QB/Specialist prospects: Just three shine in thin pass class
Depth is severely lacking among the quarterbacks eligible for this year's NFL Draft, but there is a trio of prospects that has done an excellent job of splitting the opinion of scouts. For every strength, there appears to be a potentially money-wasting weakness.
Georgia junior Matthew
Stafford is the top-rated quarterback, according to rankings by NFLDraftScout.com, and is a strong bet to be the No. 1 overall pick by Detroit. He is rocket-armed and a fierce competitor, but Stafford's game lacks finesse and there are serious questions as to whether he will be more than a strong arm that impresses fans with deep bombs while frustrating coaches with forced passes.
Fellow underclassman Mark Sanchez has all the tools to be an elite quarterback in the right system. But with only 16 career starts at Southern California, the meat of his resume is frighteningly thin for a team considering spending top 10 money on a franchise quarterback.
The most intriguing first-round prospect among quarterbacks is Kansas State junior Josh Freeman. At 6-6 and nearly 250 pounds, he is taller than Stafford and Sanchez while also possessing excellent arm strength. But his mechanics need a lot of work, which led to plenty of inconsistency in college.
It's an extraordinarily weak crop of senior quarterbacks. West Virginia's Pat White is the top-rated one by NFLDraftScout.com, but is considered a better wide receiver prospect by many scouts.
Here is a closer look at the top quarterbacks, kickers and punters in this year's draft (heights and weights are listed; *denotes underclassmen):
1. Stafford, Georgia, 6-2, 225
Stafford is a classic, drop-back passer and take-charge leader. He enters the draft as an underclassman despite the Bulldogs' disappointing 2008 season, but Stafford still played well enough to complete 235 of 383 passes for 3,459 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, his most productive season. Although he is not a true running threat, he moves well enough in the pocket to buy time. He has the elite arm strength it takes to throw any pass and is especially impressive with trajectory and location of deep passes that give receivers time and a tangent to get to the ball. But with that ability goes the occasional overconfidence that will lead to trouble until he gauges the speed of defenders in the NFL. That will be especially true on medium and crossing patterns, passes that he hasn't perfected and throws wobblers too often while trying to muscle the ball to a target.
Frank Cooney is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.