The Weekly Gut Check No. 193 - Rookie Impact Series: QBs
By Matt Waldman
June 22nd, 2010

The Weekly Gut Check examines the players, strategies and guidelines fantasy football owners use to make personnel decisions.

Only five rookie quarterback performances since 1970 were fantasy starter-caliber seasons. If you give Vince Young a little more love than he gave his fellow man at a gentleman's club recently, then there is an argument for six. We're talking about only 6 quarterbacks out of a possible 420 signal callers making a significant fantasy impact as a rookie in 40 seasons. I mention Young for more than a cheap laugh. The Titans quarterback started only 10 games (playing in 12) his rookie year, but his fantasy totals from weeks 8-17 had a number of valuable performances:

Vince Young's 2006 Game Breakdown

Opp
Wk
Comp
Att
PassTD
PassYrd
Rush
RushYrd
TDs
INT
FPts
NE
17
15
36
0
227
2
29
1
2
16.25
Buf
16
13
20
2
183
8
61
1
0
31.25
Jac
15
8
15
0
85
4
4
0
0
4.65
Hou
14
19
29
0
218
7
86
1
1
23.50
Ind
13
15
25
2
163
9
78
0
2
21.95
NYG
12
24
35
2
249
10
69
1
0
35.35
Phi
11
8
22
1
101
6
49
0
0
14.95
Bal
10
13
25
0
211
8
39
1
1
18.45
Jac
9
15
36
1
163
4
14
0
3
8.55
Hou
8
7
15
1
87
4
44
1
0
19.75
Was
6
13
25
1
161
7
9
0
0
13.95
Ind
5
10
21
0
63
4
43
1
1
11.45
Dal
4
14
29
1
155
5
3
0
2
9.05
SD
2
7
20
1
106
5
24
0
0
12.70
NYJ
1
3
4
0
27
0
0
0
1
-0.65

In 2006, the fantasy point per week average of the 12th-ranked starting QB (Ben Roethlisberger - another rookie) was 15 points per game. In Young's final 10 games, he earned at least 15 points in 7 of those weeks. In fact, Young earned more than 18 fantasy points in 6 of those games - Jon Kitna's points per game average for the season was 18 fantasy points and he was the 6th-ranked fantasy QB that year. In weeks 12 and 16, Young was the second-best fantasy performer at the position.

Certainly, Vince Young was a worthwhile player to use down the stretch of 2006 - especially over more established quarterbacks that were drafted and counted on as fantasy starters to begin the season. Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, were players that outperformed more established fantasy starters during their rookie seasons.

I'm not telling you to choose rookie quarterbacks in redraft leagues, but you should be aware that some of these first-year players could help you more than you think. If you quarterback turns out to be one of the weaker parts of your roster, acquiring a promising rookie (in the late rounds or free agency) can result in a positive outcome of your fantasy season.

Determining Rookie Quarterback Impact

This year there are two rookies I would consider late in a deep re-draft league (at least 14 teams with 20 rounds). Although I can imagine there are another 2-3 rookies that could make an impact, the likelihood is too improbable to draft them. Despite the fact that rookie quarterbacks are among the least productive players to consider in re-drafts, it's always good to be prepared.

It's often the most improbable events that yield the greatest impact. For example, although highly unlikely, it's possible the first two Bears quarterbacks get hurt and Mike Martz turns to rookie Dan LeFevour, who manages to be productive enough in 12 games of the regular season to be a top-6 fantasy quarterback. If you're armed with knowledge, you at least have a fighting chance to take action if such an improbable, but league-changing occurrence happens in 2010.

To help those of you get acquainted with these quarterbacks. I rate the potential impact of these rookie signal callers based on the following criteria:

  • The reward and risk based on extensive film study I did for the 2010 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.
  • Potential fit with the team's current personnel and scheme.
  • Short-term and long-term opportunity.
  • This class lacks strong candidates at the top, but it only takes 1-2 players to make an immediate, positive impact for it to be a memorable one. However, I think the likelihood we see two players perform at a high enough level to keep their respective teams competitive is less likely than previous seasons.

