Positional Analysis: Quarterbacks

The Vikings are almost assured of leaving the top quarterbacks off their draft list, but the drafting of the top four QBs by other teams could help push another position player to the Vikings in the first two rounds. After that, the Vikings could have an interest in a late-round developmental quarterback as competition for Shaun Hill or stock away on the expanded practice squad.

VIKINGS QUARTERBACKS — Daunte Culpepper, Gus Frerotte, Shaun Hill.

VIKINGS' NEED — The Vikings signed Culpepper to a $100 million contract to leave no doubts about the future of the position for the next five years or more. Culpepper is clearly the go-to guy at the position. Frerotte played extremely well in his limited opportunity last year and there's no reason to think he'll be seriously challenged for his job as the No. 2 guy. Hill is in the same position former Viking Todd Bouman was in years ago — facing a new challenge from a new kid with a dream. The Vikings might draft a quarterback on the second day if a player falls well beyond where they think he should, but more likely the Vikings' focus will be on the crop of undrafted free agents looking for a chance to compete.

THE CLASS OF 2004 — The Class of '04 is top-heavy with two quarterbacks that could go as high as the top three picks — Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Manning is seen as the most secure franchise player because of his bloodline, but he is far from alone in the crop that will get picked over early. Two other QBs — Phillip Rivers and J.P. Losman should both be gone by the time the Vikings make their second pick at No. 50. The talent pool drops off pretty seriously from there — perhaps just one other QB (Matt Schaub) being taken on the rest of the first day — but includes some players with big-time college game experience like Michigan's John Navarre, Luke McCown of Louisiana Tech and Casey Clausen of Tennessee.


THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Eli Manning, Mississippi, 6-5, 221 — Fifth-year senior…Son of NFL great Archie Manning and brother of Colts QB Peyton Manning…Three-year starter who completed 813 of 1,322 passes for 9,949 yards with 81 touchdowns and 34 interceptions…Three-time All-SEC…In 2003 won the Maxwell Award, given to the top college player, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior quarterback…Prototype size for a QB…Some scouts feel he has better mechanics at this stage of his career than Peyton…Extremely accurate…Does a lot of film work to improve his game and learn as much as he can about reading defenses…Isn't as fiery as his brother…Doesn't have the best elusiveness to avoid a heavy pass rush but can scramble well…Didn't work out at the Combine but runs a 4.9 40-yard dash.

PROJECTION: If San Diego stays at No. 1, they almost have to take Manning to appease their fans. They missed out on Peyton by one pick and traded away the chance to draft Michael Vick. If Eli lives up to half of his pre-draft hype, he could be a franchise QB to pin the team's hopes on.

Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio), 6-5, 240 — Fourth-year junior…Only four years as a starting QB — three in college and one in high school…Three-time all-conference, three-time team MVP and Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2001…In three years as a starter, he completed 854 of 1,304 passes for 11,044 yards with 84 touchdowns and 34 interceptions…Broke every single-season and career passing record at Miami, including a huge junior year in which he completed 69 percent of his passes and threw 37 TDs to just 10 interceptions…Has tremendous arm strength and is a big threat with the bomb…Extremely hard worker who led by example…Is accurate with the deep ball…Isn't much of a threat to run, but has quickness in a small area — he finished second among QBs at the Combine by running the three-cone drill in 6.81 seconds…Faced lower level competition in the MAC…Holds on to the ball a little too long…Ran a 4.81 40 and had a 30-inch vertical jump at the Combine…Is married and has one child.

PROJECTION: The lack of top-notch competition is the main knock on him, but the same was said about guys like Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich when they came out of Marshall. He could slide out of the top 10 if he makes it past No. 4, but, depending how the draft falls, he shouldn't make it past Arizona or the Giants.


THE NEXT LEVEL

Phillip Rivers, North Carolina State, 6-5, 227 — Fourth-year senior…Four-year starter who finished second all-time in NCAA history with 13,484 yards — second only to BYU's Ty Detmer…Set NCAA record with most career starts with 51, breaking the old record held by Donovan McNabb…Threw 95 touchdowns as opposed to just 34 interceptions in his college career…Saved his best for last, being named MVP of three straight bowl games…An extremely smart player, he has field intelligence and book smarts — scoring a solid 30 on the Wonderlic test at the Combine…Ideal size and strength…Has very fast release that can neutralize a blitz…Biggest complaint is his herky-jerky sidearm throwing motion, which some scouts think would have to be changed at the pro level…Doesn't have a great arm and has to put a lot air under deep throws…Ran a 4.95 40 at the Combine along with a 32-1/2 inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Compared by some to Brett Favre without the tremendous arm strength, Rivers' stock shot up after the Senior Bowl, when he showed coaches and scouts he can make just about every play asked of a QB. He shouldn't make it out of the first round, possibly landing as Favre's backup in Green Bay.

J.P. Losman, Tulane, 6-2, 224 — Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who began college career behind Patrick Ramsey…In two years as a starter, he completed 481 of 823 passes for 5,575 yards, 52 touchdowns and 24 interceptions…Was an effective runner, scoring eight rushing TDs in two years…Top-end arm strength that has reminded some scouts of Jeff George…Gets rid of the ball in a hurry and on target…Has great feel for the deep ball, but was criticized for forcing the bomb too often…Confidence borders on arrogance and has rubbed some teammates, coaches and scouts the wrong way…Needs to be more patient and not look for the home run too often…Ran a 4.68 40 at the Combine with a 33-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 31 — second highest among the QB class.

