2008 NFL draft/positional analysis: QB

If the 49ers consider drafting a quarterback, they probably won't look to do so until the later rounds, but they'll have plenty of flavors from which to choose. Here, we review the best of the draft-eligible quarterbacks with an in-depth look at their numbers and how they are being analyzed.

POSITION ANALYSIS: With Alex Smith and Shaun Hill expected to battle for the starting position and free agent J.T. O'Sullivan brought in for veteran depth behind them, the 49ers probably won't look to draft a quarterback this year until the final rounds, when they might take a flyer on a developmental prospect. Matt Ryan is clearly the best prospect of the Class of '08 and shouldn't make it out of the top 10. Beyond that, there are a lot of question marks. Brian Brohm is the only other quarterback who figures to have first-round potential on draft weekend, but several others will go off the board in the second and third rounds. With the NFL setting a record for the most different starting quarterbacks in a single season last year, a lot of teams will be keeping a keen eye on where the QBs are coming off the board and, while not the strongest QB class in recent years, it should produce a handful of players selected in the first couple of rounds. Unless someone the 49ers have highly rated falls to them, the likelihood of them taking a quarterback probably will fall to a developmental guy on the second day. San Francisco has yet to draft a quarterback since selecting Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick in 2005 - the fourth consecutive year the 49ers used a draft pick on a quarterback. San Francisco has not gone three years in a row without drafting a quarterback since 1994-1996.


Matt Ryan, Boston College, 6-5, 227:
Fifth-year senior … Became a starter midway through his sophomore season and started the final 31 games of his college career … In his two full seasons as a starter, he completed 651 of 1,081 passes for 7,449 yards with 46 touchdowns and 29 interceptions … Had surgery to repair his left foot following his junior season … As a senior, he set ACC single-season records for completions (388), passing yards (4,507) and touchdowns (31) … Named ACC Player of the Year as a senior and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award – given to college football's top senior quarterback … Named team captain as a junior and senior … Ran for 11 touchdowns during his career … Has a strong arm and can throw the deep ball with good touch … A natural leader who led his team from behind in a lot of games … Has a quick release on short passes … Nobody questions his toughness or in-game leadership … A student of the game who puts in extra time in film study … At his best with the game on the line and doesn't fold under pressure … Has a long delivery and will take too much time to wind up on deep passes … Improved his mechanics as a senior, but still has some learning to do … Will throw dangerous passes, as shown by his 19 interceptions last year … Not a threat to scramble … Didn't work out at the Combine.
Projection: Ryan has all the tools to be a very good NFL quarterback because of his combination of skill, smarts and toughness. He was very impressive on a sub-par B.C. team that installed a new offense that he had to digest on the fly. He could go as high as No. 1 to Miami, but more likely landing spots will be at No. 3 to Atlanta or No. 5 to Kansas City. In a worst-case scenario, he will end up with Baltimore at No. 8 and no lower than Carolina at No. 13.


Brian Brohm, Louisville, 6-2¾, 231:
Fourth-year senior … Three-year starter who completed 714 of 1,087 passes for 9,956 yards with 65 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in that span … One of the most decorated football players in the country coming out of high school, being named USA Today Offensive Player of the Year, Parade All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Football in Kentucky … His brother Jeff played two years with the 49ers … Started the final 33 games of his career … Named Big East Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore … His 30 touchdown passes as a senior set a school record … Has a lot of game experience … Very good mechanics … Extremely coachable and adjusted quickly to changes in the coaching staff and the new schemes he was asked to run … Doesn't lock on to his primary receiver or force the ball into coverage too often … Has good touch on deep sideline passes … Buys time by sliding within the pocket when it breaks down … Good accuracy in short passing game … Durability is a huge concern – he missed time during his college career with a torn right ACL, torn right thumb ligaments that required surgery, a torn left (non-throwing) labrum that required surgery and a lower leg injury that caused him to miss the Senior Bowl … Gets too many passes tipped or knocked down at the line … Has a good, but not great, throwing arm … Not a threat to run and is relatively immobile outside the pocket … Not an "in-your-face" on-field leader … Ran a 4.84 40 at the Combine with a 30-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump (second best among QBs that tested).
Projection: Some scouts had Brohm slated as the first overall pick midway through the 2007 season, but his injury history is a big concern to a lot of NFL decision-makers. He grades out as a first-round talent and will likely get consideration from the Ravens at No. 8, Panthers at No. 13 and Bears at No. 14. But if he makes it past Chicago, he could stay on the board all the way into the second round.

