Draft outlook: Quarterbacks

Like any draft, quarterback is usually the position where, if selected high, the player can be a victim of his own ability or his team's inability.

 A post-Senior Bowl quarterback rankings update inclusive of all declared underclassmen. The events in Mobile changed the face of the rankings. Also included are round predictions:

 1 – Carson Palmer, USC: Dubbed by many as the next "Franchise Quarterback" to come out of the Pac Ten as far back as 1998, Carson Palmer has watched his career progrssively get worse. Still, the tools are available for Palmer to be a productive player at the next level.

The Good: Classic pocket passing quarterback with good amount of upside potential yet to be realized. Productive as a true freshman only to have his sophomore season cut short due to a broken collarbone.  Patient in the pocket, scans the field and buys time for his receivers.  Stands strong against the rush, looks off the safety and owns a nice pump fake.  Big arm and gets the pass downfield with ease. 

The Bad: Senses pressure and works to avoid the rush but has great difficulty.  Terrible sense of timing; late releasing the outs, not always on the same page as his receivers and pass catchers are usually adjusting or contorting backwards to make the grab.  Makes questionable decisions and does not give you the sense he's making the correct reads or is in complete control of the offense. 

The Skinny:  Took a big step back after former quarterback coach, Ken O'Brien, left the program and his best football is seemingly behind him. May need some hand-holding at the next level to get him back on the right path.  Boom-or-bust type prospect; should a team hit the right cord with him they could come away with a productive starting quarterback.

Projection: First round

 2 – Byron Leftwich, Marshall:

The Good: Athletic, pocket passer with tremendous physical skills that has admirably led his team the past three season.  Sets up with solid footwork, patient and looks away from the primary target, throwing to his secondary receivers.  Quick releasing the ball, throws with an over the top delivery and zips the outs or leads receivers down the field on long throws.  Sells the play action pass, withstands the rush in the pocket and has a good idea as to where all his targets are on the field.  Poised and buys time for his receiver waiting till the last second before getting rid of the ball.  All the throws have velocity and quickly get to the intended target. 

The Bad: Easily gets outside the pocket, making the play on the move and losing nothing on his throws.  Occasionally releases the ball off his back foot, does not precisely place his throws and only adequate accuracy as he is high of the mark (a result of not properly following through over his top foot).  Late releasing timing patterns and receivers are  waiting on the ball as they leave their breaks.  Tries to thread the needle once and a while and misses open targets. 

The Skinny: Great tools to work with but needs to iron out the fundamentals,  both physically and mentally, before being considered an "elite" prospect.  Still, one of the best available in 2003.

Projection: First round

 3 – Kyle Boller, California: When Kyle Boller arrived in Berkley four years ago he did so with headlines blaring and great expectations, so much so he was handed the starting job as a freshman. But since then coaching instability has made Boller's develop slow in coming. Does he have a spot on the next level.

 Athletic, fireball thrower with a great amount of upside.  Quickly sets up in the pocket with solid footwork, ball placement and owns a laser-type release as the ball explodes out of his hand.  Sees the blitz, nice pocket presence and gets the ball off with opponents draped on him.  Airs out the deep pass, shorter throws have zip and when all else fails, makes plays with his legs tucking the ball in and taking off up the field.  Does a lot of patting and gathering before getting rid of the ball, steps out of his throws and only average accuracy.  Antsy in the pocket, shows little patience and makes bad choices when pressured.  Unsure of himself and very indecisive.  Seemingly never progressed as a quarterback, displaying little consistency or the ability to translate his terrific athletic skills onto the field.  Had several coordinator changes, and now has a new head coach, which may have had a part in his slow development.  The type of prospect with the underlying tools that could help him immediately take five steps forward or wallow in the mire for several seasons if he never puts it together.  The early results from his senior campaign have been very good and he must be charted.

Projection: First round

4 – Dave Ragone, Louisville: University of Louisville has had a quiet history of putting signal callers into the NFL from Johnny Unitas to Browning Nagle and most recently Chris Redman. Their most recent offering, Dave Ragone, could be the best since Johnny U and an early pick in round one.

The Good:  Smart, tough pocket passer with a tremendous feel for the quarterback position.  Sets-up with solid footwork, sees the field, senses the blitz and poised throughout the play.  Patient, buys time for his receivers and spreads the ball around to all his targets.  Tremendous timing and anticipation; times the outs as the pass arrives when receivers are just leaving their breaks, places his throws where only his pass catcher has the opportunity to make the reception and at the same time takes what the defense gives him, going to the safe, underneath outlet.  Does not panic under pressure, steps up to avoid the rush and does not make bad choices or force his throws.  Reads the defense and has always give you the idea he knows what's happening on the field.  Sells both the plays action or run action, rolls outside the pocket and effective making the throw on the move, displaying accuracy and good judgment.   Overall a true leader that makes good decisions, displays the ability to improvise when things break down and works to make something positive happen.  

The Bad: May not have the rifle-arm or ability to drive the ball down field on vertical passes but adequate arm strength. 

