By Justin Boylan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Pretend you need to win one football game this weekend, and you are drafting one quarterback to get it done.
All 32 of the current NFL starting quarterbacks are lined up and ready to go. Since there will be a draft, you also don’t know exactly where you are picking, but let’s continue to pretend and say you are guaranteed a top-10 pick.
My question to you, is Nick Foles one of the first 10 taken?
This isn’t about declaring Foles the savior and future of the NFL, I’m not going there. I’m talking about riding the hottest hands into a hypothetical game that’s hours away from kickoff.
In this hypothetical game, you don’t know what defense you are facing, but it doesn’t matter because whichever quarterback you pick the opponent will be the same. The offense surrounding your quarterback will also be the same regardless of who you draft.
You will have an above-average offensive line so protection isn’t an issue (you aren’t throwing your quarterback out there behind the Miami Dolphins O-line), and the quarterback you draft will have four basic weapons: a deep threat (think a Torrey Smith-Vincent Jackson hybrid), a slot receiver (closer to Danny Amendola than to Wes Welker), a tight end (not elite but a reliable pair of hands, think Greg Olsen or Charles Clay, both are around 50 receptions and 600 yards this season) and a running back (an excellent runner but won’t catch much out of the backfield, a Alfred Morris-Frank Gore type).
The coach will be competent enough to focus on your quarterback’s strengths, whatever they are. So it won’t be Norv Turner or Romeo Crennel on the sidelines, but it also won’t be Vince Lombardi. The point is to make this all about the quarterback.
At this moment, Foles is playing drenched in flames. There are only a handful of guys playing as well as Foles right now, and I’m curious where he falls. If you were drafting to win a game tomorrow, how many quarterbacks would have to go before you take Foles?
We have to narrow the field, starting with the good. The most likely first eight quarterbacks taken are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. You could argue Foles over Cam or Big Ben, but I won’t. I don’t see Foles going higher than 9th.
Now the bad, there are at least 15 current starters we can slash like holiday savings. In no particular order: Geno Smith, Matt Flynn (no Aaron Rodgers on this list), Chad Henne, Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder (or Matt Cassel, is there a difference?), Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Tannehill, Matt McGloin, EJ Manuel, Kellen Clemens, Mike Glennon, Alex Smith, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer.
Would you ride with any of those quarterbacks over Foles? Smith is a game-manager who is dead last among qualified quarterbacks with 6.2 yards per attempt, Eli’s two rings don’t blind the fact that he will have trouble getting to 20 touchdown passes before he throws 20 interceptions, and Palmer was just outplayed by Foles.
The ‘Who Knows?’ Group
While we’re at it, let’s include Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick into this group. RG3’s dual-threat has evaporated this season and it’s made him look average, same with Kaepernick (Griffin has accumulated more yards on the ground and through the air than Kaepernick, he’s completing a higher percentage of his passes and they both have 15 touchdown passes). McCown is actually playing well, with a quarterback rating of more than 100 in three of his last four games, but he’s not going in the top 10.
Now we are in the territory that includes a couple well-respected names and a couple division-leading quarterbacks. Andy Dalton is one of four quarterbacks with at least 17 touchdown passes since week 6, but has thrown 16 picks this season (fourth-most) to 22 touchdowns. Joe Flacco doesn’t “wow” you but proved he can win. I give Flacco credit for not folding under the Super Bowl hangover, but his inconsistency and bad throws scare me.
Matty Ice and Tony Christmas
Between Matt Ryan and Tony Romo one goes in the top 10 and the other falls out. Matt Ryan’s team was destroyed by injuries, which in turn, destroyed his team’s season, but he keeps going. Ryan has the fifth-most passing yards and is completing 66 percent of his passes to a makeshift set of weapons that vary week to week. Ryan joins the aforementioned eight studs.
Romo is one of four quarterbacks with more than 20 touchdown passes and less than 10 picks, but we all know what happens to him when we hit the 25 days of Christmas. Call it my brotherly blood, but I would never draft Romo for one game. I’d trade down and take McCown.
The Final Spot
I count 30 quarterbacks with the 10th pick in the draft up in the air. We have two left: Foles and Matthew Stafford. I would take Foles before I took Stafford. So, yes, I have Foles going in the top 10, just ahead of Stafford, Romo, Flacco and Dalton.
I like Stafford, but he gets a lot of help from having one of the five best receivers ever on his side. More than a third of his passing yards and almost half of his touchdowns this season have gone to Calvin Johnson. In the one game without Johnson, Stafford didn’t lead a touchdown drive until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
If we are going head-to-head, since Foles took over in week 6, Stafford has 19 touchdowns (2nd behind Peyton) and the most passing yards, 2,301. But Stafford’s 304 attempts are more than any other quarterback. He has the lowest QB rating (lower than Glennon) and completion percentage (lower than Glennon) of those with at least 12 touchdown passes, and his 11 picks are tied with Dalton for the most. Quick reminder: Foles is completing 63 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns, no picks and a 125 QB rating.
The Lions are 4-3 since week 6 with Stafford from start to finish for every game. As I am sure you know, the Eagles are 5-1 with Foles, and that’s including the concussed loss to Dallas in a game he didn’t finish.
If only there was some way to settle this. Holy crap, what a coincidence, can you believe it, they play each other this Sunday!! It looks like they will be able to settle this themselves.
Justin Boylan is a producer at 94WIP and graduate of Temple University. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @justintboylan.