Joe Flacco, Delaware, 6-6¼, 237: Fifth-year senior … Enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, but transferred following the 2004 season having thrown just four passes for the Panthers … Started all 26 games he played at Delaware, completing 595 of 938 passes for 7,046 yards with 41 touchdowns and 15 interceptions … Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, throwing for 4,263 yards with 23 TDs and just five interceptions … Set the Delaware career completion percentage record by completing 63.4 percent of his passes … A huge player who sees over the defense … The strongest arm of any quarterback in the Class of 2008 … Can deliver passes into tight spaces and always seems to throw a perfect tight spiral … Doesn't press or get down on himself or teammates if the team is struggling … Impressed coaches and scouts with a very strong week at the Senior Bowl … Doesn't have good footwork when flushed out of the pocket … Doesn't always read his progressions and will force balls to his primary target even when the situation doesn't dictate that he do so … Lack of top-notch competition has some believing he will take time to pick up the nuances of the NFL game … Has a strange throwing motion and balls tend to sail over his receivers at times … Not a threat to run and will take a lot of hits in the pocket … Ran a 4.97 40 at the Combine with a 29-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
Projection: Flacco made himself a lot of money at the Senior Bowl, showcasing his strong throwing arm. You can't teach the type of velocity he has, but he is viewed by many as a player with a ton of upside, but some liabilities in mobility and experience. He'll likely come off early in the second round, perhaps to Miami where he and last year's second-round pick John Beck can fight it out for who will be the eventual starter in the Bill Parcells regime.

Chad Henne, Michigan, 6-3, 229: Fourth-year senior … Offensive Player of the Year in Pennsylvania as a high school senior … A four-year starter who finished his career with 47 career starts … Only the second quarterback in Michigan history to start the opener as a true freshman – the other being Rick Leach in 1975 … Finished his career completing 828 of 1,387 passes for 9,715 yards with 87 touchdowns and 37 interceptions … His totals for completions, yards and TDs are all Michigan career records … Has good arm strength and can deliver the deep ball with accuracy … Has four years experience running a pro-style offense … Is mentally and physically tough – he played almost all of his senior season despite suffering a sprained knee, a dislocated throwing shoulder and a sprained ankle … Does a nice job of looking off safeties to open up deep passing lanes … Reads his progressions quickly when not under blitz pressure … Didn't show a lot of improvement in his senior season and seemed to hold steady or even regress a bit as a senior … Doesn't always see the entire field and will miss wide open receivers … Doesn't have good mobility and won't make many plays on the run … Needs to work on keeping his mechanics consistent … Doesn't have a lot of pocket awareness and will take a lot of sacks … Doesn't seem to play his best under high-pressure situations – he went 0-4 vs. Ohio State … Puts a lot of air under the ball on deep passes and allows defenders time to make up ground … Ran a 4.93 40 at the Combine with a 26-inch vertical jump and a 8-11 broad jump (tied for second-worst among QBs).
Projection: It's rare to have a quarterback with his kind of experience against top-end college competition. He needs to do more to become an NFL starter, but he has a lot of intangibles working in his favor and he will likely have the smoothest transition of any QB in this year's class moving on to the next level. He'll likely get snagged in the second round and, if given a year or two to grow into the role, could be a solid NFL starter down the line.


John David Booty, USC, 6-2¼, 219:
Fifth-year senior … Grew up in Louisiana and was allowed to play varsity high school football while still in seventh grade … Played sparingly as a true freshman, but redshirted in 2004 due to a right elbow injury … Replaced Matt Leinart in 2006 and, in his two years as a starter, he completed 484 of 776 passes for 5,708 yards with 52 touchdowns and 19 interceptions … Had surgery to repair a herniated disc prior to the 2006 season and missed three games in 2007 with a broken middle finger on his throwing hand … A two-time captain for the Trojans … In two Rose Bowl appearances, he holds the all-time record for TD passes with seven … Looks the part with a strong throwing arm and quick release … Has good touch and velocity on the intermediate to deep passes … Will throw away passes rather than risk interceptions … Senses the pass rush well … Has very little in the way of mobility (he averaged just 1.1 yards on 61 career rushing attempts) and at times looks like a sitting duck in the pocket … Stands flat-footed in the pocket and if he doesn't step into passes, they tend to sail or wobble … Makes his receivers lay out to make catches a little too often … Spends too long waiting for his primary receiver to uncover and misses some good opportunities by not always reading his progressions when the first option is taken away … Not a natural student of the game … Ran a 4.83 40 at the Combine with a 22-inch vertical jump and a 8-2 broad jump – both jumping numbers were the lowest among QBs that tested at the Combine.
Projection: He was well schooled by Pete Carroll for two years in a West Coast Offense that is similar to that run by many NFL teams. That alone bumps him up the draft boards of teams that incorporate the WCO. His numbers dropped in his senior year as the Trojans were in a transition period on offense and, at this point, he doesn't look like he could step in immediately and become an NFL starter. As a result, he could slide into the third round and perhaps be taken after some QBs that may have a lower ranking than he does, because, while he does many things well, he isn't dominating in any aspect of the game.

