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News » Rating the top QBs -- it's pass or fail

Rating the top QBs -- it's pass or fail

Rating the top QBs -- it's pass or fail
INDIANAPOLIS -- Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco made it look easy last year, stepping in as rookie quarterbacks and leading their teams to the playoffs.

But heading into this year's draft, NFL coaches, general managers and scouts have tried to temper expectations of an encore performance.

It's especially hard to project instant success from this year's class of quarterbacks, which is led by four players who came out after their junior seasons -- Georgia's Matthew Stafford, USC's Mark Sanchez, Kansas State's Josh Freeman and Ball State's Nate Davis.

"I just keep trying to warn people that the Matt Ryan-Joe Flacco thing is an anomaly," said Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's draft expert. "You haven't seen something like that ever in the NFL. And those guys were fifth-year seniors with a long track record."

Saints Coach Sean Payton said it's important to evaluate each quarterback on his own merits. He wouldn't overrate a quarterback based on the success of Ryan and Flacco, and he wouldn't rule him out just because he's an underclassman with less experience.

That's exactly what the Detroit Lions, among other teams, will be consumed with over the next two months. With the No. 1 overall pick and a desperate need to rebuild a team that went 0-16 last season, the Lions will take a long look at Stafford and possibly Sanchez at the top spot.

Stafford said he would counter the underclassman bias by pointing out that he played in 39 games in college -- "probably more than some seniors have played in."

"I've been doing this for a while," said Stafford, who measured in at 6 feet 2, 225 pounds. "Obviously I have a lot to learn. It's a whole different ballgame in the NFL. But I understand what it takes to prepare and get ready to play early, and I do feel like I have a lot of experience. I played in the SEC, a tough conference, and played against some NFL defensive coaches that are down in that league right now. I've got a little bit of a taste of what it's like, I think."

Stafford won't throw or do the bench press when the quarterbacks go through their drills Sunday. The thinking is that he has little to gain and much to lose if he looks shaky throwing to receivers he isn't familiar with. He'd rather show off his highly touted arm at Georgia's Pro Day next month.

Sanchez, however, said it would "kill me not to throw. It's too fun."

"That's just me. I gotta do it. I feel like I want to do it," the 6-2, 227-pounder said. "I'm a competitive person. I want to win, and that's what I'm about."

Sanchez's decision to come out early was much scrutinized -- especially after his coach at Southern Cal, Pete Carroll, openly recommended against it. But even though Sanchez started just 16 games in his career, he stands by his decision.

"I think the best way to answer (doubts) is to talk about the kind of experience I've had, against the top players around, most of them in the NFL, since my freshman year," Sanchez said. "I started 16 games, played in practice every day -- with a pro-style offense -- against a pro-style defense. . . . So I think the experience I've had has been very valuable, and the type of atmosphere I've played in."

The Lions spent some quality time with both quarterbacks this week -- Sanchez had lunch Thursday with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, and a group of top team officials had dinner with Stafford on Thursday night.

But they will be just as thorough, and then some, with players such as linebacker Aaron Curry and offensive tackles Andre Smith, Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe, among others, over the next two months.

"I think this is my 16th year in the NFL and it's my first exposure to (the No. 1 pick) -- and hopefully my last," new Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "It is a different animal. I've compared it a little bit to playing blackjack. You can go play blackjack in Vegas and play the five-dollar table and play for a couple of hours and make a lot of bad decisions and lose $100 and have some fun. If you go play at the $5,000 or $10,000 table, if you make bad decisions, you're walking home, you're not flying home.

"Not only is at an opportunity to get a great player, but you need to make sure."

. . . . . . .

Mike Triplett can be reached at mtriplett@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 21, 2009

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