    Potential Starter

    Sam Bradford, Rams

    The Reward: If I were to rate Bradford within the context of last year's rookie class, he would have made the duo of Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford a trio of first-year players making an immediate splash. The Oklahoma star's quick release and hyper-accuracy sets him apart from his 2010 peers, and he's as accurate as any prospect I have seen since I began studying games in 2005. Bradford possesses the anticipation, ball velocity and fine-tuned throwing motion to hit receivers in stride within small target areas on dump offs and screens, intermediate sideline routes, inside the hash and deep routes. Yet, it's unlikely that you will see this level of accuracy on a consistent basis as a rookie. The reason is that anticipation (and ultimately accuracy) comes with a strong grasp of the offense, adequate pass protection, rapport with surrounding talent and a feel for the speed of the game. I have doubts Bradford will have all four components at the same time during his rookie year. There will be moments where it all clicks and Bradford flashes his immense skill. If the Rams improve enough along the offensive line and his skill players stay healthy, the rookie quarterback could have a fantasy-worthy stretch run.

    The Risk: Some casual fans look at Bradford's college career and mistake his games missed for either a lack of toughness or that his body is too frail for the NFL. His competitive nature belies his calm demeanor, which some fans also used as a reason why Bradford was nothing more than an over-hyped, Big 12 system quarterback. The real issue is that Bradford took too many risks and he incurred hits that were easier to avoid. The concern is Bradford will not learn to be more judicious with the football. If he can learn to anticipate dangerous situations and avoid them as well as he anticipates his receivers running through a secondary, this issue will go away. However, like Marc Bulger and Matt Schaub (two players he's a lot like), Bradford's skills to see the field might also come at his detriment in the pocket until he addresses this area of his game with more work.

    When Bradford is inaccurate, he tends to throw the ball high and combined with his average mobility (at best) opposing defenses are going to test him up the middle with pressure and the rookie will experience his share of difficulties. I believe the greatest risk the Rams could take is to make Bradford its opening day starter. It would be best to give the quarterback spot-time in specific down and distance situations and gradually expand his experiences to limit his risk-taking nature on a team still in rebuilding mode.

    The Fit: A prominent reason - among others - the Rams offense struggled in recent years has been Marc Bulger's health declining at a faster rate than the Rams could rebuild around him. It wasn't long ago that the Rams signed Bulger to a new contact because his productivity was among the best in the NFL. Receivers Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson were acquired to complement Bulger's quick release and hyper-accuracy, but the veteran could not stay on the field. The St. Louis franchise could not time its rebuilding process of the offensive line and this compounded the durability issue for the veteran quarterback. Bradford's talents are very comparable to Bulger's, which is why it comes as no surprise that the Rams took the rookie.

    When Avery, Robinson and Stephen Jackson are healthy, there is enough explosiveness for St. Louis to be an effective unit with a quarterback capable of getting the ball to them in stride and in places they can use their athleticism. What concerns me is that up to this point Avery has been a one-dimensional player, Jackson is a power back with a history of missing a significant number of games each year and the offensive line still needs to gel.

    The Verdict: Bradford has the right skills to become a Pro Bowl player, but the offensive line needs to get healthy and stay that way. Jason Smith - last year's high first-round draft pick - has a broken toe, Jacob Bell needed his knee scoped and Mark Setterstrom is dealing with an arm injury. Did I mention that this year's pick at offensive lineman, Roger Saffold, has a knee strain? We're not even out of OTA's and the Rams look like they could be giving opposing defenses the red carpet treatment to its rookie quarterback.

