Dan Pompei's Read Option: Drafting a Quarterback This Year Is 'A Crapshoot'

Dan PompeiNFL ColumnistApril 10, 2014

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Drafting a quarterback is an art, not a science, so it is understandable that NFL teams have different interpretations of what they are seeing just one month before the draft. 

From a distance, the quarterback picture seemed less abstract. The closer we get, the more difficult it is to tell what we are looking at. "It's a crapshoot at the position right now," one front-office man said. "Especially at the top."

After talking with a number of personnel execs, this is what has become clear recently:

• While some prospects are on bobbers and others are on sinkers, one player, it seems, has remained constant. That is Blake Bortles. And that could result in the Central Florida product being the first quarterback taken, which was unthinkable a few months back.

Blake Bortles
Blake BortlesJoe Robbins/Getty Images

Usually, when a player becomes No. 1 after being No. 3, it's because he did something to warrant a rise. But Bortles didn't rise as much as others fell. A college scouting director spoke for many when he said, "His skill level is not that of a franchise quarterback, but he is my favorite in this draft."

Bortles has the best intangibles of any of the top quarterbacks, according to a longtime evaluator. He has put teams at ease in interviews and shown strong leadership qualities.

A number of scouts think two quarterbacks will go in the top 10. But three said they are only certain that Bortles will be one of them.

• NFL teams are rethinking Teddy Bridgewater. A pro day should not make or break a player, but a quarterback needs to ace every test to be a top-10 prospect. Bridgewater has not done that.

Even though he was the most consistent college performer in the class, there were questions about him before the pro day. He is a little too lean. His hands (9¼") are small. And he is a little too introverted, according to one front-office man who interviewed him.

Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy BridgewaterJoe Robbins/Getty Images

One scouting director now rates the Louisville QB fourth, behind Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr. But another gray-haired scout said this in a conversation about Bridgewater: "He's a winner and a good player. I have no problem with his arm strength. Because the draft has been moved back, everyone has more time to stir the pot."

Certainly, everyone has more time to overanalyze and overdebate. And that's what we're all doing.

One more thought on Bridgewater: Some remain convinced he fits the Texans better than any other quarterback. That does not mean he will be the first overall pick, but it opens up the possibility that the Texans will choose him at some point later in the first round, or even at the top of the second.

• What could hurt Manziel in the draft more than concerns about his personality are fears that he might not be durable, given his size and dependency on leaving the pocket.

Johnny Manziel
Johnny ManzielJamie Squire/Getty Images

One veteran scout pointed out that Robert Griffin III is considerably more athletic than Manziel, and he has not been able to stay healthy playing outside of the pocket. But another exec said this, "Manziel has eyes in the back of his head and he avoids hits, so he's different from RGIII. RGIII gets nailed. In that regard, Johnny is more like Russell Wilson."

Said another: "Can he hold up? I'm just not sure."

Manziel is the biggest love-him-or-hate-him prospect in this draft. But it seems clear some team is going to love him enough to pick him in the top third of the first round.

• Zach Mettenberger's stock is on the rise, and he now could lead the parade of quarterbacks who go in the third-round range. The LSU quarterback quelled concerns about his ACL tear with a solid pro-day workout Wednesday. Former NFL coach Cam Cameron, now the LSU offensive coordinator, is telling his buddies good things about Mettenberger.

This is the time of year when arm strength can influence a player's draft stock. Mettenberger? "He has the strongest arm of all," one personnel man said.

• Logan Thomas is the later-round version of Manziel. That is, there are wildly differing opinions on him. Sometimes, they even come from the same scout. "I can justify a high grade on him with some tape," one college scouting director said of the Virginia Tech QB. "And then I can justify a low grade on him with some tape."

Logan Thomas
Logan ThomasMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Some front-office men have talked about Thomas being chosen as high as the second round. Some say they wouldn't take him in the fourth. High-risk, high-reward players like Thomas usually are best taken in the third.

Said one, "He is deliberate. He is robotic. And he didn't win."

Said another, "He is big, he can run and he can throw. He has all the tools."

• Pittsburgh's Tom Savage has become the late-round quarterback with a bullet next to his name in part because teams sometimes can easier justify gambling on the devil they don't know.

Savage is a three-time transfer who sat out two seasons. "There really just isn't enough film to evaluate him," one front-office man said.

Tom Savage
Tom SavageKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

What draws scouts to Savage is excellent arm strength. But he was an inconsistent passer who couldn't move well enough to offset substandard pass protection. The hope is he can develop in the right situation.

That's why Savage could be chosen ahead of other hot late-round quarterbacks, like Keith Wenning of Ball State and Jeff Mathews of Cornell.

What does it all mean? It should be a wild, unpredictable draft for quarterbacks.

NFL Confidential

Brandon Thomas
Brandon ThomasMichael Conroy

• The unfortunate knee injury Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas sustained during a noncontact drill in a personal workout for the Saints is sending reverberations throughout the NFL.

Thomas' torn ACL means he probably will have to sit out his rookie year. So his stock in the draft is likely to drop from a third- or fourth-round pick to a sixth- or seventh-round spot. And the bigger picture? Agents are saying they are going to stop allowing their clients to go through private workouts for teams moving forward.

"Why should we do it?" one asked. "They have seen maybe 30 games on tape. They have seen them at the Senior Bowl. They have seen them at the combine. Why do they have to see them again and risk something like this happening?"

