A few weeks ago, while I was talking to some smart NFL football folks for my Johnny Manziel story, I chatted with Greg Cosell, the respected longtime executive producer at NFL Films.
Cosell’s office at NFL Films in New Jersey is filled wall to wall with tapes of NFL players and college football prospects, and not many, if any, members of the media spend more time watching football. Cosell has many strong but objective opinions, especially when it came to the QBs in this draft, so I wanted to empty out my digital recorder and share them with you guys.
“I would say it’s probably an average quarterback class,” he said during our phone conversation. “There’s certainly not a slam-dunk guy in this draft by any stretch of the imagination. But some, based on their different circumstances, may have an opportunity to develop. But there’s no guy that you say regardless of the situation will be a high-quality starting NFL quarterback.”
Of the top three quarterbacks, at least in the media’s eyes, Cosell liked the potential of Blake Bortles, the Central Florida quarterback who is a popular Vikings choice in mock drafts, most.
“Bortles, to me, would be the best down-the-road prospect because of size, which is a definite attribute,” he said. “I think he’s got a good arm, not a gun. I think he’s got movement ability. I think he’s got the kind of traits that you ultimately look for in an NFL starting quarterback.”
Cosell said “there’s a lot to like” about Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Like many analysts, he has concerns about Bridgewater’s size and arm strength, which he said “is probably slightly above average.” But he likes that Bridgewater was a productive player in a pro system at Louisville and that he excelled at making the right reads and decisions before the snap.
“You would be counting on Bridgewater to be masterful in all the subtle nuances of the position,” Cosell said. “He showed some of that in college, but that is a bit of a leap of faith. You are in some ways counting on him to become a Drew Brees-type player in his ability to master all the subtle nuances and the disciplined elements of the position.”
If you read my Manziel story, you know that Cosell has questions about how the Texas A&M quarterback will translate to the pros. He told me that Manziel “doesn’t have a horse in the race” in the debate over who is the draft’s top passer. You can read his expanded thoughts here.
Cosell praised Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr’s strong arm and said he can “snap it off” from different arm angles. But he said there are some unknowns with Carr because he did not play in an NFL-style offense at Fresno State.
“The thing you have to work on with Carr is that he played in a spread offense with a lot of one-step drops. He doesn’t have any sense of the rhythm of a three-step, five-step, seven-step drop NFL passing game. He’s got to be taught that. Everybody says that’s easy. It’s not easy,” Cosell said. “Another thing you really need to evaluate with Derek Carr is what he does under pressure, because quarterbacks in those kinds of systems don’t face a lot of pressure. They don’t have to throw the ball too often with bodies around them.”
And finally, we talked about LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a pocket passer who seems to make a lot of sense for the Vikings if they wait until the second day of the draft for their QB.
“Zach Mettenberger is 10, 15 years ago your top-five-pick type of quarterback because he’s a big, strong, physical pocket quarterback,” Cosell said. “Mettenberger is a very interesting guy. He’s got the traits that you would theoretically look for in an NFL quarterback. The only thing he can’t do obviously is create random improvisational plays. But he’s a pocket quarterback who can make every throw and is willing to make every throw.”
All this being said -- and I doubt his opinion has changed since we talked -- Cosell believed that the Vikings don’t necessarily need to draft a quarterback with their first-round pick. He thinks they can wait to select a quarterback who could slowly blossom under coordinator Norv Turner.
“I’m not sure that they need to take a quarterback at No. 8,” Cosell said. “I don’t think that there is a guy worthy of that pick and I think they can find a guy to fit what Norv wants to do.”