Thursday, March 27, 2008

With the 17th selection: Brian Brohm?

When gymrome offered me the chance to draft for the Vikings in his TSN Mock Draft, I agreed and had every intent of following "the plan" that many have laid out for the Vikings, mainly that they will draft a defensive end in the first round. Roughly 95% of the mock drafts out there have us taking Derrick Harvey with that first pick, and I think I'd be all right with that.

When my turn finally came up in gymrome's draft, I saw that Harvey had already been taken by Broncos, five picks earlier, leading me to re-evaluate the team's needs and the talent available. I told myself I would take a "safe," un-sexy pick, like a lineman (offensive or defensive), until I saw who else wasn't on the list of drafted players, and I couldn't resist. Take a look at the post on gymrome's blog to see who I picked and read my reasoning behind it. I wish I could say I have complete confidence in the selection; truthfully, I don't, and I may have succumbed to a combination of wishful thinking and glory-grabbing, but I'll try to lay out here a few more reasons why Brian Brohm, if he's available, would be a good first-round pick for the Vikings.

First of all, I still like Harvey if he's available. But Brohm would probably be my #2 pick (barring something crazy, like Jake Long somehow plummeting down the list). When I was writing copy for some football cards last month, I had to research several college players, and here's an excerpt from the page I found for Brohm on FootballsFuture:

Brohm has it all from a physical standpoint. He has a nice frame, and is sturdy enough to sit in the pocket and take a hit. His arm is excellent, and he can make all the throws. He is also a good athlete with the mobility to elude the rush and buy more time. On the field, Brohm has proven to be an extremely efficient QB, making smart decisions and not turning the ball over very often.

The only real knock on Brohm is his durability. He has had some injury issues during his stay at Louisville. He tore his ACL as a sophomore, and was hurt twice last year. He tore ligaments in his thumb, and also had surgery on his left shoulder.

The analysis is a year old, and Brohm was healthy his senior year, so I'm not too worried about potential injury issues. "An extremely efficient QB, making smart decisions and not turning the ball over very often." Gee, I'd sure like to have one of those!

Now, I hate it when an announcer describes a quarterback as "managing the game," typically said when his overall numbers aren't great but he avoids turnovers and/or completes many low-risk, short-yardage passes and his team wins the game. (It's especially galling when the quarterback has next to nothing to do with his team's success, but I've been over that already.) Nobody wants their quarterback to "manage the game"; they want their quarterback to win the game. A player who isn't capable of that isn't as good a quarterback as those who can -- guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and the like -- and wouldn't you rather have a better player at the position? Barry Sanders got caught in the backfield for losses a lot but still ripped off enough big runs to average 5.0 yards per carry for his career. Would you rather have a nice, "safe" back who managed 4.0 yards per carry and hardly never gets stopped for a loss? Probably not.

All things being equal, nearly every team would rather have a Manning or Brady than the quarterback they currently have. Of course, all things aren't equal. Would you rather have Manning at $10 million/year or someone like David Garrard at $5 million/year and spend the remaining $5 million on other players? The Vikings are a team that would benefit from the Garrard + $5 million scenario rather than the Manning + $0 scenario because, with their running game and defense, they don't need a dominant passer to win games. Now, if we (or the Jaguars) could get Peyton Manning for $5 million, that would be another matter entirely.

So what's all that got to do with Brohm? If he is an "intelligent" quarterback (this just in: he tied for the highest score among quarterbacks on the Wonderlic test) who avoids turnovers, along the lines of a David Garrard or Jeff Garcia (or a certain third-round pick who never had the strongest arm), then he's still valuable to the team even if he doesn't throw for 35 TDs and 4,000 yards every season. For what it's worth, his college numbers seem to bear that out, as he was picked on only 2.0% of his pass attempts. I'd rather have Peyton Manning (or maybe even Matt Ryan), too, but if this is the best we can get, I'd say go for it.

Of course, everyone will say that first-round quarterbacks are a huge risk. I maintain that they aren't any more risky than any other position -- just more visible. Sure, everyone remembers flameouts Tim Couch, Akili Smith, maybe Alex Smith, and especially Ryan Leaf, but you don't hear as much about David Terrell, Mike Williams (the Buffalo OL, though the wide receiver might also fit the bill), Curtis Enis, Andre Wadsworth, and (a particular favorite) Tony Mandarich, because they're not quarterbacks. And my admittedly unscientific study from last month shows that highly drafted QBs aren't really any more of a risk than other positions, at least in determining whether they'll excel enough to make the Pro Bowl. If you think the team would be better off drafting someone other than Brohm, fine, but don't make that decision "because he's a quarterback." Since the merger, the Vikings have drafted two quarterbacks in the first round, and while neither are destined for the Hall of Fame, they weren't exactly failures in Purple either.

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