Generally, the majority of pre-NFL draft headlines focus on the first few. Whether it be the first few teams to pick, the first few players projected to be selected by those teams or the first few mistakes that teams tend to make in drafting players, everything but the “first few” seems to get lost in the confusion.
However, thanks to the uncertainty about the prospects at the quarterback position, as many as six (Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton) players have been mentioned as potentially the best at the position in this year’s draft. Nevertheless, even with the large pool to choose from, the man who could one day be the cream of the 2011 crop won’t be crashing that party on draft day. Meet former University of Delaware Hens quarterback Pat Devlin.
Had it not been for a change of schools, Devlin may have been the best quarterback prospect in the draft instead of just one of the guys. He was a highly-touted recruit in high school and originally signed to play at Penn State. In his sophomore season in 2008, he posted some mediocre but very promising numbers as a backup to Daryll Clark and even led the Nittany Lions to a win over Ohio State in Columbus when Clark was knocked out of the game. However, after the 2008 season Devlin decided to transfer to Delaware.
By transferring to Delaware, Devlin gave up the chance to remain in the spotlight as the quarterback of a high-profile team but made the best of his time as a Blue Hen. In his senior season, Devlin threw for over 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns and led the FCS division in completion percentage. In the process, he made himself much more comparable to another former Delaware quarterback, Joe Flacco.
While Devlin doesn’t have the cannon of an arm that Flacco possessed, he does have the quick release and overhand throwing motion that NFL scouts love. In addition, Devlin has shown the ability to see the entire field, which may have been correlated to his high rate of completion of passes. However, that is where the similarities between Devlin and Flacco end. While Flacco was a first-round lock in the 2008 draft, it is realistic to think that Devlin may still be on the board as late as the sixth round. This is what potentially makes him such a steal.
While Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert may get the lucrative signing bonuses for being high first-round draft choices, they will also be thrown into situations where they have to be “the guy” immediately. Not only will they be unable to learn behind a veteran quarterback, but they will be put on teams where “Need A Starting Quarterback” is only the most pressing of a long list of issues.
Meanwhile, Devlin, who is unlikely to be drafted before the fourth round, will more than likely be drafted by a team with the intent of developing him for a number of years behind an established starter, much like Aaron Rodgers was in Green Bay.
Also, the question has to be asked of this year’s quarterback crop: What exactly is the gap between No. 1 and a number as low as eight? Newton, as physically talented as he is, has some pretty major question marks for someone who has a good chance of being the No. 1 overall pick. Gabbert has to prove that he can thrive in a pro-style offense after playing in a spread offense in college. Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet have risen and fallen from grace at various points throughout the last year, and Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton could arguably be steals themselves.
Regardless of how Devlin ends up turning out as a pro, chances are the team that picks him won’t be set back for years by selecting him. Teams such as New England, New Orleans, Kansas City and the New York Jets have all reportedly been interested in Devlin, and none of those teams have an immediate need for a quarterback. They do have the ability to take a calculated risk on a quarterback from a small school with attractive set of tools to be a productive play-caller, though.
The team that takes a chance on Devlin could be stumbling upon the next Tom Brady. Just as easily, they could be picking up the next Colt Brennan. Regardless, it would be wise not to forget the name Pat Devlin. Again, that is.