Your Midseason NFL Prospect Update: Quarterbacks
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LiveBall Sports sort of kicks off it’s NFL Draft Coverage with a look at quarterbacks who can earn millions with a strong second half of the season.
Nothing kills an NFL franchise quicker than spending a high draft pick on a poor QB prospect. Yet, teams throw millions of dollars at quarterback prospects that they clearly have not done their homework on. It happens every year. Will teams ever learn?
From the other perspective, drafting a successful quarterback can be an instant boost to a team that needs it. Having the team infrastructure conducive to success is critical to helping a young player develop, but once you have the infrastructure, you risk losing that delicate balance if you don’t quickly find the correct trigger man for the offense.
So, keeping in mind that not every struggling team should be looking at quarterbacks until they fix their large picture issues, LiveBall Sports offers you this preview of some potential NFL Draft prospects at the quarterback position.
All prospects are graded based on the assumption that they will enter the 2010 draft. For those of you reading this article with regards to the 2011 draft, a lot of the musings here will still hold, but the rankings for the juniors who don’t declare will fluctuate greatly.
1. Colt McCoy, Texas McCoy currently wears the title of “system” quarterback within the NFL draft, which was news to me until recently. I guess it’s the same “system” that was responsible for that one Vince Young highlight that people keep showing me.
Here’s where McCoy stands: he’s a highly efficient college quarterback who is coming back to earth after an out-of-this-world Junior season in which, I felt, he was robbed of the Heisman trophy. Here’s the thing though: McCoy’s college productivity is regressing due to a downturn in the quality of the Texas offense around him, but his completion percentage is still well over 70% of his passes at 71.6%, and still comes off as a top-flight NFL prospect.
It’s 2009, and we know by now that there will be an offense for Colt McCoy at the next level, but scouts will have their three months to fret over his relative lack of height and arm strength, which of course will be completely irrelevant come Sundays in the NFL season. McCoy’s arm is merely adequate, but you can be a franchise quarterback without the ability to throw a ball through a brick wall.
2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma The thing about Bradford is that he’s viewed much more realistically as a prospect right now than he was after his Heismann winning Sophomore year. Bradford had no reason to go back to OU as a 5th year senior because it easily could have resulted in a tanking of his draft stick to the point where he becomes a mid round pick. By coming out now, Bradford is going to be a first round pick for someone.
The reasons that Bradford, who has a better arm than McCoy, is behind his buddy from UT at this point is due to simple uncertainty. Neither came out after their best college season and both players are more likely to end up in a beneficial situation because of it. No longer does either project as a savior. But the difference is, you look at what McCoy is doing this season, following up a historically great college campaign, and an NFL team has to be thinking, “I can work with this”. The overall college production may not be there, but his team is winning games, and any team with two quality receivers has to be thinking that McCoy would look good getting the ball out quickly to them.
Well, with Bradford, that feeling is replaced with general uncertainty. Yeah, teams should be able to win with this guy at quarterback, but…what if? Bradford should be far more prepared for life as an NFL rookie coming off of this injury riddled year than he would have been coming off of a Heismann-winning season, but between his shoulder injury, etc. you just don’t know a lot about the differences between Sam Bradford, and OU QB 07-09.
3. Tony Pike, Cincinnati Pike is a pure quarterback who may never be able to shake durability concerns caused by recent injuries to his throwing arm, and his tall, slender body frame. The thing we know for sure about Pike: he can absolutely sling it.
Pike combines an NFL-caliber arm, with great field vision, some mobility, and leadership skills into one lower end first round prospect. But what Pike brings that no one else in this class really does is consistent productivity on the back end of his college career, which is traditionally a great indicator of pro success. It’s one thing to be great from the first snap, continue to be great throughout a career, and be projected at the top of the round, but the rest of the first day picks tend to be the guys with tools and the guys who improved throughout their four years and came around to get it done for their teams. That’s who Pike is.
4. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame Clausen is here because he’s having a better season than anyone else in College Football as a pure passer. Of course, this makes him something of a one year wonder, but he wasn’t exactly chopped liver as a sophomore. As a three year starter, Clausen’s resume is every bit as good as Matt Stafford’s was last year, when Stafford became the number one overall draft pick. Of course, 2008 was not a particularly strong QB draft, so Clausen remains a low-end first round draft pick as of right now. If he returns to school in 2010 and has an even better season, he’s the first overall pick in 2011.
5. John Skelton, Fordham Skelton, a native Texan who plays his home games up in the Patriot league, will likely be playing on Sundays after graduation. The four year starter has all the physical tools that are needed and watched by the scouts at the next level.
He will also benefit from the Jay Cutler sort of resume, where the player puts up decent numbers with no real team around him, and then goes to the combine and wows all the scouts, and develops a strong draft following. Has high-first round potential, but realistically, he’s a second or third rounder.
6. Tim Tebow, Florida Tebow has tendencies that would make doubters out of even the most open minded of NFL scouts (and there aren’t many on that end of the continuum), but you can’t overlook what the guy actually is: a three year starter and a four year contributor as a passer and a runner at a premier national powerhouse.
It’s because of his running that there isn’t a whole bunch of statistical evidence on Tebow as a passer, but what we do have suggests that he will be adequate, and not great at the NFL level. A lot of scouts doubt the chance he will be adequate, though. The franchise who takes Tebow must be willing to use more than just his passing acumen to get the most out of him. Tebow can be easily worked with to throw to open players from the pocket, but unless he’s going to have wide open receivers in the NFL, his TD/INT rates will always be in the 1:1 range. Teams that win with quarterbacks who produce like that have highly efficient passing games (which fits Tebow well), but also win with the running game.
Tebow has been somewhat exposed as a passer over the last two weeks or so, but he’s been so good for so long that he’s tough to write off. He’ll be a first day pick.
7. Dan Lefevour, Central Michigan Another player who will have to answer questions with regards to having a rushing complex is Lafevour, who also happens to have thrown for 2,500 yards in each year of his career. Lefevour has 25 total TDs in this season alone. Better yet, he’s enjoying his most efficient year as a senior, with 70% of his passes completed for 7.6 yards per attempt.
He was recruited by Brian Kelly at Central Michigan out of Downers Grove, Illinois.
8. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State Robinson, the starter for the Cowboys the last three years, is enjoying another great season. Robinson’s ability to succeed as a professional passer will be based on his impressive downfield accuracy, which has been on display for the last three seasons at OSU.
The best of the rest…
9. Jake Locker, Washington (underclassman)
10. Tim Hiller, Western Michigan
11. Jarrett Brown, West Virginia
12. Max Hall, BYU
13. Jevan Snead, Ole Miss (underclassman)