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Beyond QBs Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman, there's not much left
NFL Draft preview: Quarterbacks
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford, left, announces his plans to enter the NFL draft, as coach Mark Richt looks n during news conference last January.

 

Associated Press

Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, another junior, is one of three QBs expected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.

 

Associated Press

Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez has started only 16 college games, but he played in a pro-style offense in a big market and faced a top defense every day in practice.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 4/16/2009 1:03 PM | Updated: 4/17/2009 2:32 PM

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Second in a series

This year's quarterback class consists of The Big Three - Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman - and a bunch of "other guys."

The first three could all be off the board in the first 20 picks on April 25. The Bears might have been interested in one of them before they traded for Jay Cutler and gave up their first-round pick (18th overall) and their third-rounder plus next year's No. 1.

Now, if the Bears have any interest in drafting a quarterback at all, it will be one of the other guys, since they don't pick until 49th overall. But, along with every other NFL team, the Bears probably won't even consider a quarterback until the second day of the NFL Draft.

After the first three are gone, there might not be another quarterback taken until the fourth round.

Drafting a quarterback in the first round can be risky business, as the Bears learned with Cade McNown and Rex Grossman. This year it might be even more of a gamble because the top three quarterbacks are all juniors.

Of the 14 quarterbacks drafted in the first round in the previous five years, only five were juniors and three of those juniors (JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young and Alex Smith), have been major disappointments. Russell and Young, especially, have demonstrated a lack of maturity at the NFL level.

Stafford, who is expected to be the first overall pick, could be different. He started 34 games at Georgia and has excellent physical tools, including a tremendously strong arm. He has a ready answer when asked about the inexperience factor.

"I played in 39 football games in college," he said. "That's probably more than some seniors have played in. It's a whole different ballgame in the NFL, but I understand what it takes to prepare and get ready to play early. I played in the SEC, a tough conference, and I've got a little bit of a taste of what it's like."

Sanchez has started only 16 games and didn't become a full-time starter at USC until last year, when he was surrounded by more talent than any college quarterback in the country. Sanchez isn't the athlete Stafford is, but he has better fundamentals, and he played in a pro-style offense. And a lot of that talent at USC was on the defense that Sanchez had to face every day in practice.

"The type of atmosphere I've played in helps," he said. "I've been in a big city, a large media market. We've played in the Rose Bowl, in nationally televised games, and I'm ready for this league."

Kansas State's Freeman is the most athletically gifted and by far the biggest (6-53/4, 248 pounds). He's also the biggest project, and he'll need a lot of reps to improve his mechanics and his ability to read defenses. Because of his size, arm strength and ability to avoid the rush with strength and agility, he might have the biggest upside.

"A lot of people assume that a 6-6 guy is going to be a big ol' lumbering type guy," Freeman said. "But I have a lot of athletic ability and ability to throw the ball. Of course, I prefer to sit in the pocket and deliver the ball on time, but (mobility) is always something I've got in my back pocket in case things break down."

NFL draft preview: Quarterbacks

Bob LeGere breaks down the Bears' depth, draft history and top prospects in the April 25-26 NFL Draft.

Bears depth chart: Having failed to draft or develop a top NFL quarterback in the past 20 years, they traded for Jay Cutler, a Pro Bowl player and accomplished veteran at just 25 years old. Young backups Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez are inexperienced, but Basanez was extremely productive at Northwestern despite lacking a strong arm. Hanie is an above-average athlete with potential. Current Grade: B.

Bears 10-year draft history at QB

Year Player Round Drafted
2005 Kyle Orton Fourth
2004 Craig Krenzel Fifth
2003 Rex Grossman First
1999 Cade McNown First

Best pick: Kyle Orton

Worst pick: Cade McNown

Rating the top QBs

LeGere's draft grade for the 2009 WBs: C. Stafford and Sanchez are both juniors and could struggle for a couple years before playing to their draft status. Freeman, also a junior, has tremendous size and athleticism but could be an even bigger project. All three are first-round talents, but the quality plummets after that. It wouldn't be a surprise if none of other quarterbacks from this class are playing in the NFL in three or four years.

Name School Height Weight 40 time Skinny
Matthew Stafford Georgia* 6-2.2 225 4.82 Has every physical tool, including cannon arm, but decision-making is suspect
Mark Sanchez USC* 6-2.1 227 4.94 One-year starter, not as athletic as Stafford but better technically
Josh Freeman Kansas State* 6-5.6 248 4.99 Prototypical size and arm but a raw project who will need many practice reps
Rhett Bomar Sam Houston State 6-2.2 225 4.74 Fierce competitor might be too emotional. Need refinement and better mechanics
Pat White West Virginia 6-0.2 197 4.57 Will be switched to WR in NFL but could be valuable as QB in Wildcat formations
Stephen McGee Texas A&M 6-2.7 225 4.66 Tough guy who has played through pain and adverse situations
John Parker Wilson Alabama 6-1.2 219 4.80 Accurate on short to medium routes but lacks big arm and big-play ability
Nate Davis Ball State* 6-1.3 226 5.01 Had 56-14 TD-Int. ratio past 2 years vs. mediocre competition; throws well on the run
Bryan Hoyer Michigan State 6-2 215 5.05 Nice touch, accurate on short throws, but lacks arm strength and athleticism
Graham Harrell Texas Tech 6-2.1 223 5.10 Smart and dedicated, but stats were inflated in system that masked weak arm

*Junior

Number after decimal point under "Ht." refers to eighths of an inch.