Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: The Real QB Debate Is About Dwayne Haskins

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Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins smiles, with a rose between his teeth, after Ohio State defeated Washington 28-23 in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The buzz on Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray and Joey Bosa out of the combine. Optimism over a Kaep return. The idiocy of tags. All that and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.

               

1. The great Haskins debate

One of the most interesting storylines to emerge at the combine last week was the dueling views of Dwayne Haskins. The Ohio State quarterback is sparking intense internal debate among some quarterback-thirsty franchises. And it will only get more intense as we close in on the draft.

There seem to be two distinct camps when it comes to Haskins.

The first camp sees him as a smart player and thinks his lack of experience (he started for one year at Ohio State) isn’t a huge issue. He’ll learn. He’ll grow. And any pocket-awareness issues can be fixed. 

The second camp sees a player who’s more raw than his supporters are admitting—a player who may take years to adjust to the NFL. He panics when forced from the pocket. He isn’t quick enough to dart away from trouble when the pocket collapses. And he will get eaten alive by aggressive NFL defenses.

The only thing teams seem to agree on is that he’s an exceptional person. He was extremely impressive in interviews at the combine. One head coach told B/R that Haskins was one of the most professional players he’s ever interviewed at the combine.

But polish off the field isn’t enough to warrant a high first-round pick, even in a draft year with a dearth of good quarterbacks—and that’s why this debate over his polish on the field is so interesting and will become so loud moving forward.

Some around the league believe Haskins doesn’t have the on-field polish, or pocket awareness, to be considered a high pick. Others vehemently disagree.

One AFC personnel man told me that “any pocket presence debate is [pointless] because he’s smart. He’ll adapt.”

“It’s football,” he added, “we’re not building nuclear subs.”

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Not yet, at least.

In many ways, this is typical draft paralysis by over-analysis. Haskins played at a top program against some of the best competition in the nation, and he was excellent. Not perfect, but excellent.

Still, this debate won’t go away anytime soon. The combine can’t alleviate pocket-awareness concerns and neither will Haskins’ upcoming pro day. It’s impossible to truly simulate a pass rush during pro-day drills.

Unfortunately for Haskins, the debate has only just begun—and it won’t end until he proves his doubters wrong.

       

2. The unanimous No. 1?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 1: Kyler Murray #QB11 of the Oklahoma Sooners is seen at the 2019 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 1, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

There’s been plenty written on Kyler Murray the past week, but one additional thought out of the combine:

It’s not just that so many in the league believe he will be the first quarterback selected.

What’s amazing is how there’s almost no disagreement with the decision.

The usual nitpicking, second-guessing and outright trashing of the potential No. 1 quarterback—which has happened in almost every draft of at least the past decade—isn’t happening with Murray. At least not yet.

It still might, but the fact it hasn’t is borderline historic. 

              

3. The wild card is Nick Bosa

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Defensive lineman Nick Bosa of Ohio State looks on during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One thing I’ve been hearing consistently from league sources is that there are teams so in lust with Ohio State edge-rusher Nick Bosa that they might pull out all stops to get into position to draft him.

If the Cardinals don’t take him No. 1 overall, and if the 49ers make the second pick available, there could be a fight to get into that spot. A bevy of picks could change hands. Teams are prepared to make that kind of sacrifice.

Some teams, league sources say, see Bosa as a potentially transformative figure—possibly even better than his brother, Joey. That’s saying something.

      

4. Interest in Colin Kaepernick

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

I continue to hear from team sources, including one head coach, that they believe there will be interest in Colin Kaepernick when free agency begins later this month, and that he will be playing in the NFL next year.

Who knows if this is accurate. My belief has long been that once Kaepernick started his peaceful protests, he would never play in the NFL again. I’ve seen little to change that belief.

No one I speak to will go so far as to say which teams are interested—just that the interest is there. And, now that his collusion case is settled, that it’s only a matter of time before Kaepernick is back.

