It can go without saying that the most important position on a football team, without a doubt, is the quarterback. Having a strong quarterback under center to orchestrate an offense often directly leads to high levels of success on the football field.
On November 27th, the Alliance of American Football league held its inaugural quarterback draft. Each team in the league was given the option to “protect” a player that was put in their region by the league or to “pick” a player from a different region.
The Fleet was fortunate enough to have received the first pick in the draft, where general manager Dave Boller elected to protect former University of San Diego standout, Josh Johnson.
Johnson was a three-year starter for the Toreros, where he completed 68% of his passes for 9,699 yards, 113 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He also ran the ball 307 times for 1,864 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Oakland native was named a first-team All-American by the Sports Network in 2005 and 2006, while also being named as a third-team All-American by AP in 2006.
Johnson garnered a lot of attention at the NFL combine despite being a small-school prospect. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash time and posted the combine’s highest vertical and broad jump at his position. Mostly due to his athletic build and possible upside, Johnson was taken with the 25th pick in the 5th round of the 2008 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As dominant as he was in college, Johnson never translated that success to the professional level. Only making five career starts, Johnson completed 54% of his passes for 1,042 yards, five touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Considered by most as a journeyman quarterback, Johnson has been out of the league since 2014, when he was released by the San Francisco 49ers.
The Fleet took advantage of the experience and athleticism that the 32-year-old still possesses and decided to make him the centerpiece of their offensive attack. Fortunately for him, Johnson was just recently signed by the Washington Redskins to be the backup to Mark Sanchez. Despite his NFL contract, Johnson still plans on returning to the Fleet once the Redskins’ season comes to an end. Expect him to be the starter for their first game against the Commodores on February 9th.
With their second pick in the draft, the Fleet selected former Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici. A two-year starter for the Sun Devils, Bercovici completed 60% of his passes for 5,332 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Bercovici is not nearly as mobile as Johnson, as shown by his 145 rushing attempts for only 146 yards and six career rushing touchdowns.
Bercovici went undrafted in the 2016 draft and was signed by the San Diego Chargers, but was later released during the final roster cuts. He signed a future contract in January of 2017 with the Chargers, but was then waived in September of the same year. Bercovici signed with the Cardinals’ practice squad towards the end of October, but the Cardinals chose to release him on November 30th and he has not been affiliated with any NFL team since then. Bercovici originally signed with the Arizona Hotshots before he was selected by the Fleet in the draft. At only 25, Bercovici’s NFL dreams are not completely extinct yet. As primarily a pure pocket passer, Bercovici should operate as the team’s primary backup and could see some decent playing time with the Fleet.
The Fleet’s third-round pick was former Minnesota and East Carolina quarterback Philip Nelson. The redshirt Nelson became the starter at Minnesota in 2012 when an injury occurred to then-starter MarQueis Gray. After his sophomore season, Nelson transferred to Rutgers hoping to achieve more in a pass-happy offense. Unfortunately for him, Nelson was charged with assault and was dismissed from the Rutgers program as a whole. He got another opportunity, however, as Nelson walked on at East Carolina and earned the starting job for the 2016 season. Throughout his collegiate career, Nelson completed 59% of his passes for 4,800 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
The Wisconsin native went undrafted in 2017 and signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in 2018. Nelson served as the fourth-string quarterback for the Blue Bombers, but was ultimately cut from the team in May of 2018. Unlike Johnson and Bercovici, Nelson should be buried on this depth chart and could potentially fall below the Fleet’s fourth-round pick, Alex Ross.
Ross, a 25-year-old graduate of Coastal Carolina, can be considered as one of the best players in Big South Conference history. In his four-year career as a Chanticleer, Ross completed 65% of his passes for 9,918 yards, 72 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions. He also ran the ball 391 times for 1,564 yards and 19 touchdowns. Ross has spent time with some NFL franchises and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. If for some reason Josh Johnson does not return to the Fleet, Ross would be my dark horse pick to take over the starting job. His stuff is electric and his mobility brings the same versatility that Johnson does.
The Fleet does have another quarterback on their roster. Keith Price, a former Washington quarterback, was signed as the replacement for Josh Johnson. However, as Johnson is expected to fully return to the team after the NFL season is over, expect Price to be released once that occurs.
My prediction for the Fleet is that Josh Johnson will be the starting quarterback come opening day, and expect for Bercovici and Ross to get some playing time behind him as well. If something were to happen to Johnson, Ross should be considered a legitimate candidate to take over the reins of the Fleet offense.