Searching For Signal Callers

While Peyton Manning's job is obviously safe, the Colts spend each offseason in search of a replacement for Jim Sorgi or possibly Josh Betts. Did they meet their man at the Combine?

The Colts have spoken with a few different quarterback prospects in the past few months, but none may be more intriguing than Nebraska's Sam Keller — no relation — whom they spoke with informally at the NFL Combine in February.

He is similar in stature to Columbia prospect Craig Hormann, checking in at about 6 feet, 4 inches and 241 pounds to Hormann's 6 feet, 4 inches and 226 pounds, but has had success at a major program, looks the part a little more, and certainly has a bigger arm.

And, there is the small matter of the fact that Keller was invited to the Combine and Hormann was not.  There is also the fact that Keller is the 15th-rated player at his position (276th overall) and Hormann is the 42nd-rated player at his position (overall ranking is too high to gauge).

The interesting thing to consider about Keller is that his foot speed has been questioned after he ran a 4.99 40 at the Combine — many scouts had assumed after watching film on him that he would turn in a more impressive time — and his footwork has also been questioned as well as his mechanics.

Nebraska's Sam Keller
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But a sub-five second 40 time is not bad for a prospect that may not get drafted and as far as his footwork is concerned, he was among the top performers at his position with a 4.35 second time in the short shuttle, which measures footwork and lateral movement.

Some scouts question his decision-making ability, but as a starter for Arizona State in 2005, he registered a quarterback rating of over 150 — the college rating system is inflated, but it's still impressive — and threw for 20 touchdown passes against nine interceptions.

He appeared to regress throughout the course of last season in Nebraska after he transferred, but he was learning a new system under Bill Callahan and the Cornhuskers, as a team, regressed a little in 2007.

The bottom line is that he's most likely the best pure quarterback prospect that the University of Nebraska has produced in several years, he was productive in both the Big 12 and the Pac-10, he has prototypical size, enough arm strength, and was able to learn a pro-style system under Callahan.  While he may not be an ideal prospect, he certainly has a number of the necessary tools to succeed at the NFL level.

With Peyton Manning holding down the starting job the foreseeable future and any backup at the quarterback position most likely sitting on the bench for the bulk of the season since Manning has not missed a start due to injury in his pro career, the Colts and Keller have plenty of time.

Though it's debatable whether or not Jim Sorgi has learned enough at the feet of the master to be effective as the Colts starter, what isn't debatable is that the window for his potential is closing rapidly and that it may be time to start over.

With Keller and Hormann, two men that are unlikely to be drafted, it is a matter of evaluating upside.

In this situation, Keller has more upside, more potential, and a stronger track record of success against a higher level of competition.

If the Colts are looking to sign an undrafted free agent quarterback, Keller would appear to be the best choice of the options presented so far.

The time may not have come to prepare for life after Manning, or, for that matter, Sorgi, but Bill Polian has always proven himself to be prepared for any eventuality.  At this moment, with no true need, you go with the player that has more upside.

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