After the 2013 NFL Draft, each AFC East team possesses a young quarterback that already has or will likely be given the starting job and is expected to be the future of the organizations. These potential stars are Ryan Mallett of the Patriots, Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins, the Bills’ first-round pick E.J. Manuel, and of course Geno Smith of the Jets. So which of these quarterbacks will be dominating the AFC East in years to come?
Ryan Mallet: New England Patriots
The current backup in New England is a monster under center, as tall as 6’6″ and weighing 238 pounds. The Arkansas grad is now 24 and has learned under future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady for two full seasons, and when Brady leaves he will have definitely learned a lot from him. However, one of the biggest problems for Mallett’s future is Tom Brady himself. If he continues to play at the prestigious level he is so well-known for, will Mallett ever get a chance to start on the Patriots? Probably not. Brady, who is now 35, may have up to 3-4 seasons left in his career, and that will put Mallett at 28 years old, which is not a preferable age for one who is just starting his career. At that point the Patriots may have given up on Mallett and may have signed/drafted a younger quarterback to take control of the franchise.
Also, this offseason we saw the willingness of the Patriots to trade Ryan Mallett, almost shipping him off to Cleveland. The trade fell through because New England was aiming for a second-round pick tthat the Browns did not have. Even though he wasn’t actually traded, the Patriots showed that they are by no means tied down to Mallett and possibly don’t plan on him having a future on the team. Yes, we all saw at Arkansas just what a talent Mallett is, but no one really knows for sure if he can keep that swagger and carry it over to the NFL. In the little playing time he has gotten in his career, he has not risen to the occasion. His career stats are 1-4, 17 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT. Also, he has ran it eight times for a meager -9 yards. Although the talent is imminent, he may not just be the right fit for the NFL, especially a team as prestigious as the Patriots.
GRADE FOR HIS PATRIOTS FUTURE: C-
Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins
The 24 year-old from Texas A&M started his NFL career last year with the Miami Dolphins, and he only managed to post sub-par numbers. leading his team to just seven wins. In his first year, the former Aggie finished with a 58.3 completion percentage, 3,294 yards, and just 12 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Although Tannehill displayed mediocre talent, he showed potential that he can develop into a soild starting quarterback in the NFL, if he is given the right weapons.
Yes, losing Reggie Bush and Jake Long to free agency is tough, but with the acquisitions Miami brought in, it should do nothing but help Tannehill. Some of these signed free agents include Phillip Wheeler, Tyson Clabo, Dannell Ellerbe, Lance Louis, Dustin Keller, and, of course, Mike Wallace. Why do I mention defensive players like Wheeler and Ellerbe? As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense. If the Miami defense can prevent the opposing offense from scoring and constantly give Tannehill good field position, it will definitely help him out a lot. Clabo and Louis should help the offensive line a great deal especially after the loss of Jake Long. And of course, Dustin Keller and Mike Wallace. Keller should provide Tannehill with a safety option and great hands that Fasano just couldn’t do last year. And Mike Wallace will definitely be a huge asset to the Dolphin’s passing game. With his deep threat, Tannehill should have a much easier time airing the ball out and also spreading the defense because they will be forced to cover Wallace deep. This should help the short passing game as well, and will overall help Tannehill immensely.
GRADE FOR HIS DOLPHIN’S FUTURE: B+
E.J. Manuel: Buffalo Bills
The only quarterback taken in the first round, Manuel will have a lot of expectations to live up to. Not only that, but he was taken over Geno Smith, and now he has a ton of pressure to outshine his division rival. In his time at Florida State he played phenomenally, completing 68% of his passes and amassing over 3300 yards. Not only was his passing accurate and efficient, but also he was able to run fairly well in college. He should be able to use some of the read option out of the pistol offense to decent success in the NFL, especially because teams in the Bills division aren’t used to as fast a quarterback as Manuel.
Also, the Bills are doing their best to surround Manuel with weapons. Stevie Johnson will always be an every down target and Scott Chandler is great in the redzone. Also, via the NFL Draft the Bills were able to acquire Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, whose blazing speed should help Manuel a lot. If Manuel can learn to control his accuracy even a little bit better he could be a great product in the NFL. As shown on ESPN’s Sport Science, Manuel is physically and mentally one of the better quarterbacks in the league and his instincts are incredible. Last year, Manuel proved his efficiency ranking 8th in all the NCAA in yards per attempt (8.8). If Manuel can carry his play at the college level over to the NFL with just a little bit of improvement, he should be able to tear apart defenses especially the weak ones in his division.
GRADE FOR HIS BILLS FUTURE: A-
Geno Smith: New York Jets
Geno Smith, the biggest story of the NFL Draft, will begin his career as a New York Jet. The projected top 10 pick was snagged by New York in the early second round, disappointing Geno immensely. After firing his agent, Geno Smith began his rookie minicamps impressing everyone but himself (he graded his performance with an “F”). Although Geno Smith did post quality numbers in his Senior year at West Virginia, if you look between the numbers you find some startling realizations. For instance, his 71% completion percentage isn’t all that it seems. As a matter of fact, a good majority of his completions were at or behind the line of scrimmage. Also, the majority of his yards and touchdowns were more the work of his star recievers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
Despite all these performance questions, he does still have decent talent and the potential to emerge in the NFL. However, the Jets aren’t exactly the prime location to start a career. Finding time in the pocket to wait for plays to develop will be difficult because of their spotty offensive line. Also, because the Rams stole Tavon Austin from the Jets, their receiving core will remain depleted for the upcoming season. Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, and Stephen Hill are by no means elite recievers. Geno Smith will have a tough road ahead of him, especially now that he will no longer have David Garrard to mentor him. Geno Smith may be able to develop as a star in the NFL, although if he does it will take some time, there’s no doubt. However, if the Jets can surround Geno Smith with weapons in the upcoming years, his skills should be galvanized into a playoff team.
GRADE FOR HIS JETS FUTURE: B-