Bengals Draft Focus: Quarterback

Publisher
Posted Mar 30, 2010


Team president Mike Brown does not discount the possibility of taking a quarterback in the middle rounds of April's draft. The Bengals like their players big and they like their quarterbacks strong-armed. And they likely won't be interested in taking a QB until the fourth round, at the earliest. That makes Fordham's John Skelton a person of interest.

Even though quarterback Carson Palmer struggled during the second half of the season and in the playoff loss to the Jets, the Bengals remain committed to him as their starter. But, Bengals president Mike Brown gave indications the Bengals won't shy away from taking a quarterback in next month's draft.

When asked if Cincinnati would take a quarterback as high as the middle rounds, Brown said, "We have two guys (backup quarterbacks) who were with us last year and I thought they did well enough. I'm not going to say no, never on that one on making some change behind (Palmer)."

Head coach Marvin Lewis has reiterated his confidence in Palmer, who is entering his eighth season in 2010 and has yet to win a playoff game. The coach said the QB is trying to help the team as much as he can, on and off the field. "Carson wants to win very badly. Carson will message me once a week about something, somehow, someway and wants to know what's going on," Lewis said.

While the key decision makers on the Bengals seem committed to Palmer, the possibility of drafting a quarterback in the middle to late rounds remains a possibility. Not only does the team have an opportunity to improve its depth on offense, but the addition of extra Franchise Quarterback insurance can't hurt, especially when you consider J.T. O'Sullivan (9 TDs in 8 starts in 8 seasons with 6 teams) and Jordan Palmer (12 career attempts, 25.3 passer rating in 2 seasons) are the current backups.

After injuring his elbow in 2008, some are convinced that Carson Palmer is not the same quarterback he was his first five years. Count football analyst Ron Jaworski among them. Said the former Eagles quarterback: "I thought for most of the season he had a (good) season. I did not think he played well late in the season and in the playoffs and to me he looked like a wounded quarterback. He didn't have the accuracy or velocity I'm used to seeing out of Carson Palmer. It was not the same guy. Mechanics and all that were fine but he wasn't accurate."

WHO MIGHT BE AVAILABLE

One problem with taking a quarterback after the third round in this year's draft is what appears to be a less than deep group of signal callers who will populate the available list after Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy are taken. Tony Pike and Tim Tebow also figure to be gone by the time the Bengals begin thinking about a quarterback.

Some quarterbacks who could be available in rounds 4-6 include many who are not that highly graded compared to the top five. And there is debate about who exactly should be in the top five as some scouts believe Central Michigan's Dan Levevour and West Virginia's Jarrett Brown should be ranked higher than Tebow and McCoy. Those two also could be gone by the time the Bengals beginning thinking quarterback.

Among other mid-round possibilities are Eastern Washington's Matt Nichols, Levi Brown of Troy, Northwestern's Michael Kafka, Jevan Snead from Ole Miss, Oregon State's Sean Canfield and Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton.

When it comes to grooming a new quarterback, the Bengals may want to replicate Carson Palmer as much as possible in size and ability to ensure a seamless transition within the offensive scheme should Palmer become unavailable. If Palmer is knocked out of a game, the team doesn't want to lose the long ball, too, just because nobody behind the big guy can see over the Bengals' massive offensive line and chuck it deep.

The biggest of the possible mid-round QBs is LeFevour (6-3, 230), who isn't quite the stature of Palmer who is 6-5, 235. But Fordham's 6-6 John Skelton is more than in the neighborhood. In fact, he's the whole block with a listed weight that's been reported to be anywhere from 243 to 258 pounds.

What's more, Skelton is mobile, having run a 4.85-second 40-yard dash. The senior threw for 3,713 yards and 26 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 150.05 in 2009, and he added 346 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He rushed for a Fordham quarterback career record of 1,216 yards and 14 touchdowns.

BIG ARM, SMALL SCHOOL, BIG UPSIDE

With recent small-school quarterbacks such as Baltimore's Joe Flacco (Delaware) and Dallas' Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois) finding success in the NFL, if Skelton isn't on a team's radar, he should be. Longtime NFL talent scout and draft expert, Gil Brandt, ranked Skelton ninth among senior NFL draft prospects.

The one concern regarding Skelton's fit with the Bengals would be his arm, which has excellent strength, if not the best form. But don't tell that to Skelton. "I think the arm strength (is my best quality)," he told Scout.com's JagNation. "I think I can make all the NFL throws. I think it’s all about getting the little things lined up and putting it all together."

The scouting report on Skelton is he looks like your typical pocket passer with his stature, arm strength and durability. His throwing motion is good, as he gets set in the pocket quickly. According to his NFL Scouting Combine profile, the problem with Skelton is that he doesn't know how to use his arm to his advantage as he tends to rely on arm strength alone when throwing the football and doesn't do a good enough job of getting his feet set under him when throwing from the pocket. Scouts say he can throw on the move, but his accuracy suffers a lot when he does.

One take is Skelton will require a lot of work when it comes to reading NFL coverages and going through his progressions as he looks for the best target. It's been suggested teams may get too enamored with his arm strength and overlook how much development it will take before he's ready to play. But, with Carson Palmer, the Bengals have time to develop Skelton's raw skills.

He impressed many scouts during his week at the Shrine Game and had a solid 7-for-10, 63-yard passing performance. "Playing in these types of games is a chance to show what I can do against higher competition than I played against in the Patriot League," Skelton said.

However, he did not do so well at the Combine in Indianapolis, according to various reports, which described Skelton's accuracy as inconsistent.

ZAMPESE AT FORDHAM PRO DAY

Then again, a handful of NFL teams reportedly left the Fordham Pro Day with a third-round grade on Skelton, after he showed improved accuracy while showing off his arm's significant power during an impressive workout. According to Brandt, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, and Bills quarterbacks coach George Cortez were among those on hand to see Skelton at Fordham.

Skelton's immediate NFL status has been described as long-term project. Some believe his ultimate role will be that of career backup, while others believe he eventually will become starting-caliber.

While the draft experts may be split on Skelton, much like they are on all the available quarterbacks behind Bradford and Claussen, Skelton is the one in the bunch who could be the best fit as a future Carson Palmer backup because of his size and arm strength.

Still others question the level of competition Skelton played against in college as a member of non-scholarship Fordham. Of course, some of those experts also said the same thing about Romo, who went undrafted in 2003 and has become a star in Dallas.

(The Sports Xchange also contributed to this report)



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