NFL Scouting Combine Thoughts: Quarterbacks

The quarterbacks performed throwing drills at the NFL scouting combine on Sunday and below are some quick-hit thoughts on how each of them fared. (Thank you NFL Network for broadcasting the scouting combine for those of us who are unable to go to Indianapolis, or have a restraining order that mandates we stay 500 yards away from Rich Eisen, whom all I wanted to do was party with.)

– For those that were concerned with the way the ball comes out of Cam Newton’s hand, there’s no need. Unlike Tim Tebow last year, Newton doesn’t have a flaw that needs to be fixed when it comes to his delivery, which is important seeing as how he played in the spread option under Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

– That said, Newton was awfully inconsistent on Sunday. His passes on the out route sailed on him and he also overthrew his receiver on one of his post-corner throws. His footwork is still a work in progress but hey, he’s learning. He has to transition from being a spread quarterback to a conventional drop back passer in the NFL, so it’s going to take time. At least at this point he has better mechanics than Tebow and Vince Young when they were preparing for the draft.

Ryan Mallett was really impressive. He has a cannon attached to his right shoulder and the ball comes out of his hand rather effortlessly. He has the best physical tools of any quarterback in the draft and at 6’6” and 238 pounds, he has the size that scouts drool over. Of course, his physical tools have never been in question. His attitude and character are what some are concerned about. Personally, I think he has Oakland Raiders written all over him. He could thrive in a vertical offense and Al Davis can’t even spell character.

Christian Ponder had himself a great day as well. He outshined Newton and all other quarterbacks in the second group, displaying very good accuracy and decent arm strength. I can’t see him going any higher than the third round, but he looked healthy and confident on Sunday. Depending on what team he winds up with, he could be a player to watch in a couple of years.

– For those who followed him at Washington, it’s not surprising that Jake Locker ran one of the fastest 40 times (4.52 seconds) of any quarterback in combine history. The guy was blessed with a ton of athleticism and he looked good throwing the ball, which had been a concern heading into the combine. He was a little inconsistent with his accuracy when throwing the dig route, but it’s hard to complain about his performance. Of course, most quarterbacks perform well when there are no defenders in their face. When teams watch film of him from last year, there will be plenty to pick apart.

Ricky Stanzi, Jerrod Johnson and Andy Dalton all struggled with their accuracy. I don’t think anyone is surprised with Johnson, but I thought Dalton would put on a better performance. Of course, where he wins teams over is with his leadership, his football IQ and his instincts. You can’t measure those things in throwing drills. I will say this about Stanzi though: the kid throws a nice deep ball (at least when he’s not facing any DBs).

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NFL combine notes: Orton, Henne, Shockey and crazy ‘ol Al Davis

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (L) is about to get sacked by Arizona Cardinals Clark Haggans (R) during the first quarter of the Cards Broncos game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ December 12,2010. UPI/Art Foxall

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from team press conferences Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.

Fox names Orton his starter “right now.”
New Broncos head coach Jon Fox told reporters that Kyle Orton and not Tim Tebow is his starting quarterback as of right now. Fox said that he’s interested to see how Tebow looks but noted, “As far as I’m concerned, (Orton) is under contract and he’s the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.” It’s not surprising that Fox would side with the more seasoned quarterback, seeing as how he refused to give up on Jake Delhomme in Carolina until the bitter end.

Titans don’t plan on meeting with Shockey
New Titans head coach Mike Munchak said that the team has no plans to speak with free agent Jeremy Shockey about coming to Tennessee. As I wrote the day the Saints released him, I see Shockey winding up in Miami to play under new OC Brian Daboll (who loves to use his tight ends, almost to a fault sometimes).

Henne is still the Dolphins’ starter
Speaking of Miami, GM Jeff Ireland referred to Chad Henne as his starter during his press conference on Thursday. It looks like Henne is the clear-cut favorite to enter the 2011 season as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, although don’t rule out Miami taking a flier on someone like TCU’s Andy Dalton or Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi in the middle rounds.

It’s in Blaine Gabbert’s best interest not to throw at combine

Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert throws the football in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 23, 2010. Missouri defeated Oklahoma 36-27. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

I just read an article written by Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic that left me scratching my head. (No, not because I can’t read. I readed good.)

In the article, Boivin draws comparisons between first round bust Matt Leinart, who decided not to throw at the scouting combine five years ago, and Missouri prospect Blaine Gabbert, who has decided not to throw at this year’s scouting combine.

This season’s quarterback class is an intriguing one, and eight of the best are scheduled to be in Indianapolis. Only one – Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert – has opted not to throw for scouts.

That’s the same Blaine Gabbert that some analysts think will be drafted by the Cardinals.

Many have done it, but it still is a red flag when a player opts to skip a workout. It screams, “I’m hiding something.”

Hiding something? Nobody questions Gabbert’s arm strength, unlike in 2006 when the majority of pundits wondered whether or not Leinart could make all the throws at the next level.

The main concern about Gabbert is whether or not he can take snaps from under center after running the spread offense at Missouri. That’s something you can’t really dispel at the combine and seeing as how he’s regarded as the top quarterback prospect in this year’s class, why wouldn’t Gabbert wait until his Pro Day to throw? He would be well rested and working out in a controlled environment while throwing to his own receivers. (Unlike at the combine, where he doesn’t know the receivers and would have to throw after a full day of poking and prodding by NFL officials.)

Scouts may be anxious to see Gabbert throw this week, but his agent Tom Condon has the right idea here. Choosing not to partake in certain workouts at the combine rarely hinder a prospect that is regarded as the best at his position. Gabbert’s stock may have fallen according to some pundits, but it’s unlikely that he falls out of the top 10 just because he chooses not to showcase his arm in Indianapolis. NFL teams look at the entire body of work when it comes to a player, as they should.

Did Ryan Mallett skip the 2010 draft due to a drug addiction?

More damning rumors are surfacing about quarterback prospect Ryan Mallett’s character and off-field issues. According to Tony Softli of ESPN 101 St. Louis, Mallett did not declare for the 2010 NFL draft due to a possible drug addiction.

Character and drug use issues are starting to rear their ugly head. Heavy rumors of drug use and possible addiction kept him from coming out for the 2010 draft. A lot of people are comparing Mallett to Ryan Leaf. I think Ryan was a better football player, with a cannon for an arm but the immaturity was just too much to overcome. A hair facial test might tell all 32 teams who this person really is.

These next six days are vital for Mallett as he gears up for the scouting combine. He has the most red flags of any quarterback prospect in the draft, which includes Cam Newton. He’ll be administered a drug test to see if he’s used recently and if he has, his stock will certainly plummet as we inch closer to the draft.

Hopefully these are just nasty rumors, but there have been several reports to come out in the last couple of days that don’t paint Mallett in good light. In fact, just yesterday Wes Bunting of the National Football Post wrote that a scout “doesn’t trust the guy as a person off the field” because of the dirt he had on Mallett. Is that “dirt” the same information that Softli just released about the drug addiction?

Of course, if the kid can play then nobody will remember or care about these reports three years from now. But for the time being, they certainly aren’t helping him improve his draft stock. Again, hopefully these are just nasty rumors.

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