The 2005 draft at the position: Though not a great year for quarterbacks, the 2005 NFL draft offers a good amount of talent from the senior class with signal-callers who can eventually develop into starters at the next level. Should the top two juniors enter the mix they will automatically jump to the head of the list.
As many as 10 passers presently hold first-day grades even though no senior will be selected in the first round. Matt Leinart of USC is sure to come out, while Aaron Rodgers of Cal will wait and see what happens with his coach, Jeff Tedford. If Tedford gets a head-coaching gig in the NFL, Rodgers will make the jump. If it so happens that Tedford gets the top job in San Francisco, Rodgers could end up there.
The "x" factor is Utah junior Alex Smith, who is not listed below. Right now the Heisman Trophy finalist is 50/50 on whether he will enter the draft. Likewise, scouts are split on his talents; some feel he is worth a top 45 selection while others feel he is a product of Utes' complicated offense and does not warrant a first-day choice.
BREAKING DOWN THE TOP PROSPECTS
MATT LEINART, USC
6-4, 220, 4TH-YEAR JUNIOR
The Good: Athletic passer with a live arm and the ability to throw all the passes. Sets up with solid footwork, shows excellent vision in the pocket and quickly finds the open wideout on the field. Patient, looks off the safety and takes the safe underneath route if nothing is available down the field. Displays excellent timing, senses the rush and stands in the pocket, taking a hit in order to get the pass off. Challenges the vertical game, yet rarely makes mistakes or throws poor passes. Very accurate, hits targets on the mark and receivers rarely break stride to make the reception. Poised under pressure, knows where receivers are on the field and quickly gets the ball out of his hand.
The Bad: Not a mobile quarterback who eludes the rush. Gathers and takes a while to get the pass off rolling outside the pocket. Has a tendency to stare down the primary target.
The Skinny: After seamlessly taking over for Heisman Trophy winner and former No. 1 pick Carson Palmer, Leinart has not missed a beat and possesses outstanding potential for the next level. Could be used in a variety of systems as he will combine both athletic skills and mental intangibles to lead a franchise at the next level. Must physically mature and a quarterback prospect best served sitting on the sidelines for a season yet a signal-caller a franchise can build a team around for the next decade.
AARON RODGERS, CALIFORNIA
6-1.5, 200, 4TH-YEAR JUNIOR
The Good: Fleet-footed passer who makes positive plays in the pocket or on the move. Quickly sets up with solid footwork, moves around in order to find the open receiver and has an explosive release. Displays good zip on intermediate throws and leads targets with passes. Very accurate and smartly places the ball for pass catchers. Sells the ball fakes, displays the ability to elude the rush and gets rid of the ball rather then taking a sack. Shows tremendous field awareness, patience and buys as much time as possible for receivers. Slips the rush and gets outside the pocket. Goes through receiver progressions, remains poised as the pocket collapses and shows great field vision. Makes plays running the ball.
The Bad: Winds up, which slows the delivery of passes. Gathers himself releasing the pass off a three-step drop. Must be more precise with the outs as the ball is late or off the mark. Seemingly has difficulty seeing over the line.
The Skinny: Yet another terrific prospect being delivered by quarterback guru Jeff Tedford, Rodgers looks to have the makings of an outstanding NFL passer. Should be a perfect fit for a West Coast offense, yet will also excel in other types of systems. His mental understanding of the position will help Rogers go a long way at the next level.
ANDREW WALTER, ARIZONA STATE
6-5.5, 236, SENIOR
The Good: Big pocket passer with excellent physical skills and the arm strength to match. Sets up to throw with solid footwork, patient and buys time for receivers. Calm as the pocket collapses around him, gets rid of the ball with a flick of his wrist and possesses a quick release. Scans the field, goes through receiver progressions and strong enough to withstand the rush. Gets the ball away with defenders draped on him. Zips the ball between defenders, leads receivers over the middle and easily drives passes down the field.
The Bad: Changes the point of release and throws with a three-quarter delivery. Has a low trajectory for a tall quarterback and occasionally whips the ball from the side. Not an elusive passer who can escape the rush. Makes questionable throws and occasionally puts the ball up for grabs. Has been a streaky passer and lacks precise accuracy. Sustained a shoulder injury at season's end which requires surgery and may miss pre-draft workouts.
The Skinny: In the midst of a terrific senior campaign, Walter possesses the physical skills to be a starting quarterback at the next level. Pulled the pieces together as a senior and showed the ability to lead the team. Does have a downside but when hitting on all cylinders another passer you can build a franchise around.