PROJECTION: Has the skills to be a top quarterback, but will need some work and to put his sometimes volatile attitude in check. Some team may have to sit on him for a year or two, but he shouldn't make it past the early portion of the second round.

Matt Schaub, Virginia, 6-6, 233 — Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who completed 569 of 821 passes for 5,928 yards with 46 TDs and 17 interceptions…Tremendous size and very accurate in the short and intermediate passing game…Runs through his progressions nicely and is good at picking up the hot read on a blitz…Had a very strong week at the Senior Bowl and made some fans among the scouts…Doesn't have great arm strength…Mobility to avoid the rush is a concern…Ran a 5.03 40 at the Combine, along with a 31-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 30.

PROJECTION: Compared by some scouts to a Marc Bulger type, he is likely being brought into a scenario with a team that is set (for now) and quarterback and he will be given a chance to learn as backup. After his strong showing at the Senior Bowl, he should be off the board by sometime in the third round.


DAY TWO PROSPECTS

Cody Pickett, Washington, 6-4, 231 — Fifth-year senior and starter for the last two-and-a-half seasons…Good size and toughness for a quarterback…Quick release and pinpoint passes in the short passing game with timing and touch…Durability is a question mark, as he has suffered back and shoulder problems…His 19 Wonderlic score was the lowest of any quarterback who took the test at the Combine…After having a mediocre performance at the Senior Bowl, his stock has dropped, but with the right coaching he could be a player to keep an eye on.

John Navarre, Michigan, 6-6, 246 — Fifth-year senior who was a high school All-America…A three-year starter who threw for 9,254 yards — most of any QB in Wolverine history…Old school pocket passer with good arm strength…Reads zone coverages very well…Has faced some of the top defensive players in the college game over the last three years…Has a non-typical throwing motion that may require some tinkering…The tallest QB in the Class of ‘04…Very lead-legged, his 5.15 40 time at the Combine was the worst of any QB that ran…He has good leadership ability, but average skills, which will make him a No. 3 QB this year with a chance to move up to No. 2 in a hurry, but maybe never a starter.

Josh Harris, Bowling Green, 6-1, 236 — Fourth-year senior who is the son of former Cincinnati linebacker M.L. Harris…Two-year full-time starter who was as much running back as quarterback…In two full seasons, he threw for 6,238 yards and 46 touchdowns, while rushing 401 times for 1,657 yards and a whopping 33 TDs…Can throw the deep ball, but its not his forte…Is a little smaller than most QB prospects these days…Hasn't faced great competition…His athleticism will get him drafted, but a team may not have the patience to keep him as a reserve quarterback for the amount of time it might take. He'll likely go off the board in the fourth round and be a long-term project.

Matt Mauck, LSU, 6-2, 228 — Fourth-year junior who was recruited by Nick Sabin at Michigan State and followed him to LSU…Has only had one year as a full-time starter — playing behind Rohan Davey as a freshman and missed more than half of 2002 when he tore right foot ligaments that required screws to be implanted…Can make all the throws NFL scouts want to see but doesn't have the best consistency throwing the long ball…He's the oldest of the 2004 quarterback crop…Is something of a "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" anomaly — he wants to be a dentist and, if things don't work out early in his NFL career, he's willing to let it go, which should drop his draft stock for several teams.

Luke McCown, Louisiana Tech, 6-4, 210 — Fourth-year senior who became a starter midway through his freshman year…Has had an up and down career, throwing 50 touchdowns with 32 interceptions in his first two years and 38 TDs with 33 INTs in the last two seasons…Played in an offense that let him shine and, some think, pad his stats…Accuracy is a question…Impressed with his athleticism at the Combine, scoring the best QB numbers for the 40-yard dash (4.69), vertical jump (37-1/2 inches), broad jump (10-5) and the three-cone drill (6.74 seconds)…As the brother of an NFL QB (Josh with the Cardinals), teams will take notice, but likely not until the second day of the draft.

Jeff Smoker, Michigan State, 6-3, 224 — Fourth-year senior who became a starter as a sophomore…In two years as a full-time starter, he threw for 5,974 yards with 42 touchdowns and 23 interceptions…Good accuracy and can throw all required passes in the NFL, despite not having the best arm strength…Is getting better in picking up blitzes, but still tends to panic under pressure at times…Missed half of the 2002 season after seeking treatment for substance abuse…He has the talent to be a quality backup who competes for a starting job, but his off-field baggage will likely take him off of some lists completely and probably lower his ranking to those who keep him on their big board.

Chad Lorenzen, Kentucky, 6-2, 288 — A fifth-year senior who was a four-year starter…In his last three years, he has thrown 59 touchdowns and 20 interceptions…Has great arm strength and throws a high-velocity spiral…Throws well on the move…If you haven't seen him play, the 288 pounds is not a misprint — he was a 13-pound baby and has been bigger than the rest of the kids ever since…His weight has always been an issue and some scouts describe him as "fat" and claim he lacks stamina as a result…He's been compared in frame size to Daunte Culpepper, just not in nearly the shape Culpepper maintains. Because of that, some teams won't consider him seriously, but anyone who has seen him throw a bomb knows he will get someone's attention on Day 2.





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