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Draft's top QBs: There's starter potential beyond first round

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Besides the obvious news that quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton were involved in two of the biggest NFL trades this offseason is the component that both were starters who beat the odds as mid- to late-round picks in the 2005 NFL Draft. To boot, Cassel will take the starting job in Kansas City from incumbent Tyler Thigpen, who was a seventh-round selection in 2007.

Draft series: Quarterback

NFL.com's 10-part series looks at each position in the draft.

Quarterbacks package
» Video: Mayock's top five
» Chat: Josh Freeman
» Chat: Brian Billick
» Photos: Top prospects

Therein lies the reason why teams don't stop drafting quarterbacks after the first or second round. It's why Pat White, John Parker Wilson, Rhett Bomar and Tom Brandstater will likely be chosen several hours after projected first-rounders Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman. But chosen nonetheless.

"It's those three guys and everybody else, but out of that everybody else, I promise you, somebody is going to be a starter," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "I don't know who that is going to be. The fun thing is, which team is going to find that guy? There is someone besides those three who is going to have a heck of a career."

Devaney's assessment isn't just a shot in the dark -- it relates to the law of averages. More than half of the NFL's projected starting quarterbacks for 2009 weren't first-round draft picks. Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner are among the top quarterbacks who weren't highly regarded coming out of college but have solidified themselves in pro football lore.

Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman are being held in the same regard as Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler were in pre-draft projections, with each expected to be top-20 picks with bright futures. Stafford and Sanchez could be taken in the top five.

Yet, the out-of-the-box White, who may have to start his career as a wide receiver, or the prototypical Brandstater, if put in the right circumstances, have the skills that could make them great values from the time their names are called in draft day.

"I'd say this is an average class," of quarterbacks, Devaney said. "Not great. Average."

Once it gets beyond Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman, no quarterback might be taken until Day 2, or Round 3 -- if that soon. West Virginia's White, Fresno State's Brandstater and Alabama's Wilson appear to have helped themselves with postseason workouts. Bomar once was Oklahoma's starting quarterback, but after being dismissed from the team because he was found to have been paid for more work than he actually did, he finished his career lighting up the small-college ranks at Sam Houston State.

Besides these players' abilities to possibly compete at an NFL level, there is an abundance of teams needing, at the least, to groom quarterbacks because starters like Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme and Peyton Manning are getting older. Teams like the Jets, Vikings, Buccaneers and 49ers don't have a solid foundation at the position.

Top 10 quarterbacks
Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
1.
Georgia
6-2
225
1
Analysis: Stafford is considered the best quarterback in the top-heavy class. His strong arm, huddle presence and athleticism trump his questionable decision-making on occasion in college. Stafford has impressed teams with his football acumen, and a coach and personnel official said Stafford is more than capable to start as a rookie. He is likened to Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was drafted No. 11 overall three years ago by Denver. If this was last season's draft, with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, Stafford might not be considered a top-20 pick, but he has the markings of a long-time starter.

NFL landing spot: He could be taken by Detroit (No. 1), Seattle (4), Jacksonville (8) or San Francisco (10).

  Video: Matthew Stafford

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
2.
USC
6-2
227
1
Analysis: Some teams like Sanchez more than Stafford because he projects to eventually be more of a dynamic game-changer. His pocket presence and ability to make plays when things break down are huge assets. To some NFL scouts, the only thing that has him ranked behind Stafford is Sanchez's limited overall body of work as a one-year starter. Sanchez's charismatic persona also weighs in his favor.

NFL landing spot: Denver could trade one or both of its first-round picks (12, 18) to move into the top four to get to Sanchez. Seattle could also take him at No. 4 to groom behind Hasselbeck. Sanchez could drop as far as No. 12, but Jacksonville and San Francisco will be tempted.

  Video: Mark Sanchez

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
3.
Kansas State
6-6
248
1
Analysis: Now is when we start talking about developmental players at the position. Freeman is the physical prototype of an NFL Pro Bowler. Few players have made a surge up draft boards like Freeman. It is unlikely that he drops out of the first round. Some personnel types are overlooking his inconsistency and 34 interceptions in college because of some issues with the program that were out of Freeman's control.

