With the 2010 Scouting Combine coming up next week, it's time to take a look at the potential stars at every position in this year's draft class. Yours truly will be in Indianapolis to cover the event (it will be my fourth), and we'll start with the five quarterbacks who will be on most minds.
Sam Bradford (Oklahoma): Bradford might have been the first overall pick had he declared for the draft after the 2008 season, but he stayed to see if he could win a national championship with the Sooners. The departure of four offensive linemen from what had been the NCAA's best line showed its effects in the 2009 season opener against BYU, when Bradford was slammed to the turf and suffered a shoulder injury. Another injury against Texas ended his season. Bradford has the arm strength and accuracy to make any NFL scout drool, but there are questions about his durability at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, his ability to adapt to pro-style offenses. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen (pictured) is now seen by most to be the most pro-ready quarterback. Bradford, however, is the pick with the most potential over time. Scouts already know about his arm, but it will be good for Bradford to prove that it's all still there and ready to go.
Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame): Clausen declared for the draft after the firing of head coach Charlie Weis -- he had gone to Notre Dame specifically to learn under a coach who had NFL experience. He doesn't have a rocket arm, but in a slightly depressed class at the position, Clausen's probably the most interesting to those teams who need a franchise quarterback now. He's the one draft-eligible quarterback with specific NFL-ready tools, extended experience in the kinds of offenses he'll work at the next level, and the kind of intangibles that will endear him to his new teammates. As such, he's a good bet to go first among the quarterbacks, especially if he does well in the throwing drills.
Colt McCoy (Texas): He fell short of a BCS Championship after a shoulder injury took him out against Alabama, but McCoy is an interesting prospect for certain kinds of teams. His high efficiency and favorable touchdown-to-interception ratios tell a story of an offense predetermined to shorter throws, but the Saints just won the Super Bowl with a 70 percent completion rate and a lot of screens and quick outs. McCoy's toughness and intelligence aren't questioned, but like Bradford, he'll do well to answer questions about his shoulder with his throwing session.
Tim Tebow (Florida): No draft prospect causes more division among scouts, analysts and columnists than Tebow. There are those who believe that if the NFL can't find a place for him, it's the NFL's problem. And there are those who believe that Tebow will never make it in the NFL as a quarterback. His experience in option offenses and super-slow delivery are precedents which seem to relegate him to the NFL scrap heap as a quarterback, but his intangibles have some willing to take draft chances they probably shouldn't. No player will benefit more from a great session on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium -- if Tebow shows a buggy-whip release and an ability to zing 30-yard post-corner routes, he'll have a lot of draft boards scrambling. Still, he'd probably be wise to catch passes with the tight end group as well...
Tony Pike (Cincinnati): Another guy with size and injury concerns (6-6, 212), Pike blew it up for the Bearcats in 2009 and really impressed during Senior Bowl practices. But he missed three games during 2009 with an injured (non-throwing) forearm, a year after a six-inch plate was inserted in that same arm. Pike met with Ben Roethlisberger before the Senior Bowl to get some tips on the next level, but he'll certainly want to avoid Big Ben's tendency to attract sacks.
Note: To all who were upset that I didn't include Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour on this list ... LeFevour gets his own post. So there.
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