Source: Brian Baldinger
With the offseason here for all but four teams and many of them in need of a quarterback, it's fun to look ahead to the NFL draft with visions of Brian Brohm, Matt Ryan, Colt Brennan and Andre' Woodson dancing in our heads. It's also scary as hell because evaluating college quarterbacks has become a nightmare.
The rise of the spread offense has made the college game so different from the pro game. Even traditional running powers such as Oklahoma are lining up in the shotgun, spreading the field with four or five receivers and throwing the ball all over the place. And that makes it difficult to know what you're getting when you draft a quarterback from that background.
There's a world of difference between taking snaps under center and taking snaps five or six yards farther back. Think about it: Brennan started at Hawaii for three years and never turned his back to the defense. That's huge.
We take it for granted that Peyton Manning can take a snap under center, turn and fake to Joseph Addai, then turn back around and face a defense that probably was disguised when he saw it before, refocus his eyes downfield, locate an open receiver and release the ball on his fifth or seventh step. Manning makes it look easy, but it isn't. And if Brennan has never done it in college, why should we think he can learn to do it in the NFL? Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, is still trying to figure it out. It's hard.
Teams can realistically assess the abilities of Ryan, an NFL prototype quarterback from Boston College, and Brohm, who played in a pro-style offense at Louisville. But how can they judge Brennan, Woodson and so many others who spent most of their time in spread formations? These prospects will be asked to show pro-style skills such as dropping back and executing play-action at the Combine and individual workouts, but those are artificial environments. The real world of the NFL will be less forgiving.
Think of a G.M. who invests a high pick in a spread quarterback as Forrest Gump reaching into his box of chocolates.
With no idea what he's gonna get.
Brian Baldinger, an offensive lineman for 12 NFL seasons, can be heard on Sporting News Radio and seen on FOX Sports. Listen online at http://radio.sportingnews.com