VIKINGS QUARTERBACKS – Brad Johnson, Mike McMahon, J.T. O'Sullivan
2006 POSITIONAL DRAFT NEED – It has been clear ever since the trade of Daunte Culpepper that the Vikings are in need of adding a quarterback of the future. With overtures made to Green Bay's Craig Nall and Atlanta's Matt Schaub, it's clear that the Vikings don't intend on standing pat with the group they have. Brad Johnson played well last year, leading the Vikings to a 7-2 record in the games in which he started, but age is a huge factor. Expect to see the Vikings make a move for a quarterback early in the draft if they can't get the Falcons to agree to a Schaub deal – either packaging multiple Day One picks to move up or grabbing a project quarterback in the second or third round.
POSITION OVERVIEW – This is one of the best quarterback classes in recent memory. There are several highly respected scouts that believe that last year's top overall draft pick Alex Smith would likely be the fourth quarterback to go in this year's draft. The trio of Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler will go a long way to fashioning the first round of the draft. Some believe all three could go as early as the first four picks, while others speculate they could all drop a bit and maybe one or two fall out of the top 10 picks. Beyond the Big Three, the dropoff is significant. There may be only three other QBs taken on the first day of the draft and perhaps only a handful being taken on the second day.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Matt Leinart, USC, 6-5, 223 – Fifth-year senior and three-year starter who began his college career playing behind former No. 1 overall selection Carson Palmer…In three years as a starter, he completed 807 of 1,245 passes for 10,693 yards with 99 touchdowns and just 23 interceptions…Had a career passer rating of 110.7…Saw his completion percentage go up each of his three seasons as the Trojans starter (63.4, 65.3, 65.7)…Three-time All-Pac 10 quarterback…Three-time Heisman Trophy finalist who won the honor as a junior…Following his junior season, he had surgery on his throwing elbow for tendinitis…37-2 career record as a starter…Very intelligent quarterback…Has ideal height and size for NFL QB…Left-handed…Very accurate with passes and adept at leading receivers to a spot on the field…Has a high release point and rarely has passes tipped at the line…A natural leader…Plays very well under pressure…Doesn't have elite upper body strength…Isn't very mobile…Didn't work out at the Combine, but runs a 4.9 40 and scored an impressive 35 on the Wonderlic test. PROJECTION: Leinart played behind one of the all-time best college teams in recent history, so some scouts believe that his numbers have been somewhat inflated. He'll never have a cannon for an arm, but is as NFL-ready as a QB to come into the NFL since Palmer. He could have the success in the NFL that he had at USC and shouldn't make it past the second or third pick on draft day.
Vince Young, Texas, 6-4¾, 228 – Fourth-year junior who was a high school All-America and Texas high school Offensive Player of the Year…Began starting midway through his sophomore year…In three years, he completed 444 of 718 passes for 6,040 yards with 44 touchdowns and 28 interceptions…In that same span, he rushed 457 times for 3,448 yards and 37 touchdowns – topping 1,000 yards rushing in each of his last three seasons…He exploded on the national scene as a junior, completing 212 of 325 passes for 3,036 yards with 26 TDs and just 10 interceptions, while rushing 155 times for 1,186 yards and 12 more TDs…Unanimous All-Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005 on his way to finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, winning the Davey O'Brien Award for college football's best quarterback and winning the Maxwell Award (given to the best player)…Won MVP of the Rose Bowl the last two seasons…Has all the intangibles that you want from a quarterback…Has good accuracy…Reacts naturally to pressure from the outside and moves away from pressure well…Sees the field well and makes good reads…Strong leader…Incredibly mobility…Has a strange delivery that many NFL coaches will want to modify…Is extremely raw in NFL terms…Took almost every college snap out of the shotgun and hasn't been schooled in the kind of formations pro quarterbacks need…Did not work out at the Combine, but runs a 4.57 40 and scored a disappointing 16 on the Wonderlic test that was originally stated as being just a 6. PROJECTION: No player has the upside potential of Young. He's viewed in many circles as Michael Vick with more size and pure ability. He may be a project that will take a year or two to develop, but has all the potential to be a Pro Bowl quarterback. He might slide out of the top three picks, but if he makes it to Oakland at No. 7, you can bet Al Davis will snap him up.
Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt, 6-3¼, 226 – Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who completed 710 of 1,212 passes for 8,697 yards with 59 touchdowns and 36 interceptions…Also rushed 453 times for 2,115 yards and 17 TDs…Three-time team captain…Started every game in his career except one…All-SEC as a senior with a huge year – completing 273 of 462 passes for 3,073 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions…Finished his college career with 21 school records, including passing yards, touchdowns and total offense (9,953 yards)…Very good upper body strength – he bench presses 400 pounds…Can make big plays on the run and can complete throws off-balance, which have led to comparisons to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre…Very good at checking off and making progression reads…Good under pressure and in two-minute offense…Team leader…Cannon arm that can make all the throws needed for an NFL QB, especially the long ball…His confidence leads to forcing balls into trouble, which are incompletions in college but interceptions in the pros…Doesn't have ideal throwing mechanics and has a long throwing motion…His teams had a record of just 11-34 in his college starts…Ran a 4.77 40 at the Combine with 23 reps of 225 pounds (most of any QB at the Combine) and a Wonderlic score of 29. PROJECTION: He made himself a lot of money during Senior Bowl week and at the Combine and the comparisons to Favre are sure to raise heads. He likely won't make it out of the top 10 and, if he gets to that point, expect to see the Vikings make a strong push to move up in the first round to grab him.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Brodie Croyle, Alabama, 6-2½, 205 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who has missed time in both high school and college with a dislocated elbow, shoulder surgery for a torn labrum and anterior cruciate ligament tears in both knees…Had his best season as a senior, completing 202 of 339 passes for 2,499 yards with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions…Has excellent quick release and a rocket for an arm…Isn't huge but has the type of frame that can add bulk…Very good velocity on deep sideline routes…Doesn't panic in the face of a blitz and will deliver a pass even though he's going to take a big hit…Team leader who leads by example…Doesn't throw stupid passes…Injuries have been a huge red flag because since his junior year of high school, he's had only two healthy seasons…Isn't very mobile and not a threat to run…Undersized for NFL QB standards…May actually fail some teams pre-draft physicals because of numerous injuries…Ran a 4.90 40 at the Combine with a 30½-inch vertical jump and a 8-8 broad jump. PROJECTION: There is a lot to like about Croyle, but he could end up being an injury-prone tease. His numerous injuries at the lower levels of football are enough to scare some teams away, but if he can stay healthy, he has all the skills to be a productive NFL quarterback. He will likely go off the board in the second or third round – possibly to the Vikings if they don't make a move for one of the top three QBs in the draft.
Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson, 6-4¾, 223 – Fifth-year senior who started the final five games of his redshirt freshman season and all 35 games the Tigers played his last three seasons…Son of former Packers quarterback David Whitehurst…Finished his college career completing 815 of 1,366 passes for 9,665 yards (a Clemson school record) with 49 touchdowns and 46 interceptions…Had his best statistical season as a senior, completing 67.2 percent of his passes…Had surgery on his throwing shoulder following the 2005 regular season, but returned for Clemson's appearance in the Champ Sports Bowl…Has ideal height and can see over linemen, so few of his passes get knocked down…Has a prototype release and gets good velocity on deep passes…Has nice touch on short routes…Played in a short-passing offense as a senior that may have padded his stats…Makes too many mistakes throwing the ball where he shouldn't, which he why had almost as many picks as touchdowns…Hurries too many passes and doesn't always go through his progressions, especially when pressured…Takes a lot of chances…Has small hands and will be prone to fumbling…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with a 33-inch vertical jump and 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: Has all the tools a pro quarterback needs, but may never be a big-time pro prospect. Has been compared to Drew Bledsoe in the way he stands in the pocket. He'll be a project that will likely go off the board in the third or fourth round.
D.J. Shockley, Georgia, 6-1¼, 214 – Fifth-year senior…Only started one season after playing three years behind David Greene, the NCAA's all-time winningest QB and a third-round pick of the Seahawks…Had a phenomenal 2005 season, completing 242 of 378 passes (64 percent completion percentage) for 3,198 yards with 34 touchdowns and just six interceptions…A tremendous pure athlete who has good quickness in the pocket and a strong arm to complete deep passes on the move…Intelligent…Has good speed as a rusher – for his career he ran 154 times for 917 yards and seven TDs…Strong leader who rarely panics in the face of blitzes…Team captain…Is undersized with a three-quarters throwing motion – a no-no in the NFL…Has only made 12 career starts, so some teams will shy away simply because of his inexperience…Doesn't read the entire field as well as many of the other top college quarterbacks…Must work to refine mechanics and make quicker and better reads…Has missed time throughout his career with injuries, including a broken toe, a left knee sprain and a torn right meniscus that required surgery after the 2003 season…Ran a 4.56 40 at the Combine with a 37½ inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump. PROJECTION: He has the physical tools to become a decent pro quarterback, but his lack of height and relative inexperience will probably make him a late-first day pick or early-second day.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Kellen Clemens, Oregon, 6-1¾, 224 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who completed 590 of 965 passes for 7,354 yards with 59 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in that span…Holds Oregon high school records for yards thrown (8,646) and touchdowns (102)…Has good mechanics…Can avoid pass rush with quick feet and good pocket presence…Showed a lot of progress as a senior, completing 64 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions…Throws well on the move…Gets rid of the ball quickly with a high point of release…Good leadership skills…Married…A little undersized for NFL quarterbacks…Missed the end of the 2005 season with a broken left ankle…Didn't play in a complicated offense, so his passing stats are a little inflated…Doesn't have a great deep-throwing arm…Isn't always patient enough to read progressions and hit check-off receivers…Inconsistent…Ran a 4.98 40 at the Combine and had a Wonderlic score of 35. PROJECTION: Clemens was a solid college quarterback, but his numbers don't necessarily translate well to the NFL. He has a chance to make it in the NFL because he can make plays on the move and is a solid improvisational quarterback. But his limitations are daunting, which should drop him into the second day of the draft.