Andre Woodson, Kentucky, 6-4¼, 227: Fifth-year senior … Grew up in a military family and spent time living in Germany and Hawaii as a youngster … Started all 36 games he played in his final three seasons, completing 737 of 1,190 passes for 8,868 yards with 77 touchdowns and 24 interceptions … In his final two seasons, he completed more than 63 percent of his passes each year and threw 71 touchdowns, as opposed to just 18 interceptions and had college passer ratings of 154.5 and 144.5, respectively … Set a Southeast Conference record for touchdown passes in a season (40) in 2007 and holds school record for career TD passes with 79 … Set an NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception with 325 … Ideal size and has a strong arm to throw a 40-yard pass almost effortlessly in the mold of a Michael Vick or Randall Cunningham … Has quick feet to avoid sacks and buy himself an extra second or two in the pocket … Showed a lot of improvement as a field general in 2007, making better reads and not risking interceptions by forcing throws … Can get back into throwing stance quickly when flushed from the pocket and deliver passes accurately … Also like Cunningham, he has a very long throwing motion that makes him vulnerable to fumbles when hit and gives defenders an opportunity to cover make-up distance when burned in coverage … The offense he played at Kentucky was a multi-receiver, short-passing game in which he almost always lined up in the shotgun – an offense that employed a lot of gimmick plays and doesn't translate well to the NFL game … Viewed by some scouts as raw and will need time to refine his game at the next level … Ran a 4.86 40 at the Combine with 27½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump.
Projection: To see him on film, he often resembles a younger, less polished (and not nearly as skinny) version of Cunningham. He has all the requirements to be a good NFL QB, but whoever drafts him will need to have some patience and a strong-willed QB coach to get him out of bad habits like flicking passes that lose accuracy. His upside potential is enormous and, like Tarvaris Jackson a couple of years ago, could see a team trade up into the end of the second round to grab him simply on his awesome potential. That said, he is far from a lock to being a success in the NFL.

Erik Ainge, Tennessee, 6-5½, 225: Fourth-year senior … Nephew of Danny Ainge, who was an NBA star on the Celtics championship teams of the 1980s … Named Gatorade Player of the Year in Oregon as a high school senior … Started six of nine games he played in as a true freshman before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury and made five starts as a sophomore in a rotation with teammate Rick Clausen … Started all 26 games in which he played the last two seasons, completing 558 of 867 passes for 6,511 yards, 50 touchdowns and 19 interceptions … Has excellent height and surveys the field well … Will stay in the pocket and take shots to deliver a pass on time … Intelligent … Has a quick release … Doesn't panic and force passes into tight spaces to avoid sacks … Completed more than 64 percent of his passes his last two years and was good at distribution of the ball … Doesn't consistently throw a tight spiral and makes passes easier to pick off … At times he seems to throw the ball down and too many passes are either delivered low or tipped … Won't scramble for big gains … Not viewed as a fiery competitor who takes charge on the field or plays with a lot of passion … Ran a 4.99 40 at the Combine with a 22-inch vertical jump (tied for worst among QBs) and a 8-11 broad jump (tied for second-worst among quarterbacks that tested).
Projection: He isn't the type of player who leaps out at you on film, but he has a lot of the qualities coaches like in a game-manager type of quarterback – he has good mechanics, gets rid of the ball quickly and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He'll have to fight to ever become an NFL starter, but should be a quality backup and spot starter that will probably come off the board in the third or fourth round.

Colt Brennan, Hawaii, 6-2½, 208: Fifth-year senior … Enrolled at Colorado and redshirted in 2003, but was thrown off the team after being convicted of felony burglary and trespassing charges stemming from an alleged robbery and sexual assault of a female student in University of Colorado dorm room. Spent a year at Saddleback Community College before transferring to Hawaii … Started 37 games in three years at Hawaii, completing 1,115 of 1,584 passes (70.4 percent) for 14,193 yards, 131 touchdowns and 42 interceptions … In his junior season, he broke or tied 16 NCAA records, including most TD passes in a season (58) and pass-efficiency rating (186.0) … Was named Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year as a junior … Finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a junior and third as a senior … Set the all-time NCAA career records for touchdown passes (131) and total touchdowns (146 – 131 passing and 15 rushing) … Has a very quick release and throws effectively on the move … Very quick to read defenses and react accordingly … Doesn't get "happy feet" when the pocket breaks down … Has shown toughness – he played through much of his senior season with a severe ankle sprain … His thinner body type has some afraid that he won't be able to absorb the pounding QBs take in the NFL … Doesn't have an over-the-top release and his sidearm motion results in too many passes getting tipped or batted down at the line … Played in June Jones' run-and-shoot offense that usually required only one read and a release on a three-step drop – something he won't see in the NFL … Didn't work out at the Combine because of a hip injury that required surgery that will sideline him about three months.
Projection: The eye-popping numbers Brennan posted may turn the heads of fans, but scouts don't get overly impressed with gimmick offenses that have no relative translation to the NFL. Brennan's decision-making has been very sound and he completed more than 70 percent of the passes he threw over his career. But the combination of a horrible game against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, some character questions and an injury that will have him out until July could drop him deep into the later rounds.

