Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez are clearly the cream of the crop when it comes to the 2009 quarterback class and Josh Freeman is expected to come off the board in the first round as well. All three have the tools to develop into quality starting quarterbacks, but history has shown us that you don't have to be a first-round pick to develop into an effective quarterback at the NFL level. Many teams have found quality starters on the second day of the draft and there's no better example than the New England Patriots.
New England selected Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft and Matt Cassel in the seventh round in 2005. Brady was a two-year starter at Michigan who split time with then-blue chip prospect Drew Henson during his senior year. Cassel, meanwhile, never started a game at USC.
Brady has gone on to lead the Patriots to three wins in four Super Bowl appearances and also won the 2007 NFL MVP award after throwing a single-season record 50 touchdown passes. Cassel stepped in last season after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 and led New England to an 11-5 record last year, and the Patriots traded him and LB Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for the 34th pick overall in this year's draft.
Despite their success it's tough to chastise NFL teams for passing on Brady and Cassel, because both made huge strides after being drafted and might not have reached their potential had they played for another team. They landed on a team willing to develop them and both made the most of the opportunity.
Below is a look at three quarterbacks from well-known schools and one small-school prospect who are expected to come off the board on Day 2 of the 2009 draft and could prove to be excellent value picks in two or three years, and possible landing spots for all four. None is expected to make an immediate impact and they have differing skill sets, but the common thread is that all have the potential to go from midround pick to NFL starter.
Nate Davis, Ball State
Davis is an underclassman whose stock has been sliding since he declared for the draft. A dismal ending to the 2008 season certainly didn't help, but the bigger issue is the fact that Davis has a learning disability. Teams are understandably concerned about his ability to grasp and master a new offense and adjust to the various looks NFL defenses will throw at him. That said, his arm strength and mobility make him an intriguing pick in the middle round. He can make all the NFL throws and though Davis is just 6-foot-1 he can create passing windows by moving around the pocket. In addition, he shows good patience in the pocket and he is a hard worker, making the learning disability less of a concern than it would be for some other quarterback prospects.
The Chicago Bears got their franchise quarterback when they traded for Jay Cutler but there are concerns about the depth behind him. Davis has the potential to develop into an excellent backup, much like 2003 fourth-round pick Seneca Wallace. In addition, Davis' arm is strong enough to put good zip on downfield passes when the weather takes a turn for the worse late in the season.
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