The AFC presents an interesting contrast in quarterbacks. There are the veterans. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the stoic pocket passers, both winners, and both still putting up big numbers. Then, you have the new wave. Geno Smith, Andrew Luck, E.J. Manuel, and Terrelle Pryor all have remarkable athleticism that allow them to make plays with their feet. It is a recent trend in what many consider the most important position in sports, and it is changing the game.
Week five of the 2013 NFL season was pretty much a preview of what the future of the league will look like. Pryor is coming off an impressive win against the San Diego Chargers where he spent most of the time extending plays with his legs to give receivers more time to get open. Luck knocked off an undefeated Seattle Seahawks team mostly on the run. Manuel, before he got hurt, did much of the same. Smith beat the Falcons by extending plays as well.
It doesn’t always show up in the box score either. With the immense value of a good quarterback, coaches don’t want to see an arm wasted because a passer’s knee gets taken out on a run. It’s about missing tackles, running sideways, and occasionally picking up an important first down when the defensive secondary is playing back. Where it has been showing up is in the NFL Draft Combine, and it is starting to show in the win column.
The 40 yard dash times are impressive. Manuel ran a 4.59. Luck ran a 4.67. Pryor ran a 4.38. Smith ran a 4.56. To put it in perspective, out of the 33 running backs that ran the 40 yard dash in last year’s combine, only four of them ran faster than a 4.50. These are just some of the NFL’s quarterbacks. It gets even more impressive when you add guys like Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson in the NFC.
This type of mobility isn’t going away either. The trend will continue. If you take a look at CBS’s current projections for the 2014 NFL Draft, the mobility of the upcoming quarterbacks just gets better. Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Tajh Boyd, and Johnny Manziel are the top 5. Every single one of these players is known for their ability to run. Their throwing abilities may differ, but each has the ability to extend plays or get that extra first down Peyton Manning can’t get. Nothing can replace precision passing, but in an age when rookie quarterbacks are expected to start game one, being able to jog a little faster can go a long way.