Written by Kip Earlywine
Now that Matt Barkley has extended his holiday wishes to all the NFL teams and fan bases hoping to acquire his services next year, its time that we as as Seahawks fans accept the fact that our front office probably isn’t getting you that BB gun your metaphorical inner Ralphie badly wants next draftsmas. Instead, its time to start preparing yourself for socks, veal, or an embarrassing bunny suit. I wouldn’t completely rule out an 11th hour blockbuster shocker for RG3 should he declare: even Ralphie got his BB gun, but only when he least expected it. Failing a Hollywood ending, here are some names to keep in mind over the next 5 months as we begin the painfully long wait to what could well become the most anticipated Seahawks offseason in half a decade.
Please keep in mind that I have NOT scouted these players, and this isn’t intended to fool anyone into thinking Seattle could be getting the next Hasselbeck, Warner, or Brady out of this group.
Pete Carroll recently hinted in a radio interview that this looks like a good year to draft a quarterback later. To be exact, he said this: “There’s some exciting kids coming out of the draft, but there’s exciting ones that the people don’t know about too and they’ll be enough.” To me, the key phrase there comes at the very end- “they’ll be enough.” Seattle isn’t like the old couple at the beach searching for lost Spanish gold doubloons with their Minelab metal detectors. They aren’t looking to find an MVP candidate in the sixth round. Rather, they are looking to repeat the success Jim Harbaugh had with mega-bust Alex Smith. Smith had more interceptions than touchdowns before this year, but as a game manager, he’s currently sporting a shiny 16/5 ratio in 2011. Being polished or overly skilled is not an absolute requirement. The front office’s pursuit of T-Jack and Whitehurst is proof enough.
So just who might those quarterbacks be? Rather than try to pinpoint a few guys, here is a longer list of candidates (presented in increments) and why they may be of some interest for our front office, either late in the draft or even in undrafted free agency.
Jordan Jefferson, LSU. Size: 6’5″, 223. Class: Sr. Age: 21.
It seems weird that the quarterback of the undisputed #1 team in football would top this list, especially since Jefferson has excellent size, athleticism, and doesn’t turn 22 until just before next season starts.
Jefferson has the tools of a 1st round pick, and he’s having a good 2011 season (albeit with only 83 total attempts) but teams will not be quick to forget that Jefferson posted a 7/10 TD/INT ratio last year with a 56.5% completion rate and a low 6.75 yards per attempt. This year he’s completed 60% of his passes with 8.24 yards per attempt and a TD/INT ratio of 6/1.
In between those events, Jefferson (“allegedly”) kicked a marine in the face during a barfight. He was later charged for second degree (felony) battery. The charges were later reduced to misdemeanor level, but this kind of thing can do tremendous damage to a quarterback’s draft stock.
Jefferson controls an offense that is similar to ours in spirit. He’s a very athletic version of a game manager who orchestrates an offense completely built around running the football. Character concerns could scratch him off the list, but in almost every way Jefferson feels like a Pete Carroll / John Schneider special. This is NOT to say that I think Jefferson is a good quarterback. He ran the ball 345 times compared to just 661 passes in college. But Jefferson is an excellent specimen of horseflesh so to speak, he won’t cost very much to acquire, and he seems at his best in a limited game-manager type role. I think the fact that he cut down on his interceptions so dramatically this season will interest our front office too.
Expected draft trajectory: Mid-to-Late rounds, possible UDFA.
Case Keenum, Houston. Size: 6’1″, 210. Class: Sr. Age: 23.
Case Keenum redshirted in 2006, behind decorated Houston starter Kevin Kolb. He began starting the next year in 2007 (he missed most of 2010 with a torn ACL). Its startling to think that Keenum has been starting games going back even further than Mark Sanchez has. Keenum would eventually go on to be the most prolific passer statistically in NCAA history. It should be noted that his closest competitors are Timmy Chang, Graham Harrell, and Ty Detmer, who didn’t exactly end up as NFL royalty.
Its easy to look at Case Keenum’s gaudy stats in a goofy offense in Conference USA and see Graham Harrell. I look at Keenum and see Jeff Garcia. Garcia was 6’1″, 205, and undrafted. Both players will catch you off guard with their quickness and instincts. Neither Keenum nor Garcia would wow you in a 40 meter dash, but on the field, they can book it and buy time as good as anyone. Some might not consider a comparison to Garcia as much of a compliment, but when Garcia was used in a point guard offense role (SF, PHI, TB) he was actually a very effective QB who regularly posted passer ratings in the 80s and 90s.
Keenum probably won’t be drafted anywhere earlier than the mid rounds due to a very low- almost sidearm- release point. That coupled with a below average height for the NFL could cause problems. His listed weight of 210 is also lower than what most NFL GMs would prefer (keep in mind, Josh Portis is also 210, and Green Bay’s system Schneider is adopting hasn’t shied away from smallish quarterbacks with late picks). Keenum has obviously passed for a lot of yards though, and a big reason for that success is his ability to maneuver and find passing lanes to throw through which helps mitigate his low release.
Expected draft trajectory: Mid round pick.
Austin Davis, So. Miss. Size: 6’2″, 221. Class: Sr. Age: 22.
Rob has written extensively on Austin Davis. But to quickly summarize, he has few glaring flaws, plays to avoid mistakes, has broken school records held by Brett Favre, and has led his So. Miss. team to its first national ranking since 2004, topped off with a beatdown of #6 Houston in the final game of the season. Watching Davis play, he just looks like an NFL quarterback. He’s about as polished as a late round QB can be.
Davis reminds me a lot of Blaine Gabbert last year, in that his heady, efficient collegiate play can easily distract you from noticing that he’s a pretty good athlete too. Gabbert had better size and will probably have posted a better forty time, but whereas Gabbert struggled with deep passes, the deep passing game seems to be an asset for Davis.
Despite Davis’ impressive 2011 season and overall career at So. Miss, it seems like Seahawks Draft Blog is the only place so far to single him out for praise. Walterfootball.com lists him as a rounds 4-6 guy, and this kind of projection is typical for Davis right now. I think that as teams and draftniks take a closer look this offseason, Davis stands a real chance of rising up boards. Its really hard to pinpoint Davis’ stock until that happens though.
Expected draft trajectory: Mid-to-late rounds.
To be continued…