When you've got a National Championship on your college resume, or you're the clear leader at a top flight program in a big conference it's easy to become a household name to more than just the draftniks that wait for late April like kids do for Christmas. But for those quarterbacks that aren't on national television every week, yet have some potential to offer at the next level now is the time to raise your profile in the pre-draft process.
The 32 NFL clubs have a firm working knowledge of signal callers like TCU's Andy Dalton, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi. Beyond the player report however, Dalton, Kaepernick and Stanzi still have to add to their resume from now until April 28th.
All three appeared in the Senior Bowl, with Dalton playing for the South Team while Kaepernick and Stanzi lined up for the North squad. None of them shined in the game, but Kaepernick appeared to garner the most media attention as his prototype size (6'4 ½" 225), live arm and athleticism drew attention.
In the game Kaepernick got off to a rough start as his first pass attempt was intercepted near the end of the first half. On three series, the Nevada QB did lead the North team to a successful field goal drive and went 4-9 passing for 53 yards.
Coming from a 'Pistol offense' Kaepernick knew he had to show he was capable of handling a pro-style scheme.
"For me coming out of the style of offense that I came from, picking up on the terminology and things went a lot better than I thought it would in terms of being able to know where everybody is at and what route combinations I had going on. So I felt very comfortable."
With his athleticism evident in the game and the practice setting at the Senior Bowl, it's not surprising that he was just the third player in NCAA history (Tim Tebow 2009, Cam Newton 2010) to have 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns in a single season. That's why it's anticipated that Kaepernick will test well at the NFL Combine at the end of February, and could improve on his stock, which has him in the fourth round range.
For Dalton leading the Horned Frogs to an undefeated season (13-0) and a number two ranking in the final AP College Football Poll to give him 42 victories in his college career already had him stamped as a winner. It's his measurables (6'2" 213) that leave some wondering if his college success will follow him to the NFL.
"I feel like I have been able to play in a lot of big games and hopefully that will help me," he said. "Every game in the NFL is a big game. Just getting to play out here is a big opportunity for me and I just want to take advantage of it."
Bills head coach Chan Gailey called Dalton the best scrambler of the three quarterbacks he had on his South team roster, and spoke about Dalton in much the same way he would describe his current starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, referencing his intelligence and decision making.
Dalton got the least playing time of the three quarterbacks, but tried to make the most of his time on the field going 3-7 passing for 22 yards. He did see a lot more work during the practice week at the Senior Bowl and will have to rely on the steady play he showed early as a lead up to the NFL Combine.
The Mountain West Conference all-time leader in total offense, Dalton is forecast as a fourth-round pick.
Iowa's Ricky Stanzi might have the biggest hill to climb. Seen as a developmental signal caller most forecast the Hawkeyes' QB to come off the board late in the draft. Stanzi has the work ethic necessary for a quarterback on the come, but he has some convincing to do with a skill set that hasn't overwhelmed NFL talent evaluators.
"I think I can make all the throws that are asked of me and now it's just a matter of being more consistent with it," he said. "That's a thing that a lot of quarterbacks struggle with is they show they can do it once and then miss two in a row. It's important to hit two out of three or get all three of them to put it in the scout's mind that you're consistent."
A deep out to tight end Lance Kendricks in the Senior Bowl for 27 yards certainly helped his cause, though none of his drives led to points for the North team. Stanzi finished 7-12 passing for 87 yards in the game.
Decision making might be where Stanzi will want to hang his hat after a solid senior campaign in which he had 25 touchdowns against just six interceptions and a passer rating of 160.5 good for 11th best in the nation. That's why Stanzi is encouraged believing his best football is ahead of him.
"You better believe that as a football player," he said. "If you don't then you're not going to keep improving if you think you have it figured out. I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to work on, but that's what I plan to do to get better."
None of these three quarterbacks can predict where they're going to come off the board in April, and they don't intend to try. What they do know is they're prepared to do everything possible to prove to the NFL decision makers they're worth taking a chance on.
"You don't put it in your head as to when you're going to get drafted," Stanzi said. "There are things you can't control. The things you can control are your attitude and your work ethic and if you do that everything else will fall into place."