It seems like the only quarterback prospects we’ve been talking about for months are Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. Now that the combine is here, Washington’s Jake Locker and Arkansas Ryan Mallett also are getting some attention.
But let’s face the facts, the Carolina Panthers are the only NFC South team in the market for a starting quarterback this year. I have said and continue to say, that won’t come through the draft. I think the Panthers go out and get a quarterback with some experience in a trade or free agency and use the No. 1 overall pick on a defensive lineman, either Clemson end Da’Quan Bowers or Auburn tackle Nick Fairley.
But there’s one common theme I see with the other three NFC South teams when it comes to quarterbacks. Each of them could use an upgrade at backup and the guy that I’m real curious about is Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin.
I could see the Buccaneers, Falcons or Saints taking a shot on Devlin anywhere from the fourth round on and I think he could be better than what any of those teams have at backup. Maybe not immediately, but I think Devlin is sort of a hidden gem in this draft and a few weeks of training camp could make him better than Tampa Bay’s Josh Johnson, Atlanta’s Chris Redman or New Orleans’ Chase Daniel, the current backups for those three teams.
In fact, I view Devlin as a scaled-down Matt Ryan. I followed those two closely in high school because both are originally from my home state, Pennsylvania. Devlin was better than Ryan in high school. Penn State’s Joe Paterno didn’t even recruit Ryan, but he recruited the heck out of Devlin and convinced the quarterback to back out of a commitment to Miami as Devlin was generally seen as the highest-rated quarterback in his high school class.
Things didn’t work out for Devlin at Penn State, even though he had some bright moments. Paterno, who is well known for always favoring upperclassmen, chose Darryl Clark to start over Devlin. That prompted Devlin to transfer to Delaware, where he had a decent career.
His performance at the combine was decent, but nothing outstanding. These days, Devlin’s not as polished as Ryan was when he came out of Boston College in 2008. But Devlin has prototype size, a decent arm and excellent mechanics.
He’s not going to be an instant starter. But he could provide a quality backup for Atlanta, New Orleans or Tampa Bay. In fact, I’d argue Devlin has a better shot landing in the NFC South than Newton or Gabbert.