Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fran Tarkenton criticizes NFL's track record of drafting, evaluating quarterbacks

Tarkenton in January 2010 after a speech by General David Petraeus in Atlanta, Georgia

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton knows a thing or two about being passed over in the NFL Draft. In 1961, his name wasn't called until the Minnesota Vikings chose him in the third round. All Tarkenton did after that was lead Minnesota to three Super Bowls and earn nine Pro Bowl appearances.

It's been over five decades since Tarkenton was inexplicably passed over multiple times by teams in the draft. One might be led to believe that an increased investment into scouting and technology would help teams better evaluate signal callers. Tarkenton and empirical evidence strongly refutes such an idea.

"I think the evaluation of quarterbacks in this league is startling," Tarkenton told TwinCities.com. "It's been awful.

"How can you go and look at Tom Brady at the University of Michigan and draft him in the sixth round (in 2000)?" Tarkenton said. "How can you go to Notre Dame and draft Joe Montana in the third round (in 1979)? I can go on and on and on.

"On the other end, how do you draft JaMarcus Russell as the first pick in the draft (in 2007)? How can you draft Tim Couch with the No. 1 pick in the draft (in 1999)? How about the left-hander from Southern Cal (Todd Marinovich) and Vince Young. Those were guys who were drafted in the first round and they're busts. Just total busts. ... How can you not draft Russell Wilson until the third round (in 2012)?"

Tarkenton made his point crystal clear with these statements alone. But the legendary Viking wasn't done quite yet.

"Historically, these scouts, they want to see how the guy can run a 40, how fast he runs a 10, how high he jumps, how fast he goes around the cones, how strong your arm is," Tarkenton said. "But look at his intelligence. Does the guy make plays? Can he play? For the quarterback position, it's exceptionally important that he's got character and leadership. Is he accurate?

"If Peyton Manning went to the combine now and they didn't know who he was, he wouldn't be drafted. Because he can't run like they want him to run and his arm is not strong."

Okay, so maybe the Manning example isn't exactly true. After all, the former Tennessee Volunteer was taken No. 1 overall in 1998.

With that being said, there's no denying that picking a quarterback in the draft has been hit or miss. The real trick has (and always will be) decoding which ones are headed for greatness and which ones are headed for another career outside of football.

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