For 10 years, one highlight leading up to the NFL Draft is talking with Phil Simms about the quarterbacks. We prepare by watching as much game tape as possible before discussing the candidates.
Simms has strong opinions about the signal callers and, as always, came up with some "wild card" candidates who aren't projected particularly high. In a few weeks, Simms will rank his top 10 and assign a round for each.
Simms says he doesn't see any of the QBs as sure-fire locks worthy of going in the first round nor does he see an elite NFL arm. When it comes to pro days, Simms said, "I expect a quarterback to really show off, his workout should look really good. ... It should kind of look like Tiger Woods would on a driving range or Kobe Bryant alone in a gym shooting 3s." When it doesn't look like that, Simms has a problem with the passer. He added that the private workout is the only way to go and applauded Cleveland for working out QBs that way.
Simms told me when he came out he had 20 private workouts, sometimes four a week with a minimum of 120 throws per workout and he ran a 40 for every staff that came in to his school. No loud music, no orchestrated workout, just tons of throws.
Here are a some of Simms' thoughts on this draft class at QB:
1. Blake Bortles: Simms is impressed with with Central Florida QB's size and the great physical shape he's in, and also what he demonstrated on tape. He believes Bortles could use another year of college experience to sharpen his craft but likes his leadership.
The key point: "Bortles has to work hard to throw the ball well, it doesn't come easy for him. I don't see great rotation on the ball."
Simms feels Bortles is not a top-level NFL passer. I told Simms two different NFL QB evaluators described him in different ways to me. One compared Bortles to Blaine Gabbert and the other suggested Ben Roethlisberger. Simms didn't buy either comparison, saying Bortles has more going for him than Gabbert but does not have Roethlisberger's natural throwing skills.
2. Johnny Manziel: When I mentioned Manziel, the first thing Simms said was: "Get ready, because the circus is coming to town," and that the team drafting Manziel has to be all in with who Johnny Football is as a quarterback.Simms is "bothered by his size and that speed is such a big part of his game," pointing out that all QBs slow down as their pro careers advance, but NFL defenses never slow down.
Simms' main question about Manziel: "How will he be when he loses speed?"
As for Manziel's throwing, Simms said, "He throws fairly well, but not by NFL standards," adding a concern that Manziel's arm was less crisp later in the season. When I noted how good his arm looked in the bowl game, Simms was quick to point out getting a month off to rest for a bowl game is no measuring stick because NFL quarterbacks never get a month off.
I asked Simms about Manziel's relatively small body of work in college -- only 26 regular-season games -- as a foundation for NFL readiness. Simms said Manziel should come out now because he may not get any better at Texas A&M, where he's already taken a lot of hits.
3. Teddy Bridgewater: Simms was quick to say Bridgewater's spotty pro day performance was a "red flag." The Louisville QB should have looked a lot better than he did and some of his bad throw tendencies that show up in games were present at the pro day.
We focused on the glove Bridgewater wore during the season and what it meant. Simms said, "The glove is important to him because it hides a deficiency in his motion. Bridgewater is not a classic thrower, he dips under his ball and the elbow drops, the glove saves his throws." Simms also felt Bridgewater's arm faded late in the season, which is a concern.
4. Derek Carr: Simms was surprised I asked about Carr in the same context of the other three because he hadn't heard anyone talk about the Fresno State QB along with the others.
Simms said some would hold his brother (onetime No. 1 overall pick David Carr) against him, but wasn't sold on Derek Carr as a first-round talent anyway. Simms did say Carr can spin the ball and has some God-given talent, but there are just too many screens and lob balls to get excited. As for Carr's mechanics, Simms thought he was a bit tight and too much like he's been lifting a lot of weights.
5. Zach Mettenberger: Simms says the LSU QB is an interesting guy but has some concerns, wondering if his feet were just a half-step slow and he might have to work on quickness to drop. He also termed Zettenberger's arm a bit loose, causes occasional throws that makes you ask, "Where did that come from"
Wild cards: Simms found two QBs he would take a chance on later in the draft: Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas Pitt's Tom Savage.
Simms recognizes Thomas is raw, saying, "He might have the best 20 throws you will see from any of these quarterbacks, but he might also have the 20 worst throws."
As for Savage, Simms likes the way he can get a good throw off from any physical position, and make accurate throws across the field, and throws off his back foot are solid.