Graham Harrell: Where Will He End Up?

Matt MCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 1:  Quarterback Graham Harrell #6 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders stands on the field during the game against the Texas Longhorns on November 1, 2008 at Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

As some readers may have heard in the news, or read in my previous column, Graham Harrell’s NFL stock pulled a Bear Stearns recently with concerns surrounding his arm strength and offensive system at Texas Tech.

While his lack of arm strength is certainly noticeable and his offensive production inflated, Graham Harrell is too good of a quarterback to go undrafted.

Colt Brennan came from the quarterback-friendly run-and-shoot offense and yet he continued to put up impressive NFL statistics in preseason.

In regard to his lack of arm strength: arm strength is about as overrated as Mark Sanchez.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had questionable arm strength, yet he became one of the most productive rookie quarterbacks in NFL history. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill went undrafted for his noodle arm, yet he has been 7-3 as a starter and has posted a 90.5 career quarterback rating. Graham Harrell has no business not being in the professional football business.

As his agent recently informed reporters, Harrell has been receiving offers from “multiple teams” for mini-camp and training camp workouts. In an attempt to determine where he may end up come training camp, I broke down the quarterback depth charts of all 32 NFL teams, and have discovered six likely suitors for Harrell’s services.

In determining these potential destinations it was often times the teams with the least certainty at quarterback that were the least likely of suitors. It’s generally the teams of quarterback uncertainty, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (with Josh Freeman, Luke McCown, Josh Johnson, and Byron Leftwhich), the San Francisco 49ers (with Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, Damon Huard, and Nate Davis), the Miami Dolphins (with Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, and Pat White), the Denver Broncos (with Kyle Orton, Chris Simms, and Tom Brandstater), the Minnesota Vikings (with Sage Rosenfels, Tarvaris Jackson, John David Booty, and Brett Favre?), and the Cleveland Browns (with Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, and Brett Ratliff) that have superior depth at the quarterback position.

In addition to the loaded depth of quarterback-less teams, the free agent quarterback cupboard is still loaded with experienced and seasoned role players. This bodes poorly for the NCAA-record holder in touchdown passes. These available quarterbacks include:

J.P. Losman: Buffalo Bills, five years

Rex Grossman: Chicago Bears, six years

Charlie Frye: Seattle Seahawks, four years

Ken Dorsey: Cleveland Browns, six years

Brett Favre: New York Jets, 18 years

Gus Frerotte: Minnesota Vikings, 15 years

Trent Green: St. Louis Rams, 15 years

Here are the potential landing spots I see for the former Red Raider quarterback:

1. Chicago

Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt, four years

Brett Basanez, Northwestern, three years

Caleb Hanie, Colorado State, two years

In case you’ve been living under a rock or quarantined with the swine flu for the last month, you know that Chicago has Jay Cutler. 

You also know that they gave up a boatload of picks AND Kyle Orton to acquire him. To make matters worse, they lost Rex Grossman, who, although a first round bust, provided good positional depth. 

With his skillset and high level of experience, Harrell could easily beat out Basanez and Hanie, and be Chicago’s number two (or at the least number three) come September.

2. Cincinnati

Carson Palmer, Southern California, seven years

J.T. O'Sullivan, UC Davis, seven years

Jordan Palmer, Texas El-Paso, two years

Billy Farris, Colorado State, rookie

Carson Palmer is the face of the franchise. Just Turnovers O’Sullivan is a decent backup. Jordan Palmer and Billy Farris have done nothing to prove worthy of an NFL roster.  Harrell could easily win the third quarterback spot in Cincinnati.

3. Houston

Matt Schaub, Virginia, six years

Dan Orlovsky, Connecticut, five years

Alex Brink, Washington State, one year

Despite his injury concerns, Matt Schaub has been productive when healthy and will enter the season as Houston’s clear-cut starter, with newly acquired Detroit Lions backup Dan Orlovksy providing an experienced and capable backup. 

Alex Brink, while extremely athletic, lacks the precision and polish of Harrell. Harrell could easily compete with him for the third roster spot.

4. Jacksonville

David Garrard, East Carolina, eight years

Cleo Lemon, Arkansas State, six years

Paul Smith, Tulsa, one year

David Garrard struggled mightily last year behind a porous Jaguars offensive line and incompetent receiving core. With newly acquired Eugene Monroe and offensive toy Tori Holt in the mix, Garrard should regain his form and maintain the starting role. 

Cleo Lemon, who flashed loads of potential as a fill-in during the Dolphins dismal 1-15 season, should be the No. 2. The third spot could become a battle between Harrell and Paul Smith. 

While Smith possesses the tools to be a solid NFL quarterback, so does Harrell. This could be an epic battle for the non-epic position of third string quarterback.

5. New Orleans

Drew Brees, Purdue, nine years

Mark Brunell, Washington, 17 years

Patrick Cowan, UCLA, Rookie

Joey Harrington, Oregon, 8 yrs

Drew Brees is the clear starter, with Joey Harrington looking more and more like his long-term backup. The third spot could easily be Harrell’s for the taking. Entering his 17th NFL season, Mark Brunell may not even make it to, yet alone through, training camp. 

Patrick Cowan was a terrible college quarterback and will fare no better in the NFL.  The Saints would be wise to bring in Harrell, a much better prospect than camp-arm Cowan, to groom and develop as a long-term backup or potential future starter.

6. Tennessee

Kerry Collins, Penn State, 15 years

Vince Young, Texas, 4 years

Patrick Ramsey, Tulane, 8 years

Alex Mortensen, Arkansas, Rookie

The Tennessee quarterback situation is a mess. 

Kerry Collins is no franchise quarterback and likely won’t hold up for much longer, Vince Young suffers from severe depression and may never have the mental composure to start again, Alex Ramsey is a career journeyman, and Alex Mortensen is a rookie who was hardly impressive in college. 

Graham Harrell could easily land the third spot, and slowly work his way to as high as No. 2 on the depth chart by season’s end.


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