Quarterbacks you say? Rolling your eyes undoubtedly, but the powers that be have only had one draft (of their three total) in which they did not pick up a quarterback. The fact is the Denver Broncos still have no Plan B at quarterback. Although Brock Osweiler has been okay in his very limited time in actual games, I think that John Elway wants someone closer to his skill set (read: the ability to scramble and make things happen through the air as well as with his feet).
This brings me to my first feature. I highly doubt that the Broncos will spend a first or second round pick on a quarterback - they have too many needs elsewhere - so I have avoided names like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles. Let's look at some of the later round quarterbacks.
, QB - Wyoming - Junior
2014 Combine Measurables: 6'3", 207 pounds - 40 yard dash 4.59 estimated (Did not participate).
College Production: 35 GP, 751 Cmp, 1,213 Att, Pct 61.9%, 8,834 yards, 76 TDs, 28 Ints, 139.1% Rating.
377 rushes, 1,529 yards, 4.1 yd Avg., 20 TDs.
No one (including the NFL apparently) knows about Brett Smith, so let me tell you my story. Smith started his first game as a true Freshman in 2011. 2011 also happened to be the season in which Tim Tebow was playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Upon seeing Smith's first game I immediately called him Tebow with an arm. He would go on that season to lead the Wyoming Cowboys to a bowl game against Temple in the New Mexico Bowl. A game that may or may not have led to Mitch Unrein becoming a member of the Broncos defensive line.
Smith was one of 13 underclassmen to declare for the draft, but not be invited to the combine. Other notable quarterback snubs include Kenny Guiton (Ohio State), Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) and James Frankling (Missouri). Smith's decision to leave school early may or may not have to do with the fact that Wyoming hired Craig Bohl (formerly of North Dakota State) to be their head coach in 2014. It is possible that Smith did not want to risk a dip in his staggering statistics while learning a new offense under Bohl.
Now someone will point out that Smith played for Wyoming, that Wyoming plays in the Mountain West and the Mountain West is not known as a strong football conference despite having teams like Boise State, Fresno State (and BYU and Utah for a time). However, that person would be wrong. Take a look at the Cowboys' 2012 schedule and it featured six Top 25 teams. Now take a look at the astounding numbers Smith has put up over his three year college career: 139.1% QB Rating, 96 total touchdowns and if you want to see perfection check out his 2013 game against Hawaii in which he had eight total touchdowns, threw for nearly 500 yards while running for almost 150 yards.
One of the differences between Manziel/Brett Smith...Manziel had an All American O line, Smith had this abomination: http://t.co/KbbhavJY76— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) February 25, 2014
Outlook: Despite Smith's combine snub I would expect him to grade out around the 5th or 6th round level. Albright said it perfectly, Smith spent most of his college career running for his life. He's the future quarterback fans of Denver deserve, the kind of talent that will be over looked despite having nearly identical (if not better) statistics against common opponents that first and second round guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr faced. Watching Smith is like watching Willie Beamen highlights from Any Given Sunday. I can't wait to see him play on Sundays.
2014 Combine Measurables: 6'6", 248 pounds - 40 yard dash - 4.61.
College Production: 47 GP 694 Cmp, 1,239 Att., 55.6%, 9,005 yds., 53 TDs, 39 Ints, 123.9% QBR.
495 Att, 1,359 Yds, 2.7 Avg., 24 TDs.
I don't know if it just become a thing this year or if it has always been a thing, but this year the size of quarterbacks hands became a big deal. Well Thomas's are 10 7/8ths inches, which is big, the biggest at the scouting combine for a quarterback. If you are a fan of what the San Francisco 49ers did with Colin Kaepernick, this is your guy. The knock on Thomas is that his accuracy is low, heck compare him to Brett Smith from earlier in this article who played an entire season less than him. What you get from Thomas is versatility, maybe he isn't a quarterback, but you cannot deny the combine that this dude had. It was fantastic. I have a feeling if he were to declare himself a tight end, he would could become the best tight end in the draft.
None of that helps right now though. If the main downfall of a college quarterback entering the NFL is that they are inaccurate, you can coach that. Check out the tape on the Virginia Tech vs. Miami from 2011 and see that this dude is a gamer. I love those types of quarterbacks that have that fiend mentality, they may not have a dollar to their name, but they will get a win no matter what it takes. That is Thomas to me. Not a fiend, but a guy who will win no matter what it takes.