    If the Rams can manage Bradford's early developmental process wisely and avoid situations where he'll get the daylights beat out of him, I think the team has a chance to develop a franchise-caliber passer. However, St. Louis is another year or two away from developing the offensive depth it needs to field a consistently productive unit. If everyone stays healthy, Bradford has the upside to make an immediate impact and pass for 2400-2800 yards in a 10-12 game stretch. Although I think the best-case scenario would be to see Bradford start six games. I think this type of patience could yield 1300 yards with a reasonably good touchdown to interception ratio during that span.

    Since the Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was with the Eagles when the team sat McNabb for a good portion of the season, there is speculation that he will deploy a similar strategy. I'm hopeful, but not convinced Bradford will sit on the bench or see limited time for more than 6-8 games. If the offensive line is healthy, Bradford will be worth a free agent pick up for a potential late-season surge if you need a quarterback. Otherwise, he's nothing more than a first-round dynasty pick that you hope doesn't get hurt this year.

    Could Also See Time Early

    Jimmy Clausen, Panthers

    The Reward: There is a lot to like about Clausen's game. He is a very good ball handler at the position. He makes good and frequent use of pump fakes and play fakes to manipulate a defense and his ability to throw on the run is good enough that he can operate a versatile play action game. This is a good skill for a young quarterback because the offensive coordinator can create plays where Clausen has a greater chance to make more limited judgment calls that won't hurt the offense. These plays will include bootlegs and rollouts with a TE or RB as the primary receiver in the flat that can keep the team on a solid down and distance schedule. Although I think Clausen moves out of the pocket better than he maneuvers within it, he senses pressure well and he has a good internal clock to gauge when he's about to be in one place too long for his own good. He might have some rough patches with taking sacks or making poor decisions early in his career due to the speed of the game, but I believe down the road he has a good chance to come out the other side as a savvy veteran with a knack for keeping plays alive just long enough to make the right decision.

    The Risk: Although I have seen Clausen throw a nice deep ball on more than a few occasions, the downfield game was not big part of the Notre Dame offense. The risk is that Clausen was a big reason why, and that he won't be aggressive enough to become a successful NFL quarterback. This is the knock that observers have with Bills quarterback Trent Edwards - a smart, mobile signal caller with a good but not great arm who has been careful with the football. Whether or not the perception that Edwards is to blame is true, the observation that the Bills had the receivers to be a successful downfield passing game and Edwards couldn't capitalize is. Steve Smith is still one of the most dangerous big-play threats in the game today, but Clausen will need to demonstrate the aggressiveness to look downfield and the anticipation to release the ball early so his explosive teammate can have the advantage against coverage. Clausen has the arm strength to throw the ball 40-50 yards without a problem, but he will have to prove he can trust himself and his teammates to play aggressive and in control.

    The Fit: If the Panthers can maintain a strong 1-2 punch at RB and a decent offensive line, I think this is the perfect place for Clausen long term. His mobility to work off the ground game will drive defenses to distraction if Carolina can get decent play from its complementary receivers. Although Clausen is the highest pick I believe the Panthers have made at quarterback since they took Kerry Collins in the first round, I think the rookie's greatest external obstacle to his development is former UDFA, and current starter, Matt Moore. Like Clausen, Moore is a mobile passer who makes good decisions with the football and he's coming into his own as a more successful and aggressive downfield playmaker. If Moore continues to improve at the rate he did last year and the Panthers contend for the NFC South, Clausen might need the long-term patience of Matt Schaub or Aaron Rodgers to see the field.

    The Verdict: I think there are three basic physical styles of successful quarterbacks in the NFL. There is the passer with great arm strength, capable of splitting atoms on the move like Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Stafford. Then there is the pocket passer with excellent arm strength when he can keep his feet under him, and he usually does due to his strong pocket maneuverability. These are players with limited mobility but everything else you want from a passer: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and hopefully Sam Bradford. The final group is the mobile player who can't drive the ball like the first group, but possesses good mobility and accuracy on the move like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. Rich Gannon and Jeff Garcia also belong here despite lacking the same caliber of arm strength. I think Clausen stylistically belongs in this last group, but don't expect to see him play this year.

