The quarterback position is the ultimate team need. That's why 25 quarterbacks have been selected first overall since the beginning of the draft.
In the last four drafts -- and six of the last seven -- a QB has been selected No. 1 overall. In 2000, Cleveland took DE Courtney Brown first. Chad Pennington was the first signal-caller selected, but he wasn't plucked off the board by the Jets until No. 18.
Of the past 10 quarterbacks selected No. 1, six have led their respective teams to the playoffs. The last three -- Eli Manning of the Giants, Carson Palmer of the Bengals, David Carr of the Texans -- haven't done it yet. Neither did Jeff George with the Colts from 1990-93. With experience on their side, don't bet against Palmer and Carr this year.
Since 1970, four quarterbacks taken with the first overall selection started on teams that won a total of 11 Super Bowls. Terry Bradshaw (four) and Troy Aikman (three) were with the same team that drafted them. Also, Jim Plunkett (two) and John Elway (two) were with clubs other than the ones that drafted them.
Tom Brady was the 199th player selected in the 2000 draft. And at 27 years old, Brady has already won three Super Bowls.
In the 1958 draft, two quarterbacks were selected from the same school -- Rice University. The Chicago Cardinals took King Hill with the first overall pick and the Los Angeles Rams chose Frank Ryan at No. 55. Hill played 14 years and Ryan played 13. Two QBs were also selected from the University of Washington in 1993. Billy Joe Hobert was a third-round choice of the Raiders and Mark Brunell was the Packers' fifth-rounder.
The last time a quarterback was not taken in the first round was 1996, which was the eighth time in NFL history that has happened. In 1988, no quarterbacks went in the first two rounds with Chris Chandler being the first off the board at No. 76 in the third round.
I have spent many hours trying to figure out who is the best quarterback. I still have not been able to separate the two. I do believe that both have the ability to be very productive in the NFL now, and for the future.
1. Alex Smith, Utah (6-4 1/8, 217)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.71 and 4.79, had a 32-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-5 long jump, 3.96 short shuttle and 6.82 three-cone drill. Smith quarterbacked his high school team to a 25-1 record and two San Diego CIF section championships. In 2001, he passed for 1,704 yards and 30 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He was the class president and ranked 13th in his class by GPA. Played two games at Utah in 2002 as an 18-year-old freshman and then started 10 games in 2003, passing for 2,247 yards with 15 touchdowns and just three INTs. As a senior, he started 12 games and had 34 scores with four picks. Had a great game in the Fiesta Bowl, passing for 29 of 37 for 328 yards and no interceptions. Smith has athletic ability, is very smart and understands coverages. Has running ability, going for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. When you spend time with him, as I did one evening, he reminds me of Peyton Manning. I'm not saying he will be as good as Manning, but Smith has the same understanding of the game. He worked out indoors and the arm strength was good. Mostly a shotgun quarterback at Utah but looked comfortable under center. He will be a very good NFL player and is only turning 21 two weeks after the draft.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Cal (6-2, 223)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran 4.70 and 4.78 in the 40, had a 341/2-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-2 long jump, 4.54 short shuttle and 7.38 three-cone drill. Passed for 4,419 yards during junior and senior years in high school combined. Set a school record with six touchdown passes in one game. Started his career at Butte Junior College and led the team to a No. 2 national ranking. Rodgers entered Cal in 2003 and became the starting quarterback after four games. He passed for 2,903 yards, 19 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Started every game as a senior with 2,566 yards, 24 scores and eight picks. Completed the first 23 passes against eventual national champion USC, which ties a single-game record. Has a very quick delivery with very good arm strength, is accurate, a smart player with great character and shows poise. Coach Jeff Tedford did a great job with Rodgers' mechanics. Did his position drills at Cal's Pro Day instead of the combine. Will make the team that chooses him a winner. This guy is still young as he will only turn 22 in December.
3. Andrew Walter, Arizona State (6-6 1/8, 233)
Injured and did not work out at the combine (third-degree separation of the right shoulder). Had surgery in December and will most likely not be 100 percent by the start of minicamp. Did run his 40s at Arizona State's Pro Day in 4.84 and 4.86. Played quarterback, basketball and ran track in high school. Was redshirted in 2000 and started two games at the end of the 2001 season. Started 10 games in 2002 and became the first player in Pac-10 history to have four 400-yard passing games in one season. That included one of over 500 yards. Started 12 games in 2003 and every game in 2004, except for the bowl game because of his injury. A pocket passer who can make all the throws. Walter was well coached by head coach Dirk Koetter. Needs to improve his release point, as it is almost sidearm at times. A Kerry Collins-type of player.
4. Charlie Frye, Akron (6-3 7/8, 225)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.79 and 4.89, had a 33-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-5 long jump, 4.08 short shuttle and 6.94 three-cone drill. A high school quarterback that set 17 school records. Led team to a 10-2 mark and the state playoffs as a senior. Redshirted in 2000 and started the next four years. He completed 913 passes for 11,049 yards and 64 touchdowns. Had four double-digit comebacks in the final 13 games. Passed for 436 yards against Miami of Ohio. Named MVP of the Senior Bowl. Has a strong arm with good accuracy, quick delivery and good athletic ability. Played hurt in 2004 but never sat down. Works hard and studies football. Frye was thinking about leaving school after his junior year and asked me about his chances of getting drafted. I was really impressed about his knowledge of the game. Does not have real big hands or great velocity.
