"God!" Coryell gushed watching the 6'5", 248-pound Leftwich in last year's game against Virginia Tech. "How do they grow 'em so big? We didn't have offensive linemen this size." Esiason put it best after seeing Leftwich make big throws under a heavy rush, "Commanding presence. Love his arm. He'll stand in there against anybody. He must be a great leader." Walsh was watching Leftwich tape for the first time and didn't like the preponderance of snaps out of the shotgun. "If he's working out of the shotgun so much, my guess is his fundamentals will be awful," Walsh said. "How will he bridge the gap in the NFL? Some teams won't play from the shotgun at all." A couple of times Leftwich drilled the ball too hard at close range for his receiver to handle. "He'll have to learn touch," said Billick. "But he can throw with as much heat as anyone has in a long time."
Leftwich is a lumbering yet courageous player with a special arm. Coryell would have loved to build an offense around him. Leftwich says several doctors at the combine gave him a clean bill of health, but those leg fractures are sure to give some teams pause. Don't expect him to get past Billick with the 10th pick, though. A source close to the Ravens said last Friday that the team would snap up Leftwich if he slipped that far.
He's easily the best athlete of the five, with a 4.60 in the 40. "To be honest, 1 didn't give a damn about my quarterback running, and I don't think I would today," said Coryell. "I want my quarterback to be in the pocket. We never timed Dan Fouts in the 40." But Boiler's speed can clearly be an asset. Against a nimble Air Force defense last season he repeatedly moved away from pressure easily and threw the ball accurately. Fearless when he did stay in the pocket, Boiler stood his ground on three plays in which he was a millisecond from getting clobbered. "It's amazing to watch his development," said Walsh. "He's still not as accurate as Palmer or Leftwich, but he moves decisively and quickly. I really like his touch."
Yes, Boiler had a 478% career completion rate even after new Cal coach Jeff Tedford overhauled his mechanics before last season (Boiler went on to complete 53.4% of his throws as a senior), but playing with a poor supporting cast for four years had something to do with that. "Kyle got the crap beat out of him at Cal," said former Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson, now coach of the 49ers. "We hit him so hard and so often I don't know how he survived. But then I watched his pro workout [in March], and it might have been the best quarterback workout I've ever seen." The ultimate gamble in this draft would be to use a high pick on Boiler. A team might be getting a Brett Favre-caliber passer, or it might get another Heath Shuler.
One play on the tapes stood out: Deep in Miami territory last season, Grossman set up to throw a crossing route, locked onto his wideout and, though four defenders had the receiver blanketed, forced the throw. The interception was returned 97 yards for a touchdown, and the momentum turned against Florida. Esiason said, "He looked nervous." Coryell added, "He's got to learn that the second-best play in the passing game is an incompletion. You never, never gamble like that." Walsh was concerned as well, saying, "I'd be wary of what I was getting. He makes some disastrous decisions." On the plus side, Grossman compensated for his lack of size with good mechanics. He averaged 31 passes a game at Florida, a big number for a collegian, and completed 61.1% of them.
Grossman is intriguing but has too much gunslinger in him, and his arm strength is average. "I don't think he's a first-rounder," said Esiason. Then again, he has a lot of experience, including two years of coaching from Steve Spurrier. A team drafting late in the first round, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers (picking 27th) or the Green Bay Packers (29), will be hard-pressed to pass him by.