a possibility that makes too much sense. A reasonable person could surmise that the 49ers, Bears and Jets will all pass on quarterbacks or at least pass on Trubisky. That would create a showdown between Cleveland and Buffalo at the No. 10 pick, which the Bills currently hold. Carolina would be more than willing to move down given its handful of needs heading into the draft, which takes place in Philadelphia on April 27-29.

Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown tossed some cold water on the theory during his pre-draft news conference Wednesday, noting that the Browns are typically averse to bundling picks for just one selection. Still, he didn’t dismiss the possibility.

“We are open to it,” Brown said. “Generally, we value picks. We think no matter how prepared you are there is always a lot of uncertainty in the draft. Every team misses. We are not going to be different in that regard. We like young talent. We have said the draft is going to be the pipeline. We don’t want to get into a habit of turning two picks into one, so to speak. We just don’t think that is a good way to do business over time. We have studied this around the league, and it is just our inclination.”

He also knows that the Garrett-quarterback 1-2 punch might not be possible without it, and that Cleveland has a treasure trove of picks over the next two seasons. Is this the time to spend?

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