Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Draft Spotlight: Quarterback

How Many First Round Picks?

Three, and this one is pretty close to a slam-dunk. Matthew Stafford (Georgia) is the number one guy, which is why he is the only signal caller in the conversation for the number one overall pick. If you ever watched a full Stafford game as a Bulldog, you thought at least once or twice, “No one in else in college football could have made that throw”. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anything at the next level. He didn’t always make the best decisions, but always seemed to be dealing with slippery-handed pass catchers and an inexperienced offensive line. Georgia football coach Mark Richt compares Stafford to NFL legends John Elway and Dan Marino.

“He is very strong and durable, he is very agile,” Richt adds. “His arm is unquestioned in its strength, but he can also make any throw you would want a guy to make. He is highly intelligent. He loves the game. He’s a humble guy who wants to put the team first; he’s exactly what everyone is looking for. I think he will be a very high pick, if not the first pick.”

As for number two, it’s a toss up. Before you put Mark Sanchez (USC) in the top ten, could you find one person who called him a first round pick before his Rose Bowl performance? Didn’t think so. Sanchez has potential, but is a borderline first-round talent who will get over-drafted.

Finally, we come to the brick-house named Josh Freeman out of Kansas St. Yes, he is raw, but he has more potential than Sanchez and maybe as much as Stafford. I like Freeman more than I liked JaMarcus Russell coming out…the difference? Freeman didn’t have Dwayne Bowe, Buster Davis and Early Doucet to throw to or a defense stocked with future NFL talent constantly giving him the ball back.

Who Are the Top Senior QBs?

No senior quarterback will approach the first round and they all may have to wait until day two to hear their name called. The candidates include Pat White (West Virginia), Curtis Painter (Purdue), Thomas Brandstater (Fresno St.), Stephen McGee (Texas A&M) and Brian Hoyer (Michigan St.).

White is the most likely to go in the second round, but that has more to do with his “slash” potential than his ability to go under center in 2009. Hoyer appears to be a rising player on some people’s draft boards despite the fact he struggled to complete 50 percent of his passes as a senior.

The upside that Painter, Brandstater and McGee bring shouldn’t be underestimated. Don’t be surprised if one or more of this trio outperforms one or two of the big three as pros. It happens all the time. Quarterback coach Bob Johnson, who worked with Sanchez, Painter, Brandstater, White and Nathan Brown had especially high praise for the former Boilermaker.

“Curtis Painter is going to surprise people and end up starting in this league,” Johnson told the NFL Draft Bible in a radio interview. Brandstater and McGee may not have the arm strength of Painter, but provide a little more in terms of mobility.

What Happened to So-and-So?

“Sometimes your senior year doesn’t go quite the way it’s supposed to and maybe his didn’t, but there are a lot of things to be said about that whether it was protections or receivers or a new coordinator, whatever it was.”

That was Coach Johnson on Curtis Painter, but he easily could have been talking about Hunter Cantwell (Louisville), Cullen Harper (Clemson), Rudy Carpenter (Arizona St.) or Todd Boeckman (Ohio St.). Of this quartet Cantwell and Boeckman have the best arms. Cantwell is inexperienced and spotty, but if a team can be patient and coach him up, he possesses the raw tools. Boeckman was a victim of circumstance at OSU—after their National Championship hopes vanished, it was time for the Terrelle Pryor era to begin. Boeckman is a statue in the pocket, but he has a pro arm and could be a Free Agent bargain.

Coming out of the Big XII, Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) and Chase Daniel (Missouri) were as productive as anyone in this class of quarterbacks, but they simply don’t stack up physically. Yes, people have questioned the fact they are coming out of spread offenses, but scouts wouldn’t be as worried about the “system” label if Daniel was three or four inches taller and Harrell had a stronger arm.

John Parker Wilson (Alabama) is a solid game manager who led the Crimson Tide to an 11-win season, but he doesn’t offer much potential.

Who Could Be This Year’s Joe Flacco?

If you’re looking for someone who is going to step in as the starter and win a playoff game, the answer is “nobody”. The top small school candidate is Rhett Bomar (Sam Houston St.), who has the size, arm and athleticism to start under center in the League. Like Flacco who began his college career as a Pitt Panther (before transferring to Delaware), Bomar started at the Bowl Subdivision level, leading the Oklahoma Sooners to their last bowl victory before moving on to Sam Houston St. Accuracy is the biggest question make with this small school stud.

Not far behind is D-III standout Jason Boltus (Hartwick), who throws an impressive fastball. He's an intriguing prospect and it’s amazing that someone with his kind of arm slipped through so many cracks. Two other names to keep an eye on are Michael Reilly (Central Washington) and Nathan Brown (Central Arkansas).

Who Are Some Sleepers?

His stock may have dropped more than any other quarterback's throughout the evaluation process, but there is still a lot to like about Nate Davis (Ball St.), namely his rocket arm. His did not put his best foot forward on his way out the door, playing his worst two games of 2008 in his final two games as a collegian, but if you can snag him anytime after the third round, he could end up being a steal. Another strong-armed mid-major quarterback who could surprise is David Johnson (Tulsa). A one-year starter, Johnson did the most with his opportunity and proved himself to be capable threat. Unlike most spread offenses, the Golden Hurricane stretched the football field and not many throw a prettier deep ball than Johnson. Willie Tuitama (Arizona), like Davis, is short, stocky and athletic with a good arm, while Chase Patton (Missouri) hopes to be the next Matt Cassell and overcome zero college starts before embarking on an NFL career.

Who Are the Stars of Tomorrow?

If you heard enough of Pat White and what position he should play on Sundays…wait till next year! Everyone and their mother will have an opinion on Mr. Tim Tebow (Florida). Is he a quarterback? Tight end? H-Back? Fullback? Maybe even a linebacker? If he does stay “under center”, he will be asked to do very different things on Sundays than he does as the Gators' star. Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), Zac Robinson (Oklahoma St.) and Juice Williams (Illinois) are three more dual threats, with Colt McCoy (Texas) coming out of the Texas spread. And keep an eye on 6’ 5 mid-major quarterbacks Tim Hiller (Western Michigan) and Rusty Smith (Florida Atlantic).

Red-shirt junior Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) will be the favorite to go number one overall heading into the season, but don’t sleep on former Longhorn Jevan Snead (Ole Miss), with Jake Locker (Washington), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) and Pat Devlin (Delaware) all talented juniors.

No one looks the part of the old school prototypical pocket passer more than the 6’5/255 pound sophomore Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), while fellow second-year studs Terrelle Pryor (Ohio St.) and Robert Griffin (Baylor) are 100 percent new school.

Part I of an VIII Part Series - Tomorrow: Running Backs

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, College Press Box (Louisville), Sam Houston State Athletics, Walt Beazley, University of Tulsa, Purdue University Sports Information