NFL landing spot: Denver, the New York Jets or Tampa Bay could make a push at Freeman and nurture him to start in a year or two.

  Video: Josh Freeman

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
4.
West Virginia
6-0
197
2-5
Analysis: White is an accomplished runner and passer, having combined for more than 10,000 yards -- 6,051 passing -- in his career. His versatility is his blessing and a curse. White compares to a middle-class version of Michael Vick, but his physical stature is held against him in regards to playing quarterback. His best value could be as a combination WR/QB/KR -- a la Kordell Stewart. With the Wildcat formation in vogue, White's timing is ideal for his skill set. White upset some NFL teams by not running pass routes at his pro day, but he has run routes for teams during private workouts.

NFL landing spot: He is too much of a threat to fall too far and he could go to teams like the Vikings, Rams, 49ers and Eagles, among others.

  Video: Pat White

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
5.
Sam Houston State
6-2
225
3-5
Analysis: The former Oklahoma starter has the arm and athleticism to play in the NFL. He has to prove he can compete at the pro level after finishing his career at Sam Houston, throwing for 5,614 yards and 37 touchdowns in just 19 starts. Bomar has a strong arm and is good playing on the move. If he shows quick adaptability to the scheme of the team that drafts him, Bomar has the physical tools to possibly emerge as a starter down the line.

NFL landing spot: Texas teams Dallas and Houston might want to develop a young backup, as could Jacksonville.

  Video: Rhett Bomar

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
6.
Fresno State
6-5
220
4-7
Analysis: He has the NFL physique. Brandstater injured a muscle in his back before the combine, but he worked through it to perform well. He re-aggravated the injury in Indianapolis and could not compete at his pro day. However, he has performed well in private workouts. Brandstater is a gifted athlete with a better-than-average arm.

NFL landing spot: The Rams are apparently interested.

  Video: Tom Brandstater

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
7.
Alabama
6-2
219
4-7
Analysis: Wilson has helped himself tremendously with postseason performances in the Senior Bowl (and preceding practices for the game) and his pro day. His size, arm strength and accuracy were better than some scouts saw on film. Wilson was very steady in college, where he was sometimes viewed as a caretaker more than a playmaker.

NFL landing spot: He may possess NFL-caliber skills and should land on someone's roster. Countless teams need reliable backups.

  Video: John Parker Wilson

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
8.
Ball State
6-1
226
4-FA
Analysis: Few players have plummeted like Davis, the 2008 MAC Offensive Player of the Year, who left after his junior season. Once projected as a second-round selection at worst, only one team, the Indianapolis Colts, came to his pro day. There are concerns about his size, comprehension ability and his inflated numbers in a pass-happy spread system.

NFL landing spot: Some team officials don't believe he will stick in the NFL, but he could be a fit in a passing-based, quick-release system like Kansas City, Arizona or Houston.

  Video: Nate Davis

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
9.
Michigan State
6-2
215
6-FA
Analysis: A decent body of work, durability and a solid arm are traits that have drawn and kept attention of NFL teams. Hoyer threw for more than 5,100 yards with 29 touchdowns in his two years starting for the Spartans, but his 20 interceptions were a concern.

NFL landing spot: Could be best-suited for a West Coast-type offense, where he can make pre-snap reads and get rid of the ball quickly.

  Video: Brian Hoyer

Rank
Player
School
Height
Weight
Projected round
10.
Texas Tech
6-2
223
7-FA
Analysis: The staggering numbers -- 15,793 yards and 134 touchdown passes -- aren't translating into projections of an NFL career. Harrell is viewed as a spread-offense system quarterback whose footwork and athleticism have come under scrutiny as it translates to playing under center. Productive, big-number predecessors at Texas Tech like Kliff Kingsbury failed to catch on in the NFL, which doesn't help perceptions of Harrell.

NFL landing spot: If he gets into the right scheme, he could take advantage of his strengths. He didn't just luck into those hefty stats.

  Video: Graham Harrell


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