Sunday, February 28, 2010
QBs fail to excite at scouting combine
By John Clayton
INDIANAPOLIS -- In the NFL, it's all about the quarterbacks. But on Sunday at the NFL scouting combine, the quarterback sessions were mostly a time to catch up on more important things.
The top-rated QBs, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Texas' Colt McCoy (all coming off injuries), didn't throw. The delivery doctors were working on the throwing mechanics of Florida's Tim Tebow, and Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour threw only a limited number of passes. The quarterbacks who did throw didn't excite anyone.
As a pool reporter for the Pro Football Writers, I watched both sessions. Only seven quarterbacks threw in the first group, but their parents inadvertently made them the appetizer. Combine groups are broken up in alphabetical order.
So the first group of quarterbacks didn't have the big names. Bradford was in that group, and even though he'll probably end up being the first pick in the draft, he's not ready to throw. On Saturday, he said he was about 85 percent recovered from surgery on his right shoulder, but he's on path to be able to throw March 25 at his pro day workout. Clausen is still recovering from turf toe, so he'll wait until his pro day at Notre Dame on April 9 to throw.
That left a group consisting of Levi Brown of Troy, Jarrett Brown of West Virginia, Daryll Clark of Penn State, Sean Canfield of Oregon State, Armanti Edwards of Appalachian State, Tim Hiller of Western Michigan and Michael Kafka of Northwestern. Jarrett Brown is considered the best of that group, possibly a third-rounder. He showed a strong arm, but he didn't light it up in the drills. Canfield, a middle-round pick, was a little disappointing. A left-hander, his throws didn't have much zip and were a little off target. Edwards was interesting because he does have some power behind his throws, but the launching point of some of his tosses was at three-quarter angles or lower.
This isn't to dismiss the chances of a good quarterback coming from that group, but it's pretty clear that these guys will be developmental players initially in the NFL.
My appetite was set for the next group. LeFevour, who decided to do some limited throwing, created positive vibes with his 4.66 40-yard dash Sunday. But the featured attractions of the second quarterback group were Cincinnati's Tony Pike, Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson and Mississippi's Jevan Snead. In case you were wondering, John Skelton of Fordham, Thaddeus Lewis of Duke and Riley Skinner of Wake Forest also threw in the second group.
On the positive side, the difference from the first group to the second was like moving from the National League in baseball to the American League. The first quarterback group only had a few strong arms. Pike, Robinson, Snead and even Skinner throw fastballs. In fact, Skinner may throw a little too fast.
The passing drill included wide receiver gauntlet drills in which a receiver runs the width of the field and is required to catch passes from the quarterbacks, slam the ball to the ground and stay in full stride to catch the next one. Skinner threw off several receivers by not being accurate with the placement of the ball. Fortunately for him, the NFL doesn't judge quarterbacks by wide receiver gauntlet drills.
The highlight of the day was watching the 6-6 Pike go against the 6-3 Robinson. Each has a tight overhand delivery in which the ball zips from the right of his ear and moves with velocity. Even though Pike will probably go ahead of Robinson, I thought Robinson won the day. His passes on comeback routes were crisp and he surprised many by throwing a better 35-yard post corner route than Pike. For whatever reason, I thought Pike's balls wobbled a little too much when he threw outside the numbers.
The problem with all of this is that none of the quarterbacks Sunday showed he is good enough to be drafted high behind Bradford and Clausen, and that's a concern. Teams in need of quarterbacks would love to do what the Dolphins did two years ago when they took a left tackle, Jake Long, in the first round and then drafted Michigan QB Chad Henne in the second.
Over the past two years, three teams made the playoffs with rookie starting quarterbacks. Tebow may need a couple of years to refine his delivery, so he's a project. McCoy's scouting report will be written after he throws for teams, and LeFevour may be slowly rising. With Bradford coming off an injury, Clausen might be the only rookie quarterback to get significant playing time this season.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.