2003 Draft Class; The Quarterbacks

As the rookie 2003 draft class prepares for their first-season in the NFL, we look at the rookies in the offensive skill positions and determine who is the most likely to have an impact in the 2003 season.

The Insiders take a look at the offensive 'skilled position' players and what we expect to transpire with them in the 2003 season, ranking the players according to our expectations and information from training camp/team information and roster scenario opportunities for this, the 2003 season alone.

The 2003 Draft Quarterback Class 

Kyle Boller - Baltimore Ravens: The first-selection was a tough decision, but when looking at the unclear quarterback situation in Baltimore, Kyle Boller is our pick. The Ravens traded back into the first-round to selected Boller with the 19th-pick, being the hand-picked selection of head coach Brian Billick, Boller will see playing time in 2003. If starter Chris Redman struggles and we expect he will, the Ravens will not hesitate to get the talented rookie on the field.

This rookie from California is the future of the Baltimore Ravens. Strong-armed and extremely bright, Boller will push Redman in the 2003 season on desire alone. Billick has yet to have a franchise type quarterback with the Ravens, though he has won a Super Bowl in Baltimore and the Ravens have been a consistent winner under his tutelage. Boller is a perfect fit for the Billick offense. Once comfortable in the Ravens offense, he could become a very solid quarterback early in his career.

With other high-profile rookie quarterbacks (Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville, and Rex Grossman in Chicago) already slated to the bench to start their career's in the 2003 season, Boller is the lone quarterback selected in the first-round of the 2003 draft that has been almost assured of playing time this season.

Thus far in training camp Boller has been exactly what the coaching staff expected. A mature player that is very easy to coach as well as willing to put in the extra work to become a significant player. Indications coming out of Baltimore are that Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh are trying not to fast-track Boller into playing, but his ability and desire has made that decision difficult.
Boller is our top-ranked 2003 draft class quarterback prospect based on the potential to step right in and contribute in the 2003 season. Overall, Boller is our second-rated quarterback from the 2003 draft class based on our prospect evaluations.

Rex Grossman - Chicago Bears: Before jumping to any conclusions that we like Grossman as the second-rated overall quarterback in this draft class, we don't, he is our overall fourth rated quarterback based on prospect evaluations. But, with the likelihood that he will get an opportunity to play in the 2003 season, Grossman climbs the ladder on the principle of production in the 2003 season, and that is what we are grading here.

With Kordell Stewart manning the controls in Chicago and head coach Dick Jauron on shaky ground with General Manager Jerry Angelo, the Bears are a team that is already looking adversity in the face. Stewart has been no better than average in training camp, backup Chris Chandler is injury prone, and the rookie Grossman is having an excellent camp. Notably, indications coming from Bears camp are that Grossman has as good of a grasp on the offense as does Stewart and has been more productive in camp practices and scrimmages.

Short of stature, but not of heart, desire, and confidence, Grossman is competition in Bears training camp and holding more than his own against the veteran quarterbacks. Grossman has surprised the coaching staff with his ability to make all the throws, even the deep-outs that scouts questioned he could make with consistency.

If the Bears falter early in the 2003 season, the official grooming process for Grossman will be sped up, for the Chicago Bears that may not be such a bad situation.

Carson Palmer - Cincinnati: As much as head coach Marvin Lewis does not want to play Carson Palmer, the first player selected in the 2003 draft this season, the chances of Palmer hitting the field at some point this season are greater than those of Bryon Leftwich in Jacksonville. Leftwich's representatives are tangled up in brutal contract negotiations with the team. As for Palmer, he agreed to terms with the Bengals on a contract prior to the draft and the path for his development was quickly established by Lewis.
The Bengals prefer Palmer to get a season under his belt in the league before thrusting him into the spotlight. Having selected quarterbacks twice in the past 10-years (David Klingler and Akili Smith) that did not pan out for one reason or the other. One theory was that both quarterbacks were shell-shocked and not mentally ready to be thrown into the fire. Not to worry Bengals fans, Lewis has no intention of following past mistakes in Cincinnati and will only get Palmer into live regular season action when he is prepared.
Palmer has looked good in training camp and is adapting to the speed of the game, as well as the level of competition in the NFL. Much to the surprise of many veteran front office personnel in the Cincinnati organization, Palmer has appeared to be much more developed in the standpoint of technique and mental preparation in comparison to those highly drafted QB's from the past. Some of this praise and appearance comes from the approach and preparation Palmer puts in everyday in the Cincinnati training camp. Additionally, the offensive scheme being utilized by the Bengals has numerous similarities to the offensive system Palmer played in while at USC.
Through the mini-camp sessions to this point in training camp, Palmer has progressed nicely according to our eyes at the Cincinnati Bengals training camp. Early on, Palmer was tentative in his progressive reads and had some issues with looking off the defenders/locking on receivers. Indications are that he has shown marked improvement over the past week in these critical areas.
Get ready Cincinnati, Jon Kitna is keeping the seat warm in the 2003 season for Mr. Palmer.
Byron Leftwich - Jacksonville: Placing Leftwich in this position was extremely difficult. Based on discussions with team representatives from Jacksonville and Cincinnati, we have decided that Byron Leftwich, the Jaguars first-round pick with the seventh selection in the draft was unfortunately best suited for this slot. If Leftwich would have been in training camp with the Jaguars, he would have been out second selection based on proposed 2003 playing time and productivity, but the continued rift between the team and representatives for Leftwich has assured that this highly-touted quarterback will not see any significant playing time early in the regular season.
Heading into the 2003 training camp season, Leftwich is our overall top-ranked quarterback prospect based on evaluations and was the most ready to play and compete of the quarterbacks from the 2003 class, at the NFL level. This is certainly not the way that Leftwich wanted, nor expected his career to begin, but as long as his representatives seek a contract comparable to the 7-year, 49-million dollar deal signed by Carson Palmer, the first player selected in the draft, Leftwich will remain a player without a team. Negotiations between the two parties are at an impasse and the Jaguars are prepared to move forward with veteran Mark Brunell and David Garrard holding down the fort for the Jaguars under new head coach Jack Del Rio.
Unless Leftwich agrees to terms with the Jaguars in the near future, he will spend the 2003 season holding a clipboard, which in essence may be the best situation for a rookie quarterback.

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