- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
Imagine that the NBA enacted new rules to help free up point guard play. Imagine the league was concerned that point guards with talents as diverse as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Ricky Rubio had seen their games bogged down by incessant grabbing, hits coming off screens and an absolute battering when driving the lane. It was destroying free-flowing, entertaining play, and it injured the guys who set those plays in motion. Imagine the league mandated no contact with point guards, unless they initiated it, or held the ball for too long. Imagine the league mandated that you can't make contact or impede cutters coming off screens; you can't impede a point guard's targets.
You'd hear griping that point guards now had it easy, and were being pampered, and it had destroyed the physical aspect of the game. But when scoring spiked, and fans showed up, teams would adjust. After years of targeting bigs, they'd draft point guards No. 1 overall regularly; and they'd draft better point guards, because college and HS coaches would identify high-ceiling point guards earlier. Teams might shift ideas on other positions, too. They'd focus on guys who could fly on the baseline and in transition, and defenders who could keep pace. And it would become clear: The team with the best point guards would dominate. This is purely hypothetical for the NBA.
But it also might resemble what the NFL already is.
While old-school football fans perhaps rightly complain that NFL quarterbacks are essentially wearing the red practice jerseys in games, too, the league has comfortably adjusted, because popularity couldn't be higher. Every rule change in recent years, from increased protection for QBs on late hits, to tighter rules on contact with receivers, has aided the passing game. QBs even have a longer field because of the new kickoff rules, which helps pad passing stats. Longer field? More yards to throw for.
• The league has responded: 12 out of the last 15 years, a QB has been taken No. 1 overall in the draft, an 80 percent clip. In the preceding 25 years, it happened just five times, or 20 percent. And it goes beyond No. 1. In terms of total pick value, the Redskins paid the biggest price in league history when they targeted Robert Griffin III.
Chris Sprow examines some findings from Insider's NFL Future Power Rankings, including the necessity of an elite QB in today's NFL.