    I expect Matt Moore to succeed this year. If that success is borderline Pro Bowl-winning playoff quarterback, kiss Clausen's opportunity in 2011 goodbye. If the Panthers perform like they did last year and Moore is up and down, Clausen will get a shot. Clausen will only see spot-time as a garbage time QB unless injury strikes or we discover that Jake Delhomme's play wasn't really his fault, but a curse that comes with the Panthers' starting job after a full season of exposure to the gig. If Clausen has to play, I think he'll be asked just to move the chains with conservative play calling. I don't expect his average production to exceed 180 yards per game with less than a score per contest.

    Role Player/Dynasty Diamond in the Rough

    Tim Tebow, Broncos

    The Reward: In a redraft league there is very little reward with Tim Tebow, but he still has a greater chance to see the field as a role player than the rest of the quarterbacks I will profile below. As of June, Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels is undecided whether he will have two or three active quarterbacks on game day. Kyle Orton has been named the starter and Brady Quinn is practically cemented into the No. 2 spot, leaving Tim Tebow to wait, watch and learn. This is the smartest thing the Broncos can do for its first-round pick, because the Florida quarterback is attempting to transform his quarterbacking style at an unprecedented rate. However, just because Tebow isn't ready to be a drop back passer, he has enough skill to run the Wildcat or a spread look in short yardage situations where he can use his mobility to help the team.

    The Risk: The chances are slim that Tim Tebow develops into a viable NFL passer. The oft-mentioned slow and elongated throwing motion that can tip off defensive backs and provide pass rushers the extra step needed to effectively disrupt the quarterback has been thoroughly discussed. Tebow has made impressive strides to address this inefficient technique, but it is just one of many things he will need to continue overhauling, which is why it was a huge risk that the Broncos drafted a developmental project at quarterback in the first round. Tebow's accuracy drops off considerably when he is asked to throw passes at sharper angles from the pocket such as deep outs, comebacks and corner routes. He was practically ineffective when forced to throw while running to his right. The Florida offense was devised to create single coverage match ups on the left side of the field with a lot of window dressing on the right side, so very few of Tebow's reads were to the right and he rarely looked to that side except during the initial drop back as an attempt to disguise his intentions.

    As I have discussed repeatedly, Tebow is a mobile quarterback, but he lacks maneuverability in the pocket. This is an important distinction. Mike Vick is the most mobile quarterback in the history of the game, but his pocket maneuverability for most of his career has been below average and it has limited his effectiveness as a passer. In contrast, Tom Brady is one of the least mobile quarterbacks in football today, but his ability to keep his eyes downfield, and use great footwork and peripheral vision to avoid oncoming pressure is a key reason for his excellence as a passer.

    The first reaction a mobile quarterback that lacks maneuverability tends to have when he feels pressure coming up the middle is to turn away from the line of scrimmage and roll to a sideline. Once a quarterback loses sight of his receivers, the defense has the advantage. A quarterback with maneuverability knows how to slide forward and maintain the ability to release the ball at anytime, even if it just means throwing the ball away. Quarterbacks lacking this skill increase their chances of getting hit, sacked and throwing errant passes. Tebow also needs to work on increasing his maneuverability - perhaps more than anything else. Developing this skill includes learning several other techniques like dropping from center, moving effectively with his head and shoulders up, ball carriage and an understanding of his receivers' routes. And then there's what most fundamentally sound quarterbacks entering the league have to learn that generally takes them at least a couple of seasons: what the defense is doing.

    This is why I think that the best chance Tebow has to see the field will be if he's featured in specialty packages. Although Tebow is a strong athlete, he's about as fast as your average move tight end. If Michael Vick and Steve Young, two lefties with excellent mobility and much better speed than Tebow, couldn't revolutionize the QB position, I have severe doubts Tebow can. Just remember that unless you play in a fantasy league with two starting QBs in your lineup, Tebow is likely a wasted pick this year. He would have to score four touchdowns per game in these Wildcat packages just to even warrant consideration as a back up. He might look like Bronko Nagurski, but that era in football isn't returning any time soon.

