NFC West: Todd Collins

Facebook friend Barrett was on the right track when he said NFL teams have struggled finding quarterbacks in the second and third rounds.

Teams tend to overvalue quarterbacks in the draft, which means the most promising ones rarely escape the first round. Teams tend to focus on other positions in the rounds immediately following the first round before "taking flyers" on the position later in the draft.

We see this when looking at the number of quarterbacks drafted by round since 2000. There have been 31 in the first round, 16 in the second, 17 in the third, 20 in the fourth, 24 in the fifth, 36 in the six and 32 in the seventh.

The chart, updated since it ran in February 2010, ranks second-round quarterbacks since 1995 by number of games played.

While we're on a hot streak, let's take a quick look at third-round quarterbacks drafted since 1995, arranged by team:
Count Schaub and Whitehurst among those who were more valuable to their teams as trade bait than as quarterbacks.

Mailbag: Troubling reality on QB front

January, 21, 2011
1/21/11
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Chris from Houston writes: What free-agent quarterbacks do you expect Arizona to be looking at this offseason? I know of Marc Bulger, but who else is there for them to even consider that wouldn't require a trade? Thanks! Love the blog! Thanks for helping keep us all sane until next season.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Chris. This could be a rough offseason for signing or even acquiring quarterbacks from other teams.

One, the list of quarterbacks likely to hit the market is once against weak. Two, a lockout would prevent teams from trading for players -- even via draft-day trades involving picks. A lockout lasting past the draft would limit options further, in other words.

Peyton Manning and Michael Vick are scheduled to become free agents, but Manning is going nowhere, obviously, and the Eagles will presumably keep Vick, too. Brett Favre is retiring, it appears, so forget about him.

The next tier of quarterbacks with expiring contracts goes like this: Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins, Chad Pennington and Bulger. These are older, likely declining players -- not necessarily guys to build around. Pennington's health is a major issue. Vince Young is available.

Several highly drafted, not-yet-old quarterbacks could hit the market, but none has met expectations. That list will feature Kyle Boller, Patrick Ramsey, Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman, Alex Smith and Matt Leinart. The Cardinals aren't bringing back Leinart, obviously, and the other guys on this list will not project as starters.

Tarvaris Jackson, Brodie Croyle and Matt Moore could be available, too.

Several career backups could become available: Todd Collins, Todd Bouman, Billy Volek, Bruce Gradkowski, Seneca Wallace, J.T. O'Sullivan, Chris Simms, Luke McCown, etc.

Still not sold?

The names get smaller from there. Brian St. Pierre, Jim Sorgi, Charlie Frye, Kellen Clemens, Drew Stanton, Troy Smith, Brian Brohm, Caleb Hanie, Jordan Palmer, Dennis Dixon ... we're not finding the Cardinals' next starter from that list, either.

Arizona should probably make a play for Bulger, consider drafting a quarterback and see how the trade market shakes out. The Cardinals have too many needs, in my view, to part with multiple picks of value for an unproven quarterback such as Kevin Kolb -- unless they're convinced that quarterback will become a very good player.
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Seahawks are gathering on the field near their sideline for some pregame mosh-pit action before their stretching session.

I've done a quick sleeve count to see which players have given in to the cold.

Eight Seattle players -- Mike Williams, J.P. Losman, Jordan Babineaux, Clint Gresham, William Robinson, Stacy Andrews, Jon Ryan and Olindo Mare -- are wearing long sleeves for Seattle. A couple defensive backs are wearing forearm pads.

Eight Bears players are also wearing sleeves: Brad Maynard, Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Todd Collins, Greg Olsen, Corey Graham, Devin Hester and Patrick Mannelly.

We're up to 22 degrees from 16 degrees a few hours ago.

Troy Smith and 49ers' big-play offense

December, 24, 2010
12/24/10
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The San Francisco 49ers' Troy Smith has struck for at least 30 yards on 10 of his 66 completed passes this season.

