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PACKERDRAFT 2011 QUARTERBACKS

Jerry Gilbert
The Green Bay Packers build their offense around quarterback Aaron Rodger who is one of the best in the game and still improving. Ready to step in is Matt Flynn, who proved last season that he can lead the team against any opponent and give them a chance to win. Most observers, including me, would not be comfortable with the situation if Aaron Rodgers were to be lost for an entire season. Losing Rodgers is a small but real concern because of his chance taking style of play along with a history of concussions. Matt Flynn is not even penciled in as a franchise quarterback.

That being said, Matt Flynn is probably good enough to start for some other team for a few years. He is likely to find out if teams agree with that statement because he will be a free agent next year. The situation is not the same as when Aaron Rodgers reached the end of his rookie deal. Aaron Rodgers is 27 years old. Flynn cannot wait till Rodgers is over the hill. Assuming Flynn will find another team after next season, the Packers will need to find another reliable number two signal caller. Whether or not Flynn leaves, there is a need to find a quarterback with the potential to be a starter. As of today, the other candidate is Graham Harrell, but we have no idea if Harrell can be an adequate back up much less a starting quarterback. He may establish that in the preseason next year. The question is whether Green Bay can wait past this draft to conclude whether Harrell is up to the task.

Even if the issue is a year away. The Green Bay Packers need to think about developing a reserve quarterback. This could be a good situation in which to sign a free agent, but that is not the usual way they fill a need in Green Bay. Since they are not likely to use a first round choice on a back up next year, selecting a player in this draft may make sense. However, it needs to be a player with some unrealized potential. With three quarterbacks already on the active roster, the new guy will have to be a quarterback that can slide through to the practice squad. That means he will be a low round selection.

There are two types of quarterbacks who may fit the description. One category is composed of players who are thought to have inadequate arm strength or athletic talent to be a starter in the NFL. Such a player can be successful enough as a game manager to fill in as a reserve. Matt Flynn fell into that category when he was drafted. He is proof that the label does not always fit. The second category is a small school player who is downgraded because of the competition he faced.

On player who fits the first description of a fine quarterback with a questionable arm is well known to many Packer Fans. He is the Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien 6-3 205 Wisconsin. Tolzien started only one year, but his performance was impressive. First, Wisconsin employed a pro style offense, which makes him more ready for the pro game that many higher rated prospects. He compiled good passing numbers as he threw for 2,205 yards with 16 touchdowns against 6 interceptions and averaged 8.2 yards per attempt. His completion percentage was 72.9. He led the Badgers to a Bowl game and he played well enough to win it. His inability to make all the NFL throws at the East West Shrine practices has relegated his draft status to the seventh round or free agent. On the other hand, Tolzien, a smart and careful quarterback, could have a long career as an NFL backup, and it could be in Green Bay.

A similar candidate, who may have ruled himself out of the high rounds at the East West Shrine event, is Nathan Enderle 6-5 240 Idaho. One scout however thought that Enderle did show enough zip on his throws to make him prospect. His performance in the Shrine game is typical of his career. He completed only half his passes, but he threw the ball thirty yards across the field to score a five-yard touchdown. In contrast to Tolzien, Enderle played two of three years on a losing team. That could indicate an inability to make big plays, or, more likely, a lack of support. Enderle has the basic tools to play on Sunday. Mike McCarthy might be able to develop him into a successful NFL quarterback.

A player who is viewed as having a pretty good arm may also be available at the end of the draft because of a perception that he is not a good enough athlete and that his supporting cast carried him to the success he enjoyed. Whatever the truth of that analysis, Greg McElroy, 6-2 222 Alabama, was the quarterback for the National Champion. His story is very similar to Matt Flynn a few years ago. Both led a team to a national title and spent the pre-draft period hearing that less successful quarterbacks would make much better pros. McElroys 2010 numbers are quite impressive as he threw for 2,987 yards with 20 touchdowns against 5 interceptions with a completion percentage of 70.9. If he appears to be coachable, he may have the tools to help a professional team.

An interesting prospect in the second category is Jeff Van Camp 6-5 209 Florida Atlantic. Van Camp last year threw for 2,457 yards with 17 touchdowns, but he threw 13 interceptions. His completion percentage of 57.3 could have been better with better receivers. The biggest knock on Van Camp is that he is a tall player who throws side arm. Some team may believe they can change his delivery so that he can succeed in the league. Van Camp is a classic practice squad type of player.

Another small school prospect is Josh Portis 6-4 209 California of Pennsylvania. Portis shares some experiences with Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton. Like Newton, Portis was a highly acclaimed high school player who turned down offers from many school\s to stay home and play for Florida. Both players moved on, but Portis bounced around before landing at California. Portis was a running quarterback in high school, but he used his mobility to set up the pass in college. In two seasons he passed for over 2500 yards and thirty touchdowns each year. He set a school record of 69 career touchdown passes while leading his team to a record of 21-6 with two postseason appearances. Portis was a stud coming out of high school and has bloodlines, running back Clinton Portis is his cousin After some bumps in the road, Josh Portis may be ready to realize his potential as a pro.

Quarterback is not an immediate priority. However, good teams often take a flyer on a low round quarterback. The strategy worked very well for Ron Wolfe in the 1990s.

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