Dave Ragone around Steelers front-office personnel. You're likely to catch cold."/>

NFL Draft 2003: Quarterbacks

Steelers Next QB?

Unless you've taken a full supplement of Vitamin C, don't bring up the name <a href="http://scout.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=68&p=8&c=1&nid=523009"> Dave Ragone</a> around Steelers front-office personnel. You're likely to catch cold.

Not that the Steelers are willing to discuss football in any manner with reporters this off-season, but they're not even taking jokes, particularly about Ragone, the quarterback with all the right computer numbers but one who could barely execute the exchange from center by the end of his college career.

Bring up some of Ragone's Senior Bowl shenanigans around a quartet of Steelers scouts and you'll receive a quartet of scowls in return.

Hey, just a joke fellas, but it makes one wonder if they're serious about the 6-foot-3 5/8, 249-pound lefty from Louisville. After all, quarterback is the obvious draft target of a team that filled its need at offensive tackle and will fill its other at strong safety next week. And since Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich and Kyle Boller will be drafted earlier than the 27th spot, at which the Steelers will draft, it should come down to Rex Grossman and the two lefties, Ragone and Chris Simms.

We can cross Simms off the first-round list easily. He's in obvious need of mechanical work, and that's something quarterbacks coach Tom Clements could handle, but it's just as obvious to scouts that Simms' arm isn't as strong as Grossman's or Ragone's. And then there's the potential mental problems with Simms, who was 4-5 in his Texas career against Top 10 competition and may never acquire the big-game mentality required of a first-round pick. The Steelers bid adieu to Vulcan mind games when they cast Kordell Stewart adrift last month and certainly won't mess around with Simms.

So that leaves Ragone and Grossman, the 6-1, 217-pounder from Florida, and when trying to eliminate Ragone, who bumbled and fumbled his way through the end of his senior season, his bowl game and his Senior Bowl appearance, the Steelers won't oblige. In an attempt at our own Vulcan mind game, via e-mail with Director of Operations Kevin Colbert, SteelCitySports.com could only receive a "good luck with the draft" in reply.

What Colbert should be reminded -- as he notes that Grossman is slower in the 40 than the bigger Ragone -- is that drafting left-handed quarterbacks is the greatest crapshoot in the NFL.

Scouts are extremely wary of LHQBs, as the following numbers would suggest: In the past 18 drafts, only four left-handed quarterbacks were picked in the first three rounds, and only one of those, Michael Vick (No. 1, 2001), is a starter. Two of the four, Cade McNown (No. 12, 1999) and Brock Huard (No. 77, 1999), are floundering as third-teamers with other teams. The fourth, Todd Marinovich (No. 24, 1991), is battling an addiction to heroin.

Of course, there are exceptions. In 1984, two of the greatest lefties in NFL history were drafted high. Boomer Esiason (No. 38) and Steve Young (supplemental first round) rank among the all-time statistical leaders, but you'd have to go back to 1969 for the previous top-ender. Bobby Douglass (2nd round, 1969) was a monumental flop before Ken Stabler (2nd round, 1968) eventually found his niche with the Oakland Raiders.

That's the scant history, unless Terry Baker (No. 1, 1963) and his 21 career passes and 4 interceptions are to be included. Others, such as Mark Brunell (No. 118, 1993) and Jim Zorn (undrafted, 1976), were found on the scrap heap, which is where teams should look for Ragone.

RIGHT GUY, RIGHT ROUND

First Round – Grossman may "like to party", as Pro Football Weekly reported this week, but he's not a troublemaker, nor the systems quarterback typically produced by Steve Spurrier. Grossman has the arm and the big-game mentality, not to mention plenty of big-game experience. One scout said of him, "he's a short, thick guy who can throw it all day," and Grossman did. Without playing a senior season, he threw for 9,164 yards and 77 touchdowns while completing 60.9 percent of his passes. "Throw it all day" for the Black and Gold, starting in, say, 2005.

Fourth Round – Brian St. Pierre (6-2¾, 218, 4.8) of Boston College has the tools and the look of a fine developmental project for Clements and starter Tommy Maddox. St. Pierre is a better option than the weak-armed tier of mid-to-late-round prospects such as Ken Dorsey, Jason Gesser and Kliff Kingsbury.

Sixth Round – Brooks Bollinger (6-1 1/8, 203, 4.8) of Wisconsin reminds some (OK, me) of Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, who was drafted to play defensive back. Bollinger has good mobility, a strong enough arm, quick release, smarts and plenty of experience.

Free Agent – Casey Printers (6-2 3/8, 216, 4.52) of Florida A&M transferred from TCU, where he played with LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterbacked the Horned Frogs to a 23-9 record as a three-year starter. But after a church service following a four-interception bowl loss to Texas A&M, Printers decided to move to the Division 1-AA school where he led the Rattlers of Coach Billy Joe (sic) to a 7-5 record by completing 56.4 percent of his passes with a 12-5 touchdown-interception ratio. Printers is a Dean's List student, quick afoot and possesses a strong arm.

EMPTY NOTEBOOK

Former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson (6-5, 222) is eligible for the draft, and would be a consideration for the No. 1 pick, but has made it clear he intends to honor the $17 million, 6-year contract he signed with the New York Yankees in 2001. Henson, a third baseman for Triple-A Columbus last season, hit .240 with 18 home runs. His strikeout average in 471 at-bats was .321. ... Marquel Blackwell (6-1, 205, 4.75) was the South Florida quarterback who threw for 343 yards and 4 TDs in an upset of Pitt in 2001. He finished his career 21-10 as a starter, completing 56 percent of his passes with only 25 interceptions. ... Missouri's Kirk Farmer was plagued by injuries for three years before losing his job to a redshirt freshman last summer, but his workout numbers are very intriguing: 6-5 1/8, 218, 4.52 40, 39-inch vertical jump, 6.89 3-cone drill. He was also a prep golf champ and 3-time member of the Big 12 All-Academic team. ... Mark Farris (6-2, 212) was a 3-year starter at Texas A&M before losing his job last season. He's better known in Pittsburgh as the Pirates' No. 1 draft pick in 1994. The Pirates picked Farris 11th that year. The 12th pick was someone by the name of Nomar Garciaparra.

Jim Wexell
Steel City Sports.com



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