    The Fit: The Broncos intend to spread the field more in 2010. There are several reasons why: it has been an ongoing trend in the league, they lost the only receiver they had that was capable of beating double coverage (Brandon Marshall), and they want to develop an offense that will be a good fit for Tebow's transition. Even so, all the things Tebow has to learn won't make him an immediate fit with any pro scheme on an every-down basis.

    The Verdict: If your fantasy league awards points for character and has enlisted a supreme power capable of looking into the core of each player and judging it accurately, I would feel more comfortable projecting that Tim Tebow will make an instant impact. However, most of us don't play fantasy football with scoring rules steeped in mysticism. As of the rules most of us play by, his best role in a fantasy league is a conversation starter. Even as a dynasty league option, there are at least 5-6 players at the position that I would consider - in what I think is a weaker draft class of quarterbacks on the whole - before I opt for Tebow.

    However, here's the thing: as cynical as I am about Tebow's prospects, I can't help but believe he might have the work ethic, desire and grit to become the most compelling evidence of a player capable of overhauling his game to make it work. Although I can't buy into it, I still want to believe in it. If you can do both, good luck to you - I'm rooting for him.

    Quality Backups With Long Term Starter Potential

    Dan LeFevour, Bears

    The Reward: LeFevour was constantly compared to Tebow, but he's a more refined passer with better mechanics and a knack for maneuvering the pocket to find the open receiver. Although mobile, he's willing to step into the pass rush to deliver the ball and he can read the entire field.

    The Risk: LeFevour played in a spread offense for a small school. His toughest opponent was Georgia in 2008, a game where he displayed all the qualities I think are important for an NFL quarterback to possess, but not enough of a sample size to convince most teams that he's worth drafting as more than a developmental project. He will be getting some of the hardest, but most rewarding tutoring at the position available with Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator. He'll have to secure the No. 3 job before he's even considered a Bear with a future.

    The Fit: I think the Martz system is as good of an option for LeFevour as any. The rookie's weaknesses aren't steeped in a lack of fundamentals that need an overhaul; he just needs to refine his skills, and he'll get that opportunity in Chicago.

    The Verdict: There is a chance he could impress and make the leap to the No. 2 spot, but I wouldn't count on it. Even so, he's strictly a free agent in redraft leagues.

    Jonathan Crompton, Chargers

    The Reward: Crompton is mobile, throws very well moving in either direction, and he's a tough and aggressive passer from the pocket.

    The Risk: He was as highly regarded as Mark Sanchez when he and the Jets starter arrived on the college football scene, but much of Crompton's time at Tennessee was an unmitigated disaster. He fell out of favor until Lane Kiffin arrived in Knoxville and helped Crompton revive his career for a stretch run as a senior.

    The Fit: The Chargers are a great fit for Crompton, who earned his chance to get drafted because he showed Kiffin that he was a student of the game and willing to work through the hard times. Once Kiffin backed him, Crompton began to flourish. Sitting behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek, Crompton will have time learn and develop at a comfortable pace with a proven offensive staff under Chargers head coach Norv Turner that just drafted, developed and traded former Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst to the Seahawks.

    The Verdict: The fact that Crompton was able to deal with the disappointment of his college career and show signs of coming out the other side a positive, because the physical talent is there. Watch and wait.

    Mike Kafka, Eagles

    The Reward: Kafka might be the surprise player of this QB class. Much like Tebow and LeFevour, Kafka ran a spread offense at Northwestern. However, Kafka has the arm strength that I believe Tebow lacks and more pocket presence than both Tebow and LeFevour. His performance against Ohio State in 2008 was one of the more impressive displays of maneuverability and mobility of a quarterback on an overmatched team that I saw on tape. Give him a couple of seasons in Philadelphia and Andy Reid might have unearthed a gem.

