Even though the Senior Bowl was lacking in high-end quarterback talent, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace put the quarterback prospects in Mobile, Ala. under the microscope.
And given how often Pace has reiterated the importance of finding the Bears next quarterback – something that has been at the top of his to-do list since the start of the offseason – that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Indeed, during the team’s season-ending State of the Bears address, Pace said “there is no more important position than quarterback,” adding that the move is a “critical decision for me and this whole building.”
Fast-forward to Senior Bowl week, where Pace discussed the value of a quarterback’s time at the Senior Bowl, and experience in college in general:
“It’s already a big jump from college to the NFL as it is so the more of that you have the more beneficial it is,” Pace said to the media gathering in Mobile, Ala. “I think you can feel it with these guys who have played a lot of college football at a high level.”
Pace added that teams have to do their due diligence with less-experienced quarterbacks, because of the risks that come with making the jump to the NFL (like operating college offenses to working against professional defenses). Just thinking about that leap from a top college offense to the NFL is exhausting.
In total, five quarterbacks threw passes at the Senior Bowl. And from those five, Davis Webb (California) and Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh) stood out the most, and are most likely to have caught Pace’s eye.
Head Coach John Fox, Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains, and Quarterbacks Coach Dave Ragone each got an especially close look at Peterman. Not only was he the North team’s quarterback, but he was also the one who attempted (23) and completed (16) more passes than any other Senior Bowl quarterback. Peterman’s day (165 yards, touchdown) would have looked even more impressive had wide receiver Zay Jones not had two touchdown receptions taken off the board.
But it was Webb who won the game’s Most Valuable Player award, as he showed off some major arm strength and enough accuracy to complete 11 of 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Unlike Peterman, Webb still needs to find comfort handling snaps from under center, because of the kind of offenses he played in during his college career. Fortunately, that is the kind of thing that can be worked on over time with continuous, steady reps. But it’s also the kind of thing Pace might be referring to when he talks about making the adjustment from college to the NFL.
Neither Antonio Pipkin (Tiffin, Ohio) nor C.J. Beathard (Iowa) did anything to impress or move their draft stock. If anything, Pipkin’s two interceptions (in four pass attempts) dinged his stock just a bit in his first game on such a stage. Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee) rebounded from an early pick to complete 12 of 15 passes for 104 yards.
None of the quarterbacks who played in the Senior Bowl will be taken with the Bears’ first-round pick, but any one of them could become mid-to-late round selections depending on how things progress in the months to come.