Here come the NFL’s Young Guns II

In 1983, an influx of new quarterback talent in the National Football League helped to revitalize some key franchises – including Denver under John Elway, Miami under Dan Marino, and Buffalo under Jim Kelly. Most important, the Quarterback Class of ‘83 added new glamour boys playing a highly visible position.

Don’t look now, but it’s happening again. And I love it. Combining the past two NFL drafts, five quarterbacks were taken in the first round – including the last two overall #1 picks, Matthew Stafford from Georgia (Lions) and Sam Bradford from Oklahoma (Rams).  But several QBs picked in lower rounds are now also starting, sparking a youth movement in the NFL at a key skill position.

The past two classes included Mark Sanchez from USC (Jets), Colt McCoy from Texas (Browns), Tim Tebow from Florida (Broncos), Josh Freeman from Kansas State (Bucs), and Rusty Smith from Florida Atlantic (Titans) – with Jimmy Clausen from Notre Dame and Tony Pike from Cincinnati both getting time for the Panthers. Smith was picked #176 overall by Tennessee but got bumped from third string to starter last week when Vince Young went down for the season.

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Chase Daniel

And that doesn’t include sleepers like my sentimental favorite, Chase Daniel from Missouri, who quietly has worked into the backup spot for Drew Brees with the Saints – after spending their Super Bowl season on their practice squad facing the starting defense every day. (Don’t forget the undrafted Daniels’ brief stint with the Redskins included a come-from-behind preseason victory.) In addition, waiting in the wings are college underclassmen such as Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Auburn’s Cam Newton.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos

For all the expert analysis, history shows players like Tebow, not your “classic” NFL quarterback, usually end up starting – and winning – against the odds. (“Undersized” Joe Montana was a third-round pick.) Why? Certainly this current group has great athletes to start with, and most have been winners in every sport on every level.

Call it a hunch, but this crop just seems to have an unusually large number of driven and tough competitors at a key position that can change results in the NFL. These are the kind of men who have consistently made whatever adjustments and skill-building they needed to succeed, and only injuries or prison terms will keep that from happening now. Later, some will become Hall of Fame coaches, retiring to motivational seminars near you.

Unfortunately, that two-year window doesn’t even touch on young talent like the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, the Ravens’ Joe Flacco or the Bills’ Ryan Fitzpatrick – all only 25 with at least four years in the league. It must make the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (age 28) and Packers’ Aaron Rogers (29) feel like geezers. At 34, Peyton Manning may need a walker soon…

New Old Flame (Stan Johnston)

PS: One notable exception to the exceptional ’83 class: Kansas City crumbled after picking Todd Blackledge #7 overall.

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