    The Risk: Kafka will need to develop better judgment with the football - when to run and when to throw the ball away. He also needs to prove he can consistently throw the ball with accuracy in the intermediate and deep range of the field.

    The Fit: The Eagles beat reporters are talking about Kafka as a future No. 2 sooner than later. Michael Vick will have to look pretty bad this preseason for it to happen this year, but I think by 2012 Kafka will be closer to looking like a No. 2 QB with upside.

    The Verdict: Kafka has a chance to take a similar path as the Panthers' current starter Matt Moore. He's not worth much now, but could be sooner than you think.

    Levi Brown, Bills

    The Reward: I'm a fan of Brown's quick release, touch and accuracy as a passer. In fact, I think his release and touch on the football are better than any prospect in this draft class.

    The Risk: Brown played in a spread offense at Troy and I didn't see him have to face opposing defenses that could significantly test his decision-making, pocket maneuverability and athleticism.

    The Fit: The Bills need an offensive overhaul and it appears new head coach Chan Gailey is beginning that process. Trent Edwards and Brian Brohm are the two favorites to compete for the starting job, which means Brown will likely see limited reps with even the second-team offense. If Edwards doesn't win the job, it's unlikely that he return in 2011, which could open the door for Brown to prove his worth. If Edwards wins the job, Brown will have to compete with Brohm for a future in Buffalo.

    The Verdict: Although I believe Brown's talent puts him within the tier of LeFevour, Crompton and Kafka, I think he is the most likely of the four to be on a different team by September. Situation will dictate - and likely delay - his upside.

    Greg Paulus, Saints (Tryout)

    The Reward: Paulus is very mobile, throws well on the run, and has a point guard mentality for directing an offense, which is probably why he was the starting point guard for Duke's basketball. With a final year of athletic eligibility, Paulus transferred to Syracuse where he displayed nice touch and anticipation on his deep passes and a 67 percent completion rate - a team record.

    The Risk: Paulus lacks prototypical NFL size and he has very little college tape as a resume, which is why he went undrafted and he'll have a tougher time getting his foot in the door. His lack of in-game experience could make him too much of a wildcard for teams that lack the luxury to see how he will perform after they spend time and money working with him.

    The Fit: The Saints might not have that luxury beyond Drew Brees, but Sean Payton was the coach that lobbied the Cowboys to take a chance on undrafted free agent Tony Romo. So if there's any place where Paulus could get a fair opportunity to show his potential, New Orleans is that stop. Like Romo and Brees, Paulus has excellent footwork and his 67 percent completion rate in his only season of college football are indications that he as an instinctive and conceptual understanding of the game.

    The Verdict: I'm putting Paulus here because he has the talent if he gets the chance. According to an Associated Press report, Paulus did enough to impress the Saints head coach in a May rookie camp for another tryout in June. Payton commented on Paulus' ability to process plays as well as demonstrate basic leadership.

    "We wanted to look at him," Payton said. "He was here for the rookie camp and did a good job. He's a pretty good decision maker."

    With Patrick Ramsay and Josh McCown as possible options to challenge Chase Daniel for the No. 2 spot in New Orleans, Paulus will have to hope he and one of the veterans can out-perform Daniel - and draft pick Sean Canfield. With the limited reps he'll see, it's unlikely, but as we've seen with Romo, Jeff Garcia, Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme, it's entirely possible.

    Career Backups With Occasional Starting Value

    John Skelton, Cardinals

    The Reward: A big, strong-armed prospect, Skelton comes from a small school but is regarded as a developmental prospect with starter potential.

    The Risk: Decision-making and experience against quality opposing defenses were lacking during his college career.

    The Fit: Matt Leinart will likely get up to two make or break seasons. The second season will be contingent on how well he does this year. Former Browns starter, Derek Anderson is in-season insurance in case Leinart falters, but its doubtful he's the long-term option if Leinart plays his way out of town. It's logical to expect Skelton to develop into a No. 2 QB within a couple of seasons and perhaps challenge for a starting gig in Arizona or elsewhere if he flourishes. If head coach Ken Whisenhunt has his way, Skelton will be a strong second-string QB in a run-oriented offense that can stretch the field off play action. In theory, I think Skelton is a good fit here.

