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This Smells Rank: Charlie Clipboard/Quarterback Edition

For some reason the third string or development QB position gets me excited. I think it's because QB is the most noticeable and legendary position in the NFL and when you already have one of the top QBs in the NFL as your starter the only way your team will draft some new blood at the position is get one that they can either develop into a future 2nd stringer or trade material. These clipboard holders don't come into the league glamorously (okay, some do, our own Philip Rivers held a clipboard for a few years and the hoopla around him couldn't get much bigger), but if developed right they can become starters.

Last year, 7 of the top 15 QBs in 2009 by DVOA seven of them started their careers with at least a full season clipboard holding. Two others spent some time as clipboard holders for part of their career. Five were drafted in the 3rd round or later. And three had to go to a new organization to achieve success at the position. So, some of these Whitehurst-like clipboard holders do make an impact in the NFL. The Packers had a reputation for a while developing QBs behind Favre (who, by the way, held a clipboard in Atlanta before being traded to the Pack) when they developed future starters Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Rodgers. It would be kind of cool if the Chargers could have a similarly legacy behind Rivers. We even have a head start with Whitehurst possibly becoming a starter in Seattle.

Moving onto the rankings, I'm going to start off the way the last 3 have gone and give you the top QBs in the draft just for reference sake. You can dub this list, "Guys The Chargers Are Least Likely To Draft As Clipboard Holders" if you want. Then, after the jump, I'll give some background on guys that could be the next Charlie Clipboard.

Rank Prospect College Height Weight Proj. Rd.
1 Sam Bradford Oklahoma 6'4 236 1
2 Jimmy Clausen Notre Dame 6'3 222 1
3 Colt McCoy Texas 6'1 216 2nd-3rd
4 Tim Tebow Florida 6'3 236 2nd-4th


Potential Charlie Clipboard replacements (in order of how they are ranked by ESPN's Scouts, Inc.)

Prospect College Height Weight Yrs Exp. w/ Clipboard
Tony Pike Cincinnati 6'6 223 1
Matt Nichols Eastern Washington 6'1 219 1
Dan LeFevour Central Michigan 6'3 230 0
Levi Brown Troy 6'3 229 2
Michael Kafka Northwestern 6'3 225 3
Jarrett Brown West Virginia 6'3 224 3
Jevan Snead Mississippi 6'3 219 1
Sean Canfield Oregon State 6'4 223 1
Jonathan Crompton Tennessee 6'3 222 2 1/2
Bill Stull Pittsburgh 6'2 216 3
Zac Robinson Oklahoma State 6'2 214 2
John Skelton Fordham 6'3 243 0
Daryll Clark Penn State 6'2 235 2
Tim Hiller Western Michigan 6'4 229 1
Max Hall BYU 6'1 209 1

Tony Pike, RS Senior, 24 years old

He came to Cincinnati and redshirted his first year. He then was so deep on the depth chart the next year that he probably never sniffed a clipboard. His Sophomore season finally saw him elevate himself to clipboard holding duties and he even got some game action in 5 games. He had a mixed Junior year where he started, but fractured his forearm in September. With screws, a plate and a soft cast in place he came back in late October. That season elevated to new a status level in college football as they won the Big East and thereby got a BCS bowl bid. The next year he and the team stepped it up a notch by going undefeated in the regular season to earn a spot in another BCS bowl game and take on one of the nation's elite teams in Florida. They lost, but Cincinnati program has entered a new era. Pike utilized all his receivers, but his utilization of Mardy Gilyard was what really helped that team achieve offensive greatness. In the NFL, being able to elevate your team by using your #1 WR to his utmost effectiveness is key.

Positives: His height is definitely an asset and his size helps him avoid sacks. His mobility is not encumbered by his height. He is very accurate within the confines of the spread offense. Strong competitor with a good work ethic. He's tough and will play through pain and take hits in the pocket. He's smart enough to know that sometimes he should just throw the ball away.

Negatives: He might be just a product of his size and the spread offense. He doesn't read defenses that well and he can be inaccurate on some of the throws that are needed in the NFL, but weren't that important to his college offense. Some deep throws tend to sail on him. Winds up a bit too much on his delivery which could lead to fumbles and extra big hits in the NFL.

