Quarterback draft class: For now, questions fill the air
By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
INDIANAPOLIS — Red flags rivaling those posted at a riptide-threatened beach were raised by the 2010 quarterback class at the NFL scouting combine.
From Sam Bradford's surgically repaired throwing shoulder to Jimmy Clausen's surgically repaired right toe and maturity issues to Tim Tebow's 2.0 release, Colt McCoy's lack of ideal height and Dan LeFevour's decision not to throw, questions abound.
"This is the most uncertain quarterback year I've seen," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says.
"Most people in the league would say Sam Bradford is clearly No. 1. Some people will feel comfortable with Jimmy Clausen because he comes out of a pro-style offense.
"(Clausen) can make all the throws. But there's some hesitancy to just decide that he's the guy. He has to prove he has leadership skills and the other intangibles."
Former Florida star Tebow oozes intangibles. But his elongated release fueled criticism at the Senior Bowl.
Tebow hired former NFL quarterback and head coach Sam Wyche along with Zeke Bratkowski and Marc Trestman— both with experience as NFL offensive assistants — to revamp his throwing mechanics. The result is a quicker, more compact release, according to Tebow.
"Tebow is never going to look like Sam Bradford, that classic passer," Mayock says. "But can you modify him to the point where those changes stick under pressure? It's one thing to go out on your pro day and throw. It's another thing when you're facing an overload blitz from the Pittsburgh Steelers and you're trying to get rid of the football to your hot-read receiver."
Bradford, whom the St. Louis Rams are considering with the first overall pick along with Clausen and defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, said his shoulder is 85% healed after Oct. 28 reconstructive surgery performed by renowned orthopedist James Andrews.
Bradford said there was no damage to his rotator cuff and that he has been throwing the past six weeks at Athletes' Performance Institute in Pensacola, Fla., with former NFL quarterbacks coach Terry Shea.
"Sam's accuracy is probably his signature," Shea says. "That's a pretty darn good signature to have.
"Sam has all those consistent manners about his play that Peyton Manning brings to the field. Sam brings that 6-4, very tall frame in everything he does.
"To be that tall and have as good a feet as he does? That's a rare combination."
Bradford met Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning while working as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana over the summer.
"Obviously, it is an extremely high compliment to be compared to someone like Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game," Bradford says of the NFL's only four-time MVP. "When you look at what he's done, it all comes down to how hard he works. And that's something I've really tried to implement in my game.
"I have to continue to work hard, especially if I want to have the type of success Peyton has had."
Bradford's March 25 pro day will loom large in the evaluation process of the Rams, who intend to have Bradford assessed by Andrews, their team doctor and an independent third doctor, general manager Billy Devaney said.
Bradford has added 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-4, 236-pound frame.
"He's a bigger kid now, and you like that about him, but what's still going to be a question mark is the durability issue; can he hold up?" says Sirius NFL Radio analyst Jim Miller, a former NFL quarterback. "The Rams already have those issues with Marc Bulger. Do you want to draft a quarterback in the first round and throw him into the fire like the Detroit Lions did last year with Matthew Stafford, who got beat up?
"Could it set back the franchise if it doesn't work out?
"Everybody's diagnosed there are two guys (Suh and Gerald McCoy) worthy of being selected first overall. I still don't think Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen are worthy of No. 1."
Colt McCoy, Tebow and Central Michigan's LeFevour were healthy enough to throw at the combine, but Cincinnati's Tony Pike was the highest-ranked quarterback prospect to do so.
"It's all about the competition," Mayock says. "The scouts don't really care if the ball hits the ground. They want to compare apples to apples. What they want to see is your footwork, see the ball come out of your hand."
Texas quarterback McCoy measured in at 6-1¼, well below the 6-4 prototype, and he suffered a pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
"Overall, as a consensus among coaches and GMs, this is a very weak, weak quarterback class," Miller says. "The kid I'm intrigued by is John Skelton of Fordham, a big kid who can move who has the best arm in this draft.
"I'm not saying he's Joe Flacco. I wouldn't say he's a first-rounder. But he's a big, strapping kid teams are going to be intrigued by."
Add intrigue to the questions.