DAVID GREENE, GEORGIA
6-3, 230, SENIOR
The Good: Productive four-year passer with an outstanding feel for the position. Sells the ball fakes, shows terrific field vision in the pocket and displays excellent timing on throws. Patient, senses pressure and always on the same page as receivers. Throws a catchable ball and does not make receivers work hard for the reception. Very accurate between the numbers, leads targets over the middle and accurately places throws. Stays with the action and does not panic if things break down. Displays zip on intermediate passes. Throws with a fluid delivery.
The Bad: Not elusive and can't avoid the rush. Possesses marginal skills getting outside the pocket to make the pass on the move. Does not drive the deep throw or possess a big arm.
The Skinny: A tremendously productive collegiate passer, Green offers a lot of skills that will help him at the next level. His sense of timing, anticipation and accuracy in the short passing game makes him perfectly suited for a running offense that likes to control the ball on the ground.
DAN ORLOVSKY, CONNECTICUT
6-4.5, 230, SENIOR
The Good: Big, strong pocket passer who possesses both the arm strength and intelligence to play at the next level. Sets up with good footwork, stands strong in the pocket and sees the field. Patient, immediately finds the open receiver on blitzes or goes through progressions getting the ball to secondary targets if nothing's available down the field. Can move outside the pocket and make the pass. Accurately places the deep outs. Tough and stands in the pocket until the last second. Accurate and places the ball where only his receivers can make the reception. Displays excellent timing, zips the ball over the middle or puts the air under corner patterns.
The Bad: Not elusive or a passer who picks up yardage with his feet. Forces the pass on occasion. Big arm, yet does not drive the ball downfield. Prone to making bad decisions as a senior.
The Skinny: Little-known on the outside until his senior campaign, Orlovsky has been one of the better quarterbacks in college football the past two years. Possessing the physical skills to play at the next level, he must now get comfortable competing at a high level of competition on a weekly basis. A solid first-day pick who could move into the top 45 with good postseason showings.
KYLE ORTON, PURDUE
6-4, 217, SENIOR
The Good: Productive signal-caller who has done a tremendous job leading a passing offense in college. Patient in the pocket, buys time for receivers and goes through progressions looking the open wideout. Displays a great sense of knowing where pass catchers are on the field and takes what the defense gives him. Very accurate down the field or over the middle, hits receivers in stride or places passes in front of targets and lets them run to the ball. Scrambles in the pocket buying time and waits until last second before releasing the ball. Zips the intermediate-range throws. Does a terrific job sensing the blitz, picking up hot wideouts and not making bad decisions under pressure. Takes the safe underneath option rather than force the throw. Stands strong in the face of pressure.
The Bad: Slow setting up and releasing the ball off a three-step drop. Possesses just average arm strength and lacks the quick release or ability to drive the deep throw. Could improve his overall footwork. Changes his point of release in order to get the pass off. Most snaps are taken out of the shotgun formation and has a tendency to stray or float in the pocket when lined up behind center.
The Skinny: Orton has done a terrific job leading Purdue's offense and taking command of the passing game. Has athletic limitations and must be schooled in the details of the pro passing game, yet a solid prospect for the next level who could flourish in a West Coast offensive system.
JASON WHITE, OKLAHOMA
6-2, 225, SENIOR
The Good: Intelligent passer with a good feel for the position. Quick setting up in the pocket and displays solid footwork behind center. Patient, remains poised as the pocket collapses, scanning the field looking for the open receiver. Does not make bad choices when pressured and takes a hit to get the throw off. Does a good job with reads or checks at the line of scrimmage and in total control of the situation. Works hard. Good sense of timing.
The Bad: Possesses only average accuracy outside of 10 yards and does not have a live of arm. Really does not lead receivers with throws and late on timing passes. Not elusive or one who makes plays with his legs. Has a history of injuries which includes major knee surgery.
The Skinny: A natural leader who's done well on the college level, White's injury past and limited arm strength adds up to marginal upside for the next level. Could be a consummate clipboard holder and a quarterback who bounces around the league for a decade but at the same time has the ability to be a productive starter if placed in the right system.
CHARLIE FRYE, AKRON
6-3.5, 225, SENIOR
The Good: Nice-sized passer with both the athleticism and intelligence to succeed at the next level. Sets up in the pocket with solid footwork, scans the field and finds open wideouts. Not afraid to challenge the vertical game, yet at the same time takes the safe underneath outlet if nothing's available down the field. Does a solid job with his reads and makes good decisions in the pocket.
