Toledo s Bruce Gradkowski and Bowling Green s Omar Jacobs were by far the two best quarterbacks in the Mid-American Conference this season.
Gradkowski was named co-MVP of the MAC and was the league s first-team all-conference quarterback.
Jacobs missed nearly three full games with a separated nonthrowing shoulder, but the 2004 MAC offensive player of the year still earned second-team honors.
Gradkowski, a fifth-year senior, owns 19 school records. He tossed five touchdown passes last month in his final game for the Rockets in the GMAC Bowl.
Jacobs, a redshirt junior, wrapped up his record-breaking BG career with a double-overtime loss to rival Toledo in late November. He recently announced that he will bypass his senior season to enter April s NFL draft. Today is the deadline for underclassmen to declare.
Gradkowski is 6-2, 220 pounds; Jacobs 6-4, 226.
Gradkowski has a shaved head; Jacobs has dreadlocks.
Gradkowski started for three years; Jacobs for two.
Gradkowski was named MVP of this year s GMAC Bowl; Jacobs was MVP of the same game the previous year.
Gradkowski, driven by the perception that he couldn t play with the big boys, was the first player in Division I history to complete more than 70 percent of his passes in consecutive seasons.
Jacobs, who was recruited by only two other colleges coming out of high school Division I-AA Florida Atlantic and Division I Buffalo had one of the most prolific seasons in NCAA history two years ago.
Gradkowski held the upper hand against Jacobs in head-to-head competition in college, beating him twice, but that s where the two start to part ways.
According to most NFL draft analysts, Jacobs has more upside than Gradkowski when it comes to a potential pro career.
If the experts are right, Jacobs will soon trade in the 1992 silver Chevy Caprice he drove around in at Bowling Green and upgrade to an Escalade.
Gradkowski, meanwhile, must kick it into overdrive once again to prove he can run in the fast lane at the next level.
The NFL advisory council projects Jacobs as a fourth-round pick, but two analysts think he could go higher than that.
We have Jacobs as a second or third-round choice at this point, said Rob Rang of nfldraftscout.com. We feel that Omar will work out well and make a slow, but consistent move up the board as we approach the draft.
Physically, he has everything you are looking for in a developmental quarterback. He has the size and arm strength. He is a threat to run and can accurately pass while on the move. He throws the deep ball as well as any quarterback in this draft.
Rang and Scott Wright of nfldraftcountdown.com both have Jacobs ranked the fourth-best quarterback, behind USC s Matt Leinart, Texas Vince Young and Vanderbilt s Jay Cutler.
With such a weak crop of seniors after Leinart and Cutler, I could see [Jacobs] moving up [from the fourth round], Wright said.
Jacobs is the Falcons all-time career leader in touchdown passes with 71 and ranks third in career yards with 6,938.
In 2004, he set an NCAA record with an astounding touchdown-to-interception ratio of 41-4. Last season, he threw for 2,591 yards and 26 touchdowns and was intercepted seven times.
Tony Pauline, an analyst for both tfydraftpreview.com and si.com, believes Jacobs erred by not returning to Bowling Green for his senior year. However, Pauline rates Jacobs the fifth-best quarterback prospect in the draft, and the second-best junior behind Young.
Jacobs should have stayed in school, Pauline said. If you rated him off his sophomore year, he would have been a top-10 pick. But based on this year s numbers as a junior, he ll be a late round pick.
You have to try and split the difference, and he s probably going to go in the middle rounds the third or fourth round.
He has a weird throwing motion like Vince Young, but he s accurate.
He can throw long ball. He places his passes very well. Two or three years down the road, I can see him being a starter in the NFL. But he s got to get used to an NFL system, since he took most of his snaps from a shotgun formation in college.
Gradkowski flourished in UT s pass-happy system. This past season he completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,469 yards and 29 touchdowns.
But the draft experts aren t sold on his arm strength. They have him ranked 11th, 17th and 20th among quarterbacks, and they rank him anywhere from mid-to-late-round pick to an undrafted free agent.
He s a clipboard holder at next level, at best, Pauline said. He was a good college quarterback who just doesn t have the physical skills to play in the NFL. Any pass outside of 12 yards becomes an adventure for him. The receivers were always waiting for the ball from him when they went downfield.
Rang said one thing Gradkowski has going for him is his toughness.
He lacks the size and arm strength to be successful in most schemes, Rang said. However, he is a gutty leader, with good short to medium range accuracy, and better athleticism than most give him credit for. He is a threat as a scrambler and can pass with accuracy on the move.
Wright thinks Gradkowski could go as high as the fourth round.
I could see him developing into a solid backup at the next level, he said. I doubt many will view him as a potential starter. I think of him in the Koy Detmer mold and he has stuck in the pros for a long time now.
This is all conjecture an educated look into the crystal ball.
A million variables are still in play, and we likely won t know for several years if either Jacobs or Gradkowski has what it takes to join the best generation of MAC quarterbacks ever Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington and Charlie Frye in the NFL.
However talented and optimistic Jacobs and Gradkowski might be at this point, they had better be prepared to call a career audible if things don t work out. The secondaries in the NFL will prove a whole lot more challenging to exploit than that of Eastern Michigan.
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