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Quarterback draft class: For now, questions fill the air

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  • 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.

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  • r8rh8rmike
    The Watercooler: Who Are The Rams' Top Draft Options At QB?
    by r8rh8rmike
    10.22.2009 12:27 pm
    Who are Rams’ top draft options at QB?
    By Roger Hensley


    QUESTION: If the St. Louis Rams were to take a quarterback in the first round of next year’s draft, which current college quarterback would you suggest they select?

    Very tough call, and of course I reserve the right to change my mind later, after these kids play more games and also go through the NFL Scouting Combine. Because a lot can change between now and the draft. But if we are talking right now, I’d go with Washington’s Jake Locker. Big (6-3), strong and athletic, Locker has a plus arm, and a quick release. He’s been thriving in the pro-style offense installed by first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. Also, Locker is being tutored by one of the best, QBs coach Steve Clarkson, who in the past has worked with Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Leinart and others. Clarkson cleaned up Locker’s mechanics and the improvement was immediate. And keep in mind that Locker is getting it done at Washington, and he’s not surrounded by elite talent. That makes his performance even more impressive.

    Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen has moved up as an NFL prospect. Clausen has always had the natural talent, but he’s grown at Notre Dame, and is more physically imposing now. Looks like a tough kid, too. He is certainly used to pressure and it doesn’t get to him. The best is yet to come for Clausen. The red flags are out on Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford; it’s not only the shoulder injuries, but the questions of whether he can throw while under pressure, because he doesn’t encounter much of a pass rush at OU. Cincinnati’s Tony Pike could be the steal of the draft; he’s likely to be downgraded and drop down the board because of multiple injuries to his left wrist. But he’s a player. Not sure if Colt McCoy (Texas) has the frame, but he seems like a good fit for a West Coast offense. Jevan Snead (Ole Miss) has been touted by scouts and draftniks, but I haven’t seen enough (yet) to get excited by his NFL future. Again, that could change. All of this could.

    With his bum shoulder this season, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford may be losing stock for the 2010 draft or may even be considering waiting another year to come out. But if he’s available, the Rams would be wise to snap him up. Although he could stand to be more mobile, especially considering the Rams line, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner has all the tools to build a team around: accuracy (67.9 percent of his passes last season), height (6-4) and a leadership presence that makes players want to play better just for him, OU coach Bob Stoops says. Maybe some will see the shoulder injury and apparent aggravation of it last week against Texas as something chronic or signs he is brittle, but sometimes quarterbacks just get hit and hurt. There’s no reason to think it’s anything more with Bradford.

    -10-22-2009, 04:20 PM
  • eldfan
    Evaluating QBs is a tough part of draft
    by eldfan

    If only it were a matter of standing tall in the pocket and throwing the ball through a wall. Evaluating talent is always a crapshoot in the NFL draft. But picking a quarterback?

    Double tough.

    There's so much that goes into playing the position, things that can't be timed or measured, things that have absolutely nothing to do with size or arm strength. Which helps explain why even at the top of draft there's a Ryan Leaf for every Peyton Manning; an Akili Smith for every Donovan McNabb. MORE RAMS

    Rams general manager Billy Devaney says he has learned this lesson the hard way at times over his career as an NFL personnel evaluator.

    "I've come full circle," Devaney said. "If you don't have the intangibles to play that position. ..."

    Well, it's probably not going to work.

    Devaney was with the San Diego Chargers when they drafted Leaf — a colossal bust — No. 2 overall in 1998. And that experience helped change his thinking.

    "To me, the physical skills are almost the easy part now (in evaluating) these kids," Devaney said. "There's so much that goes into being a quarterback in the NFL. The work ethic that you have to have. The leadership. The time that you put in. The media scrutiny. If you can't handle all that stuff, you're going to have a hard time performing on the field."

    As they decide whether to take Sam Bradford, or perhaps trade down for Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy, the Rams are factoring lots of traits and characteristics into the evaluation process.


    "The teams that have been successful lately, it seems to me they have those leadership-type guys," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Guys that can get the job done in a pinch. Certainly you want all the other things that go with (playing quarterback) — a guy that can throw the football, all the physical qualities. But leadership to me is really important at that position."

