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Depth at Quarterback

The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They will be a frequent contributor on in the weeks leading up to the draft.

Here's a news flash for Jets fans, Matt Leinart is not the only quarterback in this draft. You may have heard of two guys named Young and Cutler. But remarkably enough, there are options beyond them as well. The last time we checked, there are seven rounds in the draft, and of the 34 eligible QB's, 19 of them currently are carrying draftable grades.

In the clamor to find "Chad Pennington's replacement" and overcome Patrick Ramsey's perceived shortcomings, there has been a public push for the Jets to do whatever they need to do to move up to the second pick and select Leinart. Is Leinart the best QB in the draft? Yes. Should the Jets be exploring that option? Absolutely. But to think that is the Jets' only option come draft weekend is shortsighted.

Let's be honest, the team has a wide range of needs. New head coach Eric Mangini is expected to switch to a 3-4 defense and needs a two-way DE who has the speed to rush the passer and the size and strength to anchor against the run, a versatile playmaking LB who can bolster the pass rush and drop into coverage, and a shut down corner. On offense, the line has lost its Pro Bowl center (Kevin Mawae), a starting tackle (Jason Fabini), and a backup guard (Jonathan Goodwin), and G Pete Kendall is playing out of position at center. Curtis Martin isn't getting any younger and his heir apparent probably isn't on the roster right now. They need a WR who can stretch the field and a TE who can be a consistent contributor to the passing attack, and of course, they need the quarterback. A case could be made, should be made for the team to hold all their picks, and even trade down to gain more selections to help them fill all those needs.

If Leinart doesn't fall to New York at the number four pick, there will be a faction of fans and prognosticators who will want them to take Young or Cutler, who both should be on the board at that point. But their grades don't justify selecting them that high. The Jets might be best served to trade down if they can find a partner, and can probably move down to the 8th pick and still have a chance at Cutler or Young. The Packers, a year removed from selecting Aaron Rodgers, aren't in the QB market. San Francisco took Alex Smith first overall last year. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis is reportedly enamored with Young and could take him with the seventh pick. The new regime in Buffalo is not sold on J.P. Losman and could be in the QB market, Detroit is set in the short term with free agents Jon Kitna and Josh McCown, but Denny Green cut McCown to make room for a young, strong-armed QB and will take Young or Cutler if they are there. Rams head coach Scott Linehan tutored Daunte Culpepper to his best seasons in Minnesota and could do the same for Young, and Charlie Frye still has to prove himself in Cleveland. If either Cutler or Young should fall to the twelfth pick, Romeo Crennel knows that the franchise QB rule trumps all needs.

What this all means is with so many teams in the market for a QB, there could be some action for the Jets pick. But if they can't get a deal done, Jets fans shouldn't panic if the pick is Ohio State OLB A.J. Hawk, NC State DE Mario Williams, or even Haloti Ngata of Oregon. All three are impact defensive players who will contribute right away.

One of the best kept secrets of this draft is the next group of QB's behind the first three. Remember, the Jets will select five times in the first three rounds and will have a chance to pick from some productive college QB's. Alabama's Brodie Croyle, Charlie Whitehurst of Clemson both have some durability concerns, but still grade out as 2nd to 3rd round talents based on strong skills and considerable intangibles.

When healthy, Croyle proved to be a premier college quarterback. He fought shoulder problems in '03, however, and after a great start in '04, he tore his ACL in Alabama's fourth game. Croyle has a strong arm and can make all the throws. He is big and has the frame to add more size, possesses great leadership skills and is as tough as they come, so if he can remain healthy, he could have a very productive career in the NFL.

Whitehurst is a coach's son and has the prototypical height and size for the NFL. He also has a strong arm, a very good understanding of the passing game, and all the physical tools. His decision making needs to improve, but that can be done with experience and coaching. He is coming off shoulder surgery, but still took part in the Senior Bowl where he impressed scouts in both practices and the game, and even worked out at Clemson's pro day despite being at just 75% recovery from the surgery. Scouts expect him to throw even better at another workout later this month.

Oregon's Kellen Clemens is a player rising up team boards and could go as high as the fifth round, and UCLA's Drew Olson was extremely productive and should be available in the 6th round. Other players to watch late in the draft are Fresno State's Paul Pinegar who is big, tough and comes from a system that produced David Carr, Bruce Gradkowski of Toledo, and Erik Meyer of Jon Kitna's alma mater Eastern Washington.

For the cynics who don't believe that these type of late round players can't evolve into NFL starters, take a look around the league. Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was a 6th round pick of the Packers in 1998. Rich Gannon, who led the Raiders to a Super Bowl berth after the 2002 season, was a 4th-round choice of the Patriots in 1987 and they thought his future was as a RB. The Buccaneers team that beat the Raiders in that 2002 Super Bowl was led by former 9th-round pick (MIN – '92) Brad Johnson. The 2001 Rams and the 2003 Panthers were led by Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme, respectively, two guys who weren't even drafted! And they both lost to a guy named Brady, who couldn't win the starting job from Brian Griese or Scott Driesbach in his first two seasons at Michigan before he was taken in the 6th round by the New England Patriots in 2000. And did we mention that they've all been to the Pro Bowl?

Matt Leinart is the best quarterback in this draft, and if he's available the Jets should make their best effort to bring him into the fold. But don't be fooled into thinking that New York is now a hostage to the Saints second overall pick. There are plenty of options when it comes to the quarterback position.Related Real Football Content:Good Draft Position

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