Smith, Campbell rated ahead of Cal QB
Here is how ESPN.com rates the top nine quarterback prospects in the draft:
• Alex Smith (Utah)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4 1/8, 217 pounds, 4.71 in the 40.
Numbers game: Graduated in only two years with his degree in economics, and with a 3.74 grade point average, and is already working on a master's. Started in 22 of his 25 appearances and completed 389 of 587 passes for 5,203 yards, with 47 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Carried 286 times for 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns. Posted a 21-1 record as a starter and, dating back to his final two high school seasons, is 46-2. A finalist for the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award. All-conference in 2003 and '04 and was the Mountain West Conference's offensive player of the year in '04.
Upside: Smart not only in the classroom but on the field, a team leader, possesses all the intangibles you want at the position. Like having a coach on the field. Manages a game nicely but also athletically gifted enough to make plays when things break down and improvisation becomes a must. Understands the game and is spatially aware. A strong background in calling audibles at the line. Wise enough to get his team out of some bad situations when he knows the play call isn't a good one. Solid enough arm strength, especially in the 18- to 20-yard area. Uncannily accurate on the short ball, throws virtually everything on the receiver's break, and can make the tough throw on the run. Quick enough to make plays with his feet. Plays with poise and maturity and, while he isn't a particularly vocal guy, teammates will rally around him.
Downside: Some scouts feel the offense in which he played inflated his numbers. Worked mostly out of the shotgun formation and will have to improve playing from under center and also get better with his overall ballhandling. A thin frame and would likely benefit from another 10-15 pounds. Needs to get a tad more consistent with his release point. The deep balls tend to fade on him and he'll have to work on arm strength and long touch.
The dish: Probably won't be the first quarterback selected but is the one that everyone after San Francisco covets more. Has marketability. If the 49ers take Aaron Rodgers at the top, teams will be trying to move up to take Smith, and he probably will be the No. 2 overall choice. Lots to work with here, a solid foundation, and he won't even turn 21 until two weeks after the draft.
|In preparation for the NFL draft (April 23-24, ESPN), Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton will roll out a position-by-position look at draft prospects, along with a breakdown for each position. Click here to see the complete schedule.|
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4¾, 230 pounds, 4.67 in the 40.
Numbers game: A Parade Magazine All-American in high school and was the Gatorade high school player of the year in Mississippi as a senior. Played in 46 games and started in 39 of them, with 552 completions in 854 attempts for 7,299 yards, with 45 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. Had 249 rushing attempts for 307 yards and eight scores. Posted a 31-8 record as a starter. Finished career with the second most passing yards and best completion percentage in school history. A semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award and the Unitas Award. The SEC's offensive player of the year in 2004.
Downside: Has what scouts refer to as a "whip" in his delivery, not necessarily a "hitch," and will have to get more compact. Can get outside the pocket and move around, but will lose some accuracy when he is on the roll. Takes a few too many sacks. Not nearly as polished in the all-around game as Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith and may take a year or two of intense instruction until he's ready to play.
The dish: One of the fastest rising players at any position. Teams hoping he will fall to them in the second round might want to re-think that approach. Just a hunch, but we're guessing that some resourceful team in need of a quarterback for the future will deal up into the bottom of the first round to snatch him.
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Vital statistics: 6-foot-2, 223 pounds, 4.76 in the 40.
Numbers game: Spent one season at Butte (Calif.) College before transferring to Berkeley in 2003. Appeared in 25 games and started 22 of them. Completed 424 of 665 passes for 5,469 yards, with 43 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Carried 160 times for 336 yards and eight touchdowns. Had one reception for 10 yards. Chalked up a 17-5 record as a starter. Completion percentage is the second-best in school history. Tied an NCAA record with 23 straight completions to open the game against Southern California in 2004. Counting the three completions he had against Oregon State the previous week, set an NCAA mark with 26 straight completions. An all-Pac-10 choice in '04.