Matt Nichols, RS Senior, 23 years old

I debated as to whether I should even include Nichols due to the lack of info available. In the interest of covering everybody he's here with basic data about him. We'll just consider him the mystery meat portion of this list. He redshirted one year and that's his only clipboard holding experience. He started almost every game the next year and then was a full time starter the next 3 years. He's a small town guy that chose a small town school to play at. His Junior year wowed a little more than his Senior year as he was first team all Big Sky one year and then second team the next. Eastern Washington played only about a half dozen BCS schools in his time there and they were blown out every time, most of the time scoring less than 10 points including a 2009 game against Cal. Nichols did have his highest completion percentage of the year in that game, but it was only good for 195 yards on 23 completions and 1 TD.

Dan LeFevour, RS Senior, 23 years old

Clipboards be damned! LeFevour redshirted his first year on campus as Central Michigan but started every game his next four seasons. Someone will probably have to walk him through the steps of where to put your hands on the clipboard and which way is up. Even at a mid major school like Central Michigan starting at QB for 4 years is pretty impressive, especially because it was behind him that the school transformed into a bowl-worthy program. The leadership abilities that come with accomplishing something that must be off the charts. In my opinion its a matter of when, not if, when it comes to getting some chances to start in the NFL.

Positives: Excellent game manager and decision maker. You're probably not going to lose games because of him forcing throws. Operates well under pressure. Above average arm strength. Quick release and over-the-top delivery keeps balls from getting batted down. Can move in the pocket with excellent foot quickness and can make time before squaring his shoulders and throwing or run for a first down if need be.

Negatives: Floats the ball on some of his deeper throws. Will need to transition from a shotgun oriented offense to one that operates more under center in the NFL. Footwork can be inconsistent and affect his accuracy. Sometimes loses accuracy when throwing on the run. He needs more finesse throwing to shorter routes.

Levi Brown, RS Senior, 23 years old

Troy University has started to make a name for itself in the NFL on defense with pass rushers Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware as well as 1st round pick CB Leodis McKelvin, but Levi would add a new legacy for the Trojans if he were to succeed as an NFL QB. He started his career at Richmond but transferred to Troy after one year there as a clipboard holder. He had to sit out year because of the transfer, but was back to clipboard for his Sophomore season. He started the final two seasons and put up over 4200 yards passing as a Senior. That Senior season set records as the most prolific passing season in Sun Belt Conference history and earned him the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year award.

Positives: Good accuracy and zip on underneath routes. Good trajectory on deep routes. Above average arm strength. Ideal QB height and size. He can handle pressure in the pocket.

Negatives: Sometimes forces receivers to adjust routes. He plated in a spread offense so he'll need time to adjust to working under center. Not very mobile in or out of the pocket. Awkward delivery needs some work.

Michael Kafka, RS Senior, 22 years old

Kafka definitely got his clipboard time in as he redshirted for one year and backed up C.J. Bacher for most of the next 3 years. In those years he was competing for a job and even had the starting gig and lost it at some points. As a Charger clipboard holder he'd need to learn to take a more passive role. Maybe embrace it by growing out his hair. His Senior season saw some impressive numbers as he led the Big Ten is passing yards, total offense, completions and completion percentage. His season was at its most impressive in the bowl season. At the Outback bowl he set numerous bowl records as well as the NCAA record for most offensive plays from scrimmage with 98 (78 passes, 20 runs). He was 47-78 for 532 ys and 4 TDs plus 40 rushing yards. The lost that game in overtime, but undeterred Kafka led his team in the East-West Shrine Bowl game running a two minute drill to perfection in what had been to that point a defense dominated game.

Positives: A leader and a competitor. Natural feel in the pocket where he can avoid pass rushes and buy extra time. He can improvise when things break down. Release is good in both quickness and sturdiness. Good accuracy on short and intermediate routes. Intelligent player.

Negatives: Played in a spread offense and took snaps mainly out of the shotgun. His footwork and dropbacks will be something to work on at the next level. Can get overconfident in his only adequate arm strength and force throws. Three quarters delivery may lead to passes getting batted down with taller defenders in the NFL. Has had some history with leg injuries.

