Just Looking

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Just Looking
by Warren DeLuca

The only way that the Texans will use an early draft pick on a quarterback in 2007 is if David Carr, who currently has the best passer rating in the NFL, suffers a career-ending (or at least career-threatening) injury or decides to quit football to follow in the footsteps of former teammate James “Mersilis” Allen and pursue a rap career. Even if Carr’s rating drops off, and even if he fails to improve in the areas not reflected in that stat (such as fumbles), with the financial commitment the team made to Carr in the offseason it would be shocking if Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith elected to go in another direction at that point.

Kubiak seems content with Sage Rosenfels as Carr’s backup, and so far he has only carried two quarterbacks on the roster, so it seems highly unlikely that the Texans would use a draft choice of any significance on a player who would be a longshot just to make the team. If a quarterback that Kubiak likes is still on the board in the late rounds though, Kubiak may not be able to resist pulling the trigger.

Brian Brohm
College: Louisville
Year: Junior
Height: 6’4"
Weight: 224
Birthday: September 23, 1985
USA Today’s high school offensive player of the year in football, a starter on a state tournament basketball team, and a Colorado Rockies draft choice in baseball, Brohm thrilled Louisville fans in 2004 when he chose to attend his hometown school. He didn’t disappoint when he took over the reigns of Bobby Petrino’s powerful offense as a sophomore. Under the tutelage of his older brother Jeff, Louisville’s quarterback coach and a former NFL signal caller, he earned Big East offensive player of the year honors and showed the arm strength, accuracy, and smarts of a future pro. However, Brohm’s 2005 season ended prematurely when he tore his right ACL in the Cardinals’ second-to-last regular season game. After having a cadaver tendon grafted into his knee, this fall he picked up where he had left off. In Louisville’s third game, though, an injury again sidelined Brohm, this time a torn ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand. Doctors recently removed the cast from his hand, and he has been squeezing and tossing a foam football to rebuild the thumb’s strength. Brohm could be back as early as this weekend, but unless the Big East decides to allow Nerf footballs in conference games it will likely be a week or two longer than that. He has used this time to further strengthen his surgically repaired knee and to work on his speed. If Brohm returns to form, he should be projected as a first-round pick in the 2007 draft and will be hard pressed to forego his senior year at Louisville. If Petrino, who interviewed for the Raiders’ opening last year, moves on to another job, that could impact Brohm’s decision.

Brady Quinn
College: Notre Dame
Year: Senior
Height: 6’3"
Weight: 225
Birthday: October 27, 1984
Quinn has drawn comparisons to another Brady, former Charlie Weis protégé Tom of the Patriots. Like the New England quarterback, Quinn is an efficient, accurate passer who is adept at throwing to receivers running intermediate and deep routes. He improved dramatically as a junior, as he learned to deftly work through his reads and to not force the ball into coverage in the hopes of hitting on a big play. The highlight of Quinn’s 2005 season was the eight play, 87-yard drive that he engineered to give Notre Dame the lead over USC late in the fourth quarter (which the Irish ultimately did not hold). He was four-for-four passing, scored on a five-yard run, and showed the leadership and composure to put his team in a position to win in a pressure situation. He has a strong arm but not a cannon, and is mobile but not a dangerous running threat – more than sufficient physical tools for a starting NFL quarterback but not necessarily the kind that will draw oohs and aahs at workouts. As the pre-draft scrutiny intensifies, the “product of the system” questions will surely arise. While Quinn has definitely benefited from Weis’ coaching, his polished mechanics and decision-making skills should translate to any NFL system. Quinn is currently positioned similarly to how Matt Leinart was at this point a year ago: the top quarterback and consensus top senior prospect for the draft. Time will tell whether Quinn, unlike Leinart, is able to hold onto that spot.

JaMarcus Russell
College: LSU
Year: Junior
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 255
Birthday: August 9, 1985
Russell has proven that he can handle the adversity that comes with being a quarterback. He had a strong 2005 season despite playing most of it with ligament damage to his right wrist and leading a team that had to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Russell housed 20 displaced friends and relatives in his apartment at one point, including his girlfriend’s grandfather, Fats Domino). Russell separated his left shoulder in the SEC championship game, and missed LSU’s bowl game. Tiger coach Les Miles declared the starting quarterback spot an open competition between Russell, Matt Flynn (offensive MVP of LSU’s bowl rout of Miami in Russell’s absence), and highly touted freshman Ryan Perrilloux. Rather than grouse about being disrespected and that he shouldn’t lose his position due to injury, Russell unselfishly went back to work, won the job, and has been outstanding so far this season. He possesses one of the strongest arms in college football, ideal size, and the ability to throw while on the move. He has broken his habit of staring down his intended receivers, which resulted in some interceptions last year. Like almost all quarterbacks Russell would benefit from another year of seasoning, but the fourth-year junior would likely be a first-round pick if he came out early.

Troy Smith
College: Ohio State
Year: Senior
Height: 6’0"
Weight: 210
Birthday: July 20 1984
Although he was a high school quarterback, Smith was designated as an “athlete” when he signed with Ohio State and began his Buckeye career as a “slash” back and kick off returner. His sophomore year, he moved to quarterback as a backup to Justin Zwick and started five games when Zwick was injured. Last year he again began the season behind Zwick, but was named the starter after the loss to Texas and Ohio State has only lost one game since. Included in that run are impressive passing performances in a comeback win at Michigan (27 of 37, 300 yards, one touchdown pass, no interceptions) and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame (19 of 28, 342 yards, two touchdown passes, no interceptions). Smith’s gamebreaking running skills has never been questioned, but his improvement as a passer this season has opened a lot of eyes. He has appeared much more comfortable hanging in the pocket, finding the open receiver, and delivering the ball. Smith has a track record that could raise character concerns: he was kicked out of a private high school after punching an opponent in a basketball game (Smith claims he reacted to a racial taunt), in 2003 he plead guilty to disorderly conduct for an incident the week before the Michigan game that also involved teammates Chris Gamble and Santonio Holmes, and in 2004 was suspended for two games after accepting money from a booster. Smith claims that he has matured, and his coaches now praise his leadership abilities. He appears to have an NFL arm but it remains to be seen whether he will be viewed primarily as a quarterback or, like some other college quarterbacks of similar size and running ability, will be asked to move to running back or receiver. Smith’s best fit as an NFL quarterback may be in a system like Kubiak’s that would allow him to get outside the pocket so that his lack of height would be less of a factor and his running skills would be more of one.

Drew Stanton
College: Michigan State
Year: Senior
Height: 6’3"
Weight: 222
Birthday: May 7, 1984
If Drew Stanton doesn’t make it in the NFL as a quarterback, he still may have a shot as a special teams kamikaze. When he was a redshirt freshman, Michigan State used him as the punter’s personal protector, where his job was to pick up any would-be punt-blockers who made it through the line and then sprint downfield and chase down the return man – not your typical quarterback stuff. He did so well (leading the punt team in tackles) that the Spartans put him on other special teams units, until he tore his ACL covering a kick. Stanton has an NFL-caliber arm in terms of both strength and accuracy and when he is in a rhythm. He has learned to go deeper into his progressions before scrambling, but he is a capable runner. Stanton tends to try to make things happen when his offense isn’t clicking, which too often results in an interception. He has thrown four picks in his last three games, all losses. Stanton’s body can’t always take the pounding that his fearless approach to the game brings on, as he has had his share of injuries; he played the Michigan game with bruised ribs. His stock may be slipping, but he has the potential to become a quality NFL quarterback if he is paired with a coach who knows how to develop young signal callers.

Other quarterbacks to keep an eye on for the 2007 draft:
John Beck, Brigham Young
John David Booty, Southern Cal (Jr.)
Trent Edwards, Stanford
Kevin Kolb, Houston
Jordan Palmer, UTEP

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