This isn’t considered a great class of quarterbacks for the NFL Draft by any stretch of the imagination, but because close to half the league is in need at the game’s most important position, as many as four or five could still be chosen in Round 1.
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That bodes well for the likes of Florida State’s Christian Ponder and TCU’s Andy Dalton, two prospects that probably have mid-round ability but seem to be benefiting from the very basics of supply and demand -- neither will escape Round 2 at this point, with Ponder possibly hearing his name called toward the end of the first round. Other beneficiaries could be the three- and two-star signal callers, some of which will piggyback their way from late-round-flyer status into mid-round-value territory.
Expect Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor to be in that mix, as the 6-1, 217-pounder is probably no better than the eighth- or ninth-best QB on the board but has to feel better about his stock than he did before arriving in Indianapolis last month for the Scouting Combine. It wasn’t that long ago when he was a Senior Bowl snub, forced into a valedictorian-of-summer-school situation at the much less prestigious East-West Shrine Game. Now, he’s riding the momentum of a solid performance at the combine and an equally impressive Pro Day back on Mar. 17 in the familiar surroundings of Blacksburg.
This past week, he took part in a private workout for the Dolphins at their facility in Miami, which was attended by general manager Jeff Ireland, coach Tony Sparano, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and even defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Taylor took to the field and made about 30 throws, mostly to tight ends and running backs, and his ability to digest the Cliffs Notes version of the offense he was handed turned out to be just as important as his footwork and arm strength.
As he has done since Day 1 of the evaluation process, Taylor made sure to highlight the fact that he has experience in a pro-style offense and didn’t simply put up a bunch of empty statistics in a spread-option attack.
“We have a pro style-slash-spread,” said Taylor. “That’s what I will call it. We run every route that the NFL runs. Just certain people are a little different, certain steps. But as far as everything that we worked on, we ran that at Virginia Tech. It’s just called a little different, and the way they [run routes] out of the backfield, they did it out of a split instead of the I-formation. But everything they ran I was comfortable with.”
|“We have a pro style-slash-spread. That’s what I will call it. We run every route that the NFL runs."|
-- Tyrod Taylor
This time of year, general managers, coaches and fans alike wonder whether or not college QBs can make all the throws they’re required to make on Sunday, like the deep out and the post corner, and while Taylor doesn’t feel he struggles with any of them, he has developed some favorites.
“One route that we threw a lot at Virginia Tech was the speed out at 10 yards,” he said. “Skinny posts on seven steps is a timing throw, five steps with no hitch from the quarterback. And sometimes, like I said, it’s a timing throw, seven steps. It’s a skinny post, and you have to hit him on the line.”
A year ago, the Dolphins thought they had their quarterback of the future in 2008 second-round pick Chad Henne, who is a 6-3, 230-pound pocket passer with a quality arm. However, the former Michigan Wolverine didn’t make much of an improvement from Year 2 to Year 3, putting together a poor passer rating of 75.4 and throwing more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (15). Henne’s backups last season, Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington, aren’t in position to challenge for the job -- both are free agents, and Pennington’s career is likely over after a recent pickup basketball game resulted in a torn ACL.
One would think Miami now shies away from undersized QBs long on athleticism, as 2009 second rounder Pat White went from Wildcat specialist to minor league baseball player to retired two-sport enigma by the age of 25, but Taylor has always considered himself more of a passer than a runner, even going back to high school.
“I’ve talked to them throughout the East-West Shrine Game,” said Taylor, “and [at] the combine I talked to them. They want somebody to come in and compete. Of course, I think the best situation would be for me to come in and compete, but at the same time get a chance to learn from a guy and be ready to [play] maybe a year from now. I believe I can be successful next year in the NFL as a quarterback, but I think the best situation for me would be to get in and learn and then be able to play.”
If the Dolphins decide to go in a different direction, Taylor isn't worried because he has personally conversed with several teams on more than one occasion, plus his agent has taken calls from a few others.
“I’ve talked to Seattle multiple times,” he said, “the Eagles have reached out to [my agent] and the Bills are very interested.”
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If the Dolphins are indeed serious about shipping Henne out of town and making a fresh start under center in 2011, then they have to do it at No. 15 in Round 1. The organization is without a second-round pick because of the Brandon Marshall trade last year with Denver, and by the time they’re on the clock again at 79th overall in Round 3, all the Ponders and Daltons will be long gone. Perhaps Taylor is Plan B in the fourth or fifth round, with earlier draft choices utilized to plug holes at running back and along the offensive line.
Despite being given the full microscope treatment from Sparano and Co., Taylor himself doesn’t feel he knows anything more about what the Dolphins -- or any team for that matter -- hope to do.
“We didn’t get into it too much about their need at quarterback.”
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|