Tony Pike, Cincinnati
Despite missing several games in the middle of the season with a left forearm injury, Pike has significantly increased his draft stock with a sizzling-hot start to his senior season (currently sitting at 2,350 passing yards, 26 touchdowns with just six interceptions for a Heisman-like 155.35 QB rating), coupled with a fantastic finish (32 of 46 for 399 yards and a school record six touchdowns against Illinois and the show-stopping, come-from-behind win over Pitt in the Big East Championship game- a game in which he struggled early then closed strong, finishing with 302 yards and three scores) that still has one game to go, against Florida in the Sugar Bowl. A legitimate 6-6 frame paired with a live, accurate arm, the lanky signal-caller has already secured a Senior Bowl (the pre-eminent All-Star game in the draft process) invite, as the first QB invited for the North team. With numerous teams projecting a 2nd or 3rd round grade for the Bearcats field general, durability concerns and the dreaded “system guy” label, a tag that he will need to shed in the months before the Draft, are the two primary obstacles standing in Pike’s way from sneaking into the end of the 1st round.
John Skelton, Fordham
This year’s popular candidate for the Joe Flacco-small-school- QB- surprise title, the Fordham product’s current draft projection hovers in the middle rounds, but with a lot of ground to cover in the months prior to the 2010 Draft. Scout feedback on the 6-5, 255 pound Fordham product varies. Most teams agree that he passes the eyeball test, frequently drawing comparisons to Big Ben Roethlisberger’s physique, strong arm and athletic skills, but there have been enough questions surfacing about Skelton’s desire and work ethic to draw further investigation from interested personnel executives. With college football all star-games Texas Versus the Nation and East-West invitation’s secured, Skelton is still being strongly considered for the Senior Bowl and with a good Combine showing, should end up being selected at the higher end of the wide draft projection that currently exists for him.
Daryll Clark, Penn State
Scouts find the two-time All-Big ten selection “interesting” having watched film where he sometimes looked great, and sometimes not. Though not viewed as your classic pocket-passer, Clark’s size, athleticism and leadership skills have earned him a projection between the 3rd and 5th rounds, assuming everything checks out. Aptitude concerns could become an issue as the Penn State offense is viewed as a simple scheme and Clark was a non-qualifier out of high school.
Clark has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,787 yards and 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while also rushing for seven scores. Before playing in the Texas Versus the Nation game, Clark will have one more chance to impress scouts with his Nittany Lions teammates against LSU in the Capital One Bowl on January 1st.
Dan Lefevour, Central Michigan
Lefevour started the Summer with a 4th round projection from the National Football Scouting organization and his senior season’s body of work has held serve with that Draft-projection. The 6-3, 227 pound is middle America’s poor man’s version of Tim Tebow, ranking third in NCAA history in total offense (15,140 yards), tied for most touchdowns with 146 (99 passing, 46 rushing, one receiving) and is the only quarterback to pass for more than 12,000 yards and rush for more than 2,500. But more than the impressive stat totals, Lefevour is considered by his coaches and teammates alike as the total package of passer, scrambler and strategist, all orchestrated with a magician’s touch. The pre-Draft process also figures to reveal to scouts his coach-on-the-field demeanor and considerable football IQ.
Tim Tebow, Florida
This just in…Florida Governor Charlie Crist recently spoke with Jacksonville Jaguars ownership to encourage them to draft the city’s native son in order to boost the team’s lagging ticket sales and help keep the team from moving out of state. That’s how ridiculous Tebow-mania has gotten. Would it surprise any of us if in three years from now, in the late rounds of our fantasy drafts, we’re considering Tebow, at that point a poor-man’s Chris Cooley, for the tight end spot on our fantasy teams? He will most likely start his NFL career as a quarterback, but is not likely to finish his pro career that way. Many teams are still not sold on the Heisman-winning choir boy as an NFL-caliber quarterback and, as a result, his draft projection is scattered anywhere from the third to seventh round.
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
When BYU’s Colby Clawson finished his blitz by landing on top of Bradford in the Cougars upset win over the Sooners at the start of this year’s college football campaign, Bradford instantly became the poster-boy for the wisdom of leaving early when your stock is highest. For Bradford, that moment was at the end of his record-breaking 2008 season, where many speculated the Sooners field general being the first QB selected if he had thrown his hat into the ring last year.
Now Bradford must answer questions about his durability, and if he can perform at a high level behind a subpar offensive line, which he would most likely have to do should he go near the top of the first round. Most predictions, assuming a clean bill of health for his shoulder, now point toward Bradford falling out of the top ten and perhaps as low as picks 20-25, which translates into a multi-million dollar plummet from 2008’s predicted top-5 finish.
Isaiah Williams, Illinois
The highly-athletic Williams started the Summer as an intriguing 5th round prospect but his senior season was not kind to his draft prospects, rendering only 12 passing touchdowns against seven interceptions for 1,632 passing yards, and also included the senior being benched in early October after the team’s disappointing 1-3 start. Juice’s insistence that he continue to play the quarterback position in the NFL has been met with indifference by NFL teams, who also aren’t sure he could nail down a roster spot as a receiver either.
Michael Kafka, Northwestern
(NFS Grade: 4.2 - league free agent) Projected as a street free agent when August training camp began, Kafka has turned heads in a positive way with a 130.7 efficiency rating, completing 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,898 passing yards and 12 touchdowns and an additional 265 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Leading the upstart Wildcats to an 8-4 record and a berth in the Outback Bowl against Auburn on January 1st, Kafka’s signature win over the then-No.4 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes on November 4th has heightened the buzz from the NFL scouting community that now has several teams projecting him as a No. 3 QB, possibly a No. 2, increasing the likelihood of a late round selection in April of 2010.