Omar Jacobs, Bowling Green, 6-4, 232 – Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who completed 504 of 783 passes for 6,693 yards with 66 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while rushing 135 times for 569 yards and five TDs in that span…Two-time All Mid-America Conference First Team selection and MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2004…His 41 TD passes in 2004 led the nation and set an all-time MAC single-season record…His 41:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2004 set the all-time Division I-A record…Ideal size and has long arms and big hands for a QB…Has good velocity on deep passes and isn't afraid to put the ball in tight spots when needed…Had a career passer rating of 114.6…Has good speed in the open field when he decides to run the ball…Skinny for an NFL QB and doesn't have the body type that can add a lot of bulk…Needs work on his mechanics – he throws with a three-quarters motion that will get many passes tipped or batted down…Raw and will need patient coaches…Didn't take many snaps under center and will need to adjust…Ran a 4.84 40 at the Combine, with a 32½ inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: Jacobs is the quintessential "project" QB. He has the combination of passing/rushing ability that gets coaches attention, but he played in a system that was passer friendly and hid many of his flaws. He'll be a player that several teams will want to draft, but likely not until the fourth or fifth round of the draft.
Darrell Hackney, Alabama-Birmingham, 5-11¾, 240 – Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who completed 694 of 1,246 passes for 9,886 yards with 70 touchdowns and 33 interceptions, while rushing 255 times for 755 yards and six TDs…Had a career passer rating of 89.2 in college (but 96.5 in his final two seasons)…Blossomed in final two seasons, throwing for 6,150 yards with 48 TDs and 20 interceptions…As a senior, he set the UAB school record for touchdown passes with 26…Has good dropback skills and gets rid of the ball quickly…Has extremely strong arm and throws deep passes with good velocity…Throws passes into tight quarters and completes most of them…Got better at going through his progressions as a senior and checking down to the open receiver…Is very short for a NFL quarterback…Has good feet in the pocket, but is neither speedy nor agile in avoiding blitzes and when the pocket collapses…Hasn't faced top-level competition…Makes mistakes when pressured, always seeming to throw the ball into coverage and make big plays instead of being patient…Took almost all of his snaps from the shotgun and will have to learn to play under center…Ran a 4.82 40 at the Combine with a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump. PROJECTION: He has a strong arm, but size limitations will take him off a lot of teams' boards completely. Whoever gets him will get a hard worker who will have a chance to become a pro QB, but his limitations are pretty big – which will likely drop him into the middle of the draft's second day.
Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo, 6-1½, 220 – Fifth-year senior…Comes from the same area of Pennsylvania that produced Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Dan Marino…Three-year starter who completed 764 of 1,120 passes for 9,197 yards with 85 touchdowns and 27 interceptions…Had 27 or more touchdowns passes in each of his three seasons as a starter…Broke his right hand in the Mid-America Conference championship game, but still played in Toledo's Motor City Bowl game in 2004…Holds 19 school passing records…His 68.2 career completion percentage is a NCAA Division I-A record – breaking the mark of 67.1 held by Tim Couch (Kentucky)…Good mechanics…Strong arm that can make most of the throws needed in the NFL…Intelligent and natural team leader…Reads defenses well and delivers ball to the open receiver consistently…Has good footwork in the pocket and feels the pass rush instinctively…Injury history (hand and shoulder problems) are a big concern…Has trouble on the deep out route and needs to wind up and put air under it to complete 50+ yard passes…Numbers dropped off as a senior when the team graduated a lot of its offensive talent…His completion percentage was over 70 percent his first two years as a starter, but dropped to 62 percent as a senior…Played in a spread offense that doesn't translate to the pros…Has small hands and will fumble or have passes sail…Throws too many short passes by design of the offense…Ran a 4.59 40 at the Combine, with a 34-inch vertical jump and a 8-11 broad jump. PROJECTION: A victim of a system that isn't designed to develop quarterbacks for the NFL, Gradkowski has all the numbers you would like, but not the intangibles that coaches look for. He will be a mid- to late-Day 2 selection who will be given a couple of years to make the transition, but may never be counted on as a starter.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Brett Basanez, Northwestern, 6-1¼, 220
Bruce Eugene, Grambling State, 6-0¼, 260
Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State, 6-2, 226
Erik Meyer, Eastern Washington, 6-1¼, 209
Drew Olson, UCLA, 6-1¾, 212
Paul Pinegar, Fresno State, 6-5, 232
Marcus Vick, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 215
Positional Draft Analysis: QBs
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