NFL draft: Quarterbacks get shot at succeeding two greats

Make room for the understudies.

Thirteen years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger and the New York Giants acquired No. 1 pick Eli Manning in a trade with San Diego. Those quarterbacks went on to win two Super Bowls each.

On Saturday, for the first time in four years, the Steelers drafted a quarterback in fourth-rounder Josh Dobbs of Tennessee. That came a day after the Giants selected Cal’s Davis Webb in the third.

While it’s too early to say that either Dobbs or Webb will eventually succeed the current starters, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. After all, Dak Prescott was a fourth-round pick by Dallas last year, replaced the injured Tony Romo, and ultimately made him expendable.

“I’m not trying to replace anyone,” the newest Pittsburgh quarterback said. “I’m just trying to be the best Josh Dobbs I can be.”

However, no one would be surprised if Dobbs replaces backup Landry Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2013 who was recently signed to a two-year deal shortly after he became a free agent.

Roethlisberger, 35, mulled the idea of retiring after the 2016 season.

“Regardless of what Ben’s doing, whether he plays five more years, six more years — I tease him all the time you have to go eight — that’s irrelevant,” Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think our room just gets very competitive right now. It’s been a while.”

Manning, 36, has three years left on his contract. The Giants reached out to him before selecting Webb to alert him they were taking a quarterback, presumably so he wouldn’t take it the wrong way.

“Let me get this straight guys,” general manager Jerry Reese told reporters. “We hope that Eli plays for a long time for us. Eli is our quarterback and we still think that he can play at a high level, but we do know that he is not going to play forever, so we are trying to make the best decision as we move forward for the rest of Eli’s career.”

It was a prudent move for both teams. But as Romo can attest, uneasy lies the crown.

A fighting chance: Seattle used a sixth-round pick on a safety from Cincinnati with an eye-catching name. Naturally, somebody in his press conference asked him if he can fight.

“I probably get that question at least once a day,” Mike Tyson said. “If I meet anybody new that’s one of the first questions they ask me. Am I related to Mike Tyson? Can I fight like Mike Tyson? Or, who’s the real Mike Tyson? We’re both real. It’s just that he boxes and I play football.”

He conceded he “sometimes” gets sick of the questions. Tyson, his father, and his 3-year-old son are all named Mike.

Small gestures: Philadelphia and Dallas, mortal enemies in the NFC East, made similar picks in back-to-back selections in the fourth round. The Eagles took Donnel Pumphrey, a 5-foot-8 running back from San Diego State, and the Cowboys took Ryan Switzer, a 5-8 receiver from North Carolina. Both players are multipurpose threats who will get a chance to make their marks on special teams.

Pumphrey, who scored 67 touchdowns in college, will learn behind Darren Sproles, who’s probably in his last season, while Switzer will be a likely understudy to the diminutive Cole Beasley.

Bygones be bygones: Remember eight years ago when Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh had that uncomfortable exchange at midfield after Stanford ran up the score on USC? A miffed Carroll famously asked Harbaugh, “What’s your deal?” Well, Carroll paid his old nemesis a nice compliment in the third round when the Seahawks drafted a pair of Harbaugh’s Michigan players, safety Delano Hill and receiver Amara Darboh.

“Coach Harbaugh does a great job,” said Carroll, whose rivalry with him continued when Harbaugh was in San Francisco. “Really it is. It’s a good scheme fit to see guys in pro style.”

Strange trips: The NFL has tried different ways to make the final day of the draft more interesting and expand the viewership beyond football junkies. Saturday, the league gave teams the opportunity to announce their picks from iconic spots in their market, or representative of their market.

It was hit and miss. Among the backdrops were the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass for Jacksonville, the Grand Canyon for Arizona, the International Space Station for Houston, and, from the salt-in-the-wound department, the Raiders announced their picks from Las Vegas.

Bizarrely, the Colts made their announcements from an orangutan exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The latter wore on the nerves of NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who clearly saw it as gimmicky and distracting.

“If we’re going back to the zoo, I’m walking off the desk,” Mayock said. “I’ve about had the zoo, OK? Enough. Enough. I mean, is this good TV?”

After it was indeed back to the zoo for the Colts’ pick of Albany State defensive tackle Grover Stewart, Mayock said: “I think we’ve got to be a little respectful to Big Grove. It’s a big day for Grover Stewart, and rather than talking about that chimp, let’s get back to some football here. It’s a big day for him.”

Bargain bin: Several teams got discounts on injured prospects, banking on big value when those players return to health. UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau, recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, might have been a first-round talent but went to Washington in the third. Arizona got Dorian Johnson in the fourth round, likely two rounds later than the Pittsburgh guard would have gone had he not had a liver issue (one he said he’s had his entire life and is not concerned about). And Denver used a fifth-round pick on Gronkowski-esque Michigan tight end Jake Butt, a possible second-round talent on his way back from a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl.

Help wanted: Did anyone remind the New York Jets they need a quarterback?

This is a franchise that had drafted eight of them since 2006, the most in the NFL during that span, including one each in the past four drafts. Yet the club is still looking for an answer at that vital position.

But time after time, the Jets passed on a passer, selecting in order: safety, safety, receiver, receiver, tight end, defensive lineman, running back, cornerback, cornerback.

Let’s make a deal: This drafted shattered the record for most trades with 39, five more than the previous high. Part of the reason was this was the first draft that allowed for the trading of compensatory picks. The first five selections of the second round all came as the result of trades, and teams traded up for all three quarterbacks taken in the opening round.

Undersized overachiever: UCLA’s Jayon Brown is on the small side for an NFL linebacker at 6 feet, 231 pounds, but he’s a tackling machine. He led the Bruins with 119 last season. That was enough to convince Tennessee to take him in the fifth round as a possible safety hybrid. Brown is now a teammate of a crosstown rival, USC cornerback Adoree Jackson, the Titans’ second pick in the first round.

Making their pitch: In Philadelphia to scout the draft proceedings were representatives from 15 NFL cities, along with some from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. All of those cities are angling to host future drafts. Los Angeles was not in that group of candidates, but the general belief is L.A. will get a chance to play host to the event once the Inglewood stadium is completed.

Making an aggressive push to host the 2018 draft is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who presumably would stage it at The Star in Frisco, the team’s new headquarters. Although with crowds of 100,000 on hand to watch the draft live in Philadelphia, AT&T Stadium might be an even better venue.

And finally: Mr. Irrelevant has some highly relevant bloodlines. The final pick of the draft, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

Denver selected the younger Kelly with pick No. 253, a compensatory selection at the end of the seventh round.

Wrote his famous uncle on Instagram: “From a little boy many years ago. His dream finally came true. He is an NFL player. Now it's time for him to go to work. I am so proud.”

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World