Nate Levinson, Sports Editor

The quarterback position is the most important in all of sports. A great quarterback has the ability to take an otherwise mediocre team and transform it into something great, a feat not so easily managed by any other position, regardless of the sport.

But getting a great quarterback isn’t easy, and getting one of the elite ones almost always requires drafting them early in the first round. There are players like Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Drew Brees who have overcome the odds to become great quarterbacks after falling out of the first round, but this is hardly the norm.

The 2014 NFL draft pro vides a supremely interesting case study, since the draft boasts five elite prospects, none of whom are quarter backs. Two are edge rushers ( Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack), two are offensive tackles (Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson) and one is a wide receiver (Sammy Watkins), all of which are important positions, but not on the same level as quarterback.

Can’t miss prospects like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning were nobrainers as top picks, but the same can’t be said for this year’s crop of quarterbacks, Teddy Bridge water, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles.

Teams looking for reasons to take position players over QBs early on need look no further than the 2011 draft.

That year, Jake Locker went eighth to the Titans, while Blaine Gabbert went 10th to the Jaguars, ahead of future Pro Bowlers J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Mike Pouncey and Ryan Kerrigan. Locker and Gabbert, meanwhile, have been both ineffective and unable to stay healthy — reasons their teams are once again picking in the top 10 of the draft. Passing on Watt now also looks especially egregious, as he has become the top defensive player in the game, plays for the division rival Houston Texans and has tormented both QBs for the past three seasons.

If a team considers one of this year’s top quarterbacks to be an elite, can’t miss prospect, then it should absolutely pull the trigger early in the draft, but I find it hard to believe that any team will rate one of the top three QBs higher than one of the top five position players.

Four out of the top five picks in the draft will be made by teams in need of a quarterback, but that doesn’t mean they should all select one. A case could be made that the Texans and Browns are a solid QB away from making the playoffs, but the Raiders and Jaguars clearly are not.

As much as taking a great QB in the draft can help a team, taking a bad one can destroy a franchise. If you take a quarterback early on, you’ve got to give that player at least two or three years to develop. If that development doesn’t go as planned, coaches and general managers end up losing their jobs.

It still seems likely that some team will take a quarterback in the top five. Chances are that at least one out of Maziel, Bridgewater and Bortles will be come a solid NFL QB and lead his team to the playoffs. No matter how good Watkins is in his first NFL season, it’s highly unlikely he’ll single handedly turn his team’s fortune around as we’ve seen QBs like Luck do in the past. But Luck was a once-in-a-generation type prospect, and his first season should be looked at as the exception, not the norm.

Obviously I don’t have the resources that NFL teams do to make the in formed decisions they do, but if I were picking at the top of this year’s draft, there’s no way I could pass on one of the elite non-quarterbacks. Sometimes taking risks is necessary to reap the rewards, but passing on one of the position players and taking a quarterback is an unnecessary risk.