Big 12 quarterbacks

What does it mean to be a strong-armed quarterback in the Big 12?

Well, it depends. There are currently four Big 12 alums starting at quarterback in the National Football League: Sam Bradford, St. Louis; Colt McCoy, Cleveland; Blaine Gabbert,

Sam Bradford hasn't yet found consistency as an NFL quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.

Jacksonville; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay. Their teams have a combined record of 13-27. Another former Big 12 quarterback, Chase Daniel, is Drew Brees’ backup in New Orleans.

From the numbers some of these guys – and others – put up during their days in the Big 12, it’s fair to expect they would be doing more in the NFL. But for all of the success of Big 12 quarterbacks during the past five seasons, the results at the next level have been midling.

It was in 2007 that the Big 12 transformed into a passing conference, one that has produced some big-time passers who accumulated daunting statistics. That 2007 group included Bradford (Oklahoma), McCoy (Texas), Daniel (Missouri), Freeman (Kansas State), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Todd Reesing (Kansas), Sam Keller (Nebraska) and Blake Szymanski (Baylor). All eight ranked among the top 45 nationally in passing yards per game as Big 12 offenses produced an average of 3,573 passing yards for the season, up 671 yards from 2006.

And we were just getting started.

In 2008, Big 12 offenses produced an average of 3,617.6 passing yards. There has been a decline in yards through the air since, from 3,213.9 in 2009 to 3,157.3 in 2010 to 2,927.1 this season. But footballs still fly in the Big 12, which has produced 192,463 passing yards (just a tad below 110 miles worth) since the 2007 season. It’s gotten to the point where the numbers are difficult to process because they’re so outlandish.

The spread offense, of course, gets credit – or blame – for the boom in passing yardage. But how difficult must it be for NFL scouts to judge these quarterbacks? The Big 12 has three quarterbacks this season who seem to project well for the next level: Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. All three should be prominent in Heisman Trophy voting. But as good as they are in the Big 12, are any of them “can’t miss” pro prospects.

I don’t think so. I don’t think there is such an animal these days because of the crazy numbers that are so commonplace.

Jones and Weeden are strapping quarterbacks who look like they belong in the NFL already. And Griffin III has the arm and legs to be a great NFL quarterback, you would think. Again, though, there are just no guarantees and the gaudy numbers put up by these quarterbacks just don’t tell the whole story.

Look at Bradford, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. He had a nice rookie season but has been a bust so far in 2011. It’s hard to say how he’ll progress from here and he was as close to a lock as there is for becoming a standout NFL quarterback.

The best of the Big 12 bunch of the past five seasons so far has been Freeman, although he has taken a step back this season in Tampa Bay. Still, he’s considered by most among the top 12 to 15 quarterbacks in the NFL.

Look at where Big 12 quarterbacks have ranked nationally in the key categories since the 2007 season. It’s been an amazing run of statistically-gifted quarterbacks, some of whom are now in the NFL, some of whom are resting on their immense college laurels and some of whom are still putting up big numbers and lofty credentials.

2011

Passing efficiency

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

8.  Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

17. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

36. James Franklin, Missouri

44. Ryan Tannahill, Texas A&M

Passing yards per game

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

3. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

5. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

7. Seth Doege, Texas Tech

13. Ryan Tannahill, Texas A&M

38. James Franklin, Missouri

Total passing yards

2. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech

6. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

13. Ryan Tannahill, Texas A&M

37. James Franklin, Missouri

2010

Passing efficiency

16. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

24. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

29. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

30. Carson Coffman, Kansas State

37. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

41. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

Passing yards per game

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

3. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

9. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

17. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

26. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

37. Garrett Gilbert, Texas

Total passing yards

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

3. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

9. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

13. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

21. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

45. Garrett Gilbert, Texas

2009

Passing efficiency

16. Colt McCoy, Texas

29. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville

37. Taylor Potts, Baylor

39. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

44. Todd Reesing, Kansas

Passing yards per game

3. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

6. Todd Reesing, Kansas

9. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

11. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

14. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

25. Colt McCoy, Texas

Total passing yards

6. Todd Reesing, Kansas

7. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

8. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

11. Colt McCoy, Texas

12. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

20. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

2008

Passing efficiency

1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

3. Colt McCoy, Texas

8. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

10. Chase Daniel, Missouri

14. Joe Ganz, Nebraska

17. Todd Reesing, Kansas

27. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

33. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

34. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

Passing yards per game

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

5. Chase Daniel, Missouri

7. Todd Reesing, Kansas

8. Colt McCoy, Texas

12. Joe Ganz, Nebraska

22. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

31. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

33. Austen Aurnaud, Iowa State

Total passing yards

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

4. Chase Daniel, Missouri

8. Todd Reesing, Kansas

9. Colt McCoy, Texas

12. Joe Ganz, Nebraska

25. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

27. Josh Freeman, Kansas

2007

Passing efficiency

1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

6. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

12. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

14. Todd Reesing, Kansas

15. Chase Daniel, Missouri

24. Colt McCoy, Texas

Passing yards per game

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

8. Chase Daniel, Missouri

18. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

19. Sam Keller, Nebraska

20. Todd Reesing, Kansas

24. Blake Szymanski, Baylor

25. Colt McCoy, Texas

42. Cody Hawkins, Colorado

45. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

49. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

Total passing yards

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

5. Chase Daniel, Missouri

18. Todd Reesing, Kansas

20. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

22. Colt McCoy, Texas

29. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

36. Cody Hawkins, Colorado

43. Blake Szymanski, Baylor

44. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State