The most recognized, talked about and noticed position in the NFL is quarterback; however, in this year's draft the signal-callers aren't getting as much attention as a whole. Outside of the two big names - Louisiana State quarterback JaMarcus Russell and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn - it is possible no other quarterbacks are taken in the top 50. Even though they may be less recognized, there are other quality prospects at quarterback in this draft - Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton is a perfect example.
Stanton, a 22-year-old native of Farmington Hills, Mich., attended Harrison High School before receiving a scholarship to Michigan State.
In high school Stanton excelled both on the football field and baseball field (shortstop and pitcher). He led his school's football team to consecutive state championships, throwing for 58 touchdowns in those two seasons. Stanton was the Spartans' starting quarterback for three seasons, including an impressive junior season - throwing for 3,077 yards and 22 touchdowns. Stanton leaves college with 6,524 passing yards, 42 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He was also awarded All-Big Ten academic honors twice.
Stanton has great upside and many positive attributes that have caught the interest of some teams. He possesses the size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and all the physical attributes that most scouts look for. He has terrific arm strength (he threw 55.7 mph at the NFL combine) along with good speed and accuracy.
Stanton is very elusive in the pocket and can be very dangerous on the run. He rushed for 1,512 yards as well as 15 touchdowns during his time at Michigan State. He also displayed the ability to throw on the run, which make him a double-threat when rolling out of the pocket. These attributes are likely to garner much attention as mobile quarterbacks are a treasured commodity in the NFL.
Stanton has also displayed the ability to make good decisions and go through his progressions (more often than not), as well as the leadership required from a starting quarterback. He has the aptitude to read the defense before the snap and change the play accordingly, another attribute that could translate well into the pro game.
The former Spartan has shown the ability to make all the throws required of an NFL quarterback. He has excelled in the short-passing game and has the arm strength to do damage with his deep ball. One of the nicest looking passes you will see from Stanton is the corner fade, which utilizes height or leaping ability from the connecting wide receiver.
Off-the-field attributes are one of Stanton's biggest strengths. He not only has the intelligence to learn any offensive system, he has displayed the work ethic and dedication desired by most offensive coordinators. He has good character and doesn't figure to have any off-the-field issues.
One of the biggest questions surrounding Stanton is whether he is able to make the transition from being a shotgun quarterback (almost all of Michigan State's offense was run out of the shotgun) to a three- or five-step passer. During the Senior Bowl there were reports that he was struggling making the adjustment, but when he did have to drop back from under center in college, his capacity to make plays were generally uncompromised.
Consistency is also a major concern. A perfect example is the dramatic contrast between Stanton's junior and senior years. His junior year he threw for 3,077 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he followed that with only 1,807 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior year. In his defense, the team he had to work with last season was inept to say the least. Consider the number of his former wide receivers in the NFL, and it is tough to say this is a legitimate knock.
Stanton can also crack under pressure and does not have the reputation of a "big-time" quarterback. He also may need to improve on his footwork and be more consistent with his decision-making when under heavy pressure. Stanton, much like when Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, often feels the need to carry the team on his shoulders, which can lead to costly mistakes.
Stanton could very well be the third quarterback selected in this year's draft. However, unlike last season when the third quarterback was taken at No. 11 overall, Stanton should slide into the third round.
With the proper coaching Stanton could develop into a fine quarterback. He has all the tools desired by most coaches, albeit with some areas that need improvement. If he works on correcting his problem areas and winds up in the right system - ideally a West Coast offense to maximize his short-range precision - he could be a productive starter.
Some scouts feel Stanton is a great example of a quality athlete who simply shows better than he produces decision-wise. If this happens to indeed be the case, he could be destined to be a career backup.
It is uncertain how high or low Stanton will be drafted. He could range from the very late second round to the middle of the fourth. Possible destinations to consider would be the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.