Monday, 19 October 2009

Quarterbacks review - where we stand

It was a big weekend for quarterbacks when it comes to the 2010 draft. All the big names were in action - from Tebow to Bradford and McCoy to Clausen. So how did things go? Could anyone put in the big performance that stood out to shoot a prospect to the top of the board? Did anyone put in a display that warranted a drop in the rankings?

Tim Tebow just about managed to guide the Florida Gators past Arkansas - who own one of the worst defenses in the country. At times, the Heisman favorite really struggled in the passing game. He made poor reads, his accuracy was more than questionable and his agonisingly slow release led to a fumble in the first half. Nobody can beat Tebow when it comes to the intangibles - leadership, determination and a desire to get the job done. For that alone, not to mention the star quality that comes with his name, I think someone will take Tebow considerably earlier than he probably should go. But this weekend just emphasised that all the concerns about Tebow from a mechanical point of view from last year still remain.

Sam Bradford was taking a gamble whatever decision he made at the end of the 2008 season. If he went to the NFL, people would say he's not had enough experience. He chose to return to OU and after two shoulder injuries, people are saying it's going to cost him $10-15m if his stock drops. From a monetary position, Bradford may miss out. But he should be applauded for returning, trying to refine his mechanics and also win a title for the Sooners. Having said that, one of the biggest concerns about Bradford was his slight frame and his ability to take pressure. The two injuries came about after pretty basic sacks - the kind Matt Hasselbeck suffered with some frequency yesterday. It's hard to get a read on any improvements Bradford may have made to his passing game when he's sat watching the game from the sidelines and rest assured a lot of teams are going to be concerned about his ability to tackle the physical side of the pro's.

Colt McCoy was truly awful against Bradford's Sooners and belittled those who still rank him amongst the potential top picks in 2010. As with Tebow, McCoy is a great college quarterback. But for a brilliant play by Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell last year, he'd have won the Heisman and Texas would have made the Championship game. In the NFL - that counts for nothing. Colt McCoy is not a NFL caliber quarterback. On Saturday we saw the usual collection of screen passes and short routes, mixed in with a few quarterback draws. McCoy's accuracy was all over the place, particularly when he threw further than 10 yards. He fumbled the ball when running in the OU red zone and tossed a woeful interception later on that probably should have cost his team the game. He simply doesn't have the arm and skill set to make it in the NFL and shouldn't really justify anything more than mid-late round consideration.

Tony Pike had an eventful evening in Florida against USF on Thursday night, putting in an impressive display in the first half before leaving the game with a wrist injury. We should know early this week the extent of the problem and consequently how that will affect his ability to impress scouts between now and the end of the year. The Cincinnati quarterback has really enhanced his stock in leading the Bearcats to a 6-0 record. He's capable of making some NFL type throws - one in particular on Thursday night when backed up in his own end zone was absolutely first class. He was also clinical at the other end of the field in the Bulls' red zone. Like Bradford, concerns remain about his ability to take hits - he has a lean frame and has struggled to add weight. He needs to show he can play through the plain with this wrist injury.

Overall, an underwhelming picture. You have to wonder if this will further open the door for two big name underclassmen - Jake Locker (Washington) and Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame). Like Mark Sanchez last year, if they feel confident of going early in the draft (and earning the contract that goes with it) they may be tempted to avoid some of the injury problems witnessed by Bradford and Pike.

One other thing to consider, the four guys listed in detail above all play in a variation of the spread offense. Both Locker and Clausen are playing in pro-style offenses this year, which will no doubt appeal to scouts. Locker has the tools that NFL teams will drool over, if not the CV and production to go with it. Clausen doesn't have the limitless upside, but he's probably a safer pair of hands for a team looking for a quick return.

Unless things change quickly, the two underclassmen could take pole position.

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