Jarrett Brown, RS Senior, 24 years old

Brown was only a starter for own season due to the presence of now Miami Dolphins backup and wildcat QB Pat White. Brown redshirted his first year and then held a clipboard and saw some game action in each of the next 3 seasons. The offense run at West Virginia before Brown's year as a starter was nothing like the pros. They ran a spread option, which relies heavily on a running QB taking advantage of a spread out defense. With Brown at the helm and the 2nd year of new head coach changing things the offense evolved to the first pro style system the Mountaineers had seen since Marc Bulger was the QB in 1999. Brown is still a mobile QB though and ran for 452 yards as a Senior starter and rushed for over 1100 yards in his career. There's a chance he could develop into a Steve Young or Steve McNair type mobile QB who succeeds at passing as well, but there's also a chance he could be another Tarvaris Jackson.

Positives: Above average touch on downfield throws. Good arm strength and can squeeze balls into tight spaces. While not as elusive as some rushing QBs, he is fast and can pick up chunks of yards when nothing is available downfield. He's tough and will lower his shoulder when he needs to. He seems to have good pocket presence when plays break down and can find open receivers or run as needed.

Negatives: Timing on his throws and accuracy on simple underneath routes needs to improve. His delivery is slightly elongated and it effects his release time. Sometimes he can have trouble with his release and throws come out wobbly. He can lock on receivers instead of running his progressions or looking off safeties. Needs to work on taking snaps under center since his experience is mostly in the shotgun. 

Jevan Snead, RS Junior, 22 years old

Scouts love this guy more than I can understand. I saw Ole Miss play a few times and if it wasn't for Dexter McCluster's playmaking abilities their offense would have been inept, mostly due to Snead struggling to figure which color the opposing players were wearing. Snead began his collegiate career at Texas and played in 8 games, but started none so he accumulated some clipboard holding time. However, it didn't suit him (tsk. tsk. tsk) so he transferred to Ole Miss to be a part of the Michael Oher story. He was the Rebels starter his final two seasons and is now second in the record books behind Eli Manning in a bunch of categories. Personally, I think this has more to do to more pass-happy schemes in the modern Ole Miss offenses than their predecessors combined with McCluster and current Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Wallace's awesomeness, but what do I know?

Positives: His arm. Apparently this the arm scouts drool over. He can deliver a frozen rope pass 40 yards downfield without sacrifice release time. His footwork is good. He's physically tough and an underrated athlete.

Negatives: How much time do you have? Not mentally tough. Throws the ball up for grabs. Makes receivers adjust their routes to his throws. Develops bad habits like throwing of his back foot, sidearm throws and patting the ball. He has a tendency to stare down his targets. He showed questionable judgment leaving school early despite not being guaranteed a pick in the first 3 rounds. He showed questionable judgment transferring from Texas instead of competing with Colt McCoy. He can let one mistake compound into multiple mistakes. Struggles when he leaves the pocket.

Sean Canfield, RS Senior, 24 years old

Sean is a lefty and a local San Diegan, born in La Jolla and played for Carlsbad High. He only had one full season holding a clipboard because he became starter his Sophomore year. However, he was injured after 9 games starting and missed the rest of the that season and didn't come back until a few weeks into his Junior year and didn't start until the last two games that year. His Senior was impressive enough to earn him first team All Pac 10 honors in spite a very competitive QB crowd. He also showed he was willing to work at his game when he lost 20 lbs before his Senior season in order to improve his mobility.

Positives: His best quality is probably his accuracy, which is best shown by his better than 67% completion percentage post-shoulder injury. Good poise in the pocket and, as mentioned above, improved mobility to avoid pressure. Drop backs are fluid, his release is near perfect. Is good at getting through his progressions before giving up on a play. Experience with Mike Riley's complicated pro style offense.

Negatives: Arm strength is less than ideal, but could possibly get stronger as he gets farther from his injury. He surprising has trouble with underneath routes, mostly to poor or lazy footwork. Has trouble knowing when to throw the ball away and when to take a sack. Sometimes doesn't put enough air under the ball causes receivers to adjust their routes.

Jonathan Crompton, Senior, 22 years old

He redshirted his first year and then saw action, but never started, for multiple games during his Freshmen and Sophomore campaigns. He started six games his Junior year, but was benched mid-season, which probably hurt his ego, but helped him get some clipboard experience. He also had an ankle injury and a concussion early that season due to a tough game with UCLA. His Senior season saw him team up with Raiders cast-off Lane Kiffen where he was able to start every game and put up solid numbers, but also had a number of disappointing losses.However, for a team that struggled passing the ball under the old regime, Kiffen and Crompton were successful in reviving that part of the Volunteers' game.

Positives: he has strong arm that can make all the throws with good release times and trajectories.Runs play action well and is efficient dropping back. He is excellent on the move and can run while keeping his eyes on targets downfield. He can buy time and escape the pocked when pressured.

Negatives: Very inconsistent, which is one of the reasons for his benching in 2008. He has trouble reading defenses, going through his progressing and looking off safeties. He can get a little gunslinger-like at times and trust his arm strength a little too much leading to mistakes like throwing across his body and not setting his feet.

Bill Stull, RS Senior, 23 years old

Bill Stull has some primo clipboard holding experience. In his freshmen year he became the primary backup QB, but rarely saw the field. He repeated that role his Sophomore year and then took a medical redshirt his next year due to an opening day injury. That's valuable experience being the primary QBs second eyes, sounding board and play-relayer, which are all things he'd be called upon as a 3rd stringer on the Chargers. His Junior season was a mixed bag of successes and mediocrity. His Senior season is what most of his stock is based on. Pittsburgh has been a pro-style offense under former NFL Head Coach Dave Wannstadt, but it has relied mainly on the run. The offense opened up in 2009 and Stull helped Pitt push an undefeated Cincinnati to the brink in the de facto Big East Title game. He came up short, but showed something that day that many who watched Pitt had seen all season. The Pitt Panthers are very proud of their history of produce NFL players and Stull is their best hope since Dan Marino for Panther QB to make his mark there.

Positives: Accurate passer completing 65% of his passing and limiting his interceptions. Strong work ethic and good leadership abilities. Can handle adversity well on and off the field. Experience in pro style offense is a big plus. Has the poise to handle pressure in the pocket. Quick release and sets his feet well. Above average arm strength.

Negatives: Not very mobile. He can struggle with the deep ball. His footwork needs some more work. He probably has the least amount of starts of any of the draft-eligible QB so there just isn't as film on him. Run first offense limited his exposure as QB so there is concern over how well he'd handle situations when the game is put on his shoulders.

Zac Robinson, RS Senior, 23 years old

Robinson got to play some in his Freshmen year, but he was clipboard holder for most of that the season and his redshirt season. Due to his ability to run with the ball, his proficient passing skills and some extremely talented teammates (Dez Bryant, Brandon Pettigrew, Russell Okung) he was already breaking records in his Sophomore season. He accumulated the most yards by a single player in school history against Texas that year while also putting his name at 4th, 6th and 17th on that list in other games. What his Junior year lost in record setting totals it made up for in big plays. He had 24 go for more than 30 and 11 for more 40, including a streak of 12 straight games with a 30 yard or more plays. His Senior year saw the loss of Pettigrew, an early departure for Dez Bryant before the season ended and some nagging injuries that he and Russell Okung had to play through, but the did finish 9-4. All in all, it looks like his Sophomore season was actually his best.

Positives: Even though he's just barely tall enough to be categorized as having good size for a QB, he throws over the top so his height is definitely not a disadvantage. His quick feet should allow him to do well dropping back even though he spent his collegiate career at shotgun in the spread offense. He had success earlier on as a scrambler, but his mobility could be used well in a system that allows rollout and bootleg passes. He's tough and lowers his shoulder when he needs to.Coaches rave about his work ethic.

Negatives: His accuracy could use some work. He locks onto his primary receiver too much. Arm strength is questionable because he didn't make a lot of deep throws in his system and when he did throw deep throws would sail just a bit. He let's mistakes build on each other. Can be panicky under pressure.

