NFL Draft Report: Quarterback grades
The spread offense is more prevalent than ever in college football and as a result, evaluating the quarterback position has become increasingly more difficult. Scouts must poke and prod to project how a player will acclimate to the pro game and (usually) a significant system change. It’s also important to note that young signal-callers are getting less time than ever to prove they are capable of leading an NFL offense. (Just look at Jimmy Clausen.)
Much like 2011, this year’s quarterback crop features more “big names” and less pro-ready prospects as all but one of the top-tier quarterbacks feature significant question marks. Still, the National Football League is as pass-happy as ever and teams with a need under center will place a high premium on top signal-callers.
Heading the pack and more than likely to go 1-2 in the draft is Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor. Some call Luck the “most complete quarterback” since John Elway. Heavy praise, as he is a quality passer, but let’s not go overboard and toss around such hefty praise on a kid who will be heavy under the microscope replacing a quarterback that many feel is irreplaceable — Peyton Manning.
It’s quite appropriate that Colts owner Jim Irsay has taken to Twitter like a fish has taken to water. An owner who can’t wake up without his name in the news for some comment or other surely looks like a “twit” with his comment that the Colts’ decision with the first selection is “still open.” At least RG3 had a big laugh at that comment and wisely declined Indianapolis’ offer for a private workout.
If Irsay thinks Griffin is a better option than Luck to run what looks like a major rebuilding process, Colts fans will soon be contacting New Orleans to see if they have any spare “Aints” brown paper bags to wear to games. An open message to Mr. Irsay: Jim, stop putting so much crazy on your toast in the morning and just sign the Cardinal quarterback already!
Griffin fits in with what the Shanahans (coach Mike and offensive coordinator Kyle) want from their field general: pure athleticism. Sure, RG3 might need to work on getting comfortable under center and will have to tweak his positioning throwing from the pocket (too narrow with his base, at times), but he’s a pure passer who excels when throwing on the move and — even more so than Luck — he can make all the throws. While Luck is better served as a chain-mover than a home run hitter, RG3 is not going to be afraid to uncork that cannon for an arm.
Former wide receiver Ryan Tannehill is expected to sneak into the top 10 on draft day, more likely a nice fit for Miami, if the Dolphins can trade up for him. He’s another fine athlete, but the caution here is that there is a lot of David Carr in his game. He lacks picture-perfect mechanics and has that wind-up that gets Philip Rivers in trouble, at times. Mike Sherman, his coach at Texas A&M and now the offensive coordinator with Miami, swears by this kid, and if it is not too costly to move up for him, he’s certainly a better option than Matt Moore or David Garrard for South Beach faithful.
Arizona’s Nick Foles is an interesting target who teams have pegged in the middle rounds, but he brings much more to the table than in-state rival Brock Osweiler of Arizona State or Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. Foles has the classic dropback-quarterback size and the arm strength to make the deep throws with consistency. He’d be a nice pickup for a team like Houston, which might have to begin looking toward the future with Matt Schaub not exactly a picture of health.
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Weeden is a potential first-round target, but two things worry me on this guy: his birth certificate and injury history. Yes, he made the transition from the baseball diamond to the gridiron, but at this late stage, he’s either going to have to secure a starting job ASAP or he’d be older than his coach in a few years. He is a pure passer who thrives on accuracy, but spent his Oklahoma State career operating from the shotgun. Anyone remember a similar performer with Carolina years ago — Chris Weinke? He did not exactly acclimate to NFL life with the Panthers quick enough to lead them to the promised land, either.
As for Osweiler, I have a big question for this kid: Hey, Brock, who is your adviser, Ryan Leaf? First, you leave school after just one OK year as a starting quarterback. You get to Indianapolis and decline to participate in the drills, claiming your foot is sore. They wanted you to throw, buddy, not perform in an Olympic track meet. Pro Day arrives back at Arizona State and you fail to impress with your deep-ball accuracy, preferring to “dink and dunk” on most of your tosses.
Try as he has to impress, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins will never be regarded in the elite class of any quarterback group. However, much like Andy Dalton, he is a functional field general who might make a few mistakes when he tries to air it out, but his ability to move the chains brings back memories of Chad Pennington in his prime.
Two interesting third-day draft types are B.J. Coleman and Austin Davis.
Coleman bolted from the mess at the University of Tennessee to step down to another level of competition at Tennessee-Chattanooga, but at the East-West Shrine Game practices, he more than held his own with better talent surrounding him. A right hand injury limited him at the Combine, but once he refines his footwork, he could be a nice mid-round find.
Green Bay might see a lot of Matt Flynn in Coleman, as he has that above average-arm strength, good mobility and a wicked spin firing that football into the second level.
Southern Mississippi’s Davis is more of a scrambling type in the Vince Young mold, only he has a much higher intelligence level. He is limited due to a lack of arm strength, leaving West Coast offenses as his best place to reside. He can move around that pocket, though, and has a quick, over-the-top release that will be beneficial moving the chains.