NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah tweeted some insightful observations over the weekend about the development of Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton. That got me thinking about how the NFL is suddenly flush with dual-threat quarterbacks thanks in large part to the 2011 and 2012 NFL draft classes. Today's lunch break question is this:
If you were starting a new team, which dual-threat quarterback drafted in the last three years would you build your franchise around?
There is also significant variation in style and ability between these quarterbacks. A runner like Cam Newton is large and powerful enough to bowl over tacklers, which is largely why he led the Carolina Panthers in rushing touchdowns each of his two seasons in the pros. In contrast are players like Robert Griffin III, who utilize their shiftiness and top end speed to make defenders miss. Each style is different, but both add a critical dimension to the offense.
But it's important not to forget that these quarterbacks wouldn't be dual-threats if they couldn't throw. More than ever, the NFL is a passing league. If a quarterback can't pass for volume and efficiency, it takes a herculean effort from the rest of his team to win consistently. Russell Wilson ran for nearly 500 yards at a clip of 5.2 Y/A, but those numbers were dwarfed by his 3,118 yards passing and a 13:5 touchdown pass to interception ratio. Certainly, Wilson's success was aided by his defense and the running game of Marshawn Lynch. However, that team wouldn't have been a playoff team, let alone a contender, without Wilson's air and ground production.
The final criterion, and it's especially important one for dual-threat quarterbacks, is resistance to injury. The obvious poster child for this issue is Griffin. By any measure, RGIII had a spectacular rookie season. It can even be argued that his rookie year was the greatest for a quarterback in NFL history. However, he wasn't nearly as effective after sustaining a knee injury week 14 against Baltimore, nor was he very useful after re-tearing his ACL during the wildcard round of the playoffs. Griffin says he's on track to start week 1 of the 2013 season, but even if he can, Griffin will have missed considerable preseason reps and preparation. That's a problem for any quarterback, let alone one entering his second season.
For me, the decision comes down to the aforementioned Newton and Colin Kaepernick. Both are big-bodied and perfect for the read option. Kaepernick is the more deadly in the open field, as his 6.6 Y/A illuminates. However, Newton's thicker base allows him to take on a greater rushing load. Accordingly, Newton averages an additional 3 rush attempts and over 36% more yards per start. Kaepernick thus far has been the more efficient passer, but Newton's last 7 starts (combined: 1726 yards passing and an 11:2 touchdown pass to interception ratio) show marked improvement. In the end, Kaepernick's small sample size and Newton's continued improvement make the Panther's quarterback my choice.
So which young dual-threat passer would you choose? Cast your vote in our poll and discuss your choice in the comments.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn