FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Regardless of whether he stays or goes, there seems to be a general consensus that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would be one of the top picks in the 2011 NFL draft. He currently is the No. 1 player in the Scouts Inc. Top 32, and Todd McShay has him as the No. 1 quarterback overall. Mel Kiper has Luck at No. 1 on his latest Big Board.
Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor isn't as highly regarded by draft experts, but the Discover Orange Bowl will be the final audition for him. He's already improved his stock with an MVP performance against Florida State in the ACC championship game. Here's what Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc. had to say about Taylor's place in the NFL after watching him play in Charlotte this year:
I've said before that Taylor is no more than a developmental prospect as a quarterback, and his lack of anticipation and inconsistent short accuracy showed up at times against Florida State. However, he is a gifted athlete and the physical tools Taylor showed in the title game give him a chance to come off the board in the middle rounds.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Taylor is put together well and has a low center of gravity, and with his impressive lateral agility he makes it look easy when evading defenders. He was able to sidestep pass-rushers and buy time in the pocket, and his second-quarter touchdown pass to WR Jarrett Boykin came after Taylor spun away from two defenders coming up the middle and allowed Boykin to get away from coverage in the back of the end zone.
His athleticism also showed up on a 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Taylor rolled out of the pocket to his left, saw two defenders closing in on him, stopped on a dime and left both grabbing at air as he walked into the end zone.
Overall, Taylor has the skills to contribute as a Wildcat quarterback, returner on special teams and even at wide receiver. He reminds me of former college quarterbacks Antwaan Randle El and Josh Cribbs, both of whom have become versatile contributors in the NFL, and if he's willing to make the transition from quarterback Taylor looks like an intriguing mid-round pick.
Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who spent 24 seasons in the NFL, said it's possible Taylor could be an NFL quarterback.
"You know, like a lot of the athletic quarterbacks, the Vince Youngs, Tebow, another name or two that's come out there, those guys, they've got to work on being more of a pocket passer and developing accuracy and timing that goes with being a competitive NFL quarterback," Fangio said. "But I think this guy definitely has the tools to do that. He's just going to have to develop. Will he be Vince Young who's had some success? Will he be Pat White who came down here and right now I think he's playing baseball, right, from West Virginia? There's all different varying degrees of success stories in the NFL with quarterbacks such as these. But I think this guy has got talent and some gifts that are going to intrigue some people."
He has certainly intrigued Stanford's defense. Taylor said he knows the spotlight will be on the quarterbacks in this game, and he's looking forward to it.
"I'm very excited," he said. "He's a great player. He's done all the right things for his team to be in the situation they're playing in now. I'm looking forward to the match-up. Like I said, it's not a me thing, not personally me against Luck. It's Stanford against Virginia Tech, and I'm going to go out there to do what I can to put my team in the best situation to win this football game."