Inside Slant: Collapse of NFL QB position and other Day 2 draft takeaways

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Two months ago, we all sat back in horror as NFL teams fought over free-agent quarterback Josh McCown. Mouths were agape that someone would part with a draft choice to acquire Matt Cassel. Meanwhile, the great Brian Hoyer weighed multiple offers.

Now you know why.

As we discussed at the time, the 2015 class of rookie quarterbacks is one of the worst in recent memory. There is a wasteland of uncertainty, at best, beyond Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, and it was not until the No. 75 overall pick that a third quarterback was selected.

The New Orleans Saints drafted Colorado State's Garrett Grayson at that point, and the St. Louis Rams followed by taking Oregon State's Sean Mannion at No. 89. And that, my friends, was it for the portion of the draft that historically produces starters. It has been 10 years since a quarterback drafted after the third round has started as many as 20 NFL games, which is bad news for Baylor's Bryce Petty and UCLA's Brett Hundley, among others.

Not to be too dramatic, but it feels as if we are seeing the deterioration of the quarterback pipeline before our very eyes. In the past 15 years, there has only been one other occasion when fewer than four quarterbacks were drafted in the first three rounds. That came two years ago, in 2013, when every signal-caller except EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon remained on the board when the fourth round began.

It's no secret that the spread offense has left NFL teams leery of college quarterbacks and clinging to their aging pocket passers. The average age of the top 10 quarterbacks last season, as measured by Total QBR, was 33. The 2013 and 2015 classes will do little to alleviate that imbalance, and the 2014 class -- which includes Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr -- can't yet be counted on for salvation.

Once again, I'll pass along the working theory of Steve Clarkson, one of the country's top youth quarterback coaches. The NFL, Clarkson believes, is at a crossroads at the position. It must either find a better way to transition spread quarterbacks into pro schemes, or it will have to make a major philosophical change to account for the injuries caused when pro teams run the spread. At the NFL level, teams would probably have to rotate quarterbacks to run the spread full time.

Whatever the solution, however, the league isn't likely to find it from the 2015 draft.

Here are four other takeaways from Rounds 2-3, with Rounds 4-7 set for Saturday afternoon:

2. Michigan receiver Devin Funchess fits a unique and unmistakable profile among the players assembled around Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Funchess, selected at No. 41 overall, is tall (6-foot-4) and long (33 1/2-inch arms). Remind you of anyone? Maybe 2014 first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 34 7/8)? Or tight end Greg Olsen (6-5 7/8, 32 3/8)?

There are plenty of reasons to value big, rangy pass-catchers. For Carolina, however, one of them is to help mitigate Newton's chronic overthrows.

Since he entered the NFL in 2011, Newton has overthrown 301 passes based on ESPN Stats & Information video review. That's the league's third-highest total over that time period. In 2014, Newton was debited with 72 overthrows in 448 attempts, the league's second-highest total.

A reasonable observer could blame the Panthers' pass protection for some of Newton's accuracy issues. But is that truly the issue? Or is Newton holding the ball too long? Last season, 22 NFL quarterbacks had more dropbacks against pressure than Newton. When he was under pressure, he needed an average of 3.59 seconds to release the ball -- the sixth-highest average in the league.

The numbers, at least, suggest that quick releases to big targets could provide an alternate solution to re-stacking the offensive line.

3. Lovie, we don't even know who you are anymore.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired one of the NFL's most respected defensive coaches last year as their head coach, and in the process gave Lovie Smith significant input in their personnel decisions. So what have Smith and general manager Jason Licht done with the opportunity?

The better question might be what they haven't done. Not a single one of their first nine draft picks -- six in 2014 and three this year -- has been a defensive player. It's true that Smith knows how to win with defense, and his weak offense (17.3 points per game) was probably most at fault for last season's 2-14 record. The Bucs allowed the NFL's third-most sacks (52) last season, and their quarterbacks were pressured on 34 percent of their dropbacks (No. 31 in league), so their use of second- and third-round picks this year on offensive linemen made sense.

Still, the imbalance is notable. Smith inherited a few studs in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, but in essence he's tried to fill out his depth chart by signing veteran free agents he coached in Chicago. Defensive backs Major Wright, Chris Conte and Isaiah Frey, along with defensive tackle Henry Melton, are all former Bears players who are now on the Bucs' roster.

For comparison's sake, consider what the Minnesota Vikings have done since hiring defensive guru Mike Zimmer as their coach in 2014. Over the same time period, the Vikings have added 10 defensive players among 13 draft choices to help Zimmer assemble the personnel he thinks best fits his scheme.

4. It's difficult to get worked up about the Philadelphia Eagles using half their draft choices on Pac-12 players since hiring Chip Kelly as coach in 2013.

Kelly's history with those players at Oregon is undeniable, and it's not as if the Eagles are the only team attracted to the speed and spread experience that many of those schools provide.

Through the first three rounds of this draft, the Pac-12 leads all major conferences with 25 players selected. The Eagles have taken two of them, USC receiver Nelson Agholor on Thursday night and Utah cornerback Eric Rowe in the second round Friday night. Overall, the Eagles have selected nine Pac-12 players among 18 selections over the past three drafts.

For those interested, Florida State leads all schools with six selections in the first 99 picks. According to this Football Perspective graphic, the Seminoles are merely adding to their national lead of draft picks since 1990.

5. Anyone else see Ickey Woods doing the Ickey shuffle before announcing the Cincinnati Bengals' second-round pick?

Did you hear Jim Kelly's heartfelt thanks for support of his cancer recovery as he held the Buffalo Bills' card in his hand?

Those two moments were among the best of the NFL's draft presentation, in stark contrast to the now-obligatory boos commissioner Roger Goodell faces every time he strides to the podium

So here's an idea: Why not give Goodell the draft off and plug in former players, military heroes and maybe even a few celebrities to bypass the boos on what should be a positive night for everyone? Think about it, and don't say I've never done anything for ya.