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Warner: If Cards want QB of future, they should take him in 1st round

Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) prepares to pass in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was a fourth-round pick in 2016. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was a third-round pick in 2012. Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner wasn’t even drafted.

You don’t need to spend your first- or second-round pick in order to find a quality starting quarterback, right? Strictly speaking, that’s correct. As a general rule, it’s not.

“When you’re looking for those guys, I think it’s very flawed thinking to believe you’re going to steal that guy in the later rounds,” Warner said. “People like to cite Brady as an example, and there are a few guys that fall through the cracks and succeed at that level, but by and large, you have to find those guys in the first two rounds.”

If you look at last season’s top-30 ranked QBs by passer rating, 22 of the 30**, or 73 percent, were all first-round picks or high second-round picks, while Houston’s Brock Osweiler (57th overall) was still a second-round pick.

Thirteen of those QBs (43 percent) were chosen among the top five picks. Seventeen were first-round picks. Five were second round picks. One (Seattle’s Russell Wilson) was a third-round pick. Two (Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Washington’s Kirk Cousins) were fourth-round picks. Two (New England’s Tom Brady and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor) were sixth-round picks. One (the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick) was a seventh round pick. One (Los Angeles’ Case Keenum) was undrafted.

Brady (second) and Taylor (18th) were the only QBs drafted below the fourth round that ranked in the top 20 (18th) in passer rating.

The Cardinals have the 13th and 45th overall picks in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Unless those positions shift with draft-day trades, the simple percentages noted above suggest that Arizona’s chances of finding its elusive QB of the future are greatly reduced if the Cardinals don’t spend their first-round pick on him.

“I think they probably have to go get him in the first round,” Warner said. “If you’re at No. 13 and there’s a guy that you think warrants it — a guy that you think can become a franchise quarterback — you just take him because I don’t know if they’ll be able to hold off and get him in the second round.”

Like everyone else, Warner doesn’t know if that guy is in this year’s draft.

“There are exceptions to the to rule like Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning where you just knew it would translate at this level but, with most guys, you have to convince yourself they have enough of those traits you’re looking for, and then convince yourself that the traits they don’t have, you can teach them and they will develop those skills,” Warner said.

“The bottom line is you don’t know what’s between a guy’s ears with regard to playing quarterback in the NFL until they play the game at the NFL level. You can gauge everything and look at all the numbers and measurements you want. There are guys who are great college players, some of the greatest who have ever played, but they can’t make the transition to the next level.

“I don’t think there’s any way to predict how somebody is going to handle that four seconds after the snap and the speed of the game and all the things you have to think about. You can have them in for workouts, evaluate them physically and they check every box and pass with flying colors, and then you put them between the lines where everything is going 100 miles per hour and they just can’t put it all together.”

North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Cal’s Davis Webb, Pitt’s Nathan Peterman and Miami’s Brad Kaaya are the top-rated passers in this year’s draft, but there is no consensus on whether anyone is a franchise QB. Despite the uncertainty surrounding this year’s crop, Warner still believes the Cardinals must draft their QB of the future this year.

“They feel and many people feel it’s time,” he said. “I’m not saying this is Carson Palmer’s last year, but with him contemplating retirement after last season, you know it’s in his mind, so you have to go that route and look for the next guy and try to find him as soon as possible. Don’t trade down to get another pick. If that guy’s there and you believe he can be a franchise guy, you take him.”

That would have been a perfectly fine walk-off thought for Warner, but he laughed and then offered a paralyzing counter-thought.

“The problem is, I’m not convinced any of these guys is franchise guy,” he said. “I think other people are going to reach before the second round and probably get them before you can in the second round, but I’d hate to see the Cardinals reach for a guy they’re not convinced about with the No. 13 overall pick.”

**TOP-30 RATED QBS DRAFTED IN THE 1ST OR 2ND ROUND

  1. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (third overall)
  2. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (24th overall)
  3. New Orleans’ Drew Brees (32nd overall)
  4. Minnesota’s Sam Bradford (first overall)
  5. Oakland’s Derek Carr (36th overall)
  6. Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (first overall)
  7. Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota (second overall)
  8. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall)
  9. Miami’s Ryan Tannehill (eighth overall)
  10. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford (first overall)
  11. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton (35th overall)
  12. Kansas City’s Alex Smith (first overall)
  13. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick (36th overall)
  14. San Diego’s Philip Rivers (fourth overall)
  15. Arizona’s Carson Palmer (first overall)
  16. Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston (first overall)
  17. New York Giants’ Eli Manning (first overall)
  18. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (18th overall)
  19. Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz (second overall)
  20. Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (third overall)
  21. Carolina’s Cam Newton (first overall)
  22. Brock Osweiler (57th overall)

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