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Published: Wednesday, 2/24/2010

QB questions abound as Combine starts

A half-dozen NFL teams, and that probably includes the Cleveland Browns, will enter the draft and free agency period with questions, if not full-blown quandaries, at the quarterback position.

It's not good timing. The draft class of 2010 is not a great one and the NFL Combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, will shed less light than teams would prefer.

Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, considered the top two prospects, and Tim Tebow, perhaps the greatest mystery, will be in Indy for some of the process, but will not put their arms on display during the Combine.

Mike Mayock, the draft expert for the NFL Network and one of the sharpest minds in that business, sees it as agent-fueled insecurity.

“In the years that we've been covering the Combine there has been an increase in participation in workouts and drills,” he said yesterday. “In fact, it's close to 100 percent participation at every position except for at quarterback. I think there's a lot of insecurity at that position.

“I think agents push for those guys to instead do their thing in controlled environments at [on-campus] pro days, at home, throwing to wide receivers they know. I get all of that, but from my standpoint I think NFL teams like to see guys compete. They don't care if the ball hits the ground; they want to see footwork, how the ball comes out of their hands, the velocity. Why forfeit the chance?”

Mayock calls it “a bad year” for quarterbacks and said, barring some startling performances this week or at subsequent pro days, only Bradford (Oklahoma) and Clausen (Notre Dame) project into the draft's first round. And they are not without question marks — Bradford's issue being his right shoulder and Clausen's being a variety of intangibles such as leadership and work ethic, according to Mayock.

“I do think Bradford is a franchise quarterback if he checks out medically,” Mayock said.

A year ago, when all the attention of the draft centered on Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, many experts felt 2010 would present a better cast of first-round characters. It hasn't played out that way.

“I would rate Stafford and Sanchez above Bradford, but I also think Bradford has a chance to be very good,” Gil Brandt of NFL.com, senior among NFL talent scouts, said. “I'm not as sold on Clausen. That said, guys like Tony Pike, Colt McCoy, Tebow, and Dan LeFevour could be pretty good too. So this year's class might be deeper, but not as good as the top two from last year.”

Cincinnati's Pike, Central Michigan's LeFevour, and Texas' McCoy, coming off a nerve injury in the BCS championship game, will hope to improve their stock at the Combine while much of the competition sits.

And the Browns, drafting No. 7 in the first round, will likely pay attention.

Mayock says he is unsure what new president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have decided about the two QBs — Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn — on the Cleveland roster.

“A franchise quarterback trumps everything for any team, so if they feel there's one available and if they feel they need one, they have to pull the trigger,” Mayock said.

It doesn't figure Bradford will drop past both St. Louis and Washington, so Mayock thinks it's more likely Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant or Florida cornerback Joe Haden is in the Browns' first-round future.

Contact Blade sports columnistDave Hackenberg at:dhack@theblade.comor 419-724-6398.



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