I've seen every one of the nation's leading quarterbacks, in person and on film, and while it is an average to below average year nationally, the best of the big-time prospects figure to make their marks at the Division I level.
Things have changed for quarterbacks. A lot of high schools are taking their cue from colleges and have opted to run spread offenses. In the past, when I evaluated quarterbacks, I looked for prostyle or combo quarterbacks, kids who could run and throw. Dan Marino was prostyle, Michael Vick was combo.
Now I have to evaluate them differently. I have to look for prostyle and spread quarterbacks. This year's class has some standouts but it lacks the talent and depth of 1979 (Marino, John Elway) or 2006 (Matt Stafford, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, Mitch Mustain).
But the NFL is wary of spread quarterbacks in college. They are reminded of former Utah star Alex Smith, who hasn't done well with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL.
The No. 1 quarterback in the class of 2010 is Jake Heaps of Sammamish, Wash. He is the best I've seen and I've seen them all. He looked great at the San Antonio combine in January. He is a precision passer and an exceptional leader. He follows directions and has a good but not overpowering arm. If he chooses the right offense, he'll be an instant star. He is considering Washington, Tennessee and BYU. His only drawback is he is 6-2.
The No. 2 quarterback is Blake Bell of Wichita, Kan., a 6-6, 220-pounder who committed to Oklahoma a few days ago. He has good bloodlines. His father and uncle played in the NFL. He also is an outstanding basktball player. He has good vision and touch. He has the tools to be the next Sam Bradford. He is better than Bradford coming out of high school. Last season, he passed for 3,200 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Heaps and Bell rank among the top 10 players in the nation. In my earlier survey, Heaps ranked No. 3 while Bell ranked No. 67. But Bell has moved up dramatically.
Next is 6-2, 220-pound Phil Sims of Chesapeake, Va., who passed for 3,100 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior. Then 6-4, 210-pound Connor Wood of Houston, Texas, who is committed to Texas.
Two Californians who are being overlooked in my opinion are 6-5, 215-pound Peter Thomas of El Cajon and 6-4, 220-pound Tyler Shreve of Redlands. I'm shocked that neither one has any scholarship offers at this time. Thomas should have 20 by now. He is a two-time all-stater and passed for more than 3,000 yards last season. Shreve should have more than 20 offers after the May evaluation period.
Finally, 6-4, 177-pound Austin Hinder of Steamboat Springs, Colo., could emerge as the best of all if he gains 20-30 pounds. He is very thin but has a whiplike arm. He is the No. 1 player in Colorado.
Illinois has several good quarterbacks, too, though they don't rank among the top 100 prospects in the nation. Wheaton North's Taylor Graham, who was injured last season, has the prototypical size that made his father Kent a big-time college and NFL player. Other standouts are Downers Grove South's Chandler Whitmer, Hinsdale Central's John Whitelaw and Prospect's Miles Osei.