Beyond Luck and RG3: QBs Battle For Position

Beyond presumed top picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the quarterbacks at the Scouting Combine are trying to make one team love them enough to pull the trigger in two months. The Packers, with Matt Flynn's expected departure, figure to be shopping.

INDIANAPOLIS – Leading up to last year's draft, Cam Newton was the obvious top quarterback, with no clear-cut pecking order behind him.

When the dust cleared, four quarterbacks were taken in the top 12 picks and six went in the top 36.

Leading up to this year's draft, quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor almost certainly will be selected first and second, and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill probably will join them in the first round. From there, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder and will determine which from a diverse group will make an unexpected rise during the draft.

"It just takes one team," Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden said. "I was drafted by the (New York) Yankees, and they were the only team that didn't come into the house. I told that story the other night, and everybody was shocked, and that's just the way it was. It only takes one team. You never know who that team is going to be."

Beyond Luck and Griffin, there are questions about the rest of the quarterback class, which could have 13 names called when the draft wraps up on April 28.

Tannehill is clearly the most skilled of the quarterbacks not named Luck or Griffin. However, when he couldn't beat out Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson, he wound up playing the first two-and-a-half seasons of his career at wide receiver before finally taking over at quarterback at midseason in 2010.

"It was kind of a unique experience changing positions," Tannehill said. "I went to A&M as a quarterback. I redshirted as a quarterback. I went into camp my freshman year as a quarterback and was going to be third on the depth chart and they moved me out to receiver. I ended up having some success that day and about two days later, I was in the starting rotation at receiver. It was a quick turnaround. I was frustrated by the fact that I didn't get to play quarterback. It's what I always what I wanted to be. I always thought of myself as a quarterback. So, I was frustrated by it, but blessed by the opportunity to be able to play another position. I learned a lot about the game, got a lot of experience."

While Tannehill acknowledged his lack of experience at quarterback might be an issue, one of the quarterback-hungry teams didn't see it that way.

"The guy was a quarterback in high school, just a football player," said John Schneider, the general manager of the Seahawks, who own the 12th pick of the first round and need a franchise quarterback. "First and foremost, that's what we're looking for, especially at that position. Guys that have always been in the quarterback schools, the special camps, and all that kind of stuff, they make me a little nervous to a certain extent. This guy is a real football player. He played defense. You could see him last year when he stepped in, he just went out and played. He had like this natural toughness about him that the players really rallied around."

According to NFLDraftScout.com, Arizona State's Brock Osweiler and Weeden are second-round prospects, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins a third-round prospect and Arizona's Nick Foles and San Diego State's Ryan Lindley are worthy of fourth-round picks. Tennessee-Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, Boise State's Kellen Moore, Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish and Houston's record-setting Case Keenum will be jockeying for position during the next two months.

"I think it's a very unique class," Schneider said. "From Brock Osweiler all the way down with Russell Wilson, you've got a 6-8 guy and a 5-10 1/2 guy. You've got Kellen Moore, who's a phenomenal field general. You've got Tannehill. It's a very unique class. Every guy has this niche to him. Kirk Cousins. Tannehill. RG III. I think it's a pretty cool class."

If there's one quarterback who could go much higher than expected, it's Weeden, the former minor-league pitcher who is two months older than NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Being 28 is a double-edged sword. The negative is obvious, but in a win-now league, Weeden is a mature leader with plenty of arm strength and outstanding accuracy. He has to be appealing in a win-now league.

"I started playing professional baseball at 18," Weeden said. "I drove to Tampa as an 18-year-old and was just on my own. I was able to overcome that and do some good things there. From a maturity standpoint, I've already been a pro. That's what I've been telling teams, and they agree with me. In baseball, you guys know, it's a game of failure. I've failed, and I've had some success, and I've kind of ridden the rollercoaster. (Quarterback's) the toughest position to play in all of sports."

Osweiler is another player who had love for another game. The 6-foot-7 Osweiler had been committed to play basketball for Gonzaga for three years before switching gears to play football for Arizona.

"I loved the game of football too much to give it up," he said. "Football is a very special game, takes a special person to play it and it just wasn't something I was ready to give up at that point and time in my life."

Cousins rewrote the Spartans' record book during his career, won 22 games in his final two seasons and earned the Lowe's Senior Class Award for his work on the field, classroom and community. At the Senior Bowl, he impressed the coaches with his ability to execute a playbook in a short period.

"When I look at the quarterbacks who have success year in and year out, I see quarterbacks who are great leaders, very accurate and are great decision-makers," Cousins said. "I think those things are my three greatest strengths. I think across the board, those are the things that make a quarterback successful in the NFL over a long period of time."

Here are the rest of the draft-worthy quarterbacks, by the numbers.

-- Nick Foles – 39: Years since Arizona has sent a quarterback to the NFL, Bill Demory, who was the Wildcats' starter in 1971 and 1972. He started three games for the Jets in place of an injured Joe Namath in 1973.

-- Ryan Lindley – 12,690: Lindley's Mountain West Conference career passing record during his four years at San Diego State. BYU's Max Hall held the old mark with 11,365 yards. Lindley set 30 school records during his career.

-- B.J. Coleman – 0: More touchdowns than interceptions during his senior season at Tennessee-Chattanooga. Coleman, who spent 2007 and 2008 at Tennessee, had nine touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2011 and 52 touchdowns against 31 interceptions during his three years as the Mocs' starter.

-- Russell Wilson – 191.8: Wilson's NCAA record for passing efficiency as a senior, his one and only season at Wisconsin. Wilson, who's 5-11 if you round up the fraction, threw 33 touchdown passes (and rushed for seven more) with just three interceptions.

-- Chandler Harnish – 4: Players in FBS history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, with the Northern Illinois star joining Vince Young, Dan LeFevour and Colin Kaepernick. For his career, his 11,927 yards of total offense rank third in conference history behind Byron Leftwich and LeFevour.

-- Kellen Moore – 50: His career win total at Boise State, five more than the previous record held by Colt McCoy. Moore's career record was 50-3, with 142 touchdowns against 28 interceptions – a ratio of 5.07 to 1.

-- Case Keenum – 19,217: Career passing yards by Keenum, the most in NCAA history by 2,145 over Timmy Chang. He also finished first all-time with 20,114 total yards (3,204 more than Chang), 1,546 completions (Graham Harrell had 1,403) and 155 touchdowns (Moore had 142 and Harrell 134).


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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