Upside: Makes tough reads and good decisions. Has played in a sophisticated passing game and authored terrific performances against superior teams. Short, compact delivery, and can get the ball from the tee and into the secondary in a blink. Has a fairly consistent release point and throws a very catchable ball. Economical in everything he does. Good feel for where everyone is in the passing tree and has enough confidence to just throw to spots at times. Deceptively quick feet, can slide and get out of trouble, buy himself some time to make a play. Tough and poised, borderline cocky, a good leader whom teammates will follow. Has a nice overall grasp of the game.
Downside: Taller than people thought he would be at the combine but still does not have prototype size. Doesn't play as quick as his stopwatch speed and won't make plays with his feet and outside the pocket. Very mechanical, almost robotic at times, in his overall mechanics. Played in an offense that largely emphasized the short and intermediate game and wasn't asked to throw deep very often. Might be more a product of the system in which he plays, and perhaps the latest Jeff Tedford-coached quarterback to fall short at the NFL level.
The dish: Yeah, we know he'll likely be the first player selected overall, and that some will be ready to send over the guys with the straitjackets for rating him as only the No. 3 quarterback prospect. Maybe he'll become the first Jeff Tedford protégé to succeed in the NFL, but we're going to wait and see, and maintain a healthy skepticism.
• Andrew Walter (Arizona State)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-6 1/8, 233 pounds, 4.86 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played in 48 games and started 35, finishing his career with 777 completions in 1,416 attempts for 10,617 yards, with 85 touchdowns passes and 36 interceptions. Carried 175 times for minus 475 yards (sack yardage is counted as rushing yards in the NCAA) and no touchdowns. Rang up an 18-17 record as a starter. His 85 touchdown passes are the Pac-10 career record and he also holds the conference mark for most passing yards in a game. Threw four or more touchdown passes in 10 games. Holds virtually every Arizona State passing record and several conference marks. The team's most valuable player and captain in 2004. Underwent surgery in January for a third-degree separation in his throwing shoulder and still not fully rehabilitated.
Upside: Super-sized prospect who stands tall in the pocket. Productive throughout his career and has put up big numbers. Kept his team in a lot of games against superior competition. One of the strongest arms in the draft and can make all the throws, even those off his back foot, with big-time velocity. Good throwing mechanics and, while he uses a variety of release points, the ball still comes out quickly. Tough guy who will hang in the pocket and not blink even against the strongest rushes. Very good at looking off receivers and finding alternate targets.
Downside: The right shoulder surgery three months ago means he hasn't been able to get in a full workout. Threw a couple weeks ago for scouts but, since he still could not cut loose on all the routes, the biggest benefit of the audition was that teams were able to better gauge where he is in his rehabilitation. For all his arm strength, lacks touch and accuracy, especially on in-between routes. Might have a little too much confidence in his arm strength, because he forces too many passes, assuming he can get the ball into the small creases. Probably has to shorten his release a bit. Very much a streak shooter who, when he cools off, is pretty erratic. Despite 40 time that was faster than most anticipated, not exactly noted for making plays with his feet. Takes a ton of hits in the pocket.
The dish: If teams determine his shoulder is sound, and that he will be recovered in time for most of the mini-camp action, could go on the first day. Certainly an intriguing player with a lot of upside.
• David Greene (Georgia)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-3½, 226 pounds, 4.78 in the 40.
Numbers game: Started every game, all 51 of them, in his career and is the only quarterback in Bulldogs history to do so. Was 849-for-1,440 for 11,528 yards, with 72 touchdown passes and 32 interceptions. Rushed 204 times for minus 258 yards and five touchdowns. Engineered seven fourth-quarter comeback wins, including five against ranked teams, and three in one season. Holds the conference mark for most passing yards. Was 42-9 as a starter and set an NCAA mark for most wins by a starting quarterback, breaking the old record set by Peyton Manning. Received an NCAA scholar-athlete award.
