As NFL teams hunker down and prepare NFL Draft War Rooms for battle, it would be wise to look at history. The current crop of quarterbacks–all expected to go in the first round in HERO Sports' Mock Draft — resemble the 1999 group that had high expectations only to fizzle out with no hardware to show for their respective team's investment.
Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson are all predicted to be drafted in the first half of the first round in April's draft. Each player has received glowing reviews on their physical abilities. The same can be said for the 1999 quarterback class.
Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Cade McNown and Daunte Culpepper were all selected within the first 12 picks in the 1999 NFL Draft. They too were touted for their physical prowess. Many suggesting the quintet could rival the famed 1983 class.
For both this year's crop and the '99 crew, the warning signs were and are there. Yet it won't stop people from making the same mistake.
In our new digital age and reliance on social networking a new psychological term has emerged to try and explain our dependence on smart phones and staying connected. Fear Of Missing Out. While this term is usually tied to our need to stay connected and witness, either directly or indirectly what is happening in other people's lives, there is a more relatable understanding of this fear as it pertains to the NFL Draft.
"It's sort of the emotional equivalent of physical pain, like you put your hand on a hot stove and it hurts," says Dr. Amy Summerville, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Miami University. But with FOMO, that regret can be broadcast into the future, what's referred to as "affective forecasting" — trying to predict how we might feel based on events that haven't happened yet.
There is perhaps no better term to describe fans, NFL front office executives and head coaches more than affective forecasting, or using past experiences to correct future occurrences before they happen. It's probably the reason Cleveland will take a quarterback first in the draft. Beaten like a drum, the only thing the Browns have heard over the past two years is how they failed to take Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in consecutive drafts.
It's this psychological occurrence that sends professional poker players on "tilt." It's why quarterbacks are taught to have a short memory because thinking about the last interception can dramatically affect their ability to make the right choice in future moments.
Cleveland isn't the only team feeling these affects. The success of Wentz and Goff in their second year has encouraged almost every team with aging or subpar quarterbacks to reach in this year's draft with the hope they too can score big at that position. No team wants to be the one that misses out on a future Hall of Famer. It's why, in 2011, with one of the most loaded drafts in NFL History, Jake Locker went eighth, Blaine Gabbert 10th and Christian Ponder was drafted 12th.
The red flags were there in 1999 as well. There were questions about Couch's arm strength and deep ball accuracy because of Hal Mumme's spread offense and the penchant to connect on short to intermediate passing routes. Donovan McNabb's 1999 scouting report makes you wonder how he went second.
Can still be a streaky and erratic passer. Needs work on his drop-back techniques. Still must improve timing, touch and anticipation of receiver. Tends to hold on to the ball too long and must learn when to unload. Gets sloppy with the ball at times and is very sloppy when he comes up under center to handle the exchange, leading to unnecessary fumbles. Played in a domed stadium in college and has not had to play in a lot of bad weather. Needs to work on his deep passing. May not be tough enough with his teammates and may be too nice of a guy.
There were big red flares for every one of the five quarterbacks from 1999, but it did not stop NFL teams from searching for its franchise quarterback. Couch, Smith and McNown barely made it past the turn of the century. Couch lasted the longest, retiring in 2003. McNabb did become a franchise quarterback, leading the Eagles to one Super Bowl and five NFC Championship games. Culpepper had all the makings of a franchise signal caller before injuries derailed his career.
Maybe that's it. A 20 percent return rate for a franchise changing player is a chance worth taking. Allen has accuracy concerns. Rosen and Mayfield have supposed character issues. Darnold doesn't trust his throws and threw 13 interceptions and also was sacked 29 times in 2017. Jackson has connected on less than 60 percent of his passes each year in college.
This postseason, more than any other, has shown that teams don't need a franchise quarterback to compete for a title. Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles led their respective teams to conference championships by playing mistake-free football. Jacksonville, Minnesota and Philadelphia did have great defenses. In this league, being great at one thing can be enough.
Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did."
The NFL doesn't need two decades to react to front office decisions. Cleveland has already moved on from its General Manager who passed on Wentz and Watson. Passing on possible franchise quarterbacks that hit makes it all too easy to place blame on the man in charge. Picking the wrong quarterback won't do you much better, but get it right and they'll remember you for an eternity. No one wants to miss out on that.