Marks of a Winner

NFL talent evaluators look for these 10 essentials when figuring whether a college passer has what it takes to succeed at the league's premier position
April 30, 2006

YOU CAN studyevery pass a college quarterback has thrown and every aspect of hispersonality. But in the end, says former Packers general manager Ron Wolf,choosing a QB comes down to a gut feeling. "I can't tell you specificthings I looked for," says Wolf, who traded for Brett Favre in 1992 anddrafted Matt Hasselbeck in the sixth round in '98, "except to say I wanteda difference-maker." But there are some objective standards by which NFLteams measure passers before the draft. Conversations with current and formerNFL quarterbacks, coaches and personnel chiefs established these 10 factors, inorder of importance.

1. ARM STRENGTHThe Redskins overlooked this in drafting Heath Shuler at No. 3 in 1994, as didthe Bears in taking Cade McNown at No. 12 in '99. "Name the last greatquarterback who didn't have a strong arm," says former Giants passer PhilSimms. "I can't." In this draft, Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt and KellenClemens of Oregon would please Simms.

2. FOOTBALL IQ"The most important thing we do in evaluating a quarterback," saysTitans coach Jeff Fisher, "is putting him up in front of our staff, firingquestions at him and seeing if he can break down defenses and analyze why hemakes certain decisions." Teams like that Matt Leinart got a head start bystudying NFL game tape last fall while still at USC.

3. ACCURACYMichael Vick of the Falcons, the No. 1 pick in 2001, remains vexed by whattroubled him at Virginia Tech: a low completion percentage. Vick's rate is54.1%, about five points below the league average. That's two or threeincompletions a game that stop drives.

4. MOBILITY Goodvision and nimble feet can make up for sheer speed. The Colts' Peyton Manning,the first pick in 1998, can move in the pocket and avoid rushers wellenough.

5. LEADERSHIP TomBrady is a regular at the Patriots' off-season workout programs. It's not hardto get full attendance when this era's Joe Montana leads the way.

6. TOUGHNESS Wolffigured out Favre when, 31 days after stomach surgery, Favre took the field andled his college team, Southern Mississippi, to victory.

7. RESUME SaysSaints coach Sean Payton, "I want to see a winner, a competitor, a guy whoplays great from behind, a guy who plays well in big games." Though Cutlerwas on a bad Vanderbilt team, coaches believe he raised the play of theCommodores significantly.

8. MATURITY In '98the Chargers (drafting second) overlooked such red flags around Ryan Leaf ashis skipping his interview with the Colts (who held the first pick) at thescouting combine.

9. PEDIGREE "Ilove a coach's or player's son," says Eagles coach Andy Reid. "Favre,Hasselbeck, Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, A.J. Feeley--they've had the competitivepart of the game pounded into them. They're going to know what it takes towin."

10. HAND SIZE Nokidding. Teams want a guy whose outstretched throwing hand measures at least 91/2 inches from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. TheEagles knocked Daunte Culpepper off their draft list in '99 in part because ofhis small hands.

PHOTOSHELLY CASTELLANO/ICON SMI WELL-SCHOOLED
Scouts are impressed that Leinart was studying NFL film during his final yearat USC.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)