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Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck

Gerry Broome, Associated Press

NFL draft preview: quarterbacks

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • April 20, 2012 - 11:56 AM

Today is Day 2 of the Star Tribune's position-by-position preview of the NFL draft April 26-28 in New York City.

Today: quarterbacks

When is it necessary to "reach" for a franchise quarterback?

That's a question all teams without one face each and every April.

Without making the commitment to a franchise quarterback hopeful, teams know they're essentially left to wander aimlessly with the bottom feeders in a pass-crazed league that last year produced a record-tying 10 4,000-yard passers, including a record-breaking three who surpassed 5,000 yards.

That's why Indianapolis jettisoned 36-year-old Peyton Manning to make room for Stanford's Andrew Luck as the No. 1 overall draft pick. That's why Washington didn't flinch when it sent three first-round picks and a second-round pick to St. Louis so it could move up four spots to select Baylor's Robert Griffin III No. 2 overall. And that's why some of the juiciest pre-draft chatter now centers on whether QB-needy teams such as Cleveland (No. 4) or Miami (No. 8) will trade up to the Vikings' No. 3 spot in order to "reach" for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. is among those who expect a team to reach for Tannehill.

"He's being overdrafted," Kiper said. "We saw it last year with Christian Ponder [No. 12 to the Vikings]. He should've been a second-round pick. Overdrafting is taking place at quarterback, and it's going to happen again with Ryan Tannehill."

Keep in mind that "overdrafting" or "reaching" is an opinion that's in the eye of the beholder. And, believe it or not, sometimes media experts are wrong.

It's far too early to determine whether Ponder, Jake Locker (No. 8) or Blaine Gabbert (No. 10) were "overdrafted" last April. At this point, all that's known is they were picked by QB-starved teams that identified a preferred quarterback prospect and knew they needed the courage to pull the trigger ASAP.

THE FRONT-RUNNER

Andrew Luck, Stanford

Talk about pressure. Luck has been the consensus No. 1 overall pick since before last year's draft. He's compared to John Elway. And his mere availability led to Peyton Manning's release, which led to Tim Tebow's trade.

THE CONTENDERS

Robert Griffin III, Baylor

He'll have a lot to live up to in Washington. But his athleticism, arm strength, quick release and 67.1 completion percentage in college could give him a fighting chance to succeed.

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

Spent his first two seasons at receiver, but his intriguing skills at quarterback have him rising. He's relatively raw, but his college coach (Mike Sherman) is now offensive coordinator in Miami, which has the No. 8 pick.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

A former minor league pitcher, Weeden has exceptional arm strength. He also has good touch and completed more than 400 passes in 2011. But injuries and his age (28) will cause teams to be extra careful in selecting him.

THE SLEEPER

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

He was an exciting college player, not to mention the nation's most efficient passer in 2011. But he's also 5-11, 204 pounds, so he's most likely a late-round prospect, at best.

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