Colt McCoy may become most successful quarterback of 2010 draft class

Of the four top quarterbacks, the last taken could be the best.

Will Colt McCoy end up being best of 2010 QB lot?
Will Colt McCoy end up being best of 2010 QB lot?

A week ago, everyone knew that at least one quarterback would be picked in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. Most thought that as many as four could be selected on the opening night of the league’s new prime-time format. In the end, only two made it into round one, with another landing in the second round and the last making it into the back half of round three.

Draft position, however, dictates only the amount of money a player will be paid to start his career. It says nothing about whether and to what extent he’ll be successful.

So let’s take a look at the chances each of the four top quarterbacks — Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy — has to thrive with their new NFL teams.

1. Sam Bradford, Rams.

The good news? The first overall pick will get a contract including more than $50 million in guaranteed money. The bad news? Well, when you’re getting $50 million in guaranteed money, there’s really no bad news, is there?

Well, maybe there is. Of all positions on a football field, quarterback depends the most on those around him — offensive linemen, running backs, receivers, coaches, front-office personnel. Even the best physical specimen won’t last long in the NFL if he’s constantly getting tossed around by defensive players who blast through a porous wall of blockers; or if a subpar running game or coaching inadequacies routinely force the quarterback into third down and long yardage; or if an overall bad team falls behind more often than not, allowing defensive linemen to "pin their ears back" as they try to rip the quarterback’s head from his torso.

The Rams need plenty of help to turn Bradford into a great quarterback. Apart from Pro Bowl-caliber running back Steven Jackson, they don’t have much to help Bradford thrive. Or, for that matter, to keep his body in one uninterrupted piece.

2. Tim Tebow, Broncos.

The Broncos made the boldest move of the 2010 draft by trading back into round one only three picks after selecting receiver Demaryius Thomas and snagging Tim Tebow. On one hand, Tebow will have plenty of time to develop into an NFL quarterback under the tutelage of a proven head coach. On the other hand, the pressure will be intense.

The fate of Josh McDaniels and, over the next five or ten years, the well-being of the franchise, rests on Tebow’s ability to become a legitimate NFL quarterback.

Perhaps Tebow relishes the challenge. Perhaps he’ll be paralyzed by the expectations. Either way, his round-one pedigree will keep him in the limelight for at least the next several years, for better or for worse.

3. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers.

The Panthers’ decision to pick quarterback Jimmy Clausen in round two prompted immediate praise in many circles. Closer examination suggests potential trouble.

Coach John Fox occupies one of the hottest seats in the NFL as he enters the final year of a contract with no extension in sight. A coach on the hot seat doesn’t need a rookie quarterback; a coach on the hot seat needs players who can help him save his job.

If the Panthers fail to do enough in 2010 to extend Fox’s stay, the next head coach may want no part of Clausen. The new coach may prefer sixth-round rookie Tony Pike, or presumed starter Matt Moore, who now has to be wondering whether he’ll have the job come September.

For Clausen, his career ultimately could fade into the same kind of fog that has enveloped the NFL fortunes of Brady Quinn, his predecessor in South Bend.

4. Colt McCoy, Browns.

Of the top four quarterbacks taken in the 2010 draft, McCoy could be in the best position to succeed.

His relatively low draft status will allow him to develop without the burden of expectations or timetables. His affiliation with Browns president Mike Holmgren will give him direct access to the man who harnessed and honed the talents of Brett Favre.

With the Browns quietly but effectively improving the quality of the roster, McCoy may end up with the kind of supporting cast that will allow him to become, within the next four years, better than Bradford, Tebow and Clausen.

As always, time will tell. And history tells us that, just as two of the four players ended up in round one, two of the four quarterbacks will end up not becoming successful players at the NFL level.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Of the four top quarterbacks, the last taken could be the best.

Will Colt McCoy end up being best of 2010 QB lot?
Will Colt McCoy end up being best of 2010 QB lot?

A week ago, everyone knew that at least one quarterback would be picked in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. Most thought that as many as four could be selected on the opening night of the league’s new prime-time format. In the end, only two made it into round one, with another landing in the second round and the last making it into the back half of round three.

Draft position, however, dictates only the amount of money a player will be paid to start his career. It says nothing about whether and to what extent he’ll be successful.

So let’s take a look at the chances each of the four top quarterbacks — Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy — has to thrive with their new NFL teams.

1. Sam Bradford, Rams.

The good news? The first overall pick will get a contract including more than $50 million in guaranteed money. The bad news? Well, when you’re getting $50 million in guaranteed money, there’s really no bad news, is there?

Well, maybe there is. Of all positions on a football field, quarterback depends the most on those around him — offensive linemen, running backs, receivers, coaches, front-office personnel. Even the best physical specimen won’t last long in the NFL if he’s constantly getting tossed around by defensive players who blast through a porous wall of blockers; or if a subpar running game or coaching inadequacies routinely force the quarterback into third down and long yardage; or if an overall bad team falls behind more often than not, allowing defensive linemen to "pin their ears back" as they try to rip the quarterback’s head from his torso.

The Rams need plenty of help to turn Bradford into a great quarterback. Apart from Pro Bowl-caliber running back Steven Jackson, they don’t have much to help Bradford thrive. Or, for that matter, to keep his body in one uninterrupted piece.

2. Tim Tebow, Broncos.

The Broncos made the boldest move of the 2010 draft by trading back into round one only three picks after selecting receiver Demaryius Thomas and snagging Tim Tebow. On one hand, Tebow will have plenty of time to develop into an NFL quarterback under the tutelage of a proven head coach. On the other hand, the pressure will be intense.

The fate of Josh McDaniels and, over the next five or ten years, the well-being of the franchise, rests on Tebow’s ability to become a legitimate NFL quarterback.

Perhaps Tebow relishes the challenge. Perhaps he’ll be paralyzed by the expectations. Either way, his round-one pedigree will keep him in the limelight for at least the next several years, for better or for worse.

3. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers.

The Panthers’ decision to pick quarterback Jimmy Clausen in round two prompted immediate praise in many circles. Closer examination suggests potential trouble.

Coach John Fox occupies one of the hottest seats in the NFL as he enters the final year of a contract with no extension in sight. A coach on the hot seat doesn’t need a rookie quarterback; a coach on the hot seat needs players who can help him save his job.

If the Panthers fail to do enough in 2010 to extend Fox’s stay, the next head coach may want no part of Clausen. The new coach may prefer sixth-round rookie Tony Pike, or presumed starter Matt Moore, who now has to be wondering whether he’ll have the job come September.

For Clausen, his career ultimately could fade into the same kind of fog that has enveloped the NFL fortunes of Brady Quinn, his predecessor in South Bend.

4. Colt McCoy, Browns.

Of the top four quarterbacks taken in the 2010 draft, McCoy could be in the best position to succeed.

His relatively low draft status will allow him to develop without the burden of expectations or timetables. His affiliation with Browns president Mike Holmgren will give him direct access to the man who harnessed and honed the talents of Brett Favre.

With the Browns quietly but effectively improving the quality of the roster, McCoy may end up with the kind of supporting cast that will allow him to become, within the next four years, better than Bradford, Tebow and Clausen.

As always, time will tell. And history tells us that, just as two of the four players ended up in round one, two of the four quarterbacks will end up not becoming successful players at the NFL level.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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