Every year there are NFL teams with unsettled situations at the quarterback position, so team officials and fans alike are drawn to the players who appear to warrant first-day consideration in hopes that they'll find their franchise quarterback of the future.
This year's draft includes Boston College's Matt Ryan, Louisville's Brian Brohm, Michigan's Chad Henne, and Delaware's Joe Flacco as the most likely young quarterbacks to be picked during the first two rounds of the draft. And some of them will undoubtedly be leading an NFL club's offense in years to come.
But don't overlook the importance of a quarterback selected in a later round or even among the rabble of undrafted players who will sign with teams within hours following the conclusion of the draft. In 2007, nine of the league's 32 offenses were led by players who were selected after the first three rounds were completed. And four of those nine weren't even drafted.
Jacksonville's David Garrard, who finished third in the league with a quarterback rating of 102.2 was a fourth-round draft pick. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger was the second pick in the sixth round by the Saints back in 2000.
And take a look at this trio of quarterbacks who weren't even deemed to be worthy of a regular pick in the sixth round. Their teams waited to use a compensatory pick in the sixth round to add them to their teams. Tom Brady, who finished first in completion percent, passing yards, quarterback rating and who threw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes in 2007 was the 33rd player selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was picked up with a compensatory pick by the Green Bay Packers at No. 34 in the sixth round of the 1998 draft. The Browns' Derek Anderson was the 39th pick in the sixth round of the 2005 draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
Dallas' Tony Romo, Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia, Arizona's Kurt Warner and Detroit's Jon Kitna never heard their names called from the podium during NFL Draft weekend. They worked their way up through the ranks as undrafted free agents.
Not surprisingly, other than Brady and Hasselbeck, the rest didn't come from major college football programs. They came from schools such as East Carolina, Eastern Illinois, Central Washington and Northern Iowa.
So who are some of the Day 2 prospects who could be starters of the future? Here are a few who have the potential.
Anthony Morelli, Penn State
6-4, 231 pounds
Career Numbers: 56.3 percent completion average, 5,230 passing yards, 31 TDs, 18 INTs. 216 yards rushing and 1 rushing TDs.
What you'll like about him: Morelli has a strong arm and a quick release that will serve him well at the next level. He's confident in his abilities as a quarterback and isn't afraid to stay in the pocket and take a big hit right after releasing the ball if it buys him the extra moment he needed to complete the pass. Durable and competitive, Morelli's a determined player with good size for the position at the pro level.
What could hold him back: He tries to force balls into tight coverage on occasion, more than likely due to his understandable confidence in his arm strength. Since he's not very mobile, he needs to be protected by a very solid offensive line or he can be forced into making bad decisions under pressure.
Colt Brennan, Hawaii
6-3, 207 pounds
Career Numbers: 70.4 percent completion average, 14,193 passing yards, 131 TDs, 42 INTs. 1,065 yards rushing and 15 rushing TDs.
What you'll like about him: Brennan's mobility and accuracy makes a compelling case for his potential success at the pro level. He makes good reads while rolling out and has a good sense for when to just tuck the ball and run instead. Brennan is another cool customer who can shake off a bad play or a tough game with ease and focuses well on what lies ahead. That outlook, along with his unbridled enthusiasm for playing the game, should serve him well at the pro level. Particularly sharp out of the shotgun, Brennan has the arm strength and the touch on the ball to increase his odds of getting the ball to his intended target..
What could hold him back: Questions still abound regarding his physical strength and ability to hold up under the pounding of speedier, heavier defensive linemen who will be putting a bulls eye on his chest. Some also question his throwing motion.
Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith gets ready to throw to a receiver.
(AP Photo/David Crenshaw)
Paul Smith, Tulsa
6-1, 208 pounds
Career Numbers: 62.5 percent completion average, 10,924 passing yards, 83 TDs, 35 INTs. 1,155 yards rushing and 28 rushing TDs.
What you'll like about him: He's smart and truly understands the game of football. A real Xs-and-Os quarterback, Smith is a mature individual who is truly driven and strides for excellence. When you watch his mechanics from the time he takes the snap, you'll see a quarterback who operates with a pro-caliber smoothness in the pocket. Smith can pick apart a defense with his short- and medium-range passes and he's also able to hurt his opponent with his quick feet.
What could hold him back: His long-ball accuracy and size have been raised as possible issues, but neither is likely to have a major impact on his ability to lead an offense effectively. For those who may have forgotten, 49ers legendary quarterback Joe Montana was only 6-foot-2 and weighed 205 pounds.
Kevin O'Connell, San Diego State
6-5, 225 pounds
Career Numbers: 57.7 percent completion average, 7,689 passing yards, 46 TDs, 34 INTs. 1,330 yards rushing and 19 rushing TDs.
What you'll like about him: He's cool, he's unflappable. Athletic and fast for a quarterback of his size, O'Connell has shown a good propensity for working through his progressions, making sure that he finds the open receiver rather than forcing the ball to a favorite target repeatedly. And while he's adjusting to the speed of the NFL game he can effectively use his feet to gain yardage if he can't find an open receiver quickly enough.
What could hold him back: O'Connell hasn't yet developed the consistency and accuracy that you'd expect for a future NFL passer. But with the right coaching, he should be able to make strides in those areas.
Mark Nicolet, Hillsdale
6-1, 220 pounds
Career Numbers: 59.4 percent completion average, 6,778 passing yards, 49 TDs, 24 INTs. 710 yards rushing and 9 rushing TDs.
What you'll like about him: He's got lots of raw potential and is still progressing as a quarterback, as evidenced by the fact that 3,335 of his passing yards and 31 of his passing touchdowns were amassed during his senior season. Nicolet's maturity, leadership and field intelligence have caught the eye of NFL scouts as he's got many of the intangibles a coach needs from the leader of his offense. Nicolet has a strong presence as a pocket passer and doesn't get rattled by pressure.
What could hold him back: His lack of top-level competition will make his learning curve more difficult, especially in regards to the speed of the defense. Nicolet will see defensive backs close on his passes more quickly than he's ever experienced. And he'll need his poise in the pocket as faster, bigger defensive linemen bear down on him.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.