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The Question Of A Mid-Round QB

Cards hoping for gem at a position difficult to evaluate


Quarterback Tim Tebow, meeting with the media at the Scouting combine Friday, is one of many signal-callers with issues in this year's draft.
INDIANAPOLIS – After Matt Leinart, there's what?

That's the question the Cardinals are contemplating. Kurt Warner retired. Brian St. Pierre will become a free agent next week. The team needs to supplement its roster, even if Leinart emerges a star.

One will likely come from the draft. But Sam Bradford will be long gone by the time the Cards pick No. 26, and even if one believes in Jimmy Clausen – who is also expected to be drafted early – the options seem to quickly dwindle.

"There are way more questions than answers with this year's quarterback class," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

The Cardinals may not have a choice, however, but to take a chance – which, especially when a team is drafting a quarterback beyond the first 35 or so picks, is not unusual.

Taking a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds can provide a gem once in a while. That's how the Patriots ended up with Tom Brady, a sixth-round selection. Unlike other positions, however, teams don't draft quarterbacks just to have a role player. A quarterback, because he does nothing if he doesn't play, is drafted to hopefully evolve into a starter.

"Other players, like (seventh-round picks) LaRod Stephens-Howling or Ben Patrick, you think they can have a role even if they aren't an every-down player," Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim said. "They can help you. Quarterback … it's tougher.

"Throw in all the spread offenses in college now, and it's a real projection. You talk about an inexact science getting very inexact."

The quarterback class has been termed "not very good" by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper and "a bad year" by Mayock. Kiper even suggested that if a team doesn't think a QB has starting potential it may just wait and sign a quarterback as an undrafted free agent.

That would work better if, for instance, the Cardinals had a better crop of veterans to possibly sign. But the unrestricted free-agent quarterback class features these names: Charlie Batch, Kyle Boller, Chad Pennington, David Carr, Daunte Culpepper, Rex Grossman and Chris Redman.
There is a chance Derek Anderson could be released by the Browns or Marc Bulger released from the Rams. A veteran will be on the roster. St. Pierre may also come back. But there is little question the Cards need to find someone to develop as well – and coach Ken Whisenhunt believes that player can be found.

"You may not have the guy with the right stats you are looking for, but he can play the game," Whisenhunt said. "Look at Drew Brees. He's not the prototypical quarterback, but he got in the right situation in San Diego and look at him now."

Teams can't be sure, though, if Colt McCoy's passing skills will improve. If Tony Pike can successfully put on weight to his thin frame. If Dan LeFevour can become the leader a team needs, if Tim Tebow can improve his mechanics or if John Skelton is ready after playing at Fordham.

The Cardinals can only do their homework and hope they find a diamond in the rough -- and be ready to try again if it doesn't work.

"You have to know that position itself is so hard to evaluate," Keim said. "You have to know supply and demand tells you there aren't a lot of good ones. The ones that everyone thinks are the upper echelon are the ones flying off the board."

"It's more trial by error," Keim added, "than any other position."

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