vs. Green Bay – not a chance
@ Dolphins – might be their best chance at a victory; still see Miami winning
vs. Saints – ha ha ha
@ Falcons – ha ha ha ha ha ha
@ Panthers – not if Carolina plays half as well as they did in winning @ Arizona
vs. Jets – yeah they’re up and down, but they’ve yet to be as “down” as the Bucs
@ Seahawks – we can’t win out west with decent teams
@ Saints – ha ha ha ha ha ha
vs. Falcons – ha ha ha
So with the Rams and Titans winning this past Sunday, the Bucs are in the driver’s seat for the first pick in the ’10 draft. Too bad they don’t need, or should I say won’t take, a QB with their first pick. No, after the blunder that was drafting Josh Freeman over Jeremy Maclin or Michael Oher, the Bucs won’t spend a first round pick on a QB for the second year in a row even though there could be at least 7 QBs better than the one Raheem picked this past April. My order of preference (some significant reshuffling included):
1) Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame)
He’s the #1 QB on my list, and it really isn’t close. I think the junior from Notre Dame throws the best deep ball in the game and just seems to have the “it” factor. He sees the entire field, knows where all his receivers/options are, and is extremely accurate (his 56% completion rating against USC was his worst of the season). My biggest knocks on him are his attitude (seems more cocky than confident) and lack of mobility, but I don’t see either one prohibiting him from being one hell of a successful pro. I think he’s flat simply the best passer in this year’s class, and as long as he doesn’t stumble down the stretch, I think going pro might be too hard to pass up. What might work most in Notre Dame’s favor is that Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, and Kyle Rudolph should all return next year. Tate is the only one eligible in this bunch, and I lean towards him coming back.
2) Jake Locker (Washington)
Locker is probably the most athletic QB in this potential class, and if Clausen returns, I think he’s probably the undisputed #1. He’s a proven run threat and under Steve Sarkisian’s tutelage, is becoming a feared passer as well. The junior has a huge arm and is looking quite impressive in Washington’s pro style offense. I think he’s got a great head on his shoulders and will continue to improve when surrounded by coaches who can further develop his passing skills. I wasn’t quick to move Locker up the list of QBs because, despite having a ton of potential, I hadn’t seen “it” yet. I still don’t think I have, but I’ve seen enough to grasp the possibilities. The biggest turnoff for me when it comes to Locker is the lack of victories under his belt. He only has 6 career wins in 2+ seasons at Washington. I know he doesn’t have a ton of support out there, but I haven’t seen a headline game from him yet. The talent is obviously there, and while I can absolutely see it translating well to the NFL (why I have him this high), I think he needs to put together a couple of big games in his last 4 contests to cement his status as a top QB.
3) Sam Bradford (Oklahoma)
For me, there’s a noticeable drop off after a healthy Sam Bradford. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner injured his throwing shoulder not once but twice this year and recently underwent surgery which will be followed by 4-6 months of rehab. If all goes well, he’s expected to forgo his final year of eligibility and turn pro. Funny thing is, entering the season he was the most pro ready QB of this class, but he’s turned into a bit of a question mark at this point. He’s an extremely precise passer who goes through his progressions like a pro and is mechanically consistent, but he’ll have to pass some serious medical tests to show he’s still worth a top 5 pick. I’m still a huge fan of this kid, but until I see that his shoulder is stable, he’s not getting any higher than #3 on this list.
4) Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)
The sky seems to be the limit for this 6-7, 238 redshirt sophomore. There’s not a throw he can’t make, but I’m a bit bothered by his poor accuracy against strong defenses (34% vs. Alabama, 44% vs. Florida, and 35% vs. Mississippi). His receivers have had their share of drops, but you’d still like to see those numbers be higher. Mallett has as much potential as any other passer in this class, but I think he’d be doing himself a huge disservice by entering the draft after the season. He had only started 3 games in his career prior to this season (all at Michigan while filling in for Chad Henne), and I think he’s far better off returning for another year. I want to see him with more game experience, staying in the huddle and taking on the pass rush. If he returns, we might be talking about this guy as the #1 pick in the ’11 draft.
5) Colt McCoy (Texas)
First rounder? Possibly, but I still don’t think he’s an elite prospect. He’s still completing over 70% of his passes, but his TD-INT ratio isn’t going to be anywhere near his remarkable 34-8 from last year. He looked uninspiring in his one contest against a decent defense, the 16-13 victory over Oklahoma. McCoy is extremely intelligent, mobile, experienced, and accurate, but I think his negatives are too glaring to warrant elite status. He’s got an average frame (the smallest 6-3 I’ve ever seen), has zero experience operating under center, and has questionable deep arm strength. A lot of his timing routes will/would be picked off at the next level. At his absolute best, I think he’ll be a poor man’s Drew Brees, but unfortunately I see a lot of Alex Smith too. Somewhere in the middle is most likely, but I don’t see an elite NFL passer when I look at Colt McCoy. Can he be a successful pro? Absolutely, but I wouldn't take him in the first half of the first round.
6) Jevan Snead (Mississippi)
Big time drop for Snead as there’s only so much apologizing I can do for a guy. His arm rivals any other passer’s in the country, but I absolutely haven’t seen “it” from him this year. He’s making some really dumb throws, and he just doesn’t seem to play with a ton of energy/passion. After setting a nice foundation as a sophomore in ’08, I expected Snead to harness his talent and take a huge step forward in ’09. That certainly hasn’t happened. The Ole Miss team was overrated coming out of the box, and maybe Snead was as well. He looked downright awful at South Carolina, completing just 7 of 21 passes and barely topping the 100 yard mark. Numbers aren’t everything, but Snead has only topped 200 yards passing in 4 of his 8 contests. After a pretty good performance against Arkansas, I figured we’d see more of the same against an Auburn club that had struggled to contain Jordan Jefferson, the much maligned passer from LSU. Against the Tigers, Snead flopped after getting out to an early lead and finished with a sad 45.7 completion percentage and only 1 TD. The fact that he’s struggled in all four of his road matchups this year isn’t encouraging. He should light up Northern Arizona, but the following two home contests against Tennessee and LSU will go a long way in determining his ’10 draft fate. He might be better off returning.
7) Christian Ponder (FSU)
Don’t laugh. I’ve never been a guy that you’d call a homer, as I’m generally far tougher on Nole prospects than players from other universities; thus my omission of his name in any of the limited draft discussions I’ve had so far this year. Look at this kids’ numbers: just under 2500 yards passing (average of over 300 per game), a 13-3 TD-INT ratio, and a completion percentage that rivals Colt McCoy’s for best in the country. Beyond the numbers, Ponder seems to impress more and more in each contest. He’s confident, intelligent, mobile, makes all the throws, calls his owns checks at the line (something most college passers don’t do), and consistently goes through his progressions. Like Locker he’s lacking in the win department, but I seriously think he’s going to sneak his way into first round draft discussion before this thing’s over. If I had to guess right now I’d say that he’ll return for another season, but with the way he’s rising, I may have to change my mind in a couple of months.
I’d like to think that there will be some interest in the Bucs’ #1 overall pick by a team like the Rams, Browns, Bills, and Redskins. Each of these clubs has a tenuous QB situation, and all are expected to be drafting fairly early in April. Might one of these guys distinguish themselves enough to spark a bidding war for the top selection? For now I’ll sit here and anticipate Ndamukong Suh being the #1 overall pick, but wouldn’t it be nice to trade out of the spot and still get him with the 3rd, 4th, or 5th pick? I’d be much happier trading dealing down and accumulating additional selections, but that might be wasted effort if the same clowns are calling the shots next April.