    In Detroit, coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions felt the same way en route to deciding on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford as No. 1 overall.

    "Does the team believe in this quarterback's ability to win?" Schwartz said. "If you can't cross that hurdle, it doesn't matter how strong his arm is, or how smart he is, or how fast he is or any of those other things. He's the leader of the team, and if a team doesn't have confidence in that player, then you're never going to get anywhere with him."

    Leadership doesn't show up on game film. So it takes lots of research, but there should be a track record in college and earlier.

    "You just grind as much as you can, talk to as many people, and try to get as accurate a picture as you can on the guy," Devaney...
    -04-12-2010, 04:26 AM
  • Goldenfleece
    QB Quick Takes
    by Goldenfleece
    A Pre-Combine consideration of some of the draft’s top quarterbacks:

    Sam Bradford
    Observations: The one benefit to Bradford’s lost season was highlighting the impact he had on the Sooners’ success. With Bradford in the lineup, OU was a national title contender in ‘08. Without him, they struggled to 8-5 in ‘09. Like Tebow and McCoy, he was a key component of one of college football’s best teams. Unlike Tebow and McCoy, Bradford was a pocket passer who succeeded using the same skills he will be asked to draw upon in the pros. He goes through his progressions, makes quick decisions, uses good judgment, and has completed a high percentage of his throws.
    Risk Factors: By far, the biggest question is how his shoulder checks out. Bradford played in a spread offense but stayed in the pocket more than most spread quarterbacks. Nonetheless, there will be some questions about transitioning to a system where he will be dropping back on the majority of plays.
    Gut Reaction: Bradford's got game. If his shoulder checks out, he is the only quarterback I'd seriously consider drafting in the top five at the moment.

    Jimmy Clausen
    Observations: If some quarterbacks are raw prospects and others polished, Clausen is that shiny spot on a bronze statue that has been rubbed about a million times for good luck. Jimmy’s older brothers were Division I quarterbacks, his parents paid for him to learn from a professional quarterbacks coach in junior high, he went to a prep school with a high profile football program, and capped it off by learning a pro system at Notre Dame from none other than Charlie Weis. It is doubtful that any other quarterback in this class compares in terms of preparation for the NFL. The flip side is that he might also be the closest to his ceiling. Despite what might sound like a slightly pampered upbringing, Clausen has played through injury and sickness and earned his place on the team. He has a quick release and throws with velocity and accuracy.
    Risk Factors: One area of concern is that despite Clausen’s gaudy personal statistics, the Irish never made it into a BCS bowl under his leadership. His college career ended with his head coach being fired after 4 straight losses to the likes of Navy, Pitt, U Conn, and Stanford. This was the team’s second loss to Navy in Clausen’s three years starting, snapping a 43-game streak of Notre Dame wins in the match-up. Given that all of ND’s losses were close last season (7 points or less), it is a bit disappointing that he did not pull off a few more comeback wins. He did not have the greatest defense or running game to help out, but he has benefited from playing with receivers like Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Some also say he doesn’t have the greatest deep ball. I would also have slight concerns about how he would fit in with his teammates based simply on my own experience with Notre Dame alumni who often seem to forget that not everyone has enjoyed
    -02-18-2010, 04:43 PM
  • Nick
    Tebow and Bradford Face Quick Decisions on N.F.L. Draft
    by Nick
    Tebow and Bradford Face Quick Decisions on N.F.L. Draft
    January 10, 2009

    MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — After spending the season as college football’s marquee stars, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford now hold the biggest off-season question in their hands.

    Tebow, a junior, and Bradford, a redshirt sophomore, face a Jan. 15 deadline for nonseniors to declare for the National Football League draft. And while each is a Heisman Trophy winner and a homegrown star at his state’s university, they project much differently as N.F.L. prospects. Both have filed paperwork with the N.F.L. to see where they are likely to be picked in April’s draft. Two rabid fan bases will be waiting anxiously for their decisions.

    Gil Brandt, a former Dallas Cowboys executive and an analyst for, said he believed Bradford would be a top-10 pick and Tebow would go in the lower half of the first round.

