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'Aptitude,' not offensive system, biggest question facing QBs in NFL Draft

Could the advent and growing popularity of spread offense make it harder for NFL teams to evaluate college quarterbacks?

It might not be as big of a deal as you think with the Draft set to open Thursday night.

"In terms of evaluating college quarterbacks who come from let's say an Air Raid or a spread system, the physical components – arm talent, accuracy mobility – that's still relatively easy to judge," Browns vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry said last week.

"That's also why the spring is so important because system is not necessarily as important as aptitude, football intelligence and the ability to prepare and learn."

Those are the dynamics the Browns have zeroed in on for the better part of the past year. And as owners of the first and 12th overall picks, they're poised to draft a signal-caller if they so choose. Those candidates include Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes, North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky and Clemson's Deshaun Watson, who have all played in various types of offenses.

The real challenge facing the Browns and other teams across the league is identifying a quarterback who can process, learn and master the finer points of playing at the next level, whether it's his footwork, verbiage inside the huddle or taking snaps under center.

"There's not a lot of pro-style quarterbacks playing. Everybody's playing in the spread. The play comes from the sidelines. It's a hand signal. It's a card. It's a this. Guys don't play under center much. Guys don't really read defense much. I'm being very honest with you. So it is tough," head coach Hue Jackson said last month.

To combat that, Jackson said the Browns "go the extra mile for these guys."

"We really do," he said. "We spend a lot of time with them and there's a lot of specific things that we ask them to do. I think if you talk to a lot of the quarterbacks, it's probably different than any other place that they've had to deal with thus far."

Jackson added: "Some guys can handle that. Some guys can't. And some guys can handle it early, and some guys can't. I think those are the guys we have to find out. Some guys might be really able to process football but can't play as well. Some guys play as well and can't process football. So somewhere in between it's the right fit and the right medium for a player, for us to consider to be a quarterback on our football team."

And on the eve of what they hope is a pivotal Draft, those are the kinds of things the Browns will take into consideration.

"For any college quarterback, it's going to be a pretty difficult transition to the NFL, regardless if they run a more 'pro-style system' or something that looks a lot different than your typical NFL offense," Berry said.

"If the quarterback has the physical talent to produce, has the work ethic, has the preparation and then most importantly has the aptitude, it may take him a little longer, but those guys typically do have success in the NFL."

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