It’s not a sexy question, especially when talking about the quarterbacks in this year’s less-than-stellar class.
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There’s no doubt that Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota will be drafted early in the first round. There’s little doubt that UCLA’s Brett Hundley will be the next quarterback off the board, likely in the second round.
After that, however, it’s a jumble for teams looking to grab a developmental prospect, either to groom into a starter or a quality No. 2 to dangle as trade bait.
Here’s how the “other” quarterbacks who performed at the Scouting Combine stack up after the Combine, based on a text-message conversation with a scout.
Bryce Petty, Baylor (6-3, 230): In two seasons as the starter, Petty helped Baylor win back-to-back Big 12 Championships to become the first quarterback in school history to win two conference crowns. He went 22-4 during that span, including 16-2 in league play. As a senior, he completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,855 yards with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions, down from his junior numbers of 62.0 percent, 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and three interceptions.
After working out of nothing but the shotgun at Baylor, he’s been working on the dropback game with quarterbacks guru George Whitfield. With Whitfield, Petty also has been working with Winston.
“I have aspirations to be the best, and so to be the best, you’ve got to be around the best,” Petty said. “That’s exactly what I wanted to with George. I’ve been with him for three years now. Me and him just jell. We get each other. I learn a lot from him. Things that he says just, for some reason, they stick with me. That’s why I love working with him and then his pedigree of who he’s worked with, hopefully I can add my name to that list.”
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State (6-2, 213): Grayson received only tepid recruiting interest but developed into a fine quarterback. He started all 27 games as a junior and senior. As a senior, he completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,006 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ranked fourth nationally in yards and eighth in touchdowns, plus fifth in passing efficiency (166.2). He didn’t go through testing at the Combine due to an injured hamstring. He’s targeting CSU’s March 11 pro day.
“We’re all competing to be the (No.) 1 guy,” Grayson said. “We obviously know two guys are kind of at the top of this class, but as a competitor, you’re always trying to be that No. 1 guy. So every one of us – none of us are working to be the third guy, we’re all working for that No. 1 spot. You set out your goals and every day you go to the gym and every single one of us is working to be that No. 1 guy taken.’’
Cody Fajardo, Nevada (6-1, 223): Fajardo joined Colin Kaepernick as the only players in FBS history to finish with 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. As a senior, Fajardo led the team in rushing yards (1,054) and passing yards (2,498) and accounted for 31 touchdowns.
“You see that the NFL's kind of transitioning more to the zone-read, and I've done it for four years,” Fajardo said. “Kaep's done a good job of implementing it, and teams look at it and sa,y 'Hey, we might be able to work with this.' And so any team that runs the zone-read offense, I think I'd be a perfect fit. I wouldn't have to learn much because I ran it often. But if I go to a more pro-style offense, I'm prepared for that, too.”
Brandon Bridge, South Alabama (6-4, 229): The native of Mississauga, Ontario, goes by the nickname “Air Canada.” After two seasons at Alcorn State, Bridge followed his coach and moved on to South Alabama. As a senior, he completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,927 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has tremendous upside but couldn’t possibly be more raw.
“That’s just a chip on the shoulder,” Bridge said of those who say a Canadian import can’t be an NFL quarterback. “You want to prove them wrong. The last one to do it was Jesse Palmer, I believe, and I definitely want to be in the same category with them — hopefully play in the NFL, and put Toronto on the map, showing that we have the talent.”
Shane Carden, East Carolina (6-2, 218): The American Conference Offensive Player of the Year passed for an AAC and ECU single-season record 4,736 yards, completing 63.5 percent of his passes with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a senior. The son of a minor-league pitcher threw for almost 12,000 yards for his career.
“I feel confident in what I’m doing,” said a player who has a striking resemblance to Brett Favre. “My goal is to show I can hang with any of these guys and I have my own high qualities that put me right there at the top.”
Sean Mannion, Oregon State (6-6, 229): Mannion owns 18 school passing records, with his 13,600 career passing yards ranking No. 1 in Pac-12 history and No. 8 in FBS history. He threw a school-record 83 touchdown passes, a category in which he ranks seventh in league annals. After throwing for a conference-record 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns as a junior, he slumped to 3,164 yards with 15 touchdowns as a senior.
“That’s not really for me to say what advantage that does or doesn’t give me,” he said of being a four-year starter. “I felt good in our offense. We did throw the ball a lot but it was from a pro-style system — a lot of stuff from under center, a lot of personnel groupings. I think the variety of passing game that I was able to do was great for me as a player. Again, I can’t speak for what that may mean for me in comparison to the other guys but I feel great.”
Connor Halliday, Washington State (6-3, 196): Halliday’s senior season ended with a broken ankle sustained in the ninth start. At the time, he led the nation with 3,873 passing yards and 32 touchdowns and he finished No. 1 with 430.3 passing yards per game. In 35 career games (28 starts), he set school career records with 11,304 passing yards and 90 touchdown passes. He’s shooting for WSU’s pro day on March 12 or a personal pro day in April.
“It was just the timing (of the injury) was frustrating,” Halliday said. “Injuries happen and I’ve stayed pretty healthy throughout my career. With only three games left in my career it was tough go down like that. But there’s nothing I can do about it but work my butt off to get healthy an try to make a squad.’’
Bryan Bennett, Southeast Louisiana (6-2, 211): Bennett started his career at Oregon but, with Mariota entrenched as the starter and on his way to stardom, Bennett transferred. In just two seasons, he threw for about 5,500 yards and set the school record with 70 total touchdowns and 31 rushing touchdowns.
“I would love to jump up into that conversation (as the fourth quarterback),” Bennett said. “Right now, all I’m focusing on is what I can control. What I can control is how I interview here and how I carry myself and how I test and just the preparation I’ve already put in before this and what I’ll continue to do why I’m here. I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity t compete and we’ll see where that puts me.”
Jerry Lovelocke, Prairie View A&M (6-4, 248): In 10 games as a senior, he completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 2,473 yards, with 16 touchdowns (plus 10 more rushing) and nine interceptions. He did his best work in the final six games — 13 touchdowns and five interceptions to help the team go 5-1.
“Everyone’s harping one one and two, being Winston and Mariota. No one’s thinking three through ... Three can be anyone right now. That’s definitely a slot I think I can fill.”
Blake Sims, Alabama (5-11, 218): As a senior, he beat out Florida State transfer Jacob Coker and completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“They were very proud of the way that I overcame a lot of things at Alabama and what my story was,” Sims said of his conversations with scouts. “They didn't know a lot of guys that would have done what I did, coming from running back and going straight to quarterback for my last year.”
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