The senior class already had big names like Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow generating plenty of hype, but when you add underclassmen like Sam Bradford and Jevan Snead, draft analysts had plenty to watch for.
As the season has progressed, the performance of the draft eligible quarterbacks has been underwhelming. In fact, the play of freshman and sophomore quarterbacks like USC's Matt Barkley, Michigan's Tate Forcier and Miami's Jacory Harris have been more impressive to date. So what happened to the big name quarterbacks?
The first logical place to look is with the defending National Champions, the Florida Gators. Quarterback Tim Tebow is a living legend for college football and came into this season with a tremendous amount of buzz. Before the season began, head coach Urban Meyer indicated that Florida would institute a more "pro-style" offense and the team was bringing in a specialist to work with Tebow to help his game transition to the pro level. So far in Florida, it's business as usual. The Gators are certainly winning games and while Tebow is the leader of the offense, it's certainly not his arm that's putting Florida over the top. Tebow has thrown for only 8 touchdowns so far, four of which came against Troy. To put this in perspective, Tebow threw for 30 touchdowns in 2008 and 32 in 2007. However, Tebow continues to rack up the rushing stats, running 121 times for 466 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The knock on Tebow coming into this season was all about his skills as a passer. No one questions Tebow's intangibles, but those alone will not get you drafted in the first round. It appears that Tebow's throwing motion has not improved and he continues to stare and throw to his primary receiver, or he'll run. It should be noted that the Gators lost two big-play receivers in the 2009 draft, which could contribute to the decline of passing stats. Tebow also suffered a serious concussion against Kentucky, but was lucky enough to have a bye week to recover and returned to play LSU. While the Gators QB is generating Heisman hype, we all know that winning the award has no translation into the NFL game. At this point, it's becoming harder to even see Tebow playing quarterback at the next level and the first round is practically out of the question, barring a desperation move to sell tickets (see: Jacksonville Jaguars).
Heading to the Big 12, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy came into this season as the top ranked guy on most scout's draft boards. While Colt hasn't played poorly, he hasn't been impressive, either. McCoy has thrown for 14 touchdowns and has a completion percentage of 71.7. The point for concern comes in the turnover department. Colt has thrown 8 interceptions through 8 games, which is as many as he threw for all of 2008. He also has a tendency to throw short passes and rarely tries a defense on a deep route. All in all, McCoy is still the top senior quarterback prospect and will more than likely be a first round pick.
Possibly the most disappointing group of quarterbacks comes from the underclassmen. As a red shirt sophomore, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford was eligible to enter the draft in 2009 and quite possibly could have been a first round pick. Instead, Bradford decided to return for his junior season. It's safe to say that the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner's season has been a bit of a disaster. Two serious shoulder injuries and what will be a season ending surgery are all that folks will remember of Bradford's junior season. Bradford could have solidified himself as the #1 overall selection in the draft if he was able to play through the adversity of losing a tremendous amount of offensive talent in the past two years. However, his durability is now leaving NFL scouts with questions about whether or not he can be successful at the next level. There is much speculation that Bradford will not return for his senior season and enter the 2010 draft. However, problems will arise if Bradford is unable to throw at the NFL Combine or at least throw for scouts at his pro day before the draft. Depending on how his shoulder heals, Bradford may have gone from a possible #1 pick to a second rounder.
In looking at the amount of hype coming into the season versus actual production for the season, the most disappointing quarterback of all has to be Jevan Snead of Ole Miss. With a big wins against Florida, LSU and Auburn last season, Snead began to generate a whirlwind of hype and it carried into the 2009 season. However, the hype is gone. Snead has failed to impress this season and Ole Miss has struggled throughout the year. Throwing 11 interceptions through 7 games (4 of which came against Alabama), Snead is only two interceptions shy of his total in 2009. With relatively poor mechanics, average accuracy and questionable decision making, Snead is quickly falling down draft boards. Though he's had some big performances, most have come against weaker teams. In fact, eight of his fourteen touchdowns are against non-conference teams while nine of his eleven interceptions have come against other SEC teams.
While it appears that the big name players are having issues living up to the hype, it doesn't mean the 2010 quarterback class will be a bust. The door is now open for developmental guys like Washington's Jake Locker and Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour, while guys like Cincinnati's Tony Pike and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen are making waves that scouts can't ignore. When it's all said and done, what could have been one of the best quarterback classes in years might not come at all, or could come from players that were once under the radar instead of the big names like Tebow and Bradford.
Will Spencer is the lead writer at Draft Breakdown and a frequent contributor at Ravens Insider.
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