Spread Casualties: Chase Daniel and Graham Harrell Go Undrafted

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IApril 26, 2009

In December of 2007, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel sat in the front row of the Downtown Athletic Club and watched Tim Tebow receive the Heisman Trophy. He was honored with the invite as one of four finalists for the prestigious award given to college football’s most outstanding player.

Two of the invitees, Darren McFadden and Colt Brennan, were selected in the 2008 NFL draft. The third, Tim Tebow, like Daniel, returned to school.

Another December arrived, and Daniel, now dwarfed in comparison to the new finalists, went uninvited. Another popular face also stayed home—Graham Harrell, the prolific quarterback for Texas Tech.

After completing the 2008 season with over 5,000 passing yards and 45 touchdowns, Red Raiders coach Mike Leach adamantly disagreed with both the Heisman committee’s lack of respect and acknowledgment for single season statistics, and the poor evaluation and projection given to his star quarterback by NFL draft scouts.

On Sunday, the 2009 NFL draft wound down to the selection of “Mr. Irrelevant,” the final pick of the two-day event, and both Chase Daniel and Graham Harrell remained on the board. The Kansas City Chiefs chose a kicker with the 256th pick, Ryan Succop, and both collegiate superstars went undrafted.

Daniel and Harrell are spread casualties, producing gaudy numbers in their systems, but lacking the knowledge and skills necessary to lead an NFL offense.

In contrast, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford were never considered for Heisman invitation. Both are underclassmen, possessing less experience and not nearly the air production of the seniors from Texas Tech and Missouri.

But they played in pro-style offenses and possess the pro-style build.

Stafford and Sanchez became top 10 picks. Harrell and Graham became afterthoughts.

Of the six draft-eligible players from Texas Tech, only Harrell and Ryland Reed went without selection. Michael Crabtree was chosen with the 10th pick overall. And of the seven eligible Tigers, only Chase Daniel went undrafted, with Jeremy Maclin becoming selection 19 of the first round.

When it comes to the spread offense, the NFL loves runners, receivers, and tight ends. But in relation to quarterbacks, the league will shy away unless the prospect possesses great speed and the ability to play other positions.

Over the last five years, some GMs have assumed the risk, but their prospects have failed to provide positive results. 

Alex Smith was the first overall selection in the 2005 draft. Vince Young was the third overall pick in 2006. Both quarterbacks were developed in spread systems, and after receiving their guaranteed money, both failed to adapt to the pro game.

Of the three quarterbacks that attended last year’s Heisman ceremony, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are both seniors in 2009, and spread products. Both will be among the biggest names in college football and will possibly return to the Big Apple this winter.

But when it comes to NFL draft evaluation, these are two names that will sit low on big boards, preparing another pair of collegiate golden boys to become victims of their system.

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