Marco Polo was an Italian merchant traveler who found fame for his exploration and adventure. Polo’s critics claimed that he was somewhat of a wanderer—not always knowing exactly where he was headed.
Finding that “Franchise” quarterback in the NFL Draft can be a hit-or-miss venture reminiscent of a Marco Polo expedition. And, it can also be blind chance, much like that silly childhood hide-and-seek pool game we all know and love.
Anyway, one Italian name attempting to navigate up NFL Draft boards is Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. At the moment, he is not projected as a first round pick, but teams in the top ten like Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota who might be shopping for a quarterback, could hold off on spending their first pick on a signal-caller in hopes of landing Garoppolo at the top of round two or three.
Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville coaching staff got a great opportunity to work with Jimmy Garoppolo at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Garoppolo had a solid week in Mobile after having an outstanding performance in the East West Shrine Game. Jag’s GM Dave Caldwell thinks the time spent with the senior all-stars has helped his staff sharpen their focus on draft preparation. Jaguar’s owner Shahid Khan has stated that his team might even draft more than one quarterback.
In the 2011 draft, Jacksonville and Minnesota both missed the mark when they selected quarterbacks in the first round just three years ago. Blaine Gabbert the 10th overall pick for the Jaguars, and Christian Ponder the 12th pick for the Vikings are now… well… let’s just stick with the Marco Polo theme and say they are now just ships that have sailed off the map.
Can the Vikings and the Jaguars afford to make the same mistake on a first round quarterback again this year? Or, maybe they will follow the two quarterback path the Redskins took in 2012, when Washington selected Robert Giffin III in the first round and Kirk Cousins in the 4th round. Is the idea of taking a swing twice and connecting once, better than a single swing with a potential miss?
In any rate, with the 39th and 40th picks in this year’s draft, the Jaguars and the Vikings respectfully are in prime position to begin the Garoppolo chatter.
There’s a lot to like about Garoppolo. He is a mid-west guy who is no stranger to cold weather games. Garoppolo has a nice compact super quick release that looks smooth and effortless. He has good ball velocity and accuracy with enough arm strength to make all the NFL throws. Garoppolo has good footwork with active feet. Like Peyton Manning, he likes to keep his feet moving, but can also quickly set them to throw in a very balanced upright position.
While the physical aspects of Garoppolo’s game is good enough to meet NFL standards, it’s his mental approach, leadership and quick decision making that sets him apart as one the better quarterback prospects in this draft. NFL scouts don’t measure the “it” factor at the scouting combine, but make no mistake, Garoppolo may not have as much “it” or “wow” as Johnny Football does, but he just might be the next runner-up in that category.
It takes great leadership to change the culture of a losing football team. Eastern Illinois was 4-18 during Garoppolo’s freshman and sophomore years, but a 7-5 junior season along with a 12-2 senior campaign is a testament to his competitive fire and work ethic.
His senior stats are off the charts. 5050 yards passing, 53 touchdowns with only 9 interception, and Garoppolo completed 66 % of his pass attempts. Maybe the most impressive stat is the fact he was only sacked 19 times.
Garoppolo’s has great mechanics and solid fundamentals. He is a coach-able leader that understands the value of team work. Garoppolo is a confident quarterback with a strong football IQ and is well liked by his teammates.
Last season Norv Turner had some success with Brian Hoyer as his starting quarterback. Hoyer had two big wins against the Vikings and Bengals before he tore his ACL.
Because Hoyer and Garoppolo have some similarities in physical size and style of play, Turner and Mike Zimmer might have a strong grade on Jimmy Garoppolo.