If the 2011 season taught Chicago Bears fans anything, it was that an effective backup quarterback is just as important to the team as the starting quarterback. After the injury to Jay Cutler against the San Diego Chargers in November, the Bears relied on their "home grown" talent, fourth-year man Caleb Hanie.
Hanie failed miserably, throwing just three touchdowns to nine interceptions in just four starts.
Having drafted Nathan Enderle in the fifth round of last year's draft, the Bears may seem content to not add another rookie to the rotation. But given the fact that Enderle was hand picked by former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, there is a real chance that a developmental quarterback could be chosen in the later rounds.
The Bears will undoubtedly add a veteran No. 2 quarterback such as Josh McCown, Kyle Orton or even David Garrard, but a young rookie who they can be molded to be the eventual No. 2 behind Cutler could be found in the later rounds.
Here is a list of four late-round quarterback prospects for the Chicago Bears.
As a three-year starter at Tulsa, G.J. Kinne compiled nearly 10,000 yards passing, along with 81 touchdowns compared to 32 interceptions. In Tulsa's pass heavy offense, Kinne was the star, pushing the ball downfield with his arm and creating first downs with his legs.
At 6'2" and 215 lbs, Kinne is a little bit on the light side, but has good speed and awareness in the pocket. Kinne is fairly accurate with short to mid-range passes, but struggles a bit on long deep balls. He has a solid throwing motion and gets rid of the ball quickly, and when a lane opens, he is able to use his scrambling abilities to extend the life of the play or pick up yards.
Kinne did struggle against top tier talent (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Houston), so it may be a bit of a struggle for him at the next level, but he is known to be a great leader and he has pushed through adversity, having dealt with the death of his father at a young age.
Kinne's athleticism and quick throwing motion may be enough for teams to take a look at him in the seventh round, but Kinne is more than likely to be a priority undrafted free agent.
If the Bears do not find a quarterback worth taking in the draft, a guy like Kinne, who has the same level of athleticism as Jay Cutler, could be a training camp invitee with a shot at being the third quarterback.
Prior to the start of the 2011 college football season, Case Keenum was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, after Keenum was hurt in his redshirt senior season.
During this past season, Keenum set NCAA records for total touchdowns (150) and total passing yards (18,312). Despite putting up incredible numbers during his career, many have Keenum tabbed to go no higher than the sixth round.
At 6'2", 210lbs, Keenum—much like G.J. Kinne—may be considered top small for an NFL quarterback. Despite setting many records at Houston, he has below average arm strength and a bit of a side arm throwing motion that NFL coaches will need to correct.
Keenum's short to mid-range throws are extremely accurate, he has good pocket awareness and uses his feet well to move around the pocket—although he is not much of a runner, he can pick up a few yards if needed.
There is a reason why guys who have had similar resumes to Keenum (Timmy Change and Graham Harrell), have not succeeded in the NFL.
Keenum has been labeled as a system quarterback and a product of former Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin. Keenum more than likely will be a seventh-round or undrafted free agent.
If new Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates feels he can improve Keenum's throwing motion the Bears could look to bring Keenum along during training camp and have him compete for the third quarterback position with other undrafted free agents (i.e. G.J. Kinne).
In his first three years with the Huskies, Chandler Harnish was known as a read-option/run first quarterback.
After a coaching change prior to the 2011 season, Harnish was given more of an opportunity to throw the football and finished the season with 3,216 yards passing along with 28 touchdown passes.
Harnish is very athletic, having rushed for more than 1,300 yards his senior season. He does a great job of moving outside of the pocket and throwing on the run. His passes are very accurate between the hash marks, and he is a good decision maker who rarely turns the ball over and is not afraid to throw it away.
Harnish struggles with passes downfield and many of his interceptions come on long pass plays. He tends to rely on his feet too much when a situation goes awry and loses his mechanics often when throwing on the run.
Harnish's athleticism alone will get him drafted somewhere in the sixth or possibly fifth round if a team likes him enough. If the Bears feel they can work on his downfield passing and work on his mechanics, he could be a great sixth-round project quarterback who could learn from both Cutler and the No. 2 and develop into a guy that could be a serviceable No. 2 for years to come.
After three solid seasons as quarterback for the N.C. State Wolfpack, Russell Wilson used his last year of eligibility to try and play for a national championship contender and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin.
In his one and only season with the Badgers, Wilson threw for nearly 3,200 yards and 33 touchdowns in comparison to just four interceptions.
The first knock on Wilson as an NFL quarterback is his height.
Standing at just 5'10" and weighing just above 200 pounds, most scouts feel he is too small to be an effective quarterback. Wilson excelled because of an incredibly talent offensive line in front of him and rarely had to deal with defenders in his face.
One of the major pluses to Wilson's game is his accuracy. At Wisconsin, he completed 72 percent of his passes and many of his completions were while he was rolling out of the pocket.
He is very good in the intermediate passing game and is underrated in the deep passing game.
If teams can see past his height and focus on his abilities, Wilson should go as early as the fourth round. If Wilson is sitting there in the fifth round when the Bears are drafting, they should take the risk and get a huge steal. If Wilson was taller, he more than likely would be considered an early-round draft pick. Smaller quarterbacks like Drew Brees have been able to succeed in this league, and if the Bears are able to draft him, he could quickly become their No. 2 after just one year in the league.