Andy Dalton is a first-rounder

TCU’s Andy Dalton hasn’t been mentioned much in the discussion of potential first round picks. Most analysts rank him outside the top three quarterbacks in this year’s draft class and project him to fall to the second or third round.

ESPN’s Trent Dilfer believes that’s because teams are playing it coy with their interest in Dalton.

“One of the reasons why he hasn’t generated as much momentum and hype is because what personnel and coaches do at this time of the year when they’ve kind of settle on who they want, they’re going to shut up about that guy,” Dilfer said Wednesday on Brock & Salk. “You’ll hear a lot of good stuff about (Arkansas’ Ryan) Mallett in the next couple weeks because they want to use him as a smoke screen. You’re going to hear a lot of good stuff about (Florida State’s Christian) Ponder because they want to use him as a smoke screen.

“At the end of the day, the good quarterback people in this league — I will not be wrong here — are going to be wanting Andy Dalton late in the first round or early second round if he happens to fall that far.”

Dalton started four years at TCU, racking up more than 10,000 passing yards with 71 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and a career completion rate of 61.7 percent. He also had 22 rushing touchdowns.

Dilfer said Dalton is good enough to warrant being taken by the Seahawks with the 25th pick, and if they pass on him then, another team will move up from the second round to take him.

“I’ll be shocked if I’m wrong here,” Dilfer said, “Andy Dalton will be taken in the first round.”

More from Dilfer:

He compared Dalton to Aaron Rodgers: “I can’t tell you how much Aaron Rodgers I see in Andy Dalton. They have tremendously quick releases, they can throw from multiple foot platforms, meaning they can be off balance, very aggressive by nature, (they can) extend the play, and they understand the value of a completion. I think that’s one of the biggest things in evaluating a quarterback that goes unnoticed is which guys understand the value of completing the football. It doesn’t have to be glamorous all the time but they’re going to get a completion, they’re going to move the chains and they’re going to get completions in the biggest moments of games. That’s what I see with Andy Dalton. If there’s one guy in this draft — if I was coaching — that I would want to coach, it’s Andy Dalton.”

He said the performance of a college player isn’t always the best gauge of how he will fare in the NFL. In particular, he said Jake Locker’s senior season was misleading: “I think he regressed in terms of performance. But that doesn’t determine the type of prospect he is. … I think the first thing that people have to understand about Jake is that he played with some tremendous injuries, injuries that a lot of guys would have packed in their bags and not taken a snap and worried about their pro careers. He embraced the college environment and wanted to go back even though he would have been a top-seven pick last year. He’s played with a lot of pressure. He’s played with talent that couldn’t protect him. They couldn’t protect past their first read this year at Washington. So there’s some circumstances or excuses if you want to call them that contributed to his regression in his performance.”

He thinks Matt Hasselbeck will be a hot commodity when free agency begins and said he’s not sure the Seahawks will be able to re-sing him: “Matt Hasselbeck’s the poster-boy for free agent quarterbacks in a long lockout situation because he can go to any offense late in the game, immediately adapt to the team environment, the leadership position, and executing an offense. … The longer this (lockout) goes, the more attractive Matthew Hasselbeck becomes. So he’s going to be very, very desirable in free agency. He knows that, his agent knows that. That’s why they’re headed for free agency. The Seahawks are going to have to pony up and pay him a lot of money. It won’t matter whether they take Dalton or Locker or whoever they do at 25, they still need Matthew to develop these guys.”