BBD Contributor: Peter Bukowksi
Tom Brady is an aberration. New England didn’t think they’d taken the greatest quarterback ever to put on a helmet when they drafted the Michigan senior with the 199th pick in 2000. The Patriots got lucky and they will readily admit that.
You draft a player because you think he will be good for your team, yes, but a guy in the sixth round doesn’t usually turn out to be a Hall of Fame player, particularly not a quarterback.
If you want a franchise quarterback, the first three rounds are where you’re going to likely find them, but then why draft one late?
The reasons are myriad, but there is a better way to look at later round quarterbacks. Usually, they can be separated in one of three categories: projects, system quarterbacks, and career backups.
Of course, there will be some who fall into the last category sort of by default, while others will begin as projects and teams will realize they are really just not that good.
There’s a reason a quarterback gets picked late in the draft: there are some pretty obvious flaws. But in order to more clearly see the delineations, let’s look at the 2013 draft through this lens.
E.J. Manuel Florida State –
Physically, Manuel has ever tool you could want. He’s 6-5 236 pounds, can run and throw with velocity. He didn’t play well in big games for the Seminoles and never lived up the hype of being one of the most sought after players in the country coming to Florida State.
His mechanics needs to be tightened as his whip motion is going to cause him to be late on throws into tight windows. It’s the kind of the thing you can get away with in college, but not the NFL. Mentally, there are questions as well about his ability to read defenses and go through his progressions. His experience in the read-options, which defenses are still adjusting to, as well as his overwhelming physical tools, could have NFL teams seeing visions of Colin Kaepernick dancing in their head.
Even so, he’s a late third or early fourth round pick at best it seems.
Brad Sorenson Southern Utah –
One of the key attributes of project picks is they tend to look the part. Like Manuel, Sorenson is a big, strong quarterback at 6-5 235 pounds. The ball jumps out of his hand and he spins it effectively, creating a catchable ball for his receivers.
For someone as big as he is, Sorenson doesn’t have the arm strength you might think, but he can make the deep throws and shows tremendous touch pushing the ball down the field, even to the opposite sidelines on the wide college hashes. Sorenson is a BYU transfer and may just be another really good small school quarterback who played in a pass-heavy system. On the other hand, he has the size and skills you’d want from a BCS conference quarterback. With some time and coaching, Sorenson could be a steal.
Heading into the season, he was looked at as being as high as a third round pick. The fourth or fifth round seems more likely, but Sorenson has starter potential under the right tutelage and is at worst a solid backup.
The System Quarterbacks
Matt Scott Arizona –
If the read-option trend is going to stick, Matt Scott is your mid-round man. He’s already been linked to the Eagles because of Chip Kelly’s recent arrival and Scott is the best dual-threat quarterback in the draft. But the “dual-threat” label is a double-edged sword because Scott played in Rich Rodriguez’s version of the spread offense. He runs because he’s not as good throwing the ball as someone who you let heave it 40 times a game.
He has the arm strength to make NFL throws, but doesn’t always possess the accuracy, particularly when forced to redirect after his initial target isn’t open. Scott is small by NFL standards at 6-2 198 pounds and a ¾ delivery only adds to that problem. Scott wasn’t a standout in the Shrine Game like you’d hope to see from a big-time college quarterback. The question for teams will be is he Seneca Wallace or Russell Wilson?
As a fourth or fifth rounder, Scott has value as a mobile quarterback who can at least run the scout team in preparation for read-option teams, and his mobility is an added asset as a backup who will likely have a more limited game plan. Scott is likely never going to be a long-term starter in the league.
Colby Cameron Louisiana Tech –
Most scouts, when watching tape of Cameron, can’t help but see the explosive abilities of Quinton Patton, his Louisiana Tech throwing mate. That being said, Cameron is a solid player in his own right, with a quick release and compact delivery.
The issue Cameron has is similar to that of many spread quarterbacks in college in that he doesn’t have the arm strength needed to make stick throws in the NFL. These schemes rely on play design and timing, so if he puts the ball where it should be at the right time, the play can work. College players aren’t as reactive and fast as NFL players. Cameron doesn’t turn the ball over, once going more than 400 attempts without an interception, and could be a Chad Pennington-type quarterback in the league given the right offensive system.
Cameron benefitted greatly from having Patton to throw to, but his decision-making abilities can’t be questioned and his mechanics are solid which means he has the ground work already laid. He’s a borderline draftable player, but in the right system could be similar to Matt Flynn who was also a seventh round pick.
The Career Backups
Landry Jones Oklahoma –
Had Jones come out last year, he might have been a first round pick. He and Matt Barley can commiserate about their respective decisions to stay in school, but luckily for the NFL, Jones was exposed to some degree as a senior.
He has a big arm, but doesn’t drive the ball sometimes when he should. For Jones though, the question has never been about his physical tools because he has an NFL body, professional arm talent and is smart enough to play the position. All that being said, his play hasn’t always reflected that. He will go through lulls where his game experiences fits and starts. It’s tough to understand why because he’s always had outstanding skill position players around him and his offensive line has been solid. The big difference between Jones and Manuel, for example, is you get the feeling watching Jones that he’s maxed out his potential, whereas Manuel seems to have ceiling left to hit.
He’s projected as a top 60 pick, despite having late third or early fourth round value. In other words, someone will draft him to be a starter because of those tools, but it seems unlikely he will ever a consistent starter in the NFL. Jones has quarterback boondoggle written all over him.
Jordan Rodgers Vanderbilt –
It’s tough for me to count out a Rodgers after seeing what a fall in the first round did for Jordan’s brother Aaron, but this is not Peyton and Eli. Jordan just isn’t nearly as talented as his brother, particularly from a strictly throwing standpoint. Rodgers does have some mobility and can pick up yards like Aaron, but making throws is a separate issue.
Jordan doesn’t have the strength in his upper body to turn throws loose and fit balls into NFL windows. Rodgers should be credited for taking an undermanned Vanderbilt team to back-to-back bowl games in the SEC and his pedigree has given him the spotlight to succeed to some degree. He’s the opposite of Landry Jones in that he isn’t your prototypical pocket passer, but just finds a way to make plays. That will work at Vanderbilt, but no so well in the NFL.
Rodgers is a sixth or seventh round pick as it is and while he has enough talent to start for a game or two due to injury – he’s definitely better than Charlie Batch – he’s strictly a backup.