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Risk at QB begins after top two picks

The following is the first installment in a position-by-position draft preview series. Quarterback is the featured position in this installment.


It's a good year to need a franchise quarterback if you're the Colts or Redskins, which is to say the possessors of the top two picks of the draft. It's a risky year to need a franchise quarterback if you aren't the Colts or Redskins.

"It's spectacular at the top two guys, then there's Ryan Tannehill, and then there's a drop-off," draft analyst Tony Pauline said.

At the top are Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. How good are they? Well, they're so good that the Colts cut Peyton Manning to open the door for Luck and the Redskins traded away a big chunk of their future drafts to move up into the second spot, ostensibly to select Griffin, who has already assimilated himself into pop culture with the tag RG3.

The next highest-rated quarterback is thought to be Texas A&M's Tannehill, but where does he fit? Might someone trade up to the Vikings' No. 3 spot for Tannehill?

"I think people are getting ahead of themselves on Ryan Tannehill, a guy who hasn't been asked to make an NFL-type pass, yet. But then again, I was shocked Locker and Ponder went as high as they did last year," Pauline said.

"He's probably the 24th or 25th best player in this draft but, because of his position, he's going to be overdrafted. Because of the success Cam Newton had last year, it's going to put a lot of teams in need of a quarterback in an unenviable position."

Newton made the transition from a spread offense in college football to a pro-style attack last season and, in the process, probably convinced a lot of doubters that it can be done more quickly than previously thought. Is Newton just a special guy or should the same be expected of other quarterbacks that must make that transition? That's where the risk comes into play.

After Tannehill, the next two quarterbacks are guys with big arms but carry concerns. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden is a big, talented passer, but he's also 28 years old and that means he'll have to play early in his career to avoid having a short career. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins flashed his arm strength and accuracy at the Senior Bowl, which caused scouts to wonder why Cousins doesn't always play that way at tense times in the game. Weeden and Cousins are thought to be second-round prospects.

Arizona State's Brock Osweiler is 6-7, 242, and has run in the 4.8s. His measurables alone could get him drafted in round three.

Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, 5-10, 203, is at the other end of the spectrum. Some draftniks love him for his athletic and improvisational ability; other draftniks think he's too short to succeed in the NFL.

The Packers might be in the market for a developmental quarterback to replace Matt Flynn on the roster. Pauline likes San Diego State's Ryan Lindley, a 6-3, 230, strong-armed passer that struggled with accuracy last year and at the combine.

"Tremendous as a junior, seemed to kind of lose his game last season, but he's a guy that's shown the ability to go to the next level," Pauline said of Lindley.

Then there's Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish, a long-term developmental type. Pauline said Harnish has an NFL arm and skill set but his game needs work from the ground up.

"You can find them," Pauline said of developmental quarterback prospects in this draft. "It's not an awful year."

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