ESPN’s Clayton: 2017 is a bad year to be looking for a QB

Mar 3, 2017, 1:18 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) runs the ball during the first quarter of an NCAA co...

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) runs the ball during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Illinois, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)

(AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)

LISTEN: John Clayton, ESPN NFL insider

The Arizona Cardinals have maintained a desire to find a quarterback who can eventually succeed Carson Palmer, with head coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim both noting how important that will be.

You do not have to go too far back in the franchise’s history to understand how rough things can be without a competent passer.

With Palmer on board for at least another season, however, the Cardinals in theory have a bit of breathing room with regards to need, which is probably a good thing according to ESPN NFL insider John Clayton.

A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday, Clayton said this year’s rookie class of quarterbacks is not a good one.

“The options, particularly if Jimmy Garoppolo, as Adam Schefter reported for ESPN, is not going to be traded, this is just a bad year to be looking for a quarterback,” he said.

Clayton pointed to how the quarterbacks were measured on Thursday, and most of the top options were around 6-foot-2 and had small hands.

“That’s not paralyzing, but it just shows you,” he said. “The measurables don’t add up. If you take a quarterback higher than nine, well guess what, you may be getting somebody that might be good, but you don’t know.”

In a lot of ways that is the case every season, since no player — let alone a quarterback — is a sure thing.

Keim illustrated the danger perfectly when speaking to the media in Indianapolis Wednesday, when he said a team cannot afford to force a first-round pick of a quarterback.

“Because if you take a quarterback high and he doesn’t pan out, it’s going to set you back for years because you have to give him time to develop, you have to give him a chance,” he said. “If you miss, and you miss high, it’s going to cost you.”

The Cardinals, who hold the 13th pick in the first round, might be in a good spot to land one of Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky or Patrick Mahomes — the quartet generally considered to be at the top of the QB class — but the way Clayton sees it, it’s possible none of them will warrant a first-round selection.

If the Cardinals do not draft a quarterback in any round, they will likely enter training camp with Palmer, Drew Stanton and Zac Dysert, with perhaps an undrafted rookie free agent to help share reps and compete for a spot.

That may be fine for the 2017 season, but with Palmer turning 38 in December and no guarantee to come back in 2018, it’s possible the Cardinals will soon need to find their next quarterback. Just, not yet.

“Overall, it’s sometimes better to wait for next year,” Clayton said. “But the quarterbacks in need right now, is going to be a little bit of a struggle. That’s going to be a tough one.”

All that said, while Clayton may not believe there are any quarterbacks who are worth taking a big chance on early in the draft, he understands some teams are going to pull the trigger.

He compared it to the 2013 draft, where just one quarterback — EJ Manuel at No. 16 to Buffalo — was chosen in the first round.

“You’ve got Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky being the top two quarterbacks, well Trubisky’s 6-foot-4, not big hand size, and Watson’s 6-foot-2; while they have a chance to be good, if you realistically put them, they’re probably between 10 and 15, 10 and 20.”

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ESPN’s Clayton: 2017 is a bad year to be looking for a QB