NORMAN — Freshman quarterback Landry Jones might be in the Oklahoma starting lineup sooner than first thought. In ESPN’s latest NFL Draft rankings, Sooner quarterback Sam Bradford is rated as the best overall prospect eligible for the upcoming draft.
Wrote ESPN draft guru Todd McShay: "Rare accuracy and instincts should make him a high NFL Draft pick whenever he chooses to make the leap.” That’s a question Bradford will have to answer — whether to make the leap. "I don’t think that makes sense considering I’m going to be in school next year. That’s a long way down the road,” said Bradford, who was initially surprised when told of ESPN’s ranking. "Obviously, you think about it when the time comes. But I haven’t put any thought in that right now. When the time comes where I do need to sit and think about it, I will. But right now, it’s the last thing on my mind.” Up to a dozen NFL teams could be in the market for a quarterback come April, when the draft is held. And this draft class appears to be weak at quarterback, with Georgia junior Matthew Stafford being the only other quarterback to crack ESPN’s Top 32 prospects. That’s why staying in college another year or two could mean putting off big money. The second pick of the 2008 draft, Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, signed a six-year, $72-million contract, with $34.75 million in guaranteed money. LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top pick of the 2007 draft, signed a six-year deal worth $68 million, including $31.5 million guaranteed. "We’ll talk about it after the season,” said OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. "If that’s where he’s projected, then that’s something we’ll have to talk about.” Coming into this season, few thought an early leap to the NFL was possible for Bradford, even though as a third-year sophomore he would be eligible to declare for the draft. But during the off-season, Bradford, who already had pro size at 6 feet, 4 inches, increased his arm strength and put on about 15 pounds of muscle, which obviously has caught scouts’ attention.
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Last OU QB to throw an NFL pass?Despite being one of the NFL’s top talent pipelines, Oklahoma hasn’t been a hotbed for producing quarterbacks. It’s been 59 years since an ex-OU quarterback other than Troy Aikman, who transferred to UCLA, completed a pass in the NFL. Indian Jack Jacobs threw 16 passes for the 1949 Green Bay Packers. Three were complete. Three were intercepted. Josh Heupel, Nate Hybl and Jason White all failed to stick in the NFL, despite being productive quarterbacks in college. Heupel finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. White won the award in 2003. Could Sam Bradford end that notorious streak when his time in Norman is done? Heupel thinks so. "Sam is extremely smart, extremely competitive,” he said. "He’s athletic, very accurate with the football. He’s great inside the locker room, the guys on the team love him. They believe in him. They see how hard he works and that allows him to push his teammates to work harder.” BY JAKE TROTTER