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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

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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.

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