Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the NFL Draft April 22nd, Buffalobills.com will profile one of the more highly touted prospects at each position in the 2010 draft class. A position group video preview will accompany each of these feature stories in the media lounge featuring the top five prospects at each position. Our pre-draft feature series rolls on with Fordham quarterback John Skelton.
While the masses debate the NFL future of polarizing Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, there is another NFL prospect at the position that league scouts are trying to get a handle on as well. Fordham quarterback John Skelton has all the physical tools NFL talent evaluators seek, and appears to have the leadership intangibles as well. The pressing question scouts do not have a clear answer on is whether Skelton can make the jump from the Patriot League to the National Football League.
Skelton is used to having doubters. After a decorated high school career in El Paso, Texas at Burges, which included All-District, All-City and Offensive MVP honors, Skelton was barely recruited. Not even the University of Texas-El Paso, his hometown school took much interest.
“I was getting recruited,” said Skelton. “But I never got the (scholarship) offers. I went to Texas Tech’s junior day. They showed a lot of interest. I went to SMU, they were real interested, then coach Phil Bennett got fired and I got lost in the shuffle there. I talked to Houston a little bit. UTEP gave me the runaround. I guess they figured because I was local, I’d just stay and be a preferred walk-on.”
Skelton wasn’t going to settle for being a walk-on, thanks in part to his uncle, Javier Loya, a minority owner of the Houston Texans.
“He’s kind of helped me along the way, just talked to some people that he knows and just tried to guide me a little bit,” said Skelton.
Knowing Division 1-AA schools are always on the lookout for capable signal callers, no matter how late in the recruiting season it might be, Loya took his nephew on a trip to the New York metropolitan area. They dropped off his game tape at five or six different schools.
“I went to Columbia, Holy Cross, New Hampshire, Kent, a prep school in Connecticut and Fordham,” said Skelton. “Fordham was the one school that got back to me. They showed a lot of interest. I went on an official visit. My mother liked it. I liked it. The rest is history.”
Of course UTEP tried to step in in the 11th hour with a scholarship, but Skelton was committed to the Rams.
He would appear in nine games as a true freshman including seven starts, and took his share of lumps with six touchdowns and eight interceptions with a completion percentage of just over 44 percent.
Skelton, however, would make dramatic improvement the following season. He turned his touchdown to interception ratio completely around with 22 scoring passes against 11 INTs as the Rams took the Patriot League title. It was then that Skelton thought the NFL was possible.
“I think my sophomore season, we had a lot of success, we won the Patriot League, had a good showing in the playoffs,” he said. “That offseason was when my confidence really shot up, and I worked really hard in the offseason and continued to get better the next two years.”
In his junior campaign Skelton would post the fourth best passer rating in the nation (129.6). And this past season he led the nation’s Sub-division ranks with over 3,700 yards passing ranking second in the country with 348 yards of total offense per game.
“We found ourselves behind in a lot of games,” said Skelton. “We couldn’t establish the run, so we ended up throwing a little more than we would’ve liked.”
By the close of his senior season Skelton’s play and measurables (6’6” 243) had drawn considerable interest on the part of NFL scouts as he earned an invite to the East-West Shrine game. Though Skelton had his ups and downs during the practice week with touch passes and accuracy, he increased his exposure.
“It was a good game, a good week overall for me, being 1-AA guy I had to explain to them who I was and stuff, but to get to throw with Big 10 receivers, ACC guys, SEC guys and stuff,it was a good experience,” he said. “It definitely elevated my confidence to kind of prepare me for what I’m expecting in the NFL.”
What scouts are expecting of him at the pro level is the bigger question. They know he has a cannon for an arm and has shown improved footwork both in the East-West Shrine game and at the NFL combine, which has led to more consistent accuracy. He’s shown an ability to read coverages and move through progressions while demonstrating leadership intangibles as a two-time team captain.
What they wrestle with is if Skelton is the next Joe Flacco, one that can make the jump to the NFL level relatively quickly, or something quite different. With more questions than answers Skelton is likely to be a middle round selection.
All Skelton is concerned about is that he gets an opportunity, much like the one afforded to him by Fordham four years ago.
“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder ever since then, and it’s kind of the same situation I guess,” said Skelton. “But I think the talent is there.”