The Bad: While he possesses a solid arm, it is by no means a gun. Does not have the ability to drive the ball downfield.
The Skinny: A solid collegian who's been productive four seasons running, Frye is a natural who's been counted on to lead his team. Coming off a terrific senior campaign, he seemingly improved his overall game in 2004. Offers potential at the next level but will need time to develop his skills and get used to a better level of competition.
JASON CAMPBELL, AUBURN
6-4, 221, SENIOR
The Good: Athletic passer with solid physical skills. Sized well, patient in the pocket and remains poised under pressure. Does a good job locating the open receiver on the field, works to make positive plays and relatively accurate. Throws with an over-the-top delivery. Passes have both speed and velocity. Pulls the ball down and takes off up the field when pressured or throws the pass away rather than forcing the ball. Sets quickly in the pocket and immediately gets the ball out of his hand.
The Bad: Must improve his overall footwork. Not a nifty or nimble passer who consistently eludes the rush. Late on his timing throws, possesses only average long accuracy and does not have a great deep arm.
The Skinny: Possessing the physical skills needed to play at the next level, Campbell is putting together a fine senior campaign and moving up draft boards. While his overall game still needs work, he offers a good amount of potential for a team willing to be patient and develop his skills.
CHARLIE WHITEHURST, CLEMSON
6-3.5, 215, 4TH-YEAR JUNIOR
The Good: Athletic quarterback with a good arm and the ability to produce when plays break down. Patient in the pocket, reads the defense and finds the open receiver on the field. Relatively accurate between the numbers and places passes in front receivers, letting them run to the ball. Tough, withstands the rush and strong when he pulls the ball down and takes off up the field. Puts touch on throws when necessary or passes to the safe underneath route if nothing's available. Can scramble, avoid the rush, then make the throw on the move. Sells the play-action pass and throws strikes down the middle of the field.
The Bad: Must improve his footwork as he steps out of throws or releases the pass off his back foot. Does not do a good job sensing pressure. Must improve his overall timing, especially throwing the outs.
The Skinny: A good athlete who makes plays with either his arm or legs, Whitehurst has consistently improved his game and is slowly becoming a passer rather than just a thrower. Could be effective in a variety of offensive systems at the next level, and though he must iron out the rough edges of his game Whitehurst offers a lot of potential for the next level if a team is willing to be patient.
DEREK ANDERSON, OREGON STATE
6-6, 235, SENIOR
The Good: Nice-sized pocket passer with an NFL arm. Sets up with solid footwork, finds the open wideout and does a nice job sensing the rush or seeing the blitz. Leads receivers over the middle and relatively accurate between the numbers. Puts touch on throws when required and gives receivers a chance to make the reception.
The Bad: Starts with poor ball placement, stares down the primary target and makes questionable decisions when pressured. Does not always show great poise and throws the ball off his back foot rather than properly following through and taking a hit.
The Skinny: A bit of an enigma, Anderson has been a streaky quarterback with a pattern of inconsistency the past three seasons at Oregon State. Possessing the physical skills to be a player at the next level, he must improve his overall game, yet is worth the risk of a late-round choice in next April's draft.
DANNY WIMPRINE, MEMPHIS
6-0, 225, SENIOR
The Good: Intelligent passer with a good feel for the position and understanding of the game. Buys as much time as possible, scrambles around the pocket looking for open wideouts and makes good decisions. Senses pressure, then steps up to avoid it, all along displaying outstanding field vision. Knows where receivers are on the field. Stands strong in the pocket and very accurate over the middle. Displays a sense of timing and leads receivers with tosses.
The Bad: Marginal skills avoiding the rush or throwing on the run. Lacks the big arm and not accurate down the field. Seemingly has difficulty seeing over the line.
The Skinny: While he does not pass the eyeball test, Wimprine is a productive passer with solid potential for the next level. Could be an effective backup for a running offense and or potentially develop into a starter if a team is willing to develop the offense around his strengths.
-- Jason Campbell of Auburn is soaring up boards after a tremendous senior campaign. A good week of work at Senior Bowl practices could move him into the top 45-selections.
-- Gino Guidugli is another who improved his stock with a terrific final season in college and the big pocket-passer will be watched closely at the combine.
-- Looking for a sleeper? Dustin Long was the starting passer at Texas A&M before transferring to Sam Houston State and led the Bearkats into the Division I-AA semifinal. Though he lacks the classic size, Long possesses the arm strength and athletic ability to play at the next level.