In my quest to get (somewhat useful) opinions of every legitimate 2010 QB prospect, I sat down today and went over a couple games of Cincinnati's Tony Pike (as well as WR Mardy Gilyard and S Aaron Webster, but the camera isn't on them enough for me to be 100% confident of what I saw yet). I caught Cincinnati against Rutgers and Oregon State, though my Rutgers feed was a replay showing and some plays were missing. Without further ado, here are my impressions.
Athletically: Pike's height is a plus, as he sees the field well and releases the ball high. He won't get deflected much in the NFL. That's where the praise ends, however, as he is very skinny (as Rob has mentioned, he has struggled to add weight at Cincinnati) and not much of an athlete. Pike has enough mobility to buy a bit of time, but he isn't a fluid athlete, and takes forever to get to his top speed (which isn't very fast). Not a statue ala Peyton Manning, but not a whole lot better.
Setup, Offense, and Mechanics: Pike plays in a no-huddle, dropback spread attack at Cincinnati. The closest comparison is Sam Bradford at Oklahoma. Pike will drop back sometimes but takes the majority of his snaps from the gun, usually with 4 wide. Plays are called in from the sidelines, but Pike has some audible power (changed things up a couple of times in games I saw, with good results). Pike drops back adequately, certainly doesn't appear as awkward as some taller quarterbacks. Has a quick delivery that releases the ball pretty high, and uses proper footwork and weight distribution in his throwing motion. All things considered, Pike earns pretty high marks here - not as high as Sanchez or Stafford, but higher than anyone else I've scouted this year at the QB position.
Arm Strength and Accuracy: The bad news is that, despite his height, Pike has an arm that is barely NFL starter-level. His deep outs tend to flutter and he can't throw ropes down the sideline. The good news is that I've seen impressive accuracy to all fields, though I need to see more intermediate and deep tosses (3x as many short as intermediate/deep combined). There is also the possibility that, given NFL resources, he could add weight and increase his arm strength, but that's betting a lot on "maybe". I really like his touch on medium and deep tosses, though.
Mental and Intangibles: Pike is a little interception prone for an elite college QB, when looking at his stats. However, when looking at the tape you see a QB who only makes a couple awful decisions a game, they just happen to be REALLY bad... it doesn't help that he throws a very catch-able ball, even to defenders. Still, for an inexperienced QB, it's promising that he isn't making more mistakes than a QB like McCoy. He doesn't seem to go through many progressions on most plays (eyeballs #1 target), but he does seem to understand coverages and blitz schemes. This could be better, but it could also be a lot worse. He does have a reputation as a hard worker in the film room and seems to understand the offense well, but I haven't really seen leadership qualities yet (doesn't mean they're not there).
In the end, Pike reminds me a ton of Andrew Walter, formerly of Arizona State University. Tall, accurate, athletically limited, and lacking a big arm, Pike would really need to improve in the mental area to be a quality starting QB in the NFL - his natural gifts are just too borderline. While he has some impressive traits (Primarily accuracy and release), it would likely take several years for him to accumulate the mental mastery of the game to overcome his limitations. He rates higher than McCoy or Jevan Snead, but is firmly behind Bradford (should he declare) on my list. (Tebow, btw, is too polarizing for me to comment on. I need to see Tebow in 2009 before I come to a decision on Pike vs Tebow... Right now, they're fairly similar, with Pike more NFL ready but Tebow offering vastly superior potential as a starter)
Early 2009 grade: 3rd round, which is where I feel a quality backup/unlikely-but-possible quality starter at QB should be taken.