    Tebow said on Thursday night that he felt a strong emotional pull to return to college but that he would determine what was best for his career and his family.

    The decision may be trickier for Bradford.

    One N.F.L. scout, who was granted anonymity because he is not permitted to talk publicly about draft prospects, said Bradford was a “no-brainer” overall No. 1 pick and compared him to Troy Aikman, the first pick in the 1989 draft.

    “When you’ve watched him at Oklahoma over the years, he sticks out like a sore thumb,” said the scout. “He’s not a nickel-dime, dink-and-dunk guy. He throws those deep balls as good as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

    Bradford is ranked No. 1 by some draft experts and there are only minor questions about him. Bradford, 21, has not quite filled in his 6-foot-4 frame — he is 218 pounds — and Oklahoma’s offense has kept him from facing much pass-rush pressure. Still, the positives are considered more impressive.

    “He’s got the size, the arm, the feet and the release,” said the scout. “He makes good decisions. He seems like a really easy guy to evaluate.”

    Another factor that may sway Bradford is Oklahoma’s losing four senior offensive linemen. And as many as three of Oklahoma’s top four receivers may not return either, meaning that Bradford would have a drastically different cast around him. The Sooners scored a modern N.C.A.A. record 716 points last season and Bradford threw for 50 touchdowns with 8 interceptions.

    Bradford’s most telling comment this week might have come when he was asked if he would be watching the N.F.L. playoffs.

    “I’m not a big N.F.L. guy,” he said. “I don’t watch a lot of it.”

    After Thursday night’s loss, Bradford said he was unsure of his future.

    “Obviously, I’ll think about it within the next week,” he said. “It’s something that I haven’t put a lot of concentration...
    -01-09-2009, 04:10 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Tampa's McCoy Targets Bradford
    by r8rh8rmike
    Tampa's McCoy targets Bradford

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's ominous-sounding threats Wednesday toward Rams quarterback Sam Bradford need to be put in the proper context. And there's a whole lot of context.

    First, the two have known each other since their days in Oklahoma City's junior football leagues, when they played on different teams but never played each other.

    "Man, they didn't want none of that," McCoy said jokingly. "They were hiding from us."

    Second, they formed a strong bond as teammates at Oklahoma, where Bradford won the Heisman Trophy and McCoy was an All-American, with 40 starts, 14 1/2 sacks and 33 tackles for loss. The forbidden fruit for the 6-foot-4, 295-pound McCoy, though, was plying his trade against the Sooners' star QB.

    "I remember watching him in summer workouts," Bradford said. "He was a big guy, but you could see him jumping over hurdles, running over bags and you'd sit there and say, 'A guy that big is not supposed to move like that.' He's a great athlete. He's a force in the middle. You really can't say enough good things about him."

    Third, McCoy respects Bradford's ability. He called Bradford "one of the most accurate quarterbacks I've ever seen. I love the way Sam plays. Me and my father were talking the other day and I said, 'You know who runs a good bootleg? It's Sam.'"

    Fourth, the two have kept in contact since Bradford was taken first overall in the draft and McCoy was selected third.

    "I try and call Sam. It's rare for him to pick it up. It's not because he's avoiding me; it's because he's so busy," McCoy said. "He'll call me back and I'll miss his call. But we connected yesterday and I got to talk to him a little bit. We're both looking forward to it."

    So, here's the tough part for Rams fans to swallow. His message to "Sammy," as he often calls him, was the same as it was months ago at the NFL Combine.

    "I'm going to kill him," McCoy said Wednesday. "If I can get to him, I'm going to kill him. We are definitely cool off the field. But on the field, I do not know him. He is No. 8 for the Rams, and that's all I know."

    McCoy embellished the message, adding that if he sacks Bradford, "I might even do something dirty, like knee him or something. When we get off the field, I'll say, 'Hey, Sam, don't take it personal, man. It was an accident.'"

    Bradford acknowledged hearing the smack talk and even offered an excuse. "At Oklahoma, he was never allowed to hit me," Bradford said. "So, I think he's got a lot of built-up frustration that he's going to try to take out on Sunday."

    Talk comes easily to the chatty McCoy, but Bucs...
    -10-21-2010, 09:21 PM