Although the TCU quarterback had the mental capacity and the necessary intangibles to succeed in the NFL, there were questions about his physical ability to do the same.
His arm, some said, was a little on the weak side. There were questions about whether he would be able to keep up with the speed of professional football. Those questions caused him to fall to the second round in the draft, where he was picked up by the Bengals.
A few months later, Carson Palmer refused to come to training camp and the next thing Andy Dalton knew he was starting in the NFL.
As a starter, Dalton has found surprising success. His arm didn’t magically improve overnight, but the Bengals have been able to coach to his strengths while mitigating his weaknesses.
Ten weeks into the season, the Bengals have a surprising 6-3 record, in no small part due to excellent play by their rookie quarterback. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, with a 60.3 percent completion rate. His average quarterback rating is a respectable 82.6.
Looking to this year’s draft prospects, we have to wonder about the fates of other quarterbacks who aren’t named Andrew Luck and who may not be drafted in the top 10. Perhaps they won’t even go in the first round.
Can we expect any of those rookie quarterbacks to find surprising success in their first year of the NFL?
Over the next six slides, we will explore some of the quarterbacks who could, given the right circumstance, prove themselves in the NFL the way Andy Dalton did.
Kirk Cousins, a senior out of Michigan State, will certainly find a place on a team in the NFL after the 2012 draft. He’s got a good arm, great intelligence and a ton of wins under his belt at Michigan State.
His draft stock is a bit lower than he might like because of what he doesn’t bring to the field. He’s a good all-around player, but he’s not particularly special in any notable way. He has also demonstrated a weakness at reading defenses.
Neither of those drawbacks are real deal killers if he gets a shot to start in the NFL. Given the right team and the right coaches, Cousins could enjoy plenty of success in the professional world.
Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State is a fantastic quarterback—there’s no question about that. He’s got a great arm, good awareness on the field and he isn’t far behind Andrew Luck when it comes to running an offense.
Weeden’s major downfalls are concerns about his throwing arm (his fledgling baseball career ended after a shoulder surgery) and his age. He will be close to 30 by the time he sees his first season in the NFL, so teams may shy away from him.
Of course, there have been other quarterbacks in the NFL who have entered the league a little bit older than their colleagues—notably John Beck.
Chances are good Weeden will be picked fairly high in the draft, and he will go to a team looking for a starter now instead of someone to develop over the course of a few years.
Arm strength is not a problem when it comes to Ryan Lindley of San Diego State. He’s got a cannon attached to his torso, and he uses it freely.
Perhaps a bit too freely.
The reason that Lindley may fall in the draft is squarely on the shoulders of his decision-making process. He seems to have a bit of a gunslinger mentality about him that brings to mind the likes of Brett Favre—he tends to throw first and ask questions later.
That kind of play will drop him in the draft, but it is something that the right set of coaches can work with. When he hits the NFL, he’ll certainly bring excitement to the field. Success is entirely possible, too.
Nick Foles of the University of Arizona is a fairly sound all-around quarterback. He’s quick and quite accurate when he throws short and medium passes.
There are a lot of little things about Foles that will probably add up to drop him a bit in the draft. He’s not terribly good when he has to throw on the run, and his footwork needs serious work.
Foles would do well to get drafted a little bit further down into a situation where he could sit as a backup quarterback for a couple of years.
If he does end up starting in the NFL, he has the potential for a start that is as surprising as the one Andy Dalton made.
Russell Wilson isn’t getting as much attention on the national stage as some of the other quarterbacks in his class, but he certainly has everything necessary to find some success in the NFL.
The main thing holding him back is completely out of his control: his height. He’s a little bit short for the NFL to the point where he might have trouble seeing over his own front line.
He’ll get drafted, but probably not in the first round. If he does find himself in a position to start right away, his height likely won’t be enough to hold him back from finding success.
A former wide receiver, Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M broke out as a quarterback last season and has made a pretty good name for himself since then. He has pinpoint accuracy and the ability to make long bombs down the field.
Because of his time on the other end of the football, Tannehill possesses a deep understanding of where to throw the ball and how to stop from leading his receivers into dangerous situations.
Tannehill is probably the quarterback in this draft class most likely to find himself in a situation similar to Andy Dalton's.
With Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones all likely to go ahead of Tannehill in the draft, Dalton will go to a team that is not in desperate need of a quarterback—similar to Dalton. If he does find himself in a position to start as a rookie, he has what it takes to find success at the next level right away.