TCU's Dalton centre of NFL draft chatter

MIKE GANTER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:48 PM ET

TORONTO - If youíre looking for a guy who could create the most movement in the upcoming NFL draft, Texas Christian University quarterback Andy Dalton could be your man.

Dalton, who is coming off a perfect 13-0 season in leading the Horned Frogs to a Rose Bowl title, has spent most of the build-up to the April 28th draft somewhere in the middle of that second tier of quarterbacks on most mock draft boards.

But that appears to be changing.

Dalton, a native of Katy, Tex., most famous for producing Roger Clemens, is coming on like gang busters with the draft now just a week and a half out.

Whether itís the Cincinnati Bengals reportedly offering to trade down from No. 4 to get him at a more reasonable spot in the draft or the New England Patriots ó who have two first-round picks ó openly investigating Daltonís abilities, this four-year TCU starter is suddenly getting plenty of attention.

Thereís even talk the not-so-quarterback hungry Indianapolis Colts and Patriots might jump at him in preparation for the eventual departures of Monsieurís Manning and Brady.

Dalton already appears to have leapfrogged both Jack Locker and Ryan Mallett in many minds and now sits firmly as the third best quarterback option available.

Now instead of talking about his reported lack of arm strength, the NFL fraternity is keying on his 44-8 record as a starter at TCU and the fact he led the team to a Rose Bowl win this past season and a Fiesta Bowl appearance the year before.

His Horned Frogsí 13-0 record this year has to say something about the redheaded, Opie-like Dalton doesnít it?

Without any movement at all in the draft, the smart money has Dalton headed to Seattle at No. 25. The problem with that is there is always movement on draft day and with Bill Belichick and the Patriots holding two first rounders, thereís probably going to be even more.

Dalton, as the best of a second tier of quarterbacks in a quarterback needy draft could be in the middle of a variety of scenarios on draft day.

Of the teams that could be looking at a quarterback in the first round ó Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota, Miami and possibly both New England and Indianapolis ó eight have picks in the first 15.

If only two or three QBís go by the mid first round, seven or eight teams are going to be looking at that second tier late in the first or early in the second.

The question is how long will they wait. Once the run starts it could just keep rolling.

Dalton, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Colin Kaepernick, even Ricky Stanzi could all wind up going off the board in close succession.

Dalton, though, would appear to be the most likely to start that run.

A successful visit with Jon Gruden on the ESPN special QB Camp seems to have propelled Dalton into that position.

And unlike Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, who, if they are taken in those first five picks, will likely have to contend with stepping right into the NFL fire with little to no preparation, Dalton and the rest are more likely to go the Colt McCoy route than the Sam Bradford one.

Where Bradford took the reigns immediately, McCoy was brought along slowly, making eight starts in his rookie year. Even better for a guy like Dalton would be a situation where he could spend a couple of years learning from a proven vet like the Coltsí Peyton Manning or New Englandís Tom Brady and ease into a starting role that way.

You could argue that Dalton might be in a more beneficial situation right now than either Newton or Gabbert in that regard. Of course financially that wouldnít be the case in the short term, but he may be better positioned for a long successful run than either of those two quarterbacks.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos