Scouting the Senior Bowl Quarterbacks

Scouting quarterbacks is probably the hardest position to break down since there's so much to cover. Scouts must keep a track of so many things such as footwork, release point, follow through, accuracy, arm strength, field vision, and pocket presence. And that list doesn't include the intangibles such as being able to read a defense and leadership skills.

The quarterback position is clearly the most scrutinized position from either side of the football and every team would like to find a franchise quarterback to build around. But that's easier said than done.

In this report, we'll take a look at this year's Senior Bowl quarterbacks and how they performed during practices this week. We'll also take a look at what they did well and what issues need to be improved upon.

1) Joe Flacco/Delaware

What I Liked: Flacco replaced Boston College QB Matt Ryan who was pulled out of Senior Bowl week apparently because his agent, Tom Condon, was concerned about about his prized quarterback getting injured.

While Flacco had a slow start during Monday's practice, he made one throw that many young signal callers won't even try to make. For those who haven't ever seen him play (probably most readers), Flacco has the rare ability to complete throws into tight windows. In this instance, he had to go to his second progression which was between two defenders and the pass had to be tight and on time or it would have been deflected. This trait is part of what makes him, by far, the most intriguing prospect at the position in this year's class.

I had a chance to spend a few hours this week talking to his personal coach, Scott Brunner, who is an ex-NFL passer who spent most of his career with the New York Giants. Brunner is actually almost an inch taller than Flacco and is also another Delaware alum. Brunner said he's actually trying to get Flacco to get better with his timing and anticipation by getting the ball out of his hands even quicker. This can be accomplished by sensing the rush and understanding the timing aspect of each play call.

But Flacco's best trait, if you haven't seen him throw, is his cannon of an arm. We're not talking Kyle Boller who has a strong arm but clearly lacks consistent accurary. We're talking Jay Cutler here who had a great string of practices two years ago during Senior Bowl week. Flacco has a similar delivery as Cutler and at least a good of an arm--which is saying something. Flacco had one of the better throws of the week as he completed a pass about 50 yards down field with ease. At times, he makes everything look effortless.

Another underrated facet of his game is his athleticism and mobility. For being over 6'6", he moves pretty well. In fact, from talking to his training staff from TEST, he recently ran under 4.8 in the 40-yard dash.

A team that is picking late in the first round who is looking for a young passer who could be ready by year three to take over, could take the risk on Flacco. Keep in mind you don't draft a quarterback for just two seasons, it's years 3-10 you're looking to have him be the starter.

What Needs Improvement: While he did a decent job of checking down, Flacco was impatient at times and actually didn't go through his progressions enough. We felt he tried to run a few times when he could have found his third or fourth option on some plays.

He clearly needs more work under center since he worked much of this season in shot run formation. Flacco had three fumbled snaps in a row during Monday's practice and one we noticed on Tuesday. He also needed to create a little more distance between him and the backs. He actually ran into them a few times earlier in the week. He also started aiming his passes but Flacco did get these issues straightened out as the week progressed.

Flacco also needs to be more consistent on touch passes of the shorter variety which is something Brunner said he'll continue to work on as the NFL combine gets closer.

He also could be more vocal with his teammates. This is something more than a few scouts noticed this week. But his nonchalant or cool demeanor shouldn't be a sign that he doesn't care. It's just the way he is. He's similar to Cleveland Browns QB Derek Anderson in that sense. 

Round Projection: Early second.

2) Chad Henne/Michigan

What I Liked: He's a typical drop back passer who has excellent arm strength. He got off to a really good start on Monday with solid timing with his receivers. He does a good job of getting his body or torque into his passes. This is a huge issue for deep passers at the next level. And he also was asked to throw more out of the pocket this week.

"I guess scouts were looking to see if I could throw more out of the pocket this week." Henne told "

Looking at his college tape, Henne wasn't asked to throw on the run much but he did a little of that this week and looked good doing so.

Henne has good field vision and does a good job of getting the ball out of his hands. When his feet are set properly, he looks like a veteran passer. Henne really needed a good week of practices to move into the second round and it appears he accomplished that.

What Needs Improvement: One of his biggest issues is having consistent footwork inside the pocket. When Henne was off on his throws this week, it was mainly the same issue. Improper setup and footwork caused some of his passes to go behind his intended receiver. And this is something scouts explained to us from their film study of him coming into this week. Whoever works with him before the draft must get Henne to be more consistent with this.

Round Projection: Middle to late second.

3) John David Booty/USC

What I Liked: Booty moved around fairly well during practices this week and he also did a good job of checking down when his primary receiver was covered. He did a good of overall of seeing the field which is pretty important since he had to compete with players he's never worked with before. He did a nice job of directing his receivers and his body language and leadership was evident. His anticipation and timing with his receivers was really good. Booty was pretty consistent with his performances all week--although he wasn't spectacular.

What Needs Improvement: Booty clearly isn't a deep passer. And it's not a surprise based on the offense they ran at USC.

"Well, we ran a West Coast offense and I usually wasn't asked to throw the ball down field much or to throw deep outs," Booty told this week. "We ran more timing based on intermediate routes."

The quarterbacks on the North squad were asked to throw deep quite often and Booty struggled to get the ball down field with consistent velocity or on time. He also held on to the ball a little too long at times which caused the pass to come out of his hands too late to get to an open receiver. If he can get with a team that runs a West Coast scheme, Booty could be a really solid backup or even a starter down the line.

Round Projection: Early third.

4) Andre Woodson/Kentucky

What I Liked: You can see his arm strength during Monday's practice session. In fact, he connected a few times about 30 yards down field to different receivers. Woodson moved around fairly well around the pocket and did a good job of sensing the rush. He did a nice job of checking down to the backs when needed.

What Needs Improvement: After a decent showing on Monday with some solid deep passing, for whatever reason, Woodson started lobbing the ball during most of Tuesday and Wednesday's practices. It's almost unexplainable. In fact, he looked like a completely different quarterback on those two days. It seemed like either his arm was tired or he thought he was playing pitch and catch. He already had a slow delivery and as one scout said to us, he'll take a lot of sacks or get a lot of passes knocked down at the next level unless he starts to speed things up. He also had a hitch or cocked release which causes the ball to come out too late. This is a big negative for scouts and that's something we heard all week. Woodson's draft value has taken a hit this week. He'll have to recover during next month's NFL combine workout.

Round Projection: Mid to late third round.

5) Erik Ainge/Tennessee

What I Liked: His size and arm strength were evident all week. When he was able to set up well and was patient, Ainge got the ball to his receivers with timing and accuracy. Dropbacks were something he was working on all week.

"That's something he (49ers' offensive coordinator Mike Martz) was working on with me," Ainge told "That's why we got to practice early, to work on it." Martz's timing based passing game requires passers to be accurate with their footwork and to make precise movements.

His delivery and form were solid at times. He also got of the ball rather quickly so he didn't get a lot passes deflected or batted down like some of the other quarterbacks.

What Needs Improvement: Keep in mind Ainge was a late replacement for QB Brian Brohm (ankle) who was injured during his final regular season game against Rutgers. The belief is Brohm was concerned about suffering a setback but he's getting closer to 100 percent. So Ainge didn't have the benefit from being in early meetings so he was behind the other two South squad quarterbacks in understanding the offensive scheme. The biggest problem for Ainge was accuracy. He threw too many passes high or wide of receivers this week. He also lacked some touch on intermediate passes. And on some of his longer throws, Ainge broke down his mechanics which caused him to lose some strength or torque--which is a problem Henne had at times. He also struggled setting up in the pocket at times and his lack of consistent footwork caused his passes to be inaccurate. What he needed to do is settle down. It appeared he was trying to make up for lost time all week.

Round Projection: Mid to late third round.

6) Colt Brennan/Hawaii

What I Liked: I'll say this about him, he gets the ball out of his hands quickly. Brennan puts decent touch on the ball and had decent accuracy for most of the week. His passes are of the softer variety which makes the balls certainly more catchable. He also moved well in the pocket and sensed the rush and was able to get the ball out with decent timing to his receivers. He does see the field well.

What Needs Improvement: Brennan looked extremely underweight due in part to a stomach virus which caused him to lose around 10 pounds. He'll need to get around at least 200 pounds by the time he weighs in during the NFL combine next month. Scouts were shocked with his weight during Monday's weigh-in and we heard some ooh's and ahh's--but not in a good way. While Brennan's passes were mostly accurate this week, he couldn't get enough torque into his throws. This caused some of his passes to be batted down or they caused the receivers to adjust their routes. And with the weather windy and cold during the week, he struggled getting the ball down the field with any noticeable velocity. In fact, it looked like a struggle for him to throw the ball more than 25 yards. Physically he's going to need to get much stronger. The sooner the team that selects him in the draft gets him into the weight room, the better off he'll be. As former NFL scout and NFL draft analyst Russ Lande said to me this week, there's a place for a guy like Brennan in the league, just look at Jeff Garcia.

Round Projection: Third-fourth.

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