Beyond his versatility you have to be thinking about added value, his athleticism is going to allow your starting defense to prepare for those Kaepernick's and Russell Wilson's in practice. Both of those quarterbacks are players that the Broncos are going to have to prepare for in 2014.
Outlook: You have to admire a player that shows up big on the biggest stage and Thomas did at the combine. He went from being likely undrafted to being a guy that is definitely on a 2014 roster. He is faster than Manziel, more powerful than Carr and more versatile than Blake Bortles. Most importantly, you're not wasting a top ten pick on this guy. You're getting him late in the draft and you're getting a guy that could be impossible to stop if you decide that he is better as an h-back or a tight end.
2014 Combine Measurables: 6'5", 235 pounds - 40 yard dash - 4.86.
College Production: 30 GP 1,040 Cmp, 1,624 Att., 64.0%, 10,525 yds., 123 TDs, 19 Ints.
You will want to watch that video by the way and then consider the fact that 53 of his 70 career touchdowns came last season. Those are Peyton Manning numbers, but with two less games. West Texas A&M plays the spread-pistol offense, which means that Vaughan played his college career out of the shotgun and had predominantly one-look reads. Now you can be optimistic or pessimistic when you think about that, you could say that he had an easy time with only one receiver to consider or you could say that he had a hard time and had to force the ball into a limited window taking the longest road possible to 53 touchdowns in one season.
I mentioned hand size earlier when I was talking about Viriginia Tech's Logan Thomas, well Vaughan's measure 8 7/8ths, which will inevitably be mentioned and linked to a higher ratio of fumbles in any post NFL Combine profile that you read or watch on Vaughan. While Thomas's hand size was the largest measured at the combine this season, Vaughan's were tied for the smallest. I think that if hand size was such an important factor then why weren't quarterback fumbles and epidemic in the 1960's, '70's and 80's? Have footballs gotten bigger?
In his only nationally featured game last season Vaughan outshined the marquee offensive player in the 2013 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game all week in practice (South Carolina's Connor Shaw). Teams playing defense against Vaughan in 2012 and 2013 sold out hard against the pass and well as you can see here he spent most of those seasons picking apart dime and prevent coverage left and right.
Outlook: He's a 3+ year starter who put up what a certain NFL owner may refer to as 'Star Wars numbers', but the fact that he was invited to the NFL Combine shows that he is on multiple teams radars. Throwing for 53 touchdowns in any season will do that for you. His laser precision should overshadow the offense that he played in, his charisma on a personal level should get him remembered by personnel guys and if no one is brave enough to take a flyer on him during the draft he is a surefire signing following the draft.
Keep an eye on...
2014 Combine Measurables: 6'2", 226 pounds - 40 yard dash - 4.97.
Eastern Illinois has a who's who of famous alumni coaches: Mike Shanahan, Mike Heimerdigner, Sean Payton and Brad Childress. The fact that Garoppolo is at this point in his career at all is going to have him noticed by plenty of guys that you want the attention of. He moves around the pocket antsy as Peyton Manning, but projects as more of a Tony Romo (and not just because they are from the same school).
Some outlets have Garoppolo projected as a second round pick, former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian says that Garoppolo is a first-round pick. Oh and if you're one of those guys that love added value, he can punt too.
2014 Combine Measurables: 6'4", 228 pounds - 40 yard dash - 4.97.
Savage showed up this season when it counted and handing loses in 2013 to teams like Duke, Notre Dame and Bowling Green. In the game against Duke specifically he passed for six touchdowns. He was a Greg Schiano recruit at Rutgers (see the unprecedented run of Mike Glennon last season for proof of Schiano's quarterback savvy) and named to the All Freshman team before getting injured early in his Sophomore year. He was passed on the depth chart during his injury and promptly transferred to Arizona. When Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez as head coach Savage attempted to get back to Rutgers, but was denied by the NCAA.
He redshirted 2012 at Pittsburgh, but was named the opening day 2013 starter against Florida State. Former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt called Savage 'The best QB prospect you've never heard of' and compares Savage to Troy Aikman. Aikman was a player Brandt pulled the trigger on. Savage is less known due to the fact that prior to 2013 he had not thrown a pass in a game since his 2010 Freshman All American campaign.
Can any of these guys push Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert, Broncos Country?