That works out to 15.2 percent, the highest rate for any NFL quarterback since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Coach Mike Singletary has reinstalled Smith as the 49ers' starter for the team's must-win game against the Rams in Week 16.

As the first chart shows, Smith is one of 10 players since 2001 to gain at least 30 yards on 9.7 percent or more of completions. The other nine players posted a combined 51-23 (.689) starting record during the seasons in question. Smith has a 3-2 starting record.

Preventing big pass plays is always important. It's especially important for the Rams against Smith. Five of the quarterback's 10 long completions fell in one game against St. Louis more than five weeks ago. Smith had three 30-plus plays in three subsequent starts before getting benched.

The first chart ranks quarterbacks since 2001 with at least 9.7 percent of completed passes covering 30 or more yards.



The second chart breaks down Smith's 30-plus completions by various categories. For example, Smith completed two such passes against the Rams from 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends).

CHICAGO -- The Seattle Seahawks will not have to worry about Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs in their Week 6 matchup at Soldier Field.

Briggs, slowed by an ankle injury recently, was named inactive Sunday. Also, the Bears designated veteran Todd Collins as their third quarterback, leaving Caleb Hanie as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Collins started for the Bears when a concussion sidelined Cutler last week.

Also inactive for the Bears: Major Wright, Joshua Moore, Kahlil Bell, Roberto Garza, Charles Grant and Marcus Harrison.

About selecting QBs in second round

February, 22, 2010
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The earlier item showing where teams target positions among the first 32 draft choices raised questions about quarterbacks in particular.

Fourteen of the 37 quarterbacks drafted in that range since 1995 went first or third overall. None went in 15 of the 32 highest spots, including 13th through 16th or 27th through 31st.

"The interesting point on second-round QB picks will be who they were, how long until they were a starter (if ever) and if they stuck with their drafting team," Bcook122 wrote in response. "I'm hoping this year's crop may yield a good prospect without having to exact one of those two first-round picks the Niners have."

The first thing I did was break out all second-round quarterbacks selected in the last 30 drafts, figuring this would provide big-picture perspective. One of the quarterbacks in question, Drew Brees, appeared on the previous list because the Chargers selected him 32nd overall before the NFL expanded to 32 teams. Some of the best ones -- Boomer Esiason, Randall Cunningham and Neil Lomax -- were drafted between 1981 and 1984. Another, Brett Favre, went in 1991.

The next step involved narrowing the search range to all drafts since 1995.

NFL teams have drafted 17 second-round quarterbacks during that period, including Brees. The Dolphins (three) and Lions (two) drafted five of the 17, including four since 2007. Eight of the 17 were drafted since 2006. Three of the 17 have gone to Pro Bowls, but Brees is the only one with a career passer rating higher than 77.9.

The chart ranks these 17 quarterbacks by regular-season games played. Of course, the earlier a quarterback is drafted, the more chances an organization will generally give him.

Bulger, Rams receivers out of sync

August, 17, 2008
8/17/08
4:42
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

St. Louis' first-team offense continues to mystify, but watching the Rams' 7-6 victory over San Diego last night provided a few clues. A few observations:

