QB position critical in draft

When it comes to NFL draft time each spring, no position is as highly scrutinized, criticized and analyzed as the position of quarterback, and for good reason. Drafting the right QB could mean a middle-of-the-road team turning into Super Bowl champions (see Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger). Select the wrong QB and that same .500 team could find themselves at the bottom of the league a couple years down the line and wishing they’d have drafted any other position (see Joey Harrington).

“It is literally a career changer for GM’s and coaches,” said Russ Lande, founder of GMJr.com and author of GM Jr’s Guide to the NFL Draft. “If you bomb on a QB in the first round high, your reputation takes a huge hit.”

So it comes as no surprise that as the draft approaches, more and more attention is being given to the quarterback position. But with over 40 quarterbacks eligible to be drafted, Scouting Combine performances to be studied and Wonderlic numbers to be crunched, finding the right man for the job is no simple task.

BG standout quarterback Omar Jacobs decided this past winter to forego his senior season in hopes of finding success on draft day and in the NFL. Before he ever reaches the NFL he will be competing in workouts, tests and media draft boards against who many view as the top three available QB’s in the country – Matt Leinart of USC, Vince Young of Texas and Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt.

Although the three are expected to be first round draftees, most expect Leinart to be the first player chosen at his position. In his time as a starter, Leinart accumulated a 37-2 record, a national championship and a Heisman Trophy. He is exceptionally gifted in his accuracy and coverage reads, and at 6-4, 224 pounds, is the perfect size for an NFL quarterback. Most draft boards show Leinart as the second most talented player in the draft behind running back and USC teammate Reggie Bush.

“He’s extremely intelligent and played in a pro-style offensive,” Lande said. “I don’t think he’s a franchise quarterback, but can be a good QB.”

After a dazzling performance in the National Championship game last January against USC where he set a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense, few doubted the skills of Texas’ Vince Young. Since that time reports of poor intelligence test scores and lackluster performances in workouts have left doubts as to the ability of last year’s Heisman runner-up to succeed in the NFL. Despite these rumblings, the fact remains that Young is an incredible talent with explosive speed for his size (6-5, 230 pounds). Much like Leinart, Young has the intangible ability to perform on the greatest stages and lead his team to wins.

“Physically he has the tools to be an All-Pro,” Lande said. “His footwork is terrible, and I think that will hinder his accuracy. “I just wonder if he’s going to be able to function and learn in the NFL well enough.”

Very few casual college football fans had heard the name Jay Cutler until his playing days at Vanderbilt were over. After taking advantage of the absence of both Leinart and Young in the Scouting Combine, Cutler earned major points with teams all around the NFL. His superior arm strength and effortless delivery has some scouts placing him as the best quarterback in the draft, despite his lack of experience in big time games.

“Jay Cutler is an interesting kid; he’s very strong and athletic,” Lande said. “His having played at a bad school, having to carry the team on his back, taught him some bad habits, though, like throwing into coverage.”

So where does this leave Jacobs? Many scouts have Jacobs as the fourth best QB in the draft, yet they project he likely won’t be selected until the third or fourth round. He’s a rare mix of size, strength and athleticism that is hard to find at this position, but many have questioned his comfort level in the pocket and throwing mechanics. Jacobs likely won’t be starting for any teams in 2006, but there is no question he has the potential to make an impact on the league in years to come.

“He’s got a decent arm and he can get rid of it quickly but mostly it’s an awkward delivery,” Lande said. “He’s just not a very polished or consistent guy yet. He should have stayed another year and continued to get that good coaching he was getting.”

There is no scout, analyst or coach in the world who can say for sure who will and will not succeed in the NFL, but that’s the beauty of the draft. The one constant in this madness is that the quarterback position, year after year, continues to be the one position in the draft that can make or break a team’s fortunes.