Josh Johnson, San Diego, 6-2¾, 214: Fourth-year senior … Started the last 34 games of his college career, completing 712 of 1,043 passes for 9,564 yards, 113 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in that span … Three-time Pioneer Football League North Division Player of the Year … Had a monster senior season, completing 206 of 301 passes for 2,988 yards, 43 touchdowns, just one interception and a pass-efficiency rating of 198.3 … His career passer rating of 176.7 is the best in NCAA history … As a senior, he finished third in the voting for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the Football Championship Series (Division I-AA teams) … Was named the Most Valuable of the East-West Shrine Game, which helped his draft stock considerably … Played in a pro-style offense under former Bears QB Jim Harbaugh … Very good quickness and mobility – over the past two season he averaged more than 8 yards per rushing attempt by running 208 times for 1,678 yards and 13 touchdowns … Can run away from pass rushers with relative ease and can throw with both zip and accuracy while on the run … Can make big plays as a passer or scrambler … Has a quick release … Intelligent … Never played top competition in college and is viewed as a long-term project … Is thinly built and doesn't have a lot of upper body or lower body strength … Viewed as a better athlete than a pure quarterback … Doesn't consistently throw a tight spiral … Ran a 4.56 40 at the Combine with a 34-inch vertical jump (second-best among QBs at the Combine) and a 9-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: A tremendous athlete who put up big numbers against Division I-AA competition, Johnson reminds a lot of scouts of Tarvaris Jackson when he came out in the 2006 draft. He will have a long learning curve ahead of him and will have to be much more aggressive at working on improving many aspects of his game. On the flip side, whoever drafts him will have to be patient and give him time to adapt to the pro game. Ideally, he will get drafted by a team that has an aging, established starter, giving him a couple of years to catch up to the speed of the pro game. He likely won't come off the board until the fourth or fifth round but will be a player that teams running the West Coast Offense will give plenty of consideration.

Anthony Morelli, Penn State, 6-3¾, 230: Fourth-year senior … USA Today High School All-American … Two-year starter who completed 442 of 788 passes for 5,075 yards with 30 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in that span … While his numbers don't jump out at you, he set single-season Penn State records for attempts (402) and completions (234) as a senior and became the first quarterback in school history to have back-to-back 2,000-yard passing seasons … Has very good size and a strong build … Is capable of throwing a ball 70 yards … Has a compact delivery and gets rid of most passes in a hurry … Shakes off arm tackles of pass rushers in the pocket and doesn't take sacks easily … Has the velocity to throw any pass the playbook calls for … Accuracy has always been an issue for him and he throws too many ill-advised passes … Makes a lot of mental mistakes … Doesn't have great field vision and doesn't always see open receivers … Seemed to play his worst late in games when the outcome was still in doubt … Was never productive on a consistent basis … Often had the "deer-in-the-headlights" look when pressured in the pocket … Struggled against zone defenses that could look in the backfield get a jump on his passes … Ran a 5.08 40 at the Combine with a 27-inch vertical jump, a 8-10 broad jump and 18 reps of 225 pounds – he was one of just three QBs that lifted at the Combine and his total tied for most.
Projection: From purely the physical standpoint, Morelli looks like he could be an outstanding quarterback at the next level, but, after being a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, his body of work at Penn State suggests he is a player that will be taken late in the draft and might struggle to make a roster. He would have been an ideal candidate for NFL Europe, but will likely only stick with a team that has an established starter and is looking to groom a No. 3 QB over time.


Alex Brink, Washington State, 6-2¼, 212
Dennis Dixon, Oregon, 6-3¼, 195
Matt Flynn, LSU, 6-2½, 230
Sam Keller, Nebraska, 6-4, 237
Kevin O'Connell, San Diego State, 6-5, 225
Paul Smith, Tulsa, 6-1½, 208

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