    The Verdict: I did not get a chance to watch Skelton play but if Leinart doesn't show he's ready and the rookie develops at a good clip, Skelton has the stronger arm and aggressive nature to challenge for the job. I believe Leinart has enough skill to be a solid starter with talent around him - which he does in Arizona - so I don't think Skelton is more than a back up for the foreseeable future.

    Colt McCoy, Browns

    The Reward: McCoy has been compared to Drew Brees. He played for a big-time program at Texas and he operated the spread offense with enough skill to get them to the BCS National Championship Game. He's a mobile quarterback with decent skill in a short passing game.

    The Risk: The McCoy comparisons to Brees are valid if they are limited to physical dimensions, mobility, and potential to grow into a mentally disciplined strategist with great leadership. To put it another way, McCoy is no way close to becoming the next Drew Brees. The Saints QB was a far more mechanically precise and accurate passer in college than McCoy, and he possessed a keen mind for making strong decisions in the pocket. McCoy lacks the decision-making prowess of Brees, which shouldn't make McCoy fans unhappy, because few come close to Brees in this department. However, it gave Brees the head start to become an elite passer that McCoy lacks.

    McCoy is also more prone to extremes with his pocket maneuverability. He either turns his back to the pass rush or immediately tries to run. Against quality opponents, McCoy took far too many sacks and he has to show better instincts than he has to become an effective NFL pocket passer.

    The Fit: There is some potential for McCoy to have a place in the Browns organization. If McCoy can prove to be adequate in the intermediate and deep game, he can manage a west coast offense with a strong running game. He will need to vastly improve his pocket presence to even warrant consideration.

    The Verdict: I thought this pick was nothing more than a value selection from the Browns. If McCoy can demonstrate potential to manage a game, the Browns are winners at the round they selected the Texas star. However, I think a more proven drop back passer or top-notch athlete along the lines of Jake Locker, Andrew Luck or Greg McElroy have to be more attractive options for the Browns if they find themselves in position to land a rookie quarterback in the 2011 draft.

    Tony Pike, Panthers

    The Reward: Pike has the fundamental arm strength, mobility and accuracy to develop into a contributor with upside.

    The Risk: Pike doesn't throw the ball well on the run, struggles with recognizing more complex zone coverage and he needs to learn to throw the ball away.

    The Fit: Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen will likely remain ahead of Pike in the near future, but the Panthers are a good team for a developmental quarterback to land, especially one of Pike's physical talents.

    The Verdict: Pike probably won't even see a regular season game this year unless it was an emergency. Even if that was the case, I would probably rather see Steve Smith run the Wildcat with Williams and Stewart in the backfield. Give Pike a few years and he could have fantasy value.

    Jarrett Brown, 49ers

    The Reward: Brown is a big, athletic, and strong-armed QB with a quick release. Physically, he impressed a lot of people at the Senior Bowl as a nice developmental project.

    The Risk: Brown had one year of starting experience at West Virginia after sitting behind Pat White for most of his career. He needs to work on his drops and reading defenses.

    The Fit: Alex Smith has shown signs of life, but he is still in a make-or-break stage of his career in San Francisco. Nate Davis is a player the 49ers believe has starter promise, but his development is on a slower timetable than they hoped. Brown has more physical ability than both Smith and Davis, but Davis has the instincts and raw passing skills that could make him a special player. With David Carr likely to hang onto the No. 2 job short-term until Davis' mental grasp of the game catches up with his physical and instinctive skills, I think Brown is destined for the practice squad.

    The Verdict: Brown is a better athlete with a better arm than Pike or McCoy, but he's the rawest of the three. I think he'll bounce around the league hoping to find someone willing to stick with him.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to waldman@footballguys.com.