Bridgewater. Manziel. Bortles. These are all names most NFL fans are familiar with leading up to this year’s draft, with each of these players likely to be among the first quarterbacks to come off the board in 2014. One name you might not have heard as often is Jimmy Garoppolo, probably the best kept secret in the NFL Draft. Jimmy Garoppolo has flown under the radar for the most part, with the QB having played for a relatively small program at Eastern Illinois. He’s one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, and the New York Jets would be wise to keep their eye on him.
Small school, big numbers.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 5,050 yards completing 66 percent of passes in 2013, good for 53 touchdowns compared to just 9 interceptions, en route to shattering nearly every passing record set by Tony Romo at EIU. He’s got NFL caliber arm strength and size, a quick release, and has demonstrated an ability to improve having gotten better each year in college. The biggest consistent knock on Garoppolo has been the weak competition he faced playing at a small school, but he didn’t begin playing quarterback until his junior year in high school, having converted from linebacker, so this can help partially explain why he didn’t end up at a big-time college program.
The Jets will likely be targeting receivers and defensive backs in the first two rounds, but if Garoppolo falls to the third around — a distinct possibility — the Jets could pull the trigger. Given his body of work, the Jets’ desperate search for a franchise quarterback, and how little they would need to invest in a third round pick, this move makes a great deal of sense for Gang Green.
The Jets already have quarterbacks Michael Vick and Geno Smith on the depth chart, but the culture of competition they have been cultivating since the arrival of GM John Idzik means they likely won’t be afraid to throw Jimmy Garoppolo into the mix. Don’t forget, QB Russell Wilson was selected in the third round in 2012 during Idzik’s tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, despite the fact the team had recently signed free agent Matt Flynn to a big-money, multi-year contract (how’d that work out for the Seahawks?). The Jets have far less invested in Vick and Smith, and I can’t see the Jets hesitant to grab Garoppolo in the third round simply because of their presence on the roster.
Taking a risk on a quarterback in the third round isn’t much of a risk at all. After betting big and going all in on Mark Sanchez in 2009, the low risk high reward, throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall type approach might be just what the New York Jets need. If the Jets select Garoppolo, they’d have three QBs on the roster that could compete for the starting job. Let’s see who sticks.
Follow Luke Ewing on Twitter.