Quarterback is a weird position to figure in the NFL draft. Some years, guys fall because there aren't many teams that need to fill the position, and those teams aren't willing to spend a first-round pick to get a guy that would just be backing up their current starter. See Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, etc. Sometimes they fall because they have flaws; sometimes they fall because supply exceeds demand. Sometimes they fall because they're simply not the best player on teams' boards.
The flip side is that quarterbacks are often over-drafted when the supply and demand match up well. If a team sees the supply of elite quarterback prospects dwindling, each pick before theirs is like a mini-countdown to a shuttle launch; they're just hoping the team picking leaves the guy they want on the board. Often, these teams will trade up to get this player simply because he's the last guy they feel can be their "quarterback of the future".In the 2011 NFL Draft, almost all of you already know and are very aware of the fact that the Jaguars select 16th. What you may have paid less attention to is the fact that the Tennessee Titans select 8th. This matters; it matters a great deal, in fact.
Tennessee has already informed Vince Young, as well as the rest of the world, that he will not be a part of their roster in 2011. That leaves their depth chart at QB as follows: Kerry Collins, Rusty Smith. That's not a long-term solution by any means. Tennessee will be looking for their quarterback of the future in this draft as well, and unfortunately for the Jaguars they select eight picks ahead of Jacksonville in the first round and ten spots ahead of Jacksonville in the second round (Tennessee moves up a spot, Jaguars move back a spot...see draft order rules [yeah, it's Wikipedia; sue me. I couldn't seem to find it anywhere credible]). This is not to mention the other teams drafting ahead of Jacksonville that are also looking for their "quarterback of the future" such as Washington, San Francisco, Minnesota, Arizona, Cincinnati, and possibly Buffalo and/or Cleveland. In a year where the prospect pool is supposedly deep, the demand is also very high, and that limits the possibilities. Looking at the prospects...
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri - Most people see Gabbert as a lock to go top-ten. I would agree. I see him going to Cincinnati at 4, Arizona at 5, San Francisco at 7, Tennessee at 8, or at worst Washington at 10. There's no chance Gabbert falls to 16.
Cam Newton, Auburn - Newton is a strange case. He's got major flaws, but he's also got amazing talent. I could see Newton going to any of the teams I listed for Gabbert based on the fact that his upside is so high. I could also see him falling all the way to the bottom of the first due to the downside. He won't leave the first round.
Jake Locker, Washington - Locker is even stranger than Newton; his upside is monstrous, but so is his downside. His first two years at Washington were plagued by a horrific supporting cast and an all-run, no-pass offense. Locker really didn't have a chance to show he had NFL QB tools. The past couple years he's played in a pro-style offense but still didn't have much in the way of a supporting cast. That said, he's extremely mobile, is a leader, and has the arm to succeed in the NFL. He could also go as high as 4 to Cincy or as low as falling to the early second round.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas - Mallett has a monster arm and loads of flaws. He could potentially go pretty high, but could easily also fall to the second round. That said, with his huge arm I don't see him making it past the previously-listed teams in the second round. He'll likely be there at 16, but that's probably too early, and he probably will be gone by 49.
Andy Dalton, TCU - Big Cat Country's mega man-crush. Every Jaguars fan seems to have fallen in love with the Ginger Gunslinger, partially due to a mention by Vic Ketchman. Dalton supposedly is rising up draft boards, and could potentially find his way into the late first round. He didn't play in an offense that showcased his arm, but some think he has the arm to make it work. Could see him going late first or in the second. At this point I don't think he'll last to the third round, and honestly I'm not sure he'll last until 49 given the high demand for quarterbacks this year.
Pat Devlin, Delaware - Probably somewhere between the second and fourth. Given the high demand, I can't see him going any later than the third, and he possibly won't be available when the Jaguars pick at 80 in the third round.
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa - Likely a similar situation to Devlin. Second to fourth. Possibly not available at 80.
Christian Ponder, Florida State - Wild card. Potentially a similar situation to Devlin and Stanzi.
There are a few other guys that warrant consideration for "quarterback of the future", but this is long enough for our purposes. Let's look at two scenarios:
1. The Jaguars are interested in a first-round QB. Okay, but who? Gabbert will likely be gone. I can see one at most of Locker and Newton being available, and I'm not sure they'd be better than the best defensive player left on the board at 16. Too early for Mallett or Dalton. Likely choice? Pass.
2. The Jaguars want a QB in the second round. Gabbert, Newton, Locker are all likely gone. Mallett and Dalton could potentially be gone as well given the high demand for QB. Honestly, one or more of Devlin, Stanzi, or Ponder could also potentially be gone by 49. This seems the logic pick for a QB. Here's the problem:
Tennessee, being a division rival, has the advantage of picking well ahead of the Jaguars. Obviously this is a broad assumption, but I'd like to think their QB board isn't going to be terribly different than the Jaguars' QB board based on their history with Young and their wish for a consistent passer. Dalton seems the most likely target for Tennessee in the second should they not get Gabbert in the first (or even Newton or Locker). Mallett has the potential to be the pick as well. Basically, as the second round progresses, the Jaguars are likely to be watching QB prospects fly off the board, hoping that the one they want falls to them at 49. Tennessee will pick at 39, and could easily steal the one the Jaguars want, which would hurt twice as much; not only would the Jaguars not get the guy they want, and potentially get NO ONE they want, but they would have to face that QB twice a year for the rest of his Tennessee career. This is a bad scenario for the Jaguars; if "their guy" is still there in the early second round, they should absolutely trade up and get him, not only to make sure they get the guy they want, but also to hurt Tennessee's chances of getting the guy THEY want.
This entire scenario reminds me of Kevin Kolb; the Jaguars supposedly wanted Kolb, but before their pick, the Eagles traded up to grab Kolb. This year, the Jaguars should be the aggressor. Let's assume they do want Dalton (definitely not a given; just a hypothetical). Instead of waiting and hoping that he falls to 49, which I don't think is likely, go get the guy! New England has the first pick of the 2nd round and is notorious for trading down and grabbing extra picks. With an extra 4th-rounder and a full slate of picks in 2012, the Jaguars have plenty of ammo to move up to 33 and grab the guy they want, while potentially leaving Tennessee, as well as others, hoping they get their choice of whatever is left. This same scenario could apply in the early third round if the Jaguars and Tennessee have both passed on QB in the first two rounds, and are vying for the services of Stanzi, Devlin, Ponder, etc. The Jaguars should use whatever resources are necessary to not only get what they want, but try to make sure Tennessee DOESN'T get what THEY want.