When you watch video of the four top quarterbacks in this draft—Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy—you see how much catching up Tebow has to do to be ready to play quarterback in 2011. Notice I didn't say 2010; this has to be a redshirt year for the Florida phenom. But the other three passers are much closer to NFL-ready for 2010.
I broke down video of the four potential first-round QBs last week, each against good defensive pressure. Bradford's deep accuracy shone through. Clausen's a cagey gunslinger. McCoy has a precocious feel for the game, though sometimes you find yourself yelling at the screen, "Get rid of the ball!" Tebow's well-documented mechanical deficiencies were evident, as was the gulf between the system he played in at Florida and what he'll be called on to do in the NFL.
It's possible but not likely that all four will be first-round picks. Bradford and Clausen will be. Tebow and McCoy should be gone by the middle of the second. Here's my analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, and my forecast for their futures.
6'4", 236 Oklahoma
In a way, it's hard to judge Bradford because so many of his games were blowouts in 2008, and he threw only 69 passes last season because of his shoulder injuries. The video does reveal that he sometimes got lazy in his mechanics because he had so much time in the pocket. Also, it was maddening to watch Bradford and the other Oklahoma skill players stare at the sideline, play after play, to receive their assignments. The Sooners didn't require Bradford to look at the defense for tendencies or make presnap reads at the line, things he'll have to do on every NFL play.
What's also evident is that Bradford can make the throws he'll have to make to win in the NFL, with a smooth release and a tight spiral. Against Nebraska in 2008, he made a half-dozen NFL-caliber passes in the first 15 minutes as Oklahoma ran up a 35--0 lead. There was a 41-yard strike thrown across his body as he rolled left; a 48-yard TD lofted as Ndamukong Suh raked a hand across his face; a nine-yard bullet TD to tight end Jermaine Gresham, thrown to the only place it could have been caught, with a defender draped over Gresham. What remains to be seen is Bradford's ability to take major punishment. He was kept mostly clean at OU, but his shoulder was injured twice on hard hits. Still, he's worthy of the top pick because you can count on one hand the NFL guys who throw as well to spots 25 yards downfield. Projection: Rams, first round (first overall).
6'2½", 222 Notre Dame
I liked Clausen more than I expected to after watching video of him playing from behind, with torn ligaments in two toes, against USC. Strong arm, quick release; the ball flies off his hand, and he's not afraid to throw a Brett Favre finger-breaker at short range. Against the Trojans he zipped four or five passes into tight coverage, including a whistling 15-yarder to an in-cutting, double-teamed Golden Tate. Clausen also threw a beautiful go-route to Tate for a touchdown, looking off the safety just long enough to free up his receiver.
The Notre Dame junior learned the pro-style offense under Charlie Weis and had more freedom than Bradford to change plays and make adjustments to his protection based on what he saw from the defense. The negatives? Clausen seems frenetic sometimes and needs to be cooler in big moments; he could use some work on touch passes and fades; and he needs to process information a little faster—too many delay-of-game calls last year. He has a chance to be an elite quarterback if a complementary team can be built around him. Projection: Seahawks, first round, 14th overall, though the Bills could make a swoop with the ninth pick—or Seattle could jump earlier, at No. 6.
6'2¾", 236 Florida