FLOWERY BRANCH - The D.J. doubters will wise up sooner or later.
D.J. Shockley, formerly of Georgia and now with the Atlanta Falcons, is a competitor. He is intelligent and physically gifted.
And more than anything, Shockley is a darn good quarterback. Period.
Not a college quarterback.
Not a system quarterback.
The Falcons drafted him with their last pick in April because they liked him - and no doubt because they understood his PR value. Bring him in to please the masses, let him compete with Bryan Randall for the third quarterback job and see what happens.
And Shockley, a man known for making the most of opportunities, is excelling. Forget his numbers in the first two preseason games: 5-for-15 for 50 yards is misleading. Keep in mind the linemen he is playing behind and the wide receivers he's throwing to.
Shockley has shown the one intangible every NFL coach values: Poise. He eludes pressure without taking his eyes off targets downfield. When he forces throws, he always puts the ball in spots where only the best or luckiest defenders can intercept it.
Shockley will make the Falcons' roster. Even if he loses the competition with Randall, the Falcons will want Shockley on the practice squad.
That's because Shockley's presence is no longer about this season and being a third-string quarterback. His promise is for the future, and specifically what he could mean for the Falcons once Matt Schaub leaves in free agency after this season.
Schaub is in the last year of his contract, and the only way the Falcons re-sign him is if Michael Vick suffers a long-term injury. Schaub wants to be a starter and will get that chance elsewhere next year, or will at least be given the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
With Schaub gone, the Falcons are potentially right back where they were three years ago. Vick breaks his leg in the preseason. Veteran Doug Johnson takes over at quarterback. Atlanta finishes with a 5-11 record.
Shockley gives Atlanta another option. He might not be ready to play in Vick's place next year, but the Falcons can do the same thing with him as they did with Schaub in his second year - sign a veteran like Ty Detmer, just in case.
What makes Shockley so intriguing as a quarterback is nobody knows how good he can be. He has started just 12 games since high school and his team won 10 of those. He completed 56 percent of his passes and threw 19 more touchdowns than interceptions.
Shockley's limited experience against top-level talent no doubt hurt him in the draft. He admitted as much during the pre-draft scouting combine. The 31 NFL teams other than the Falcons saw a guy with an unorthodox throwing motion who wasn't good enough to start for his college team until he was a senior.
Never mind that he would have started three or even four years most anywhere else.
The decision to pass on Shockley could ultimately be the right one. Yet there are enough Tom Bradys (sixth-round pick) and Kurt Warners (undrafted) out there to question teams' abilities to evaluate quarterbacks.
The Falcons had nothing to lose by drafting Shockley, the hometown boy and the home state hero. He is rewarding them for their faith.
And there is no doubt about that.
Adam Van Brimmer is an Atlanta-based writer for Morris News Service.
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