Until the season begins the Carolina Panthers will be inexorably linked to the 2008 Green Bay Packers. Much like us going into the draft they had a promising, but untested QB in Aaron Rodgers and were scared that he wasn't going to be able to cut it as a starter. They proceeded to draft Brian Brohm in the second round, and Matt Flynn in the 7th round. Sound familiar?
Though the circumstances sound the same there really isn't any comparison between Brohm/ Flynn and Clausen/ Pike. Brohm was a hot commodity leading up to the combine where he showed that his spread offense roots may be a liability and he fell to the second round with a lot of analysts sending up warning flags that he looked lost taking snaps under center. Meanwhile Flynn had a lot of upside and fell a little further than expected.
Fast forward to 2010 where the Panthers have Jimmy Clausen who was supposed to go in the top ten, and Tony Pike who wasn't supposed to fall past the 5th round. It is Pike who is coming from the spread offense and looks rawer but at where the Panthers were able to take him it was a great spot to take a guy who won't be relied on.
It wasn't too far before the draft that Tony Pike was projected as a 2nd round pick. For a long time leading up to the combine it was a near consensus that the QB order would be Bradford, Clausen, Pike, McCoy; however, a poor showing at the combine destroyed his stock as teams became afraid he would be the next Brian Brohm.
No doubt Pike has some physical limitations as typified by his scouting report on Walter Football:
- Good height; can comfortably see over line
- Very quick decision-maker
- Great football intelligence
- Lacks some bulk in his body frame
- Extremely weak arm strength
- Lacks agility and athleticism; can't evade a pass rush
- Somewhat of a statue in the pocket
- Floats deep ball a little too much
- Not a very good passer on the run
- Throws difficult routes - but with unimpressive velocity/talent
For Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. it was less about the lack of arm strength and more about the offense he came from:
Tony Pike is accurate and tall enough to develop into an NFL backup and possibly a starter down the line. However, his ability to read NFL coverage is a concern and there are questions about his overall work ethic, so he may never reach that potential.
His ability to take advantage of and learn from the Detroit Lions coaching staff throughout the week will either amplify or dampen these concerns. In addition, Pike must prove he can make the transition from the spread attack of his college coach Brian Kelly to a pro-style system.
The lack of work ethic is definitely a concern, especially for someone who has as much to work on as Pike. We haven't seen any reports of him lacking desire at this time, but its early days.
Upside: B Pike possesses the stature and QB would love to have, but the lack of arm strength and bulk makes him look like a giraffe standing in a field and he looks fragile. With an NFL caliber strength and conditioning program I don't doubt this can improve in time.
New Era Scouting gives some interesting insights into Pike's lack of abilities:
Will leave the pocket too soon, despite not being the biggest quarterback. Does have good quickness, but has poor ball protection habits ... Quicker than many think, Pike turned in a nice 40 time (4.76) and 10 yard split (1.69). Pike has the speed to get outside the pocket, but his long-lanky frame makes him a liability on the move ... The biggest question mark is his durability; Pike missed time during his senior season with a broken forearm and many question his stature. The biggest questions are his durability and character. Pike is smart enough to be a starter, and throws a good enough ball to make plays.
Downside: D There is a very real possibility that Pike will never be able to develop the tools needed to be an NFL QB. He has myriad problems as it is, and if McShay is correct and he's a below average worker then there is a big possibility he'll never make an impact.
Fit: C It remains to be seen if Rip Scherer can mould a QB who needs as much work as Tony Pike. Though comparisons have been made to Derek Anderson they're not really comparable QBs. Ultimately though Pike has the ability to be a solid backup, but if the Panthers are really as high on Hunter Cantwell as reported it will take a big effort for Pike to get a spot on the roster in 2010.