Mobile Quarterbacks in the NFL

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The first pick of the 2015 NFL draft will most likely be a quarterback.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will most likely select a quarterback. Football fans across the country won’t be able to help but to debate over who they should select.

Here is a related question for debate: how is risky is it to base the future of your franchise on a mobile quarterback? Let’s explore recent history:

Here are some names that come to mind when discussing present-day mobile quarterbacks in the NFL: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.  One could even argue that Andrew Luck or Aaron Rogers are mobile QBs because they are able to pick up yards using their legs.  However, you wouldn’t see nearly as many designed running plays for either of the two.

Here is the trend in the NFL: Quarterbacks who rush frequently are much more prone to injury.   It is common sense that the shelf life of the mobile quarterback is limited.  Every time a quarterback rushes and takes a hit, fans hold their breath and hope that wasn’t the hit that sets their franchise back several years. When thinking back, it is amazing how much the perception has changed on the mobile quarterback from 2012 until today.

Flashback to the 2012-2013 season: RGIII bursts on the scene and leads the Redskins to win their division and ends up winning the Rookie of the Year award. Colin Kaepernick wins the starting job and continues on to win the NFC with 49ers with a dominant playoff performance.  Russell Wilson is drafted in the 3rd round, and flies in (somewhat under the radar) before reaching the playoffs.  This is after he was not even being expected to start at the beginning of the season.  Defenses around the league were often left looking flustered as they saw an increase in designed running plays by these mobile quarterbacks.

Let’s fast forward to the 2014-2015 – the Redskins fan base went from chanting “RGIII” to having a quarterback controversy. Cam Newton had to miss some time with injuries, and Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers missed the playoffs.  What happened to the mobile quarterback?

It would be tough to argue they are no longer effective seeing that Russell Wilson and the Seahawks made the Super Bowl two years in a row.   But the trend has changed, and that raises the question:  What makes Wilson so different?  A great defense and running game certainly help any quarterback, but look closer.  If you watch Russell Wilson, it seems he uses his legs to get himself out of trouble more often than he uses them to take big hits.

That might be the difference!  As defenses became wise to the read option, Russell Wilson adapted using his legs to keep plays alive and surveying options downfield as he scrambled.  When he does rush, he has an uncanny ability to slide right before he gets hit.

So what is the future of the mobile quarterback in the NFL?  I believe if a mobile quarterback wants a future in the NFL, they are going to need to learn when to run and when to slide.  After all, defenses are only getting bigger, faster and scarier.  It is worth consideration how much it could cost to pick up a few extra yards.

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