• NFL honchos expect rocker Jon Bon Jovi to make a push to purchase the Bills, perhaps in concert with Maple Leafs magnate Larry Tanenbaum. Bon Jovi is connected with Tanenbaum and Tim Leiweke, CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment.

Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon JoviElsa/Getty Images

There were rumors about Bon Jovi wanting to purchase the team before Ralph Wilson's death, but the team was not for sale then. It is expected to be put up for sale at some point now that Wilson has passed away. There are expected to be other bidders as well, and a primary factor in who gets the team is going to be where the Bills will call home.

If one of the ownership groups can get a stadium built in Buffalo, they may have the edge. It is possible the Bon Jovi group may want to relocate to Toronto, or even Los Angeles. Lieweke previously was involved with the L.A. Kings and tried to bring an NFL team there before.

• Each of the three teams at the top of the draft now has indicated an interest in moving down. The Texans are open for business. The Rams have expressed a willingness to deal down. And now the Jaguars have joined the fray.

Another NFL exec said the Jags have made it known they could put a "for sale" sign on the third pick of the draft depending on developments. Another team probably would not move up to No. 3 without knowing who is going first and second, so at this point it's just a matter of sending out feelers.

But there clearly is potential for movement at the top, as Jadeveon Clowney is looking like a potential trade target as the draft nears.

• There has not been the same kind of rush to sign Chris Johnson as there was to sign DeSean Jackson, in part because there is a divide over what Johnson thinks his market value is and what some teams do.

One source said that also may have been a factor in the Titans' inability to deal Johnson, as they could not find a trade partner willing to redo his deal at a level that would have appeased him.

Scout Talk

Many teams would like to play defense the way the Seahawks do. And more teams will have the opportunity to after the May draft. This cornerback crop is unusually deep in players who have the ability to play Seahawks-style press coverage.

"The best defenses last year were pressure defenses," one high-ranking exec said. "So others want to do the same thing. Cornerbacks who can press help with that."

In addition to the Seahawks, teams that like to press include the Jaguars—whose defense is a spin-off of Pete Carroll's—Eagles, Jets and Ravens. The Giants might be going to more of a press style based on their recent acquisitions.

Ted S. Warren

"It's going to be interesting because there are a lot of press corners, but there are not a lot of press teams in the league," one front-office man said.

Many of these corners are capable of playing press, but that doesn't mean they couldn't fit in a defense that doesn't press much. And most defenses play a combination of coverages—some press, some off. Some defenses even give corners the freedom to do what they are comfortable with in many circumstances.

Arguably the three best cornerbacks in the draft all are suited for a press style.

Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State is a 6-footer with long arms and good strength. "Pressing is what he does best," a college scouting director said. "He fits the size-and-speed profile."

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard has versatility to fit in any scheme, but he too is "best in press coverage," a scout said. "He has decent size, but he plays bigger than his size."

Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech is the most physical of the top corner prospects, and he too is best in press-man, according to a scout. "He has very good length," the scouting director said.

Kyle Fuller
Kyle FullerChris Graythen/Getty Images

The second tier of cornerbacks is also loaded with players who can press. At 6'1", Pierre Desir of Lindenwood has the physical makeup to get a good jam and then turn and run. A national scout said Bashaud Breeland of Clemson played well in press and improved in his off coverage last season.

Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste has gotten a lot of attention because he stands 6'2" and is physical. "You could see him doing what Richard Sherman does in Seattle," one general manager said. "But he won't fit in every scheme because he's long and gangly." Another personnel man said he thinks Jean-Baptiste could be drafted as high as the second round because of his unusual skill set.

Florida teammates Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson both are press-corner prospects because of their height and length. Purifoy has been an inconsistent player who is seen as "an athlete playing corner," according to a personnel director. Roberson is a bit raw, but he has the physicality to win at the line. Front-office men say both of the Gators could have benefited from another year in school.

Aaron Colvin of Oklahoma is a former safety who has the size, strength and competitiveness to play well in press. The college scouting director compared him to Walter Thurmond, who fell to the fourth round in 2010 after injuring his knee at Oregon. Colvin might have been a second-round or even first-round pick, but he likely will slip after tearing his ACL in a Senior Bowl practice.

Other corners mentioned as ideal prospects for press teams include Walt Aikens of Liberty, Keith McGill of Utah, Phillip Gaines of Rice and Lavelle Westbrooks of Georgia Southern.

Hot Reads

Arian Foster
Arian FosterEzra Shaw/Getty Images

• Texans running back Arian Foster told Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman that surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back "wasn't as major as it sounded" and indicated he expects a big comeback year. What else should we expect from the NFL's closest thing to Adrian Peterson?

• Nike announced NFL jersey prices are going up, with the "Elite jersey" costing $295, via ESPN's Darren Rovell. And somewhere, Mark Cuban cackled.

• In a series of tweets, RGIII did not ask Mike Shanahan what the view from under the bus is like. But he could have.

• Before the Lions trade up to take Sammy Watkins, they might want to see how the philosophy of ignoring other needs to load up at wide receiver worked when they used consecutive first-round picks on Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams.

• Nate Burleson wants to be a mentor to Josh Gordon. The first thing he should teach him is to make sure the pizza is secure on the car ride home.

• Jim Harbaugh is hinting he may open up the 49ers offense this season. Next thing you know, he will be wearing designer jeans.

Dan Pompei covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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