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Marks of a Winner
May 01, 2006
NFL talent evaluators look for these 10 essentials when figuring whether a college passer has what it takes to succeed at the league's premier position
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May 01, 2006

Marks Of A Winner

NFL talent evaluators look for these 10 essentials when figuring whether a college passer has what it takes to succeed at the league's premier position

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YOU CAN study every pass a college quarterback has thrown and every aspect of his personality. But in the end, says former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, choosing a QB comes down to a gut feeling. "I can't tell you specific things I looked for," says Wolf, who traded for Brett Favre in 1992 and drafted Matt Hasselbeck in the sixth round in '98, "except to say I wanted a difference-maker." But there are some objective standards by which NFL teams measure passers before the draft. Conversations with current and former NFL quarterbacks, coaches and personnel chiefs established these 10 factors, in order of importance.

1. ARM STRENGTH The Redskins overlooked this in drafting Heath Shuler at No. 3 in 1994, as did the Bears in taking Cade McNown at No. 12 in '99. "Name the last great quarterback who didn't have a strong arm," says former Giants passer Phil Simms. "I can't." In this draft, Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt and Kellen Clemens of Oregon would please Simms.

2. FOOTBALL IQ "The most important thing we do in evaluating a quarterback," says Titans coach Jeff Fisher, "is putting him up in front of our staff, firing questions at him and seeing if he can break down defenses and analyze why he makes certain decisions." Teams like that Matt Leinart got a head start by studying NFL game tape last fall while still at USC.

3. ACCURACY Michael Vick of the Falcons, the No. 1 pick in 2001, remains vexed by what troubled him at Virginia Tech: a low completion percentage. Vick's rate is 54.1%, about five points below the league average. That's two or three incompletions a game that stop drives.

4. MOBILITY Good vision and nimble feet can make up for sheer speed. The Colts' Peyton Manning, the first pick in 1998, can move in the pocket and avoid rushers well enough.

5. LEADERSHIP Tom Brady is a regular at the Patriots' off-season workout programs. It's not hard to get full attendance when this era's Joe Montana leads the way.

6. TOUGHNESS Wolf figured out Favre when, 31 days after stomach surgery, Favre took the field and led his college team, Southern Mississippi, to victory.

7. RESUME Says Saints coach Sean Payton, "I want to see a winner, a competitor, a guy who plays great from behind, a guy who plays well in big games." Though Cutler was on a bad Vanderbilt team, coaches believe he raised the play of the Commodores significantly.

8. MATURITY In '98 the Chargers (drafting second) overlooked such red flags around Ryan Leaf as his skipping his interview with the Colts (who held the first pick) at the scouting combine.

9. PEDIGREE "I love a coach's or player's son," says Eagles coach Andy Reid. " Favre, Hasselbeck, Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, A.J. Feeley--they've had the competitive part of the game pounded into them. They're going to know what it takes to win."

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