[Note: I limited it to first round quarterbacks, but the gem of the search was an article talking about “fast rising” Mike McMahon and how he said he was better than Michael Vick or Drew Brees prior to the 2001 draft. Confidence is good, but we often forget that many failed quarterbacks exhibited confidence in their own abilities.]
The first reference takes us back to a time when Leigh Steinberg ruled the draft at quarterback, and the run-n-shoot was rocking in Houston.
" Whether or not their timing was off in regard to turning pro, Klingler and Maddox stand out as the best of the quarterback crop, and that’s a precious commodity in the NFL. Naturally, Steinberg wants to see his clients selected as high as possible, but his optimism about their rising draft stock is well-founded. “There aren’t a lot of quarterbacks coming out of the college ranks at a high level,” Steinberg said. “The question a team that needs a quarterback has to face is where to find him.” [April 17, 1992, Greg Logan, Newsday, “A big word that doesn’t have Klingler, Maddox regretting pro decision”]"
After the shock of a Klingler/Maddox double combo, the term was not dusted off in April until Akili Smith came along and defined rocketing up draft boards late in the process, and the Bengals took their next franchise passer.
"Cleveland will use the first pick to draft Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch or rapidly rising Oregon quarterback Akili Smith. [April 6, 1999, Observer News Services, Charlotte Observer, “QUARTERBACK CAROUSEL LEADS TO DRAFT CHAOS”]"
A few years later, it was a strong-armed quarterback from Tulane who received the “fast-rising” tag in April, and Steve Spurrier found the quarterback who would lead him to NFL glory.
"While Carr and Harrington are the only definite first-round quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Tulane’s fast-rising Patrick Ramsey could jump into the top 30. Ramsey played well in the postseason and at the combine. [April 15, 2002, Kevin Mannix, The Boston Herald, “Carr, Harrington at Head of Class”]"
However, no quarterback with the possible exception of Akili Smith defined combine and pro day rising star like Kyle Boller of California, who had arm strength that made the scouts drool.
"KYLE BOLLER — In one year, this quarterback has gone from a college flop to one of the fastest-rising players in the draft. During his first three seasons at Cal, the former prep star was as shaky as the team around him. Things turned around when Jeff Tedford, who had molded Joey Harrington at Oregon, took over as head coach and took Boller under his wing. Boller and the Golden Bears responded beautifully, and the 6-3, 235-pound QB has continued his ascent on scouting lists since the season ended. Football men marvel at Boller’s great arm, surprising speed and athleticism. He’s a sure first-rounder now. [April 26, 2003, Joe Klein, San Diego Union-Tribune, “Some players can carry baggage”]"
The next time it came up in an article was in reference to Philip Rivers, so I include it because it fit the terms. Rivers was a four year starter who was long considered a first round pick, though, so his rise was just to #4 to surpass Big Ben. I also include it, though, because it is full of so much fun. I mean, has that headline been used in a draft article every year and just recycled? Also, Browns fans, you’ll be happy to know that you didn’t need a starting quarterback when Roethlisberger was available, because you had Jeff Garcia.
"Gallery, Taylor and Winslow are gone, that could mean Roethlisberger might not be, especially because North Carolina State’s Phillip Rivers apparently is rising up draft boards. After signing Jeff Garcia in March, the Browns don’t need a starting quarterback. But Roethlisberger might be too enticing to turn down. [April 17, 2004, Columbus Dispatch “BROWNS HAVE HOLES TO FILL IN DRAFT, BUT WHO’LL BE AVAILABLE?”]"
If you are Washington, and you have a chance to replace one rising draft star with another, you have to do it. It’s especially awesome when you go for a rising star one spot after someone else falls way down in the draft because they had the stench of Tedford upon them.
"Both picks worked out pretty much as Washington hoped, if the pre-draft chatter of club officials was any indication. Rogers best filled the Redskins’ desired blend of size and speed among the draft’s top three corners, while fast-rising Campbell gave coach Joe Gibbs insurance at the “quarterback of the future” spot. Patrick Ramsey, of course, already was the quarterback of the future – and the present. But Gibbs yesterday reiterated his strong support of Ramsey in the near term and explained that counting on one passer doesn’t preclude stockpiling talent at the position. [April 24, 2005, Jody Foldesy, Washington Times, “Staying Put”]"
The next year, Jay Cutler truly does qualify as the best success for the riser crowd, getting into the discussion with Young and Leinart as April approached, when it was previously considered that those two were out in front. Reese’s quote is sweet, because if you have a chance to combine Leinart’s brains and Young’s athleticism, you would truly have something special. Cutler has been able to stick around despite being their love child.
"“Big” is the adjective that makes Jay Cutler the quarterback with the fastest-rising stock in the NFL draft. Big as in 6-3, 226 pounds. A big arm that was unaffected by brutal weather at his pro day workout for NFL scouts March17. A big, competitive heart that didn’t waver in four seasons as a starter for a Vanderbilt team that often was physically outmatched in the Southeastern Conference. But for teams that aren’t drafting high enough to land either of the most touted quarterbacks in this draft — Southern California’s Matt Leinart and Texas’ Vince Young — there’s a subtler appeal about Cutler. “I call him the happy medium,” Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese says. “He has Matt’s brains, arms and accuracy, and he has Young’s mobility and size.” [April 19, 2006, Tom Weir, USA Today, “Fast-rising Cutler aims to be cut above; Quarterback says playing at Vanderbilt gives him an arm up in NFL draft”]"
Well, that probably isn’t right about Cutler being the best, not when the best quarterback currently in the league was a rising star the next season.
" Flacco appeared at a quasi-roast for Favre on Friday. One day later, the spotlight was to shift to the NFL draft, and neither the former Green Bay quarterback or the Seattle signal-caller would be a topic. But Flacco was expected to be. He is the rising QB in this year’s crop, a Division I-AA product from Delaware with a bazooka arm, a calm presence and a ton of leadership. [April 26, 2008, Barry Wilner, Associated Press “Delaware’s Joe Flacco is rising QB in 2008 draft”]"
Remember a long time ago when Mike Mayock had Mark Sanchez over Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman? Freeman gets on this list, but not in as glowing terms, as he was merely rising on some boards.
" This year, Mayock is staking his reputation on another quarterback from a big-time program, but not Matthew Stafford. While the strong-armed Georgia quarterback appears to be the consensus top prospect, and with Kansas State’s Josh Freeman rising on some draft boards, Mayock is convinced USC’s Mark Sanchez has the best upside among the three. “Stafford and Freeman have huge arms,” Mayock said recently via conference call. “They’re both more athletic than people think for their size, and they both have tremendous upside.” [April 19, 2009, Geoff Mosher, Courier Post “Mayock: Sanchez is Top QB”]"
Finally, last year, when I interviewed Christian Ponder before the draft, I thought he was an early second round pick who might get into the first round based on demand. Instead, the Vikings stunned us by taking him 12th overall.
" Like Boyd, Florida State junior EJ Manuel of Virginia Beach’s Bayside High is a dual-threat quarterback, except that at 6-foot-5 he’s four inches taller. He succeeds Christian Ponder, whose NFL draft stock reportedly is rising. [April 22, 2011, David Teel, Daily Press, “757 Guys Impressive in Spring Practice”]"
[photo via US Presswire]