Part 1 of a 10-part series previewing the NFL draft, which begins April 27.
If longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had to highlight one quarterback in the 2017 class for his potential to develop quickly, he would look past the obvious names.
Kiper would pass on Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
‘‘I would say Nate Peterman, the quarterback out of [Pittsburgh],’’ Kiper said. ‘‘He has the best chance to come in and play, just from a mental standpoint and knowing the game and playing in a pro offense. He gets an edge over all these quarterbacks.’’
That’s Kiper’s opinion. But, as he often says, he consults with every team. His preference for Peterman speaks to the difficulties of evaluating this draft class.
‘‘It’s not that good,’’ an NFL team executive said.
That doesn’t mean quarterbacks won’t be drafted early. And the more swings the Bears take at the position, the better.
But when should the Bears do it?
Similar to the Bears, there are teams desperate to get the position right: the Browns, 49ers, Jets, Texans and Bills.
And there are several teams said to be eyeing their next quarterback: the Chargers, Saints, Cardinals, Giants, Chiefs and Steelers.
If the Bears wait until the second round, where they hold the 36th overall pick, Watson, Trubisky, Kizer and Mahomes might not be available. Peterman and California’s Davis Webb would be next in line.
Certain teams complicate matters, too. The Browns, for example, have the first, 12th and 33rd overall picks. The Saints have the 11th and 32nd selections.
The Giants (23rd), Texans (25th), Chiefs (27th) and Steelers (30th) are also in the range where the best value might be for the top quarterbacks.
In general, Watson, Trubisky, Kizer and Mahomes are thought to need time to adapt. And the Saints, Giants, Chiefs and Steelers are teams that could provide it.
‘‘There’s no way I’m taking a quarterback in the first round from a 90 percent shotgun-laden offense [in college] unless I know for a fact that the quarterback coach, the offensive coordinator and the head coach are all really good quarterback people,’’ an evaluator said.
In the last 10 drafts, 30 quarterbacks have been taken among the first 36 selections. And the 2011 class illustrates the importance of not overdrafting.
That year, there were six taken in that range: Cam Newton (first, Panthers), Jake Locker (eighth, Titans), Blaine Gabbert (10th, Jaguars), Christian Ponder (12th, Vikings), Andy Dalton (35th, Bengals) and Colin Kaepernick (36th, 49ers).
For the Bears, it’s just as important not to reach on a quarterback as it is to draft one.
The Bears alleviated some of the pressure of drafting a quarterback by signing Mike Glennon to start and adding Mark Sanchez as his backup. Glennon, who has been in the NFL for four seasons, is prepared to play; a draft pick likely wouldn’t be.
‘‘I think all those quarterbacks have issues as to why they won’t be immediate hole-fillers or immediate standouts at the position,’’ Kiper said. ‘‘I think it’s expecting too much from just about anybody.’’
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The Bears have liked Glennon for years. General manager Ryan Pace had a high draft grade on him in 2013 and had casual trade talks with Buccaneers GM Jason Licht last year about acquiring Glennon.
‘‘[He’s] a guy that I had a lot of conviction on for a long time,’’ Pace said. ‘‘And the stars just all kind of aligned for us to get him here this year.’’
Coach John Fox also said he had a high opinion of Glennon when he saw him at North Carolina State.
‘‘Everybody that I’ve known that’s been around him — both in college football and pro football, people that I respect and know pretty well — feel really good about him moving forward,’’ Fox said.
Best of the best
This draft really is a crapshoot for quarterbacks, but the top six generally are considered to be Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech), Davis Webb (California) and Nate Peterman (Pittsburgh).
‘‘We’re going to draft the best players available, wherever that may be. And if it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback. But we’re going to take the best players available.’’ — Pace