Making Their Mark - Former College QB's

Hines Ward

Evaluating players and projecting them to other positions can be risky business. Drafting quarterbacks, knowing you're projecting them to other positions, is even more of a risk. There have been great athletes who should be "can't miss" players at any level, at any position; however, that athleticism doesn't always translate into an NFL player.

TOP NFL PLAYERS WHO WERE FORMER COLLEGE QBs

Evaluating players and projecting them to other positions can be risky business. Drafting quarterbacks, knowing you're projecting them to other positions, is even more of a risk. There have been great athletes who should be "can't miss" players at any level, at any position; however, that athleticism doesn't always translate into an NFL player.

Scouts in the National Football League are such "detail" people, evaluating every number available - from the size of a kid's hand and arm length to his grade on the Wonderlic Test.

What scouts can't measure are the intangibles needed to play other positions in the league. For a college quarterback, or any level quarterback for that matter, to make the transition to another position, first takes an ego adjustment. At every level, QBs are the most unlikely to be willing and/or unable to give up being the field general. So, overcoming the "I'm the man" mentality is the first step. It's like basketball; everyone thinks they're a point guard.

Once they've agreed to the change, they then have to pick up the nuances of a new position. Learning to run routes, blocking and embracing the physical nature of practice, are new experiences for a QB. Typically, it takes time for every position to adapt their game from college to the NFL. Making the adjustment from quarterback to another position in the league is even more difficult. Every player has to get used to the speed of the game. The old signal callers have additional challenges before they get to that stage.

The scouting departments at teams that have successfully converted college quarterbacks to other positions deserve recognition. Their ability to identify these players is big but more importantly their willingness to "jump up on the table" in support of the player is the key!

Below, I'm ranking my top 5 former college QBs and why they are successful at their new positions in the NFL.

1) Hines Ward - Wide Receiver, 6-0 205, Pittsburgh Steelers, 8th Season, Draft - 3rd Round

Current stats = 26 catches for 378 yards and 5 TDs

Hines Ward is the best former college QB playing in the league right now. He's not real fast or big but he is a football player! He does everything well - including the little things.

Ward runs very good routes and works the zones, finding holes and giving the quarterback a nice target. He uses his quickness and football IQ to create separation from the defender and gets open. He catches everything and can run after the catch. This former Georgia Bulldog is not a finesse player either; it shows when he's lowering his shoulder to get extra yards or working the middle of the field. However, for a guy that came out of college missing an ACL, he's tremendously durable and tough. It showed at the University of Georgia when the Bulldogs needed him at several positions including quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.

Hines is a strong physical player that blocks with aggressiveness and a purpose. He gets locked onto the defensive back, moves his feet and maintains contact. He'll go into the middle and stick his helmet in the chest of linebackers and safeties, knowing that big plays come from the running game, especially when receivers make downfield blocks between the hash marks.

Being called a "gamer" is a compliment and this guy could have his picture along side the definition in the dictionary.

College - University of Georgia

2) Arnaz Battle - Wide Receiver, 6-1 217, San Francisco 49ers, 4th Season, Draft - 6th Round

Current stats = 20 catches for 233 yards and 2 TDs

Battle is an excellent # 2 receiver. He is athletic, has good feet and catches the ball well. Arnaz has made himself into a good position player and not just a novelty act, like some former QBs. He does a nice job running routes, looks like he has a feel for finding the holes in zone defenses and makes positive plays. His footwork is also developing; he doesn't have a lot of wasted steps and runs sharp routes. The "Z" receiver is a willing blocker and will stick his face in there on crack back blocks, using his hands and feet well to occupy the defender.

Overall, he has made the transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver very well and should be a good player for the "Niners" during his stay.

College - University of Notre Dame

3) Drew Bennett - Wide Receiver, 6-5 206, Tennessee Titans, 6th Season, Draft - Undrafted

Current stats = 21 catches for 305 yards and 1 TD

Drew is deceptive in many ways. At first glance, he won't wow you with how cut he is or physically developed. He won't look like he's running fast but, when you see him play; he will be one of the best athletes on the field. Bennett has terrific leaping ability is a long strider that is faster than he looks and he is smart! He'll use his length and knowledge of the game to make himself a tough cover for most DBs. The six year pro has great ball skills and competes.

At the end of the day, he isn't a #1 receiver for most teams but most would definitely like to have him on their roster. The Titans did a great job of checking Drew out while he was at UCLA and recognized the upside.

College - UCLA

4) Antwaan Randle El - Wide Receiver, 5-10 192, Washington Redskins, 5th Season, Draft - 2nd Round (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Current stats = 18 catches for 167 yards and 1 TD, 10 carries for 49 yards, 19 punt returns for 222 yards, 11.7 yards per return and 1 TD.

The question is: will Antwaan be more to the Redskins than Desmond Howard was to the Raiders after his great Super Bowl run and MVP championship game? Obviously, he has the talent to be an impact player and has probably achieved more than was projected by many.

Randle El is very quick and athletic. He has terrific lateral movement and can make you miss. He isn't track fast but his quickness and acceleration help him get some separation. He catches the ball well and has good body control. The former QB isn't a very stout guy and can be a liability as a blocker, especially at the point of attack but he's willing and competes.

Antwaan is a role player and for the most part must be put in positions to make plays other than as a returner. The value of a guy like this may be determined in a few games or even plays.

College - Indiana University

5) Michael Robinson - Running Back, 6-1 218, San Francisco 49ers, Rookie, Draft - 4th Round

Current stats = 24 carries for 64 yards and 2 TDs, 3 catches for 12 yards, 2 kick off returns for 37 yards, 5 tackles.

Michael is a back up to Frank Gore at tailback - not bad for a former QB/projected receiver turned running back in the NFL. He has good size, runs hard and is a tough kid, giving him the attributes needed to compete at this level. Robinson will run through arm tackles and can lower his shoulder to get the tough yards. He is a little bit upright at times but should get better, using a good body lean and pad level to be a more effective runner. You'd expect a former QB to be more of a finesse player; however this kid is an exception to that rule, so far. Number 24 does a good job of covering the ball up in traffic and can gain yards between the tackles. Also, he's a good athlete that can catch the ball.

The 49ers organization did a good job of evaluating Michael and seeing a running back when many thought he'd be another receiver. Right now, he's not a featured back but is a nice change up to Gore and, someday, may be able to carry the load himself. This kid has really good potential.

College - Penn State University

There are other former college quarterbacks of note now in the NFL and lining up at new positions. Here's a quick list of some who are contributing or hoping to contribute to their respective teams:

Ronald Curry (North Carolina) - WR, Oakland Raiders, 5th year, 7th round Matt Schobel (TCU) - TE, Philadelphia Eagles, 5th year, 3rd round Patrick Crayton (Northwestern Oklahoma State) - WR, 2nd year, 7th round Carlyle Holiday (Notre Dame) - WR, Arizona Cardinals, 2nd year, undrafted Matt   Jones (Arkansas) - WR, Jacksonville Jaquars, 2nd year, 1st round Marques Hagans (Virginia) - WR/QB, St. Louis Rams, Rookie, 5th round - practice squad Brad Smith (Missouri) - WR, New York Jets, Rookie, 4th Round Marcus Vick (Virginia Tech) - WR, Miami Dolphins, Rookie, undrafted

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