Former Rolling Meadows High School and Eastern Illinois University quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo already had a quick release and a live arm -- which scouts and coaches took notice of during the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine game in January.
But Garoppolo, who was the offensive MVP in the East-West game, continued to build on a productive postseason with an impressive performance at last week's NFL Scouting Combine.
In between the all-star games and the annual meat market at Indianapolis, the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Garoppolo continued to hone a skill set that has now elevated him into the second or third round on many draft boards.
"I've been out in Las Angeles training at the API (Athletes Performance Institute)," Garoppolo said at the Combine. "I've had a couple of different quarterback coaches helping me ... just working on my footwork, working on the release and everything, really just fine tuning everything getting ready for this."
It paid off big-time if the reviews of draft analysts can be believed. Garoppolo continues to get more national publicity in the off-season than he did during any of his four seasons as the starter at EIU, where he followed in the footsteps of former Panthers quarterbacks Tony Romo, Sean Payton and Mike Shanahan.
"The ball was jumping off his hand during passing drills Sunday, and he showed quick feet," ESPN.com's Todd McShay wrote after the quarterbacks' on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. "Teams will have to be convinced he can make the leap from playing against lower-level college competition to the NFL, but I was told he really impressed teams during interviews with his knowledge of the game; and on tape he appears to have functional NFL arm strength.
"There's good zip on his short and intermediate throws. The question is whether he can consistently drive the ball down the field on deep balls. He could wind up as a top-five QB in this class and would be a perfect fit as a developmental guy."
Bill Polian, who spent 24 years as a general manager with three NFL teams, also was impressed with Garoppolo's Combine work.
"He followed up a terrific East-West Shrine game with an outstanding Senior Bowl game, and then put on an impressive performance at the combine," according to Polian. "The ball jumped out of his hand during passing drills, showing a live arm and quick feet out of the shotgun (he wasn't as quick from under center, but he's still inexperienced in that area). He showed arm strength, presence and athleticism."
Garoppolo credits former NFL quarterback Ty Detmer with helping him become more precise with his mechanics and the mental part of playing the most difficult position in the NFL. Having played in a shotgun formation at EIU, Garoppolo has had to work on dropping back in the pocket after taking the snap from under center.
"He worked with me for about three days, and he just broke down the game for me," Garoppolo said of the 12-year NFL veteran. "He taught me things that I really had no clue about until he explained it. Then you're like, 'Oh, why didn't I think about that a long time ago?' Just how the fronts and the linebackers tie into the coverages, how different offensive formations dictate coverages.
"He worked with me in the pocket, getting me used to the three-, five- and seven-step drops and he's done a great job with me."
While not as important as his arm strength and mechanics, Garoppolo's other numbers at the Combine were similar to most of the top quarterbacks, including a 4.97 40-yard dash and a 30 1/2-inch vertical jump.
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