We exalt the top quarterbacks in football, and for good reason. It's not easy to find players of that caliber at the position, but we've seen teams in every sport go with a superstar veteran for too long and then fall behind the eight ball when it's time to start over again with someone new in the veteran's old spot. Those teams that plan for succession and groom a replacement can put themselves in a better position when the transfer of power inevitably takes place.
With that in mind, here's a look at five NFL teams that could use a young quarterback to groom behind an established starter, along with a QB prospect from this year's draft that would fit for each franchise.
Best prospect fit:Sean Mannion
The skinny: The Bears have said they're moving on with Cutler as their starter, but the new regime hasn't exactly offered an enthusiastic endorsement of him, so no one should be surprised if the team is eyeing a potential replacement for Cutler in this draft. Mannion has the look of an old-school QB with his over-the-top delivery and strong arm. He's tough-minded and has some experience playing in the elements coming out of the Pacific Northwest, which would serve him well late in the year in Chicago. If the Bears wanted to accelerate the change of the guard under center, Mannion has been trained in a pro-style offense and might adapt a little quicker than his colleagues coming out of spread systems.
Best prospect fit:Bryce Petty
The skinny: Romo will turn 35 in April and has dealt with back injuries, so it's not too soon to start getting an eventual replacement ready. Remember, Jerry Jones was *this* close to turning in Dallas' draft card for Johnny Manziel in the first round last year. Keeping Petty, from Baylor, in Texas would be a nice match. He's a big, strong-armed QB who can get the ball down the field -- that's music to the ears of Dez Bryant. With Romo entrenched as the starter, Petty could sit, learn and adjust for a while before being thrust into the fire.
New Orleans Saints
Best prospect fit:Marcus Mariota
The skinny: I keep hearing talk that the Saints could blow us all away with a monster trade to land a quarterback in this year's draft. There were even rumors that they could trade Drew Brees to stun us once again after dealing Jimmy Graham earlier this offseason, but Sean Payton knocked down the Brees trade scuttlebutt. That said, if Mariota falls to No. 13 -- the first of the Saints' two picks in the first round -- would Payton be tempted to take him? It's not likely that Mariota slides that far, but it's not completely out of the realm of possibility. Seeing Mariota be groomed behind Brees, who is signed through 2016, would be fun to watch. I think Payton would have a ball coaching up the athletic former Ducks star.
New York Giants
Best prospect fit:Jameis Winston
The skinny: I'm not suggesting the Giants are set to give up all it would take to move up to No. 1 to get Winston, but purely in terms of fit, he's the best option for the team among this year's QB prospects. Winston embraces the spotlight, which shines brightest in the Big Apple. The team might very well be content to continue grooming 2013 fourth-round pick Ryan Nassib behind Manning, but Winston would be a heck of a match for the Giants. They would be going back to the future, in a way, after trading in 2004 to land Manning, who will turn 35 early next year and is in the final year of his contract.
San Diego Chargers
Best prospect fit:Brett Hundley
The skinny: There is a lot of noise right now about Rivers and his future with the Chargers, as he's in the final year of his contract. My colleague Ian Rapoport has reported that the team hasn't shut the door completely on the possibility of trading Rivers. If Rivers is at least back for the 2015 season, Hundley would be a nice fit to groom behind him. Hundley could use some seasoning -- his own coach says he's not ready to be a starter in the NFL from Day 1 -- but he's a good athlete with a strong arm and has the tools to develop into a solid NFL starter down the line. The Chargers likely won't have to strike in the first round to get him, too.