A virtual unknown heading into the 2013 season, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo has skyrocketed up many big boards after his strong showings in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Garoppolo, the Walter Payton Award winner last year as the top offensive player at the FCS level, threw for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and just nine interceptions for the Panthers.
After his strong performances at the bowls, a large contingent of NFL teams came to his pro day at Northwestern last month.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh were both in attendance for Garoppolo's pro day.
“He’s got a quick release. He’s athletic," O'Brien told The Chicago Tribune. "I really enjoyed talking football with him. He’s a great kid.”
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also had high praise for Garoppolo, writing:
Watching Garoppolo play, it's easy to see some Tony Romo in him, or maybe even a little Drew Brees. He moves well in the pocket and then unloads with a big arm that allows him to make every throw on the field. Velocity and ball placement are there, too, and he'll do it from various release points to find a passing window.
Garoppolo possesses all of the tools that are required of a top-level quarterback with his smooth setup and release, ability to read and diagnose defenses and accurate arm.
The obvious big question mark is his ability against top level talent after playing in the FCS. Lucky for him, the success of guys like Tony Romo and Joe Flacco at the NFL level have helped paved the way for quarterbacks from smaller schools.
In an ideal world, the Texans could take Jadeveon Clowney with their first overall pick and grab Garopollo with the first pick of the second round but considering how much his stock has risen this offseason, he has the potential to be picked by Cleveland at No. 26—or a team like the Oakland Raiders or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could try to trade back into the first round to grab him.