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NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: QUARTERBACKS

Oklahoma’s Bradford a keeper

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / April 17, 2010

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Unfortunately for teams such as the Bills, Raiders, Browns, or 49ers, this is not considered a quarterback-rich draft.

The Rams might get the face of their franchise when, as expected, they select Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford with the first pick.

But beyond Bradford, there aren’t many big-time prospects.

Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, despite playing in a pro-style offense under Charlie Weis, is rated as a first-rounder, but he could be in for a Brady Quinn-like slide down the draft board. Some mock drafts have Clausen going as high as ninth to Buffalo, and as low as 17th to San Francisco.

There’s also a young man named Tim Tebow (maybe you’ve heard of him), who is likely to go in the second round, but at the moment, few draftniks are convinced the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion with the Florida Gators can be an effective starter in the NFL.

Colt McCoy of Texas, a four-year starter for one of the top teams in college football, has some question marks, namely arm strength and the Longhorns’ pure spread offense — but not to Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden.

“Colt McCoy is a guy that you have to tell it’s time to leave,’’ said Gruden, now on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football’’ team. “He would stay there [at the practice facility] all day and all night. He loves football. People accuse me of liking all the quarterbacks and being ‘Johnny Positive,’ but if you don’t like Colt McCoy then you probably didn’t like Drew Brees coming out of Purdue either. When you’re around him, you believe he can lead your organization.’’

Listed at 6 feet 1 inch, 215 pounds, McCoy, like Brees, is a bit undersized. But Brees has become one of the three best quarterbacks in the NFL, and was last season’s Super Bowl MVP.

Bradford elected to return to Oklahoma for a fourth season, and a nightmare scenario played out: he injured his right (throwing) shoulder. Renowned orthopedist James Andrews surgically repaired the shoulder, and Bradford has been checked, rechecked, and checked again by his suitors; Andrews has told teams Bradford is as good as new.

Physically, Bradford is just what teams look for: he’s 6-4 and 236 pounds. Gruden compared him with onetime Patriot Vinny Testaverde in terms of his imposing figure. Gruden’s colleague, Ron Jaworski, agreed.

“Clearly he’s got [stature] in the pocket, but also the ability to hang in the pocket,’’ said Jaworski, who played 15 years in the NFL, 10 with the Eagles. “When I look at these quarterbacks, the first thing I look for is toughness. I look for a guy that will hang in the pocket, deliver the football, and Sam Bradford will do that.’’

Bradford and Clausen are considered first-round picks, while McCoy and Tebow are considered second-round talents. Other quarterbacks available are Cincinnati’s Tony Pike, Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour, Tennessee’s Jonathan Crompton, and Fordham’s John Skelton.

Holy Cross signal-caller Dominic Randolph has received some attention, though he will likely go undrafted.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.

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