John Skelton, Senior, 22 years old

To quote one web site, "He was the Fordham offense." Fordham is not a big time football program and from Skelton's freshmen year it was obvious they had to get his talent on the field. He started 7 of the teams 11 games and appeared in 2 others, so his full time clipboard holding experience lasted all of two games. On the plus side though, he didn't redshirt so he's still young and has time to learn. For the Chargers to consider an FCS player that player needs to dominate at his level and Skelton certainly did that. He owns the completions, attempts, yards and TD records at Fordham and his passing yards also set a Patriot League record. He is in the top 5 in a number of other Patriot League career statistical categories, as well as setting a number of individual game records and was first team all Patriot League his Senior season.

Positives: Idea size for the QB position. Stands tall in the pocket. Good at moving through his progressions. Throws deep ball with good trajectories so that it doesn't hang up too long. Moves well for his size and can get first downs with his legs and win at the line of scrimmage on sneaks.Two-year captain and a vocal leader on the field.

Negatives: Never seems to let it fly on the deep ball and opts for touch when some zip would be required. Sometimes relies on his arm strength too much when he throws from his back foot and off balance. Passes will flutter from time to time. Needs to work on play action and taking snaps on passing plays from under center. Needs to learn to look off the safety since he had trouble with safeties baiting him.

Daryll Clark, Senior, RS Senior, 24 years old

He spent two years somewhat holding a clipboard. The Nittany Lions liked using him as sort of a changeup quarterback so it would have been an interesting logistical issue to have him swapping his clipboard for a helmet a few times a game. So, I'm a bit skeptical as to his experience level in that regard. His last two years he was a starter and clear leader for Penn State. He was also the Capital One Bowl MVP in his final game. A lot of scouts want to compare him to former Penn State QB and current 49er Michael Robinson, but I don't see it. Robinson was a tuck and run guy and Clark has the ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver NFL caliber throws while still being very athletic.

Positives: Nice touch and decent pocket presence. He's able to stand in the pocket under pressure and use his strength and toughness to take the hit or avoid a sack if needed. He's a leader. Accuracy is above average and can show good timing on short and intermediate throws.

Negatives: Poor footwork and slightly elongated delivery, which can lead to accuracy issues. When scrambling he has trouble with ball security. His height is a tick below ideal for the position and his three quarters delivery accentuates that.

Tim Hiller, RS Senior, 23 years old

Started his freshmen year at West Michigan, but was forced to redshirt due to injury and presumable hold a clipboard his second year. I'm not sure how much clipboard holding he could do with crutches, but I counted it anyway. He also spent a little bit of time as a backup his freshmen year before taking over the starting gig. The knee injury thing is a repeating issue because after his redshirt year he hurt it again during his Junior year, but played through it and eventually had offseason surgery on the torn ACL. He's been compared to NFL Quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Kyle Orton due to his size and statuesque pocket stance. He graduated from Western Michigan in 3 years with a 4.0 GPA and spent the next two years working on his MBA.

Positives: Good arm strength allows him to make all the throws. Quick and fluid release. Stands tall in the pocket. Throws a good ball and times routes well. Showed toughness playing through a knee injury. Makes good decisions.

Negatives: Western Michigan ran a spread offense, so he'll need to transition to a more pro-style system. Pocket presence is not elite and has trouble throwing with or avoiding pressure. Has trouble moving on to secondary targets. Long release will need to be shortened.

Max Hall, RS Senior, 24 years old

Hall got his clipboard experience on a different team than the one he started on. He started at Arizona State and redshirted his one year there before transferring to BYU. He sat out for one year and quarterbacked the scout team, but that's not the same as clipboard holding so it doesn't count. At BYU he set all kinds of school records and conference records, earn Mountain West offensive player of the week many times and he also led the Cougars to an 11-2 record his final year including a 3-1 record over ranked teams finishing at a No. 12 overall ranking.

Positives: He has soft touch and adequate accuracy. Scouts praise his quick release. Flashes ability to improvise and make plays when protection starts to break down.No injuries.

Negatives: Does not have the arm strength necessary to make all the NFL necessary throws. He's not very athletic. System QB at BYU where big numbers are common for that position.