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The Value of Things: The $64,000 Question

Is Davis Mills the quarterback of the future?

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

This is the time of year where everything breaks loose in the NFL. By the end of the day, rosters will have to be whittled down to 53 guys. Yet, that isn’t even the half of it. There are always a handful of guys that make the roster initially that will be cut in favor of guys that were recently cut by their team. When 32 teams get involved with this charade it can be hard to keep up.

Secondary to the end of the roster market is the market for players that suddenly become targets for trades. Laremy Tunsil and Ross Blacklock come to mind. When teams suffer injuries at key positions like left tackle, it can be beneficial for a team like the Houston Texans. Suddenly, you could pick up a first or second round pick and start padding your 2023 draft ahead of schedule.

The local radio guys threw this around last week. Is trading Tunsil a good idea? The answer seems obvious at first. He’s probably slightly overpaid and he doesn’t seem that invested in the team culture. Certainly it seems like the coaching staff isn’t fully invested in him. So, if you could get out from under the contract (at least part of it) and get a premium draft asset or two then it makes perfect sense to make that move. Except, many argue that you would be hindering Davis Mills’ development. One of the two tackle spots would be manned by Charlie Heck which could spell disaster.

The number one question for 2022 will be whether Davis Mills is the quarterback of the future. All other questions take a back seat. It can seem like giving him as much to work with would be the wisest course of action. However, it might also be said that you will know regardless before the season is done whether he’s the guy or not.

The Comparison Game

I’m going to do something I never do. I’m going to write an entire article without numbers. I have two methods I use to determine whether a quarterback is the guy or not. Most of the time you can see it straight away. There was no denying it in Watson’s case. From day one you knew he was the guy. I suppose that the best comparison is with the man or woman you eventually marry. Something inside tells you they are the one very early on.

However, moving past esoteric considerations, we can tell based on who scouts and experts compare the quarterback to. Inevitably, he is compared to guys like Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton. Those are the best of the guys he is compared to. Some may compare him with Case Keenum while others might throw out guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer.

Let’s assume that Kirk Cousins is the ceiling. He has three seasons with 30 or more touchdown passes. He led the league in completion percentage in 2015. He is also 1-3 in the postseason with a combined 62 percent completion percentage, three touchdowns, and one interception. The Vikings have a top five running attack, one of the best one-two punches at wide receiver and one of the better tight ends in football. They were essentially a .500 team last year.

We know Andy Dalton’s story as well. He led the Bengals to the playoffs several seasons in a row. He never won a playoff game. He was 0-5 with one touchdown and six interceptions in those playoff games. Let’s be generous and say that Mills falls somewhere in between those two guys. So, essentially that puts him somewhere in the middle of the pack. Does anyone think either of those two guys were leading their teams anywhere?

A Game of Excuses

The second consideration on a player like Mills is to look at how people say he will be successful. He will be successful when he gets a better line in front of him. He will be successful when he gets a legitimate second wide receiver. He will be successful when he gets a robust running game to support him. These things are all true statements. Quarterbacks do perform better when they have all of those things. There is no denying that.

Unfortunately, that describes nearly every quarterback in the NFL. The franchise guys are the guys that can take weak position groups and make them better. They might do that with superior athletic skills. They may do that through outworking their opponent. They may do that with exceptional leadership qualities. They don’t win only when they have a perfect roster around them.

One of the things you will notice is that young quarterbacks that could potentially be franchise guys are described differently. Maybe they need to work on their accuracy. Maybe they need to avoid taking excess risks. Maybe they need to curtail their desire to play hero ball. Maybe they need to work harder in the offseason to stay in better shape or do more studying during the week to be more prepared on Sunday. I’m sure all of you can attach names to each of those statements. Those guys might or might not become franchise guys depending on whether they are able to do those things. However, the difference is that we are more focused on their development and not their physical limitations.

The Bottom Line

It’s very important to point out that no one hates Davis Mills. At this point, Mills’ presence on the team is only a positive. He was a third round pick and most third round picks don’t become starting quarterbacks in the league. Since he is on his rookie deal, he is dirt cheap. You can build a really good roster around him. So, what appears above may look like a negative, but it really isn’t. By sheer definition, there are fewer franchise guys than game managers. So, being a game manager doesn’t make him a bad quarterback. It makes him an average one and being average means there are just as many above you as there are below you.

What it also means is that you have to be on the lookout for that next franchise guy. The LA Rams, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Denver Broncos have demonstrated that you don’t necessarily have to get that guy in the draft. The worst situation to be in is the one where you are paying someone big money for multiple seasons when you know he’s not the guy. So, the sooner we can make that determination the better.