The TCU quarterback is a proven winner—13--0 in '10—but has limited experience against topflight competition
If escorting senior citizens across the street were a combine drill, Andy Dalton would blow away the field. He helped start a prayer group at TCU and says his favorite hobby is spending time with his fiancée, Jordan Jones, whom he'll marry this July. The phrase NFL scouts frequently use in describing Dalton is great intangibles—their equivalent of saying a date has a nice personality. Dalton claims he's never read a scouting report on himself, but he agreed to listen patiently to a string of comments from analysts. Among them: lacks arm strength, not an elite athlete and limited upside. "I don't know where they got this stuff about arm strength," Dalton breaks in, annoyed. "Not one of these teams said they had a problem with my arm. In college I completed throws from the opposite hashmark, 15, 18 yards across the field, all the time. I think I can make any throw they've got in the NFL."
Yet the notion persists that Dalton's most attractive quality is his brain, not his arm. His big numbers last season—2,857 yards, 27 touchdown passes, six interceptions and a 13--0 record for the second-ranked Horned Frogs—are viewed skeptically because he played in the Mountain West. Even Dalton's biggest proponents downplay his physical skills. "There's no question some of the other guys in this draft have bigger arms," TCU coach Gary Patterson says. "Andy makes up for that. He knows how to win. No one's going to outstudy him. No one is going to be more prepared."
Dalton's efficiency and decision-making were on show last year. Working primarily out of the shotgun, he turned in gem after gem. On Sept. 18 at Fort Worth, he completed 21 of 23 passes for 267 yards and two TDs in a 45--10 victory over Baylor—"a Big 12 school, keep in mind," says Patterson. In a 21--19 defeat of No. 4--ranked Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Dalton completed 15 of 23 throws for 215 yards, one TD and no turnovers. "I had him ranked seventh among the quarterbacks during the season, but the Rose Bowl showed a lot," longtime NFL scout Gil Brandt says. "He had a lot of poise against a very good team on a very big stage."
The 6'2", 215-pound Dalton spent the spring improving his drop-back footwork and says teams have been working him out under center, with one exception—the Patriots, who rely on the shotgun more than most clubs. "Dalton's got it, that same quality Tom Brady has," says Brandt. "You can see it in the way he relates to his receivers and the people around him. People want to follow him. That's why he won so much at TCU."
Dalton was invited to New York for the draft. When asked if shaking Roger Goodell's hand would be the biggest thrill of the off-season, he paused to consider, then made another cunning read. "No way," he said. "That's my wedding. Come on, I'm not going to make that mistake."
PURPLE PRAISE Dalton's supporters point to wins over Baylor and Wisconsin in big-game settings.