2006 Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

Scouting for NFL talent is a 12-month process that seemingly never ends. And with the '05 draft just recently completed, our eyes are geared towards April of 2006.

Over the next few weeks we'll have a positional breakdown on the players who could impact next year's annual NFL draft. Today we start off with the signal callers.

Last month three passers were taken in the first round, with a pair being from the ranks of the underclassmen. The prior two drafts saw four signal-callers chosen during the initial frame. Presently, it looks as though the quarterback class of 2006 may not measure up to those standards.

A potential top-ten pick last month, Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart of USC passed up NFL riches for a senior season on the college field. He now enters the scouting process as the top-rated senior and, barring injury, should be one of the first players selected next April. While Leinart's arm strength has been questioned, his decision making and intangibles are impeccable and will make him a highly sought-after prospect in less than 12 months.

Toledo's Bruce Gradkowski is a strong-armed pocket passer with very good accuracy and another senior who rates highly. Coming off consecutive campaigns in which he completed better then 70 percent of his throws for more than 3,200 yards each season, Gradkowski has an exceptional touchdown-to-interception ratio and is another passer who plays an intelligent brand of football. A good senior year, coupled with fine post-season showings at the combine and Senior Bowl, could push him into the draft's top 32 selections.

Charlie Whitehurst of Clemson and Brad Smith of Missouri are another pair of highly considered seniors who must improve after poor junior seasons. Both are outstanding athletes and big-armed passers who beat opponents throwing or running the ball. Each possesses terrific upside potential for the next level, as does Darrell Hackney of UAB.

Hackney could potentially have the best combination of arm strength and athleticism out of all the quarterbacks in the senior class, however Hackney has been slow progressing the past two seasons. A breakout campaign could catapult him up draft boards next April.

Other upperclassmen to keep an eye on include oft-injured Brodie Croyle of Alabama, Reggie McNeal of Texas A&M as well as Fresno State's Paul Pinegar.

Penn State's Michael Robinson could be this year's version of Rasheed Marshall -- highly rated college quarterback who projects to receiver in the NFL.

Expect a major impact from the juniors, starting with Bowling Green signal-caller Omar Jacobs. An outstanding athlete with terrific size and arm strength, Jacobs completed 67 percent of his throws on his way to 4,000 passing yards last season. Even more astounding were the 41 touchdown passes he threw compared to only four interceptions. Jacobs has all the makings of a "franchise quarterback," so don't be surprised if he is the top signal caller entering next April's draft should he throw his name into the mix.

Finally, keep an eye on Stanford's Trent Edwards. Another naturally gifted passer, Edwards now receives the benefit of coach Walt Harris, a proven developer of quarterback talent who takes over the reigns for the Cardinals.

Top Rated Quarterbacks Eligible for the 2006 Draft
Full Name School
Matt Leinart USC
Omar Jacobs* Bowling Green
Bruce Gradkowski Toledo
Trent Edwards* Stanford
Brad Smith Missouri
Charlie Whitehurst Clemson
Reggie McNeal Texas A&M
Brodie Croyle Alabama
Darrell Hackney UAB
Paul Pinegar Fresno State
Jay Cutler Vanderbilt
Kellen Clemens Oregon
Michael Robinson Penn State
Dustin Almond Southern Mississippi
Michael Harrington Idaho
Quinton Porter Boston College
Bruce Eugene Grambling
Ryan Hart Rutgers
Joel Klatt Colorado

* Denotes Underclassmen

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