5. Jason Campbell, Auburn (6-43/4, 230)
Did not work out at the combine but did everything at Auburn's Pro Day. Ran his 40s in 4.75 and 4.78, had a 38-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-8 long jump, 4.32 short shuttle and did not run the three-cone drill. Played quarterback in high school. Team won the state championship his junior year and lost in the semifinal senior year. Player of the year in Mississippi, as well as an all-state basketball player. Redshirted in 2000, started eight games in 2001, six games in 2002, 13 in 2003 with bowl game MVP honors, and started every game as a senior. In 2004, he set a record by winning 31 career games at Auburn under four different offensive coordinators in five years. The last one for his junior and senior years, Al Borges, has done a great job with Campbell. Good arm strength, accuracy has improved, can avoid the rush if needed, has a long release, and looked good at the Senior Bowl.
6. David Greene, Georgia (6-31/2, 226)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran two 40s in 4.78 and 4.84, had a 311/2-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-7 long jump, 4.10 short shuttle and 7.00 three-cone drill. Played quarterback in high school and led his team to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in school history. Also played basketball. Greene redshirted in 2000 and started 52 games over the next four years, the most ever by a college quarterback. First left-handed QB to start for the Bulldogs since 1956. Has great intangibles, a good, high delivery with very good touch, a smart player and is an outstanding competitor. Good, but not great arm strength. He's a very good player in a short passing game type of offense.
7. Stefan Lefors, Louisville (6-0 1/8, 208)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.56 and 4.64, had a 31-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-3 long jump, 4.09 short shuttle and 7.03 three-cone drill. Was a four-year starter in high school and his team made the playoffs every year. Had 28 touchdown passes during his senior year, as well as running for 500 yards. Also ran track and was a member of the state champion 4x100 relay team. Redshirted in 2001 and was the backup the next two years. Started his final two seasons and was selected first-team All-Conference USA both times. Had a great year in 2004 by completing 73.5 percent of his passes. This is extremely hard to do. Lefors' only real negative is his height. But keep in mind that two of the last year's Pro Bowl QBs, Michael Vick and Drew Brees, are just as short. Does all the things you want from a quarterback. Has the intangibles for the position, very good accuracy, smart, great work habits, tough and a winner.
8. Kyle Orton, Purdue (6-4, 233)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran two 40s in 5.06 and 5.14, had a 261/2-inch vertical jump, 4.52 short shuttle and 7.40 three-cone drill. Orton was a high school quarterback in Iowa. He also played basketball, tennis and ran track. Sent tapes of all sports played to Purdue coaches to show athletic ability. Played as a true freshman, starting three games, including the bowl game against Washington State, where he threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns. Started nine games in 2002 and all 13 in 2003. A hip injury limited him to nine starts as a senior. Has been well coached (Purdue has a great system and produces solid quarterbacks), a quick release, good velocity, can throw the deep out, smart, and has the size you want. Mostly played in a shotgun offense.
9. Derek Anderson, Oregon State (6-6 1/8, 242)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 5.07 and 5.03, had a 29-inch vertical jump, 8-foot-7 long jump, 4.62 short shuttle and 7.67 three-cone drill. He was the first player in the history of the state of Oregon to be honored in the same year as the state player of the year in football and basketball. Has a big arm, but is a pocket passing project.
10. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard (6-2 3/8, 232)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.86 and 4.87, had a 301/2-inch vertical jump, 8-foot-9 long jump, 4.07 short shuttle and 7.09 three-cone drill. Has good arm strength and mobility. Very smart, but then again, he went to Harvard.
11. Dan Orlovsky, Connecticut (6-5, 225)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.93 and 4.99, had a 291/2-inch vertical jump, 8-foot-11 long jump and 4.39 short shuttle. Was a high school quarterback in Shelton, Conn. Started six games as a true freshman and started the next three seasons for a total of 43 with 25 wins. Led the team to five fourth-quarter comebacks. Has good arm strength and is a hard worker. Invited to the Senior Bowl but did not play because of the flu. A classic drop-back passer who is not as mobile as you would like.
12. Gino Guidugli, Cincinnati (6-33/4, 229)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran two 40s in 5.00 and 5.08, had a 29-inch vertical jump, 8-foot-7 long jump, 4.52 short shuttle and 7.41 three-cone drill. A four-year starter who is a very good competitor and throws with accuracy. He was the top high school player in Ohio. Also a very good baseball and basketball player.
13. Jason White, Oklahoma (6-21/2, 223)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.90 and 4.93, had a 31-inch vertical jump, 9-foot long jump, 4.19 short shuttle and 7.28 three-cone drill. A high school quarterback, safety, kicker and kick returner. A six-year player at Oklahoma. Played in his first two games as a true freshman in 1999, played and didn't start in 2000. Injured and then came back to start in the 2003 season and won the Heisman Trophy. Most of the time he lines up in the shotgun formation. A smart player with better-than-average arm strength, outstanding accuracy and good work habits. All he does is win and throw touchdown passes. Had 35 TDs in 2004 and 40 in 2003. Mobility is a problem because of knee operations.
Adrian McPherson, formerly of Florida State (6-31/2, 213)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran one 40 in 4.71, had a 341/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-8 long jump, 4.08 short shuttle and 6.93 three-cone drill. A very good athlete with a strong arm and is quick-footed. Hasn't played a lot of football because of off-field problems while at Florida State. Played in the Arena League. Tossed 61 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Rushed for 19 more scores. I think he has a chance to be very good.
Lang Campbell, William and Mary (6-11/2, 197)
Good athlete with intangibles. Threw 30 touchdown passes in 2004. Jon Kitna-type of player.
An alphabetical list of quarterbacks to look for in the 2006 draft:
- Kellen Clemens, Oregon
- Trent Edwards, Stanford
- Bruce Gradkowski, Toldeo
- Matt Leinart, Southern California
- Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M
- Brad Smith, Missouri
- Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson