Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jan 2006

Tracking Senior Bowl Prospects

I think the mark of a true football nerd is that you've been paying close attention to the Senior Bowl practice updates on NFL Network. I know I have. Here's a good rundown of which teams have shown an interest in which players. Is anyone surprised that the Broncos are looking at a running back?

Note: This says the Chiefs are very interested in Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. But if what we've been hearing on NFL Network is to be believed, the Chiefs would have to orchestrate a pretty serious trade to get into position to select Cutler. There's now some talk that he's a better quarterback prospect than either Vince Young or Matt Leinart.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 25 Jan 2006

36 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2006, 3:06pm by Dman


by giving him the business (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 12:45pm

As a Jets fan, I'm hoping they might have the guts to take Cutler at the 4 spot, rather than pretend The Chad will be coming back.

by P. Ryan Wilson :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 12:52pm

Football nerd, reporting for duty. Yeah, I love the NFL Network, especially compared to other "Entertainment and Sports Networks," and Mike Mayock makes Mel Kiper look like, well, just some dude in love with his hair. After watching the first two recap shows of Sr. Bowl practice (weeknights at 8:30 EST), I was really surprised that Mayock rates Jay Cutler as his top QB. My first thought was, "well, I'm staring at the next J.P. Losman story," but I really don't know the first thing about Vandy or Cutler, and maybe he really is the best QB out there. Does anybody watch enough Vandy football to feel good about saying the Cutler is better than Leinart or Young?

by Aaron N (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 12:55pm

I'll say this for Mayock. Two years ago, he was the only, and I mean only, person that had Carroll going to GB in the first round. I thought he was nuts and dismissed him out of hand. And of course he was right. I've been paying attention ever since...

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 12:55pm

I have no personal opinion on Cutler, never having seen him play, but I know that Scout.com rate him 22nd among players declared for the draft, giving him only a 3 star rating. Now, obviously that is just one opinion, and has no direct bearing on where he is taken or how good he will turn out to be, but Sean has shown pretty convincingly in various posts on this site that the draft boards supplied by Scout and the like do a pretty good job of estimating where players will be chosen. I would have thought Cutler at 4 was an outrageous reach for need, and on a team with as many needs as Jersey/B that would be doubly unforgiveable. Trading down to take Cutler at a position more reflective of his ability might well be a good option - I don't expect Pennington to be a viable NFL quarterback again - but to stand pat and take him there seems like madness.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 12:59pm

Nope, I've got to disagree. I'm spending the next 3 months waiting for these words:

"With the fourth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Tackle, University of Virginia."

by giving him the business (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:05pm

There's no denying D'Brick would be a sensible choice in the 4 slot. The O-line is in a state of decay after several years of being the strength of the offense. But the more I think about it, I'm really enamored with the idea of having a strong-armed QB who isn't 43 years old. By the time April rolls around, I think Cutler's stock will have risen about as high as Aaron Rodgers' fell last year.

by CA (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:29pm

I'm not going to pretend to be a talent evaluation expert, and I've only seen Cutler play twice (both on TV), but I am thoroughly impressed by what I have seen. Compared to the two big names at the position this year, he's more talented than Leinart and more polished than Young. In the last 5 years, there have been three QBs that I watched in college and thought, "Those guys are going to be stars in the NFL." The first was David Carr. The second was Carson Palmer. The third was Jay Cutler. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him shoot up draft boards as people pay closer attention to him.

by giving him the business (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:30pm

Check out PFW's profile today on Cutler (click my name). I'm far from an expert, and I can't say I watched any Vandy games, but I think someone will take him in the top 10 come April. He's almost 6'3", has a cannon sticking out of his shoulder (by all accounts, again - didn't see it) can get out of the way and benches 400 LBS!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:43pm

I'm glad I'm not responsible for choosing a quarterback with a top-10 pick. I wonder if a team might be better served, in terms of risk vs. reward, with devoting a couple of lower round picks to QB, and just seeing which one pans out better.

by Manteo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:56pm

#8 - Hm... strong arm, tough, smart, killer instinct - what's not to like? I would think good coaching could correct most of the problems with mechanics and decision-making.

It's unfortunate for Chad P, but I agree that the Jets need to think about their next QB. Of course they'll need to rebuild the OL, but why not get a QB this year, assuming that he's not going to take you to the promised land in his first year anyway, and use free agency and next year's draft to work on the line?

Or would it be nuts for the Jets to pass on a prospect like D'Brick?

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 2:22pm

Will Allen / 9,
I agree. Jay Cutler sounds like the next David Carr.

We all saw what you could do if you put together a great team around a marginal rookie QB this year.

I don't see why more teams don't go the way of San Diego and Tomlinson / Brees. How far do your chances drop of getting a starting QB in the 2nd vs. 1st? Do you go from like 50 % chance of getting a keeper to a 40 % chance?

How do Cutler/Young/Leinart match up to Smith/Rodgers/Campbell? It seems like Washington and Green Bay got great value for the picks last year (although time will tell). To get the 2nd and 3rd QBs drafted after position 20. Compare that to Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger.

There's no way Dominique Byrd is available when the Redskins pick in the 2nd round... would they pull another trade to get him?!

by lionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 2:41pm

my friends and i were talking lions draft, and cutler came up as a possibility at #9. what do you guys think?

by giving him the business (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 2:51pm

Don't the Lions owe it to themselves to take Santonio Holmes or Chad Jackson? I thought that was part of the collective bargaining agreement.

by RH (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 3:36pm

Right now I have Cutler going either to the Lions or the Cardinals. A low top 10 pick, but barring insane screwups in practice this week or at the Combine, the furthest Cutler will fall is to the Dolphins at #16.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 3:37pm

Wouldn't a team looking for a QB of the future be better off getting some young unproven hungry backup QB like Ramsey, Garrard, Volek, etc for a 3rd round pick? You could probably pry Harrington away from the Lions with a 3rd round pick.

It seems like there's already a glut of unproven young QBs in the league, and I would bank on 3 or 4 of them becoming decent starters if given an oppurtunity. I don't understand why someone like Garrard re-signed with the Jaguars.

by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 3:37pm

I wonder about the Chiefs and Cutler. They just signed Casey Printers out of the CFL (see link) so I'd thought they were going that route for a developmental guy. They need to get younger in the secondary and the o-line, among other issues, and I thought they'd focus there first.

by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 4:19pm

"You could probably pry Harrington away from the Lions with a 3rd round pick."

I'd be shocked if anyone offers Detroit a third-round pick for Harrington. I think the Lions will probably keep Harrington around because they won't get any offers and feel like cutting him at this point would be flushing too much money down the toilet. Then they'll sign a veteran who they think is better than Garcia, and let the two of them battle it out in camp.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 4:21pm

If Millen were to be offered a third round pick for Harrington, and he turned it down, he is more hopeless than I thought, which I hardly thought possible.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 4:37pm

Well... I just threw a #3 pick out my rear end. The point was that there are some QBs who have been in the league 3+ years who haven't gotten a real good shake at proving themselves and might be worth using 2-4 round pick to get.

by ernie cohen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 5:24pm

I'm not a football nerd (beyond what can be deduced from my posting on this site), but the Senior Bowl practice coverage is fascinating, more interesting than 90% of the programming on NFL network.

by Jon K (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 5:34pm

As a Vandy grad student I feel entitled to throw out a few observations from what I saw of Cutler this season. A lot of people have been throwing Favre comparisons around and I don't think those are especially valid. They're both about 6'3", 220 and come from schools with weak football pedigrees.

What to like: He has an NFL caliber arm - not Super Bowl winning Brett Favre caliber, but probably better than 2/3 of NFL starters now. Maybe Roethlisberger territory. When he has protection, he goes through his reads and gets the ball out. He can move around in the pocket and buy some time - similar mobility to say Rich Gannon cerca 2002. He runs a very efficient 2-minute drill.

What's to be concerned about: His footwork is inconsistent - he'll take a 3-5 step drop (Vandy didn't utilize a 7-step drop with much frequency this year) and then plant both feet, wait, and throw. He doesn't step into throws and I did not see very many successfully completed timing-type routes this year. He completed a lot of balls on curls, slants, bubbles, tunnels and checkdowns (with some noteworthy exceptions). He was most comfortable and successful out of single-back and empty shotgun formations and threw a lot of balls underneath with defenses sitting back.

I'll give him credit for essentially carrying the Commodores this year as they really had no offensive playmakers (Earl Bennett didn't emerge until halfway through the season, and another receiver recovered from Guillian-Barre Syndrome (a temporary paralysis) only to be shot one week into the season, and then catch a touchdown about 8 weeks later.) The running backs were mediocre, the protection was nonexistent against athletic defenses like LSU and Georgia.

Summary Assessment: Jay Cutler appears to have the physical tools and the decision-making ability to be a capable NFL starter, but he has significant room for improvement. He'd be good value in the 3rd round, probably ought to go in the early to mid 2nd, and will go sometime in the mid-to-late 1st.

by Slim (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 5:35pm

Casey Printers is nice. Had some injury trouble last year but is killer when healthy. To make a CFL comparison he is a younger(when he came to the NFL), more athletic version of Jeff Garcia and has put up better numbers. Never won a championship though (then again, he was benched for the Grey Cup after being the league MVP, so that's not completely his fault). That's a good pickup for the Chiefs. Anyone have any numbers regarding QBs making the switch from the CFL to the NFL?

by vinnymurphsully (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 6:39pm

Does Cutler make more sense for a bad team to pick since he's used to being hit in the mouth on every play and wasn't lofting rainbows to wide-open receivers from behind a brick wall?

I'm certainly not saying he's got more talent that Leinart or Young, but at least he's had to deal with some real duress during his college career.

I don't think the Carr analogy holds true. Fresno State was a darkhorse BCS contender for at least one of his seasons.

by GaryS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 7:14pm

The idea that Jay Cutler is a better prospect than Leinhart is laughable.

The recent history of the NFL draft is loaded with big, mobile, strong armed QBs that are drafted high and bust out by their 4th year. (Akili Smith, Cade McNown, & Tim Couch, soon to be joined by Kyle Boller and JP Lossman.)

If the Jets are serious about getting a QB, they should trade up with Houston and take Leinhart. Give them their first and second this year, their no. 2 next year and Pennington. Once they draft Leinhart, they don't need Chad.

With the Jet's pick at no. 4, the Texans can draft D'Brick, and be left with 2 twos, and three 3s this year to fill their numerous OL holes (if Casserly can actually identify pro prospects, which is somewhat questionsable). Give Carr an OL to work behind in 2006. Rest Chad all of 2006. If by 2007 Carr proves he can't play even if he has a decent OL, then the Texans have Chad to fall back on, assuming he is healthy.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 8:16pm

Gotta love how people are writing off Losman after 8 starts.

by Andy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 8:24pm

I am leery of taking any qb with a top 15 pick. It's the hardest position to evaluate and the folks who do it professionally consistently screw it up. Generally, I think that when you miss on another position in those slots you get a serviceable starter or backup. When you miss on a qb in those slots, you miss badly and the pick ends up a total loss. Does anyone know the numbers for the percentage of qb's taken in the top 15 of round 1 who turned out to be washouts vs. the percentages at other positions? That would lend support (or totally refute) my thoughts.

by SJM (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:08am

The idea that the Skins would take a TE with their top pick is insane. Chris Cooley just finished his second year and he's the H-back of the future. The Skins also drafted Manuel White Jr., another H-back, in 2005. For the love of God, will somebody please draft a defensive end!

by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:11am

The Skins could really use another receiving threat than Santana Moss. I mean, REALLY use one. Their D is very good, all over, and there are plenty of DEs in the draft so it shouldn't be hard to pick up one second or third round that is good - but a top WR that they can train up for a year would be a huge boon for them.

I think that in general QBs are going to be more washouts than not because you have so many players who can make it in other ways. QBs usually can't make it except as QBs - occasionally as WRs. Safetys can convert to corners/LBs, DEs, OLine can move around, TEs can become fullbacks, WRs can convert to CBs, and then there's the special teams deal. Basically, if your name isn't Wes Welker and you are a QB, you either are decent or you're a bust.

That being said, most first rounders are busts. I would suspect that the highest % of non-busts are RBs, followed by OLines.

by Sam B (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 8:03am

26: I don't, but I think I've seen stuff saying that 1st round QBs are more likely to be starters, 'good', or something.

What really needs to be done is to multiply that probability by the salary of the QBs from different rounds, to see where you're really getting the best investment.

by M Wu (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:18am

You know who else is nearly 6'3", was described as having a cannon for an arm during workouts, played in a pro-style college offense, could bench-press 390 pounds and scored high on the Wonderlic test?

Kurt Kittner.

by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:20am

I'm not at all surprised that Denver is looking at RBs. I think they discovered how interchangeable RBs are before the rest of the league did. What would be surprising is if they took one in the first round.

My totally uninformed guess would be that the Broncos take a WR or a lineman (offense or defense). Based on what I've seen this year, Denver needs a good #2 WR and a developmental offensive lineman or a pass rush DL. They might also draft a safety to learn a for a season or two under Lynch and then take over when he retires.

Of course, there are rumors that they'll trade for TO, so who knows. There are times that I'd like to see TO out of football completely just because of his attitude but he's just too good of a player to let sit around making stupid commertials. If I were some random GM, I would try to work a contract that gives TO the choice of leaving after each season. It might save wear and tear on the bus' suspension.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:05pm

RE: 25

You're surprised? They're doing the same thing to Grossman and Boller, why not Losman? All that counts is that you sound "in" and properly cynical by piling on the approved target. It's even better if you misuse a stat or two to "prove" it.

No sensible analyst would reject a QB out of hand after just a handful of starts; but no poster out here should take himself seriously as an analyst. If they do, they should use the "Contact Us!" button and submit their work.

by GaryS (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:07pm

QBs taken in first round (OOF- out of football):

1996 None
1997 Druckenmiller (OOF)
1998 Manning (All Pro)
1998 Leaf (OOF)
1999 Couch (OOF)
1999 McNabb (All Pro)
1999 Akili Smith (OOF)
1999 Culpepper (All Pro)
1999 McNown (OOF)
2000 Pennington (All Pro)
2001 Vick (All Pro)
2002 Carr (?)
2002 Harrington (?)
2002 Patrick Ramsey (?)
2003 Palmer (All Pro)
2003 Leftwich (?)
2003 Boller (?)
2003 Grossman (?)

17 taken, 6 have made the Pro Bowl (of which 2 are seriously injured, future uncertain), 5 are no longer in the league (busts), 6 too soon to tell (Leftwich is best, although hurt a lot, Carr, who knows, Grossman hurt a lot, who knows, Harrington, Ramsey & Boller, many chances, many failures, may get cut soon).

At best, a QB in the first is a 50/50 proposition, All Pro, or bust. With the amount of money spent on first round picks, especially those taken in the top 10, I would say drafting a QB in the first is a crap shoot. After the top 10 its even worse; only one, Pennington, has ever made the Pro Bowl, and his future is in doubt. Druckenmiller, McNown are OOF, Ramsey is second string, about to be cut, Boller has yet to show anything and Grossman has been injured so often, who can tell.

by giving him the business (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:15pm

Re: 30
Touche. Draft history is full of poor decisions, misguided analysis and college talent that failed to translate on the pro level. D'Brick looks like a solid pick, but so did Mike Williams, Leonard Davis and Jordan Gross. Now they each look serviceable at best. I thimk it's pretty rare to find true value at the top of the draft. Perhaps I am guilty of buying into the hype surrounding Cutler. The memory of 1991 still looms large, when the Falcons jumped one draft slot ahead of the Jets to take Brett Farve. Only those of still bearing the scars remember the name Browning Nagle. Maybe Cutler is the next Farve, but I admit he could easily be the next Kingsbury.

by GaryS (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:21pm

Since this site applies statistical analysis, I would think it is appropriate to analyse the chances of a QB taken in the late first round vis a vis historical results. The fact of the matter is: (1) Lossman, although he has only 8 starts, has shown nothing to indicate he has what it takes to be successful, and (2) historically, QBs taken in the first round in the salary cap era outside of the top 10 picks have busted out. Sure, Lossman could turn it around, but chances are he will turn out to be more like Patrick Ramsey and Kyle Boller than Chad Pennington.

Personally, I will admit to being somewhat biased against Lossman. The Bills never should have drafted him in the first place. Bledsoe was more than adequate, he just needed someone who could block in front of him. He was good for another 2-3 years at least; there was no need to pick a QB in the first, no less trade up to get him. Drafting Lossman set the team back 2-3 years, even if he suddenly discovers how to play QB in the near future.

by Dman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:06pm

RE: #17 Marinelli has already said that he can salvage joey. So basically it looks like more of the same for the ol' lions. All hail millen I guess.