  • First and foremost, quarterback Marc Bulger was not in sync with his receivers. He is a much better quarterback than what we saw in this game. His protection was good enough. Bulger appeared to throw early and behind his intended targets.
Bulger and Drew Bennett appeared to be reading from different playbooks at times. This can happen when the quarterback and receiver are interpreting blitzes and coverages differently. The Sporting News examined this in a 2000 story about the Rams' offense (current offensive coordinator Al Saunders was the receivers coach at the time).
  • The Redskins' quarterbacks also put up shaky numbers when starting out in Saunders' offense. I pulled up the stats from an Aug. 13, 2006 exhibition game between the Redskins and Bengals.
Saunders, the Rams' new offensive coordinator, was in his first year with the Redskins at the time. Jason Campbell, Todd Collins and Mark Brunell combined to complete barely half of their passes with no touchdowns and three interceptions in that game. The Redskins also lost Clinton Portis to injury when the running back made a tackle on an interception return (perhaps Steven Jackson's holdout spared the Rams last night).
  • Rams left tackle Orlando Pace needs the preseason work. Chargers backup Jyles Tucker threw Pace aside before drilling Bulger as the quarterback threw right before halftime. Bulger was shaken up. He's not accustomed to getting blasted in the back when Pace is in the lineup.
  • Leonard Little's return to health gives the Rams an active defensive front. Little gave starting Chargers tackle Jeromey Clary problems. Adam Carriker also brought pressure up the middle after pushing aside Chargers left guard Kris Dielman. I spoke with Little a few days ago. "I'm going to be productive," he said. "That is my whole thing this year."
  • The Chargers rested defensive starters Jamal Williams, Luis Castillo, Shawne Merriman, Stephen Cooper, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie. That's why I would have expected more from the Rams' passing offense, even without Torry Holt. The communication between quarterback and receiver must improve.
  • This was not a case of the Rams failing to hold up physically. Their starting units held up reasonably well while working against lots of San Diego backups.
  • Darren Sproles, the Chargers' 181-pound running back, took out Rams defensive end Chris Long with a block at the knees. Sproles appeared to be the only blocker assigned to Long on the play.
  • Long makes hustle plays. He accelerated out of the backfield to take down a runner after an 8-yard gain. We are not seeing Long making big plays yet. Without regard for draft status or paycheck values, it's tough to say the Rams are better right now with Long on the field. Backup James Hall appears somewhat rejuvenated this summer. I expect Long to improve as he plays more.
Those are a few things that stood out while watching the first half of this game. I'm going to take a look at the Packers-49ers game next.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Brandon from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Am I the only one that can see the Rams having a really good offense in 2008? Al Saunders was the mastermind behind the NFL?s #1 offense from 2002-05. However, he was unable to really get things going with the Redskins from 06 and 07 but that can be directly attributed to the Redskins' QB play. For instance, when the Chiefs were dominating on offense Trent Green had an average QB rating of 92.6. Conversely, Brunell and Campbell had an average rating of 80.2 under Saunders. The only QB in Washington to have success w/Saunders is Collins, who learned the system in 01 w/ the Chiefs. Furthermore, when he took over for Campbell in 07 he helped the Skins to the playoffs w/ a 106.4 rating. On the other hand, Bulger has an 87.8 QB rating over the last 4 years and that is including the disastrous 07 that saw him sacked 37 times. If you remove last year as a fluke his rating jumps to 93.7 (over a full point higher then Green?s when his team was leading the NFL in total offense). W/ improved line play, Jackson in the back field, Holt as a better WR then Saunders has had, and Bulger throwing the ball I can see this offense becoming really, really good. Your thoughts? PS-I am not even a Rams fan. I am just calling it like I see it.

Mike Sando: Saunders also had to work within the Joe Gibbs framework at Washington. I go back and forth on the Rams in my mind. They don't have depth at receiver any longer, and I wonder if Torry Holt's knee can hold up. They do have a top-flight back, one dangerous receiver (when Holt is healthy) and a good tight end. A healthy offensive line could help the Rams make a big jump offensively.


Daryl from Alberta, Canada, writes: The standard pub revolves around the leagues stars, as it should, but I'm always far more concerned with how lesser known players are performing and developing. In the NFC West, I'm quite curious to know about Rams DL Clifton Ryan. How has he looked so far and will he be a factor in his second season like he was in his first? Fans can find information about star players almost anywhere, I think you guys should focus more players like Ryan.

Mike Sando: I'll keep an eye out for Ryan when I'm at Rams practices beginning Friday. And I definitely agree with your point about focusing on more than the stars. I've got some roster-related analysis planned, but first I need to finish hitting these NFC West camps.

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