Even with the championship yet to be played, it's still not too early to take a look ahead to the 2009 NFL draft. As always, the debate will center around who should go where in the draft. However, I don't care about that nearly as much as I do how well a given player will perform once they're in the NFL.
The following is my own scouting report and predictions for the top-five QBs in the upcoming draft. Colt McCoy has not been included because he was smart enough to realize he would rather carve up the horrible Big 12 defenses than stink it up in the pros and has announced he will stay. Tim Tebow has been left out as he will likely spend his NFL days at another position (but still running over linebackers).
We'll start from the bottom and work our way up:
No. 5- Graham Harrell
Projection: round 4-6
Unless a team can draft Mike Leach along with Harrell, I doubt he will be a great pro. He would be best served practicing skills such as carrying luggage and how to handle the clipboard if he hopes to find a home in the NFL. Or maybe Belichick takes him and he becomes a franchise player, I don't know.
No. 4- Josh Freeman
Projection: round 2-3
Ron Prince is quoted as saying that whenever Freeman enters the draft, he will be the No. 1 pick. With talent evaluation skills like that, it's puzzling why Prince is currently unemployed.
Freeman is big, has a good arm, and is somewhat mobile. Perhaps his best assets are his experience and the fact that he's familiar with playing on a crappy team. Having said all that, I kind of like him. He's no first rounder, but I could see him being the kind of QB good enough to start one day. Think of him as a poor man's JaMarcus Russell, but he's not on the Raiders so he might have a chance to succeed.
No. 3- Mark Sanchez
Projection: late first- second round
Sanchez has not declared yet, but would be wise to ride his momentum to a higher pick than he deserves (somewhere, Matt Leinart is banging his head on a desk in a frat house). Sanchez is ok, but has just a year of experience under his belt. He's good, but doesn't do anything fantastic. Think of a young Gus Frerotte, only before he knocked himself out while celebrating a touchdown.
No. 2- Sam Bradford
Projection: top three
Everything about Bradford screams franchise player. He's put up gaudy numbers in back-to-back years. He's a winner. He plays well in the clutch. But is he NFL material?
While he could end up being a good QB, I have my reservations. When you watch him play, it almost seems like it's too easy. He's rarely pressured. His WRs always have about 10 yards of separation. I give him credit for putting up the numbers, but who was the last Oklahoma QB that didn't put up great numbers?
And how will he handle playing for a team like the Lions where you might as well play with four offensive linemen? Based on past trends, it seems that being able to play well on a crappy team equates to NFL success, likely because everyone is so even on the NFL level due to the parity, that the QBs who always were surrounded by superior athletes in college don't know what to do anymore.
Look at all the best young QBs- Ryan (who carried an inferior BC team) and Flacco (from Delaware) came from this past year. Then there's Eli Manning (Ole Miss), Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio), Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt), Trent Edwards (from a horrid Stanford team), and the list goes on.
Meanwhile, big program studs like JaMarcus Russell, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and (cough, cough) Alex Smith have struggled, and Brady Quinn is a work in progress. Bradford could just as easily fit into this category.
In addition to all this, he plays in the Big 12. Oklahoma State gave up 42 to Oregon and Texas Tech gave up 47 to Ole Miss in their bowl games. If that doesn't tell you how bad Big 12 defenses are, then I don't know what will.
Side prediction- Bradford will struggle against a solid Florida defense.
Side side prediction- If he doesn't, he might move up on this list.
I could see him being good as a starter, but not top-pick worthy. Think Chad Pennington with a slightly stronger arm, but without a chip on his shoulder.
No. 1- Matthew Stafford
Projection- top 10
Well, Matt, you finally won me over. I still feel justified for not liking him after last year. Two full years of starting with no 300-yard games and a mediocre-at-best passer efficiency rating didn't justify NFL scouts drooling over him in my eyes.
To me, it seemed that everyone loved his size and arm strength, but didn't care that he really wasn't that good. And I do realize that having him ahead of Bradford directly contradicts my theory of drafting QBs that have to carry bad teams. However, the great equalizer for Stafford is the defenses he's already faced in college.
At first, I wondered what came first—the great defenses or the awful QBs? In other words—are SEC defenses really that good, or are the QBs in the conference just that bad? My conclusion—a little of both, but mostly the defenses are that good.
Now, I hate the SEC as much as the next west-coaster, but I must admit that the SEC knows defense. Stafford finished 15th in the nation in passer efficiency. This isn't mind-blowing, but this is: aside from Tebow (fourth) and Jevean Snead (21st), the next highest-rated QB from the SEC is Casey Dick at 68th.
I just find it hard to believe there are that many bad QBs in one conference, especially after most of them played pretty well in their bowl games.
As a result, Stafford's numbers look much better. He's played good consistent football (minus the Florida game) against stellar defenses and has improved each year. He may not be the next Eli Manning or even Matt Ryan, but he's the best there is this year. Unfortunately for him, that might land him in a Lions jersey.