Pay attention, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater and any other quarterback who will be eligible to enter the NFL draft early after this season: Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones went from being hot names a year ago to the 112th and 115th overall picks in this year's draft. The lesson is take advantage while you're stock is high.
The run on quarterbacks finally came in the third day of the NFL draft. USC's Matt Barkley and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib went early in the fourth round, and Wilson and Jones were next off the board. Wilson went to the Raiders in a very interesting move, and Jones went to the Steelers in another interesting, albeit puzzling, move.
Last year, if Wilson and Jones hadn't returned for another year of college, it might have cost those teams a first-round pick to take those players. Whether they were exposed as seniors or are good value picks in the fourth round will play out with their new teams.
Wilson will be an interesting player to track. Last May, in a way-too-early mock draft, Sports Illustrated predicted he would be the top pick of the 2013 draft. The question is, did Wilson's regression last season show that he was overrated before or did other factors within the Arkansas program sabotage him?
Arkansas was a poorly coached team that never recovered from the Bobby Petrino fiasco, and did not have a very good supporting cast for Wilson. Wilson also suffered a concussion early in the season. All of his numbers dropped. He went from a 24-touchdown, six-interception junior season to 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year as Arkansas failed to make a bowl game. Still, at times the strengths that initially had NFL scouts interested – most notably the strong arm and toughness – were on display. The Raiders have Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback, so Wilson doesn't have a major roadblock to the starting job. It was a good gamble by the Raiders in the fourth round.
Jones was also more highly thought of before last season than after it. His flaws, most notably his decision making, would have come under scrutiny no matter when he came out for the draft. His plunge into the fourth round was less surprising than the fall of Barkley or Nassib. And then the pick itself was curious.
Perhaps this was a reaction to the beating Ben Roethlisberger has taken over his career. Roethlisberger is still just 31, but the pounding he has taken might shave some time off the end of his prime years. And he has not played all 16 games since 2008. Jones has a lot of experience as a four-year starter at a major program, so perhaps he can be a reliable backup right away for the Steelers. That has been a problem for the team the last few years. But Jones' limitations might cap his upside over the long term.
And for the other teams that could have used a quarterback in this draft but failed to get one in the first 115 picks, the fourth round run on quarterbacks left the available pool pretty shallow.