Upside: Hard to beat his intangibles. A strong leader, terrific character play, and has an unbelievable work ethic. Bright on and off the field, very mature, a student of the game. Knows how to manage a game and, obviously, a winner. Solid arm strength, feel and accuracy in the middle of the field. Doesn't miss many receivers between the hashes, or even up the seams, and can rifle the ball in those areas. Very consistent release point, high and over the top, and adds an inch or so to his pocket stature. Good feel for the pocket, can buy himself some time with subtle lateral slides, and is able to see the field even when he is flushed. Tough and durable.
Downside: Isn't quite as accurate, especially in the "fine" areas, as the perceptions of him. Will struggle to throw the deep out; his passes flutter after about 20-25 yards, and does not gun the deep ball. Limited athletically and, while he surprised scouts with his good 40-yard time at the combine, that doesn't translate into "escapability." Sometimes tends to play things safe in red zone situations.
The dish: He didn't win 42 games just by being a stiff, so there is definitely something here. Has slipped in recent weeks and might not go off the board now until early on the second day. But someone will get a competitive, studious prospect, one who will play in the league for 10 years.
• Charlie Frye (Akron)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-3 7/8, 225 pounds, 4.76 in the 40.
Numbers game: Started in all but two of his 46 career appearances. Completed 913 of 1,436 passes for 11,049 yards, with 64 touchdown passes and 32 interceptions. Had 375 rushes for 429 yards and 19 touchdowns. Holds every school passing record and threw for 2,000-plus yards in all four seasons. Was All-Mid-America Conference twice, three times was his team's offensive player of the year, and twice was a captain.
Upside: Good size and stature, good enough arm strength, and has been productive every season as a four-year starter. Admirable work habits, a student of the game, knows what everyone's role on the field is supposed to be. A leader in the huddle. Nice accuracy and touch. Excellent vision, sees the field well, and usually makes good decisions. Pretty good delivery. Tough guy, durable, will play hurt.
Downside: Doesn't get many RPMs on the ball, even in the 15- to 18-yard range and will need to somehow upgrade his fastball. Doesn't handle the quick, inside pressure well and will hurry passes, and throw into a crowd, in those situations. Delivery is a bit sluggish. His 40-yard time, better than expected, doesn't translate into elusiveness. There are some scouts who question his leadership.
The dish: A lot of positive buzz a month or so ago, but some of that has quieted, maybe because teams have put him under the microscope more. There is a perception that he is the next standout quarterback from the MAC, but he doesn't appear to be in the same class as Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich or Ben Roethlisberger. Study him on tape and he sure looks pretty ordinary. He could go as high as the second round, given what some teams are still saying about him, but we obviously think that's way too high.
• Adrian McPherson (Florida State)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-3½, 218 pounds, 4.52 in the 40.
Numbers game: Only high school player ever to be named both "Mr. Football" and "Mr. Basketball" in the state of Florida. Was the Gatorade high school state player of the year as a senior. In his junior basketball season, averaged 35 points and 10 rebounds per game. Also won a state title in American Legion baseball. Played in just 18 games for Florida State and started four of them, completing 98 of 192 passes for 1,215 yards, with 14 touchdown passes and just one interception. Rushed 71 times for 196 yards and no touchdowns. Dismissed from the team after the 2002 season following allegations he stole and forged checks and that he gambled on college football games. Had flirtations with Murray State and Tennessee State as a transfer, but neither worked out. Played for the Indiana Firebirds of the Arena Football League in 2004 and completed 209 of 352 passes for 2,965 yards, with 61 touchdown passes and five interceptions. Rushed 59 times for 257 yards and 18 scores. Was named the league's offensive rookie of the year.
Upside: Arguably the top overall athlete at the quarterback position in this draft, and for that matter, in the last several lotteries. A very live and strong arm, as the ball just explodes out of his hand on many routes, and his tenure in the Arena Football League provided him some improved touch. Can really rocket the ball outside the hashes and throws the deep out, the pass that serves as the traditional benchmark for arm strength, with authority. Quick feet, shows good accuracy on the run, and can make plays when he pulls the ball down and heads upfield.