       

5. The traveling Super Bowl MVP

Butch Dill/Associated Press

It’s a virtual lock that Nick Foles will end up as the quarterback for the Jaguars. When he does leave Philadelphia, he will join a rare club.

Only five quarterbacks in NFL history who won Super Bowl MVPs have gone on to play on different teams later in their careers. Foles and Joe Flacco are set to become Nos. 6 and 7.

As ESPN Stats & Info reports, the results of the moves have been mixed in the past:

Of those instances, only Peyton Manning and Joe Montana were successful after their moves. Manning won a Super Bowl, and Montana took Kansas City to the postseason.

If you had to guess who was going to have success between Foles and Flacco, you’d have to pick Foles. Flacco looks done; Foles looks like he’s just getting started.

        

6. Raiders and Antonio Brown wouldn’t work

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 17: NFL player, Antonio Brown smiles and laughs during the 2019 NBA All-Star Game on February 17, 2019 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and

Tom O’Connor/Getty Images

The Raiders’ reported interest in wide receiver Antonio Brown makes absolutely no sense.

This isn’t a shot at the reporting. The reporting is dead on. It’s a shot at the idea of Brown and Jon Gruden being part of the same organization. There’s no way in hell those two would get along. They’d fight all the time.

The Raiders would be fun to watch, yes. They’d also be potentially dangerous. Brown is so good, he could transform that offense immediately. But then they’d implode. It’d have to happen eventually with those two involved.

     

7. Tag, you’re it

This week, teams used the franchise tag on various NFL stars—our annual reminder that the tag is total and complete trash.

How the union has allowed “tagging” to stay as part of the collective bargaining agreement this long is stunning. It is true that owners will fight (to their last breath) any change to the tag. It’s a salary-limiting mechanism that heavily favors the owners and totally screws the players, putting a cap on what they can earn and, to some degree, where they can live.

The two biggest scams in sports are the franchise tag and the “student athlete.”

Yet the tag is likely here to stay. The next CBA is set to expire after the 2020 season, and frankly, players do have higher priorities. Like guaranteed salaries.

The owners will also make players give up something big to get something big. If the players fight for guaranteed contracts, the owners will be willing to throw away a season—if not two. The fight will get incredibly nasty, and no one will care about tags.

That still doesn’t change that they are anti-capitalist.

Or that they’re trash.

     

8. Robert Kraft is still quiet

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

I can tell you that team and league officials are still closely watching the situation with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. They are going beyond the jokes and asking two questions: When will Kraft speak, and what will he say?

They believe at some point Kraft will sit down with a media entity, apologize, then never speak on the subject again.

In the meantime, the case continues to wind its way through the legal system, the NFL continues to monitor what’s happening, and everyone else just waits.

             

9. Cheap food

I don’t know if the food at Mercedes Benz Stadium is any good or if their cheap prices are just a gimmick, but what the stadium is doing is pretty remarkable.

The stadium recently announced it cut prices to some of its food for its MLS games, and this price slashing will continue into the NFL regular season. 

Hot dogs are now $1.50, hamburgers $7.50, pretzel bites $4.50, chips and salsa $2.50, and an ice cream waffle cone, my personal favorite, is $4.50.

This isn’t to praise a billionaire owner in Arthur Blank for doing what all owners should do. If an owner makes billions from the television contracts, they should keep food prices at their stadiums to a minimum, instead of gouging fans.

Most owners, though, do overcharge fans for food. So we should give Blank and the people who run the stadium credit.

Now pass the mustard.

              

10. What Adam Silver says could apply to NFL

This conversation with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is truly fascinating, on a number of levels. One is how blunt and honest he is. But even more so is what he says about how social media has sparked a sense of unhappiness and isolationism in players.

It made me immediately think of the NFL. Do NFL players feel the same way? Or is that not as big a factor in football because the number of players on a team is much larger? Or does team size even matter?

It would be interesting to hear Roger Goodell speak on this.

                 

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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