Quinn tops thin senior QB class

The 2006 quarterback class, which boasted star power atop the board in Vince Young and Matt Leinart and quality depth with seven first-day selections, is a tough act to follow.

Brady Quinn is not as flashy as Young or Leinart but the hype-machine is in full throttle for the Notre Dame signal-caller, who enters this season as the Heisman Trophy favorite and the top quarterback prospect in regards to the 2007 draft. After floundering for his first two collegiate seasons, Quinn broke out under first-year head coach Charlie Weis in 2005, completing 64.9 percent of his throws for 3,919 yards and 32 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Another season like the last could land Quinn the top-overall spot in next year's draft.

The only senior prospect with the potential to challenge Quinn to be the top quarterback taken is Michigan State's Drew Stanton. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound gunslinger possesses all the physical tools it takes to be successful at the next level, including the size, arm strength and athletic ability. Most importantly, he shows rare intangibles as a leader and competitor. However, Stanton's inconsistency and history of injury inevitably will hurt his draft standing.

There is a noticeable drop-off after Quinn and Stanton at this early point in the process. UTEP's Jordan Palmer, younger brother of Bengals' starting quarterback and former top overall pick (2003) Carson Palmer, is a strong pocket passer with impressive size. However, Palmer lacks ideal mobility and must bounce back from a 19-interception junior campaign.

Troy Smith (Ohio State) might be the least-polished of this group, but the dual-threat quarterback has made considerable strides as a passer and decision-maker the past two seasons. Plus, if he can't make it as a quarterback in the NFL, Smith is athletic enough to play a slash-type role for the team that drafts him -- much like Michael Robinson (49ers), Brad Smith (Jets) and Reggie McNeal (Bengals) from the 2006 draft.

Trent Edwards (Stanford) and John Beck (BYU) flashed NFL tools last season but need to build on that success in order to warrant first-day consideration in next Spring's draft. On the flip side, Tyler Palko (Pittsburgh) and Chris Leak (Florida) must recapture their sophomore successes after struggling to adjust to new coaching staffs as juniors last season.

One of the most underrated prospects at this point is Kevin Kolb (Houston), who possesses a fine combination of size, arm strength and mobility. If he can limit his mistakes as a senior after tossing 15 picks in 2005, Kolb's draft stock could skyrocket.

Finally, the lack of overall talent in this year's senior class could make it enticing for top juniors to leave early for the 2007 NFL draft. Potential candidates include Brian Brohm (Louisville), Kyle Wright (Miami-Fla.) and Chad Henne (Michigan).

Three-Year Tally

The following graphic shows the number of quarterbacks selected in each round of the previous three NFL drafts. Most NFL teams use this type of chart to study position trends when setting up their respective draft boards each year.