Downside: Very limited exposure to the game. Tends to rely too much on his arm and his mechanics are hardly textbook. Doesn't set his feet at times and definitely doesn't rotate his hips and shoulders into every throw. Needs to step into his throws more often.
The dish: Because of his background, teams are going to turn over a lot of stones when they consider his character, and it likely will be a deterrent for some franchises. McPherson, though, has not tried to dodge his past and has been very straight forward in interviews with teams and some media outlets, ESPN.com included. Lack of playing time is another issue he will have to overcome. Even with his athleticism and throwing skills, he remains a down-the-road project, but some team could get a real gem in the middle rounds.
• Derek Anderson (Oregon State)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-6, 242 pounds, 5.03 in the 40.
Numbers game: First prep performer in Oregon history to be named as the state's top player in football and basketball in the same year. Participated in the shot put, hurdles and 4x400 relays as a member of the track team. In 43 games for Oregon State, including 38 starts, hit on 768 of 1,515 attempts for 11,249 yards, with 79 touchdown passes and 57 interceptions. Ran 182 times for minus 533 yards and eight touchdowns. One of only six players in Pac-10 history to throw for 10,000-plus yards in a career. Holds virtually all of the school passing marks. Is the first quarterback in the university's 112-year football history to take the Beavers to three straight bowl appearances.
Upside: Great size and natural pocket presence. Tall enough to see over every pass rush. Throws with NFL-caliber velocity and good enough touch, especially in the intermediate range. Really rifles the ball between the hashes. Strong enough to drive the ball into the deep zones and to put the ball in some small spaces. Solid mental acuity and was able to assimilate several different offensive designs during his career.
Downside: The guy is an absolute turnover machine, as evidenced by 57 interceptions and 13 lost fumbles (out of 24 total fumbles) for his career. Had double-digit pickoffs in all three seasons as the starter and will throw interceptions in bunches. Locks onto a receiver and allows defensive back to get an early break on the ball. He's also a pass rush magnet and will get hit a lot. Does not handle pressure well, makes bad reads, and is prone to poor decisions in general. Anticipation is not a strong suit. Mechanics have never really been refined and will break down from one series to the next. Does not move around very well at all and is a big target for opposition pass rushers.
The dish: There might be an NFL quarterback inside that big body but the team that chooses Anderson is going to have to exercise a lot of patience, and invest a ton of one-on-one tutoring, to find out. His size and arm strength, though, will get him drafted, perhaps as high as the middle rounds.
• Kyle Orton (Purdue)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, 5.06 in the 40.
Numbers game: Appeared in 44 games and started 35 contests. Completed 236 of 389 passes for 9,337 yards, with 63 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions. Added 271 carries for 316 yards and six touchdowns. A finalist for the Manning Award and for the Davey O'Brien Award. Twice a team captain.
Upside: As evidenced by a 6:1 touchdown pass to interception ratio in 2004, does not make many mistakes with the ball, and is accurate in most areas. Big guy who can see over the pass rush. Knowledgeable about where his receivers are and will make many of his throws to the spot, rather than to the player, with estimable timing. Knows how to take something off the ball when the situation calls for it. Good competitor.
Downside: Played in a quarterback-friendly offense, often works out from the shotgun, and lacks top-shelf arm strength. Has an elongated throwing motion, and throws sidearm way too often, so his basic mechanics will need to be restructured. Footwork is awkward and, when forced to work from under center, is clearly uncomfortable. Too impatient in the pocket and will yank the ball down, try to ad-lib, especially when his top option isn't available to him. Watch him on tape and he looks too programmed. Benched at one point in 2004, after slumping badly, following a 5-0 start. Seemed to lose confidence.
The dish: In the past month or so, has started to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of several teams, and could still be a late first-day selection.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.