1994 Revisited? How the 2009 QBs Compare to Shuler, Dilfer & Co.

15 years ago, we seen some of the largest media hype ever when draft pundits were debating on who would be the better NFL quarterback - Heath Shuler or Trent Dilfer. That same year, we seen a lack of talent from the quarterback class that may have inflated both Shuler and Dilfer’s stock into the top ten. We see the same debates today between Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez.

After those two, we had a second tier of quarterbacks with high upside but neither were “pro-ready.” Like in 1994, the 2009 class has a second tier, albeit two quarterbacks that can be described as having plenty of flaws but enough upside to warrant them a draft pick where they could eventually be groomed to be franchise quarterbacks. Enter Josh Freeman and Nate Davis who compare to Perry Klein and Doug Nussmeier of their day.

Five more passers were to be drafted, one in the sixth round and four in the seventh round.

Needless to say, Shuler was a bust, Dilfer was a journeyman who watched a Super Bowl fall into his lap, and the best quarterback to come out of the 1994 class may actually have been seventh rounder Gus Frerotte, despite never winning a Super Bowl.

Coming out of Tennessee, Heath Shuler was the most promising quarterback since Vinny Testaverde in 1987. He held onto most of the passing records at Tennessee until a scrawny passer named Peyton Manning landed on campus. In one of the first major holdouts, Shuler, the third overall selection by the Washington Redskins missed all of training camp until he was able to get a 7-year, $19.25 million contract.

While Shuler was holding out, Washington’s seventh round pick Gus Frerotte was getting plenty of reps in at training camp. After Shuler’s struggles his first two seasons, Frerotte was named starter and ended up making a trip to the Pro Bowl for the Redskins.

After the 1996 season, Shuler was sent packing to New Orleans for two draft picks. He would end up severely injuring his foot. Later on, after a couple of surgeries and a dismissal from the Saints, this former first round pick landed with the Oakland Raiders. He ended up injuring his foot again, before the season even started, and retired from football altogether before even hitting the field for the Silver & Black.

In 1994, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their sixth overall pick on Trent Dilfer. This former Fresno State quarterback ended up playing for four more franchises before his career came to a slow and dilapidated end. Still, he was able to win a Super Bowl as the starting quarterback for the defensive-minded Baltimore Ravens, proving that anyone can win a Super Bowl trophy provided that they have a great defense and solid ground game.

As for Perry Klein and Doug Nussmeier. They combined for 1 career start, 7 seasons in the NFL, and a whopping 455 passing yards. Neither truly developed. For record-keeping’s sake, Klein hailed from C.W. Post, a campus of Long Island University and Nussmeier still holds some of the passing records at Idaho.

The “big four” of the 2009 quarterbacks compare favorably to the “big four” of the 1994 quarterbacks. While both Stafford (Georgia) and Sanchez (Southern Cal) have a lot of tools, they have plenty of questions that won’t get answered until they face an NFL defense.

Both will likely get drafted to be a franchise quarterback, whether it is in Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Seattle. Unlike Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco, neither quarterback will land in a situation that will be ripe for reward immediately.

As for the other two QBs of the “big four,” Josh Freeman has all of the physical tools scouts look for in a quarterback but he was not a winner in college and may get a little zealous with his extreme arm strength. He doesn’t read defenses extremely well either.

Nate Davis hails from tiny Ball State, the best team in the state of Indiana (sorry Notre Dame), but his playing style will be critiqued heavily at the combine as he throws from a lower pad level than Sanchez, Stafford, or Freeman. Add in the fact that he may struggle making “out pattern” throws and we have another guy that may get a lot of attention due to a weak quarterback class that may struggle to ever land on his feet in the NFL.

The seniors of this quarterback class offer very little from the “franchise quarterback” perspective. Like in 1994, we could see two QBs drafted high (Stafford and Sanchez), two QBs drafted in the early-middle rounds (Freeman and Davis), and five quarterbacks drafted in the last two rounds (Graham Harrell, Rhett Bomar, Nathan Brown, Hunter Cantwell, Cullen Harper).

Just like a bad economy, the value (or stock) of the best quarterbacks (which may not be great after all) is heavily inflated. No, you will not see a $3 billion note like the currency in Zimbabwe, but the inflated value may be giving the top four QBs a value that will eventually pop, or its bubble will burst, like we seen with the housing market in America in 2008.

Buyer beware. In the 2009 Big Draft Book, we may take a look at how underclassmen quarterbacks have struggled in the NFL, citing more recent examples of Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, and others.


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