There are too many quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL draft. Although none of them are named Andrew Luck, talents like those of Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker have lit up the eyes of various teams in need of a passer.
Even Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Greg McElroy and Tyrod Taylor have very notable strengths and upsides. Even Delaware's Pat Devlin shows abilities that could land him a mid-round selection.
But sometimes, there's a man that nobody sees. Sometimes a real winner falls through the cracks.
Players from smaller schools, late bloomers and simply overlooked talents end up floating around the market after the draft, and teams typically want to get them into their system and sign them shortly after the seventh round concludes.
It's unreasonable to think that San Francisco will ignore the passer position for seven full rounds, but keep an eye on these guys, many of whom should go undrafted. They're not likely to give up on their NFL dreams without a fight.
Scott Tolzien—Wisconsin—6'2", 212 lbs
Tolzien has a lot going for him. He played in a pro-style offense, was an incredibly accurate passer (72.9 percent) and had a winning record. He'll drop, possibly to an undrafted status, because he lacks arm strength and his three-quarter delivery can result in batted passes. His 6'2" height is also appraised as mediocre.
Joe Montana dropped pretty low because of his arm strength, and look how that turned out. Can Harbaugh and company rebuild Tolzien's delivery to NFL specification? Reminds me a lot of Shaun Hill.
Josh Portis—California, PA—6'3", 211 lbs
CBSSports.com puts it eloquently in their overview of Portis:
"You might have heard this storyline before—a highly-touted Florida transfer with size, a big arm and incredible athleticism leads his team to a championship.
The description is often tied to Auburn's Cam Newton, but it also applies to Portis. A highly-touted prep prospect, Portis signed with Florida, spurning offers from Oregon, Kansas State and Utah among others schools looking for multi-dimensional quarterbacks. Portis saw action in five games as a true freshman, but elected to transfer to Maryland.
While his athleticism drew raves from the Terrapins' staff, his inconsistency led to a spot on the bench. After two years with the Terps (he sat out the 2006 season due to NCAA regulations), Portis transferred to California (Pa.), dominating as expected.
In two seasons, Portis completed 58 percent of his passes for 6,072 yards, 69 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions and led the Vulcans to the postseason twice."
Can you say upside?
Mitch Mustain—USC—6'2", 200 lbs
It's all but certain Mustain will go undrafted after his February arrest for selling prescription drugs online. Charges were dropped because the drugs in question were not considered a controlled substance by the LA district attorney.
Mustain has taken his share of snaps from under center.
Taylor Potts—Texas Tech—6'4", 218 lbs
Potts is a big guy and pretty slow, really. The vast majority of his snaps came from the gun, like so many other collage passers these days. Potts' accuracy and arm strength leave a lot to be desired.
Still, he has good height, puts decent zip on the ball and could possibly be worth bringing into camp for a tryout.
Jerrod Johnson—Texas A&M—6'5", 251 lbs
Another unrefined talent from a shotgun-based offense, but Johnson has very decent mobility for his size, sporting a 4.75 40 speed.
Ben Chappell—Indiana—6'2", 224 lbs
Chappell played admirable for a reeling Hoosier football program. Inspite of being surrounded by typically outmatched levels talent, Chappell's numbers stack up quite decently.
Mike Hartline—Kentucky—6'5", 219 lbs
Hartline has a lot to like and a lot to fix. Although he has had the arm strength to overcome it at the college level, Hartline's tendency to throw off his back foot needs to be adjusted.
This SEC quarterback will also fall due to off-field issues.
Nathan Enderle—Idaho—6'4", 240 lbs
Enderle had a rough record at Idaho, but he came back strong as a senior. His size gives potential NFL suitors a lot to look at, but his lack of speed limits his upside.
Justin Roper—Montana—6'6", 218 lbs
Montana isn't exactly a football powerhouse. Nor is it known for producing pro players. But a 6'6" quarterback with 4.86 40 speed has to turn a head or two.
Another raw and unpolished prospect, Roper could also stand to put on another 10 to 20 pounds of muscle.
Alex Loukas—Stanford—6'4", 221 lbs
Many people forgot that Stanford had any quarterbacks besides Andrew Luck, but this guy is another Harbaugh product. Sure, Loukas wasn't the starter, and he was primarily used so Stanford could run the option without risking injury to its main passer, but it's doubtful anybody knows Loukas' skill set like the 49ers new head coach does.
Jeff Van Camp—Florida Atlantic—6'5", 218 lbs
Van Camp has nice height, but his sidearm delivery negates this advantage a bit. This could be changed with enough refinement—but not overnight. His 4.83 40 time shows more raw talent.
Adam Froman—Louisville—6'4", 220 lbs
The Louisville quarterback possesses prototypical size and a 4.56 40 time. Impressive. What he can do with those tools is another story entirely. Given the right NFL coaching instruction, it's certainly not impossible that Froman could develop into a gamer.
Now, nothing. In all likelihood, the 49ers will take a quarterback in one of the first few rounds. Still, given that they have two compensatory draft picks, taking a risk on an underachiever with upside could be a smart (low risk) gamble.
A player with better stats than attributes (like Tolzien) could also be a project worth considering, and, if nothing else, he could be a decent backup down the line.
Might San Francisco even consider a passer with a small legal history? With late-seventh-round compensatory picks that cannot be traded, it wouldn't be the end of the world.
You just never know which sleeper players might fall though the cracks, or who will be there to catch them.