The Skinny: May not be for everyone but a quarterbacking prospect that can quickly start and be productive at the next level and most importantly, a passer with great mental intangibles.

Projection: First round

5 – Rex Grossman, Florida: Combining the elements needed to run a once complicated system, Rex Grossman now has a new scheme at hand as the Gators have taken to the no huddle offense and as he did the previous two seasons Grossman is shining. What are scouts thinking when projecting him to the next level? Here's our take.

 The Good:  Physically and mentally  gifted quarterback that runs the Florida passing offense efficiently and has shown the propensity to win in a variety of passing systems.  Sets up with solid footwork, ball placement and throws with good fundamentals.  Very patient and poised in the pocket, buys time for his wide outs not rushing or making poor decisions when pressured.  Steps up to avoid the rush, waiting until the very last second before leaving the pocket and gets the pass off even if it means he's going to get clobbered.  Avoids the rush and gets outside the pocket to make the pass.  Excellent sense of timing on all his throws both down the field or out to the flanks.  Places all his passes nicely, throws a catchable ball and tremendous downfield accuracy.  

The Bad: Does not sell the play action, must learn to use his tight ends as receiving targets and locks onto his primary receiver, occasionally forcing the ball into action.  Nice arm but does not drive the ball downfield.  

The Skinny:  Solid quarterback that should easily lead a franchise at the next level regardless of the fact he barely stands six-feet tall.  Worth a top 15 selection whenever he enters the draft.

Projection: Second round

 6 – Chris Simms, Texas: After bowing out from a letter of intent with the Tennessee Volunteers, Chris Simms made his way to the Lone Star state but has yet to establish himself as the man that can lead the Longhorns by himself or meet the expectations placed on him.

 The Good: Fundamentally sound pocket passer that makes most all the throws.  Displays solid footwork setting up in the pocket, throws with an over the top delivery and possesses a fluid passing motion.  Quick getting the ball out of his hands, zips the short passes or drives the ball down the field.  Throws tight spirals and does a fine job leading receivers on slants or crossing patterns.  Patient and effective when given time in the pocket. 

The Bad: Terribly slow dropping to deliver the ball, does not sense pressure and cannot avoid it.  Some stature in the pocket but a sitting duck if it collapses around him.  Does not improvise when the play breaks down, makes questionable choices when pressured and forces the ball into coverage.  Deep accuracy is less then adequate for a strong-armed passer; underthrows his deep targets and does not place the throws in front of receivers as they are constantly slowing down and adjusting to the pass.  Do not always see the field and locks onto primary targets.  Has shown flashes but minimal consistency and has not shown the ability to command what amounted to a very talented Texas offense for an entire campaign without hitting a major wall at some point during the season. 

The Skinny:  The light needs to go on if he's to become a quarterback that leads a franchise at the next level or is to be labeled "just another guy".

Projection: Second round

7 – Ken Dorsey, Miami: A National Championship on his belt and now a second chance at a Heisman Trophy are just a few of the things Ken Dorsey can hold up high and place on his mantle. But does all thins translate to the next level and what kind of pro-prospect is he?

 True leader and winner at the quarterback position. Sets-up in the pocket with solid fundamentals, scans the field going through receiver progressions and on the same page as all his targets. Sells both the play action and run action, buys a lot of time for receivers and spreads the ball around to all his targets. Times his release nicely as receivers rarely wait on the ball, leads wide outs with his throws smartly placing the ball out in front, letting them run to the pass. Looks off the safety or his primary target with regularity and takes what the defense gives him. Not a quick or explosive athlete, lacks the immediate release and arm strength is average at best. Puts a lot of effort to get the ball downfield and even then the results are barely adequate. Spirals are not tight and passes float. Tall, thin build with minimal stature in the pocket. Has led one of the top programs in Division I-A football the previous two years and did so successfully but had tremendous talent surrounding him. If placed behind a strong offensive line with quality skill players surrounding him, could be a solid signal caller at the next level and one that does lose games for a franchise.

Projection: Fourth round

8 – Brian St. Pierre, Boston College: They've put a lot of quarterbacks into the NFL from out east in Chesnut Hill; many held high hopes like Glenn Foley and Matt Hasselbeck but few have met expectations. Can Brian St. Pierre break that trend?

 The Good: Athletic passer that combines both physical skills and mental intangibles.  Patient in the pocket, buys time for his receivers, scanning the field and finding the open wide out.  Throws strikes down the field, leads receivers on crossing patterns or places his deep throws in front of the target, letting them run to the ball.  Gets outside the pocket making plays on the move and throws a catchable ball.  Pulls the ball down and runs with it if nothing is available.  Also puts touch on his throws, softly placing the ball into the hands of receivers. 

The Bad: Must improve his footwork; does a lot of shuffling in the pocket, throws off his backfoot and never really sets his feet.  Can be a little streaky.  

The Skinny:  A lot of tools to work with and a solid prospect that could eventually start, and be productive, at the next level.

Projection: Fourth round


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