Teams should mimic Wolf's QB ways

Posted April 19, 2011 @ 4:07 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Ron Wolf drafted seven quarterbacks from 1992 to 2000 in his time as Packers general manager.

As we know, only one played any snaps of significance for the team during that stretch: Brett Favre.

But Wolf had a method to his madness. He knew that quarterbacks, when good, are the NFL's best assets. They can be team saviors. Teams are desperate to find quality triggermen. They'll trade draft picks and established veterans alike to land them.

So Wolf's theory always was that you could not have enough.

Take a look at those seven QBs and what happened to them after Green Bay:

Don't let the fact that Wolf and the Packers missed on their two '01 picks for Hasselbeck — Jamal Reynolds and Torrence Marshall — or that the 17th choice ended up being All-Decade OG Steve Hutchinson obscure the fact that Wolf continually was able to add ammunition through a decade of drafting to land players that put the Packers in a position to stay competitive for a long time.

So how does this apply to the 2011 draft? Well, there has been a lot of buzz about teams who are virtually set at quarterback — including the Colts, Patriots, Saints and others — looking and looking hard at some higher-round QB prospects this offseason.

The Colts have done a lot of homework on Andy Dalton. The Patriots have brought in a few interesting prospects, including Ryan Mallett and his suddenly unstable draft stock. The Saints have worked out backups.

Really, none of this should be shocking.

Number one, smart teams do this every year. They look at quarterbacks as pieces, even if their starters are entrenched. The fact that the Patriots, Colts and Saints have used low-round picks, journeyman veterans and undrafted free agents to back up Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees doesn't mean they wouldn't consider taking the right QB for their systems — or seeing extreme value and stockpiling talent — if he's available.

The Patriots turned Matt Cassel into the 34th pick in the draft, and they got a good player in Patrick Chung. Undrafted Brian Hoyer might one day be worth a fourth-rounder. The Seahawks were willing to give up a bounty for Charlie Whitehurst; the Chargers moved up 20 spots in Round Two and got a third-rounder on top of that. For a third-stringer!

It's all about perception and illusion with quarterbacks. In a few years, I'll bet that Colin Kaepernick, Ricky Stanzi, Christian Ponder or another second- to third-round QB is turned around and dealt for more than he was drafted for. Teams know that sitting a QB on the shelf for a few years can be a fine investment.

Of course, no one wants to develop QBs for other teams. The Colts, Patriots and Saints, among other teams, might just want them for themselves. The tricky part with Indy is that the window on winning another title is closing fast, so the value of each of their picks — especially having missed on some high-rounders in recent years — is pretty precious. Draft Manning's potential successor, and you might miss out on that second- or third-rounder who could have become an instant starter on defense.

And, of course, there's no guaranteeing that your pet-project quarterback will become anything. He either can play or he can't. Quarterback is probably the hardest position to evaluate.

If teams that are set at the position draft a quarterback, though, it likely means nothing for the starter's current position. The Broncos made waves when they took Tommy Maddox in Round One back in 1992 — when John Elway was only 32. Although the Broncos didn't take advantage of Maddox, they were not dumb in taking him.

The draft is a multilayered operation, and taking quarterbacks is one of the trickier but also potentially lucrative parts of it. Wolf was one of the innovators in this niche.