Monday, April 2, 2012
Ranking the AFC South QBs
By Matt Williamson
With free agency slowing down and the draft quickly approaching, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson breaks down the quarterback situations in the AFC South.
1. Indianapolis Colts: My criteria for ranking position groups within a specific division is mostly based on which team is in the best place right now and in the future at the position. In my opinion, any of the other three teams in the AFC South would trade its quarterback stable for Andrew Luck and Drew Stanton. Of course Luck isn't on the Colts’ roster right now, but with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, Indianapolis has the rights to add him, which they surely will. Would a healthy Matt Schaub or even the 2012 version of Matt Hasselbeck help a team win right now better than Luck? Probably, but again, Luck has far more value than either player, as true greatness could very well be in his future. Stanton can't be scoffed at either. He was an early second-round pick not too long ago and has not really been given ample opportunity to show what he can do. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Stanton developed into a high end backup quarterback. All of that creates an excellent quarterback situation for the currently hapless Colts.
2. Houston Texans: Matt Schaub is a fine quarterback. I would not put him in the top 10, but he wouldn't be far outside that group. Schaub is now 30 years old and at this point, he pretty much is what he is -- and that certainly isn't a bad thing. His tools overall are probably just above average, but he does maximize what he has. Schaub values the football -- he threw just six interceptions in his 10 games last year -- but he isn't conservative to a fault. The only backup on the roster for Schaub right now is T.J. Yates, who, despite his ups and downs as a starter last season, certainly exceeded expectations in his rookie season. He has the look and makeup of an above-average No. 2 quarterback, which is important considering Schaub's injury history and narrow build.
3. Tennessee Titans: The Titans were unable to land Peyton Manning, but there are many teams in the league in worse shape at the game's most important position than Tennessee. Matt Hasselbeck, a true professional who understands the position very well, has very good pocket presence with a quick release and is difficult to sack. Hasselbeck will turn 37 during the 2012 season, and his best days are behind him. But he did have a pretty good season in his first year in Tennessee despite having a suspect receiving corps after Kenny Britt's injury. Jake Locker is far more talented than Hasselbeck -- or most quarterbacks in the league, for that matter. The biggest knock on him his accuracy, but it was apparent during his rookie season that Locker can ignite an offense and has play-making ability. If Locker were to beat out Hasselbeck in training camp or if becomes apparent during minicamps that Locker is the superior option -- which I think is likely -- the Titans might be wise to trade Hasselbeck while they can get something for him. The Browns might be interested. You could do worse than Rusty Smith as a No. 2 quarterback.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: It was a very rough rookie season for Blaine Gabbert. Outside of the Jaguars' running game -- namely Maurice Jones-Drew -- Gabbert's supporting cast was atrocious. Like all the other rookie signal callers last year, Gabbert didn't have minicamps to hone his craft before being thrown to the wolves. But any way you cut it, Gabbert's performance last year was far from acceptable. He did little in his first year to inspire confidence, but he does deserve further opportunity. The Jaguars recently signed Chad Henne in free agency, a move that I fully endorse. I am higher on Henne than most and thought he played pretty well for Miami last year before his injury. Like Gabbert, Henne has a big arm and can make all the throws needed from the position. Henne can run hot and cold and hasn't been especially consistent throughout his career. He also isn't nearly as mobile in the pocket or as a runner as Gabbert and is pretty heavy-footed. But Henne is just 26, and his best football should be ahead of him as he continues to grasp the position and minimize his mistakes.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.