When it comes to the NFL Draft, fans and evaluators can often get too wrapped up in finding stars and forget that finding quality backups is an important part of the draft process. This is especially true at the quarterback position, where backups can play a key role in keeping a team in the playoff hunt; just ask the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, who both survived long stretches of the 2013 season with their backup quarterback.
In the 2014 NFL Draft, one quarterback who may not win in the long run as a starter but will make a great backup is former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Granted, McCarron may get a chance to start in the NFL, and after all he accomplished at Alabama, he certainly deserves the opportunity. But ultimately, McCarron is destined to be a backup in the NFL, and he’s going to be a good one.
McCarron has struggled to fight the “game manager” label during his career, and unfairly so. After all, it’s not his fault he was always surrounded by a strong offensive line, superb running backs and talented receivers in college so hewasn’t forced to do too much. However, McCarron should embrace that label, because there’s nothing wrong with a quarterback who makes good decisions and doesn’t beat himself, especially since those qualities are going to help him have a long and fruitful career as a backup quarterback in the NFL.
His average size, lack of elite arm strength and concerns about his durability will keep McCarron from lasting as a starter in the NFL. But his high football IQ, poise, leadership and propensity for winning puts him head and shoulders above a majority of the other backup quarterbacks in the NFL. He won’t make game-winning throws week after week, but he’ll make enough throws to give his team a chance to win.
Those are the kinds of traits that are critical when entering a game in the second half in relief of an injured starter with your team trailing by a touchdown. They’re also traits that can give a team a fighting chance for four or five weeks while a starting quarterback recovers from injury, which can be the difference between making the postseason and not making it.
Obviously, finding a starting quarterback is the first priority for all NFL teams, but the importance of having a competent and trustworthy backup is underrated. Whichever teams ends up drafting McCarron is going to have exactly that for a long time to come, and having him on the roster is going to make them a better team.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.