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.

Senior Bowl Winners and Losers

The 2009 Senior Bowl lacked the star power of previous games but several players were out to prove that they had the inside track to more money come draft day. With a lot to be desired for some positions, especially at defensive tackle, prospects performed their way to the top of draft boards during the four days of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl game on Saturday.

Winners

DT B.J. Raji (Boston College)
B.J. Raji was utterly explosive all week during practices. Already considered to be one of the top two defensive tackles, Raji may have locked up a top 15 selection when he dominated Oregon State OG Andy Levitre. Raji simply outworked his counterparts and put on a display of size and speed that Mobile has not seen since Brodrick Bunkley came through in 2006.

DT Evander “Ziggy” Hood (Missouri)
Hood set the tone early for his domination by out-maneuvering Cal center Alex Mack on Monday. While he didn’t really stand out the rest of the week, Hood’s strength should show on Saturday during the game. His knowledge of the game was impressive and therefore he should be a lock for at least the second round.

WR Derrick Williams (Penn State)
Derrick Williams put on a clinic all week long in practice. He showed the other wide receivers (and d-back’s) how to come out of a break and get separation by way of speed and proper route running. Williams also practiced as a punt returner where his skill set appears to be satisfying.

DE Larry English (Northern Illinois)
English is a possible outside linebacker in a 3-4. Still, he said he would love to get drafted by the Chicago Bears. He may not be around for them in the second round though, especially after his performance during the practices in Mobile. English showed his good motor, lateral quickness, and great moves.

TE Shawn Nelson (Southern Miss)
Shawn Nelson is one of the five best tight ends according to us. He is having one of the best week’s a tight end has ever had at the Senior Bowl. He catches everything plus his blocking is very good. He uses his hands, not his body, to reel in the reception.

CB Coye Francies (San Jose State)
One of the more unheralded defensive backs had a good week of practice in Mobile. He stays low and grounded, shows excellent balance, and is physical with the wide receiver from the snap. In 11-on-11 drills, he showed excellent coverage skills.

RB Andre Brown (North Carolina State)
Brown is from the Brandon Jacobs-variety. He has showed a powerful inside running ability all week long. Likely, he could get drafted within the first four rounds. Still, will he be another Jacobs or an Eric Shelton?

OT Jason Watkins (Florida)
Watkins was surprisingly consistent all week long. He has good, quick feet and is very fundamentally sound. He was hardly beaten off of the tackle all week long and showed enough for us to like him in the rush offense.

Losers

OT Phil Loadholt (Oklahoma)
Like we have said, Loadholt is a very big boy but has very slow feet. He was beaten more this week than he has all season (which makes us question how good Oklahoma’s offensive line really was). Loadholt was almost likable for the second round of the draft but we have to now say that he is nothing more than a mid-rounder at best.

CB Darius Butler (Connecticut)
The wide receivers that he faced this week wiped the floor with him. Butler may have been too aggressive and bit extremely hard on any pump fake or side-step, but he was simply terrible in man coverage and will not be a first round selection.

OG Andy Levitre (Oregon State)
After getting beat a lot this week, Levitre almost got into a fight on Wednesday with USF’s Tyrone McKenzie. Levitre has some work to do as he doesn’t combat any swim-like move real well. His injury history raises some red flags as well.

OLB Clint Sintim (Virginia)
Sintim, one of our favorite prospects, struggled getting any pressure from the edge and looked slow compared to the other defenders. While we can’t ignore what he did on Saturday’s, something wasn’t clicking this week in Mobile for him.

CB Domonique Johnson (Jackson State)
Hoping to be this year’s small school high-riser, Johnson has failed to impress. He struggled in zone and man coverage all week. He doesn’t get off of blocks well either.

S Derek Pegues (Mississippi State)
Needs a ton of work on his tackling, as we seen with the practices where coaches were focused on improving that area of the game. Speed was inconsistent and Pegues seemed to play out of his element a lot this past week.

Of course, more guys looked good and more struggled than we mentioned but we just wanted to point out our winners & losers. The winners should see their stock improve while the opposite should happen with the losers.

Lions shouldn’t waste the No. 1 pick on a QB

So who’s No. 1 on the Detroit Lions’ draft list?

As the NFL scouting season officially gets under way, new Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz is off to Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl practices this week. He’ll be putting together a list — with input from team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew — and checking it twice.

I doubt if that list will include a quarterback at the top of it.

It seems increasingly doubtful the Lions will spend the top overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft on a passer.

Why? Simple.

Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Colt McCoy (Texas) and Tim Tebow (Florida) all are returning to college next season. Continue Reading

Declared Underclassmen - Final List

D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Sen’Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn
Shonn Greene, RB, Iowa
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Captain Munnerlyn, CB, South Carolina
Ricky Jean-Francois, DT, LSU
Myron Rolle, FS, Florida State
Andrew Davie, TE, Arkansas
Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Emmanuel Cook, S, South Carolina
Gerald McRath, LB, Southern Miss
Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
James Casey, TE, Rice
Jerraud Powers, CB, Auburn
Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Kevin Olgetree, WR, Virginia
Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio State
P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin
Garrett Graham, TE, Wisconsin
Austin Collie, WR, BYU
Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama
Mike Goodson, RB, Texas A&M
Carson Butler, TE/DE, Michigan
Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
James Williams, CB, So. Connecticut
Richard Quinn, TE, North Carolina
Greg Isdaner, OG, West Virginia
Brandon Mason, RB, Stony Brook
LeSean McCoy, RB, Pitt
Paul Kruger, DE, Utah
Sean Smith, CB, Utah
Nate Davis, QB, Ball State
Asher Allen, CB, Georgia
Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
Maurice Evans, DE, Penn State
Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio State
Jeremy Childs, WR, Boise State
Brandon Williams, DE, Texas Tech
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

Staying
Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Damian Williams, WR, USC
Kam Chancellor, S, Va. Tech
Antonio Coleman, OLB, Auburn
Eric Norwood, DE/OLB, South Carolina
George Selvie, DE, USF
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Taylor Mays, S, USC
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss

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