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Burning Questions

Who's the next Roethlisberger; trouble in Pats-land?

Posted: Friday April 8, 2005 2:06PM; Updated: Friday April 8, 2005 8:31PM
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1. Which quarterback will be the closest thing to a Ben Roethlisberger in the 2005 draft?

Adrian McPherson
Adrian McPherson only played half a season at Florida State.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Given that no one even knew Ben Roethlisberger would turn into a Ben Roethlisberger at this time last year, it's pure conjecture to try and identify the next big thing on the young-quarterback front. And let's not forget that Roethlisberger wound up redefining the standard for rookie quarterback performance with his mind-boggling 15 consecutive victories for the 16-2 Steelers. Alas, we may never see the likes of him again.

But if we had to tab one rookie passer as the most likely candidate to make a sizable impact in 2005, our choice might surprise you. It's not Cal's Aaron Rodgers or Utah's Alex Smith, who figure to be the first two quarterbacks to come off the board in two weeks, possibly in the opening three picks.

It's former Florida State product Adrian McPherson, whose exceptional workouts this spring have been generating real buzz among league personnel types. McPherson will be 22 in early May, and he has one clear-cut advantage over his fellow rookie quarterbacks: He already is a professional, having hung up cartoonish numbers playing for the Arena Football League's Indiana Firebirds in 2004.

Despite not being activated until the third game of the season, McPherson won the AFL's rookie of the year honor, throwing for 2,965 yards, with 56 touchdowns and just five (yep, five) interceptions in 14 games. He also rushed for 18 touchdowns and 257 yards on just 59 carries, proving what phenomenal athletic gifts he possesses.

McPherson, of course, has precious little college experience, having seen starting action for only part of the 2002 season at Florida State. He was kicked out of school by the Seminoles late that year after being arrested for stealing and cashing a blank check, and later also was hit with charges that he gambled on pro and college football games. But from all indications, McPherson has matured, paid for his mistakes, and is ready to handle the spotlight of quarterbacking in the NFL.

Scouts who have watched him this spring rave about his huge upside, and his arm strength has drawn comparisons with John Elway. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound McPherson has been making flat-footed throws of 70 yards upon request, and his pinpoint accuracy seldom leaves him in the position of hurting his team's chances. He throws effectively on the run, has great body control and knows how to make something out of nothing when a play breaks down.

McPherson is still a little raw in spots, but his instincts for the game are superb and he appears far more ready to step into somebody's lineup than either Rodgers or Smith. He has certainly handled more adversity -- and persevered -- in the past two-and-a-half years than any of the other leading quarterback prospects. Some teams might get scared away by his past, but with two weeks remaining in the scouting process, he is being mentioned as a first-round candidate, and quite possibly the third quarterback selected overall.

Oh, and one more potentially telling link between McPherson and Roethlisberger? McPherson is represented by veteran agent Leigh Steinberg. Steinberg's headline client in last year's first round? Big Ben himself.

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