Could Chicago Bears find Cutler's successor in the draft?
By the time the Bears' first-round pick rolls around at No. 11, the top two quarterbacks, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, are expected to be gone.
If either is available, it would complicate general manager Ryan Pace's decision. He would have to weigh his desire to find Jay Cutler's down-the-road replacement against selecting a defensive player who would make the team better immediately.
The next two quarterbacks, Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook, would be huge reaches at 11, yet both could be spoken for by the time the Bears are on the clock again in Round 2 with the 41st overall pick.
Beyond that, it's more difficult to find a quarterback who has a realistic shot to replace Cutler, who turns 33 later this month.
Difficult but not impossible.
Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, Russell Wilson went in the third round and Kirk Cousins was a fourth-rounder. All three had passer ratings over 101.0 last season and ranked in the top five in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick (31 TD passes), an 11-year veteran, was a seventh-round draft pick out of Harvard, and Tony Romo (97.1 career passer rating) went undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2004.
At the least, Pace would like to add a developmental QB who could compete with No. 2 David Fales or No. 3 Matt Blanchard right away and possibly develop into a starter in the future. After the top four quarterbacks, those remaining have more flaws but several have potential. That's why they're considered developmental.
North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett could be a mid-round consideration for the Bears. He began his college career at Florida but transferred to Raleigh after losing the QB competition in 2012 to Jeff Driskell, who's a mid-to-late-round candidate.
In Brissett's two seasons at N.C. State he threw 43 TD passes and just 11 interceptions. He also picked up a few pointers from Wilson, one of his predecessors, who played three years for the Wolfpack before finishing his college career at Wisconsin.
"He has a camp (at N.C. State), and he comes through a couple times during the summer," Brisset said. "I've been able to work at his camp two times and been around him a little bit.
"He just said, 'It's a business. You've got to work at it. It's a job that you never fully understand and never fully have all the answers. Just got to go out there and work. It's about doing what you've done to get you to this point and staying true to your game.' "
Brissett has taken Wilson's advice to heart. He gets high marks from scouts for his character on and off the field and his work habits on the field and in the weight room.
Ironically, Driskell also wound up leaving Florida when he was benched in 2014, and he played his final season at Louisiana Tech as a graduate student. Driskell's technique needs work, and he's had multiple injuries. But there's plenty to work with for a team willing to invest some time in the 6-foot-4, 234-pounder whose 4.49 was the fastest 40-yard dash of any quarterback at the Combine and whose intelligence goes beyond football smarts.
"My frame is prototypical," Driskell said. "I have the size to withstand an NFL season. It's a grueling season with grown men out there, and I think my frame can handle that. I'm a competitor who loves the game and loves to work."
Top 10 quarterbacks
Carson Wentz, North Dakota State, 6-5, 237 pounds, 4.77 40-yard dash time
Prototypical size, strength and athleticism. Played in pro-style offense. Biggest concern is low level of competition, which could delay his NFL readiness.
Jared Goff, California, 6-4, 218 pounds, 4.82 40-yard dash time
More NFL ready than Wentz after 3 years as a starter. Strong arm with nice touch usually, but he can be wild and has not operated under center.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis 6-7, 244 pounds, 4.86 40-yard dash time
Needs more development but excellent foot athlete for size. Good-but-not-great arm with improving accuracy. Could improve ability to throw receivers open.
Connor Cook, Michigan State 6-4 217 4.79
Accuracy concerns. 4-year starter who never completed 59 percent of his passes. Has the arm and quick release to make all the throws but may lack leadership.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State 6-2, 226 pounds, 4.79 40-yard dash time
Can win with arm or legs (37 rush TDs in 3 years) but is a project. Has weak mechanics and is too quick to bolt the pocket. Charged with DUI in March.
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State 6-4, 223 pounds, 4.78 40-yard dash time
Mechanics, accuracy and pocket presence leave much to be desired but has good size and toughness and will stand and deliver under duress. Inconsistent touch.
Jacoby Brissett, N.C. State 6-4, 231 pounds, 4.91 40-yard dash time
Looks the part and has the arm to make every throw, experience in a pro system and can throw on the move. Could improve mechanics and progression reads.
Cardale Jones, Ohio State 6-5, 253 pounds, 4.81 40-yard dash time
Great size, athleticism, arm strength and is dangerous as a runner but is inexperienced, unpolished, inconsistent and lacks accuracy.
Cody Kessler, USC 6-1, 220 pounds, 4.89 40-yard dash time
Game manager with 68-12 TD-INT ratio past 2 years and career completion percentage of 67.5. Marginal size, arm strength and mobility.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford 6-3, 218 pounds, 4.78 40-yard dash time
Has OK size and mobility. Is a smart, tough game manager and a winner. But has poor mechanics, a weak arm and is a project unlikely to ever be an NFL No. 1.
Bears draft picksThe Bears currently have nine picks in the 2016 NFL draft, which will be held in Chicago April 28-30.
Bears selections: Round 1: 11th overall
Round 2: 41st overall
Round 3: 72nd overall
Round 4: 106th, 127th overall
Round 5: 150th overall
Round 6: 185th, 206th overall
Round 7: 230th overall
Draft dates and times• Thursday, April 28: Round 1, beginning at 7 p.m.
• Friday, April 29: Rounds 2-3, beginning at 6 p.m.
• Saturday, April 30: Rounds 4-7, beginning at 11 a.m.
TV coverage: NFL Network, ESPN, ESPN2
Draft site: Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University
Draft Town: outdoor football festival at Grant Park and Congress Plaza. Draft Town operating hours:
• April 28: noon-10 p.m.
• April 29: noon-10 p.m.
• April 30: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
-- Bob LeGere