After listing my top ten prospects at each other position, finally here are my quarterbacks. With the mega-deals by the Rams and Eagles we already know who the first two will be that hear their name called on Thursday, but I think this is a very deep and talented class. Once again I’m projecting what kind of players they can become, so the guy at number one isn’t the only one, who wasn’t in the national spotlight during his collegiate career.
1. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
It has been quite some time since the top prospect at quarterback didn’t play at the FBS level, but Wentz is a special kid and to me the best since Andrew Luck. He is a terrific athlete at his position with a tall, robust frame, tremendous arm talent and outstanding mobility. He can make every throw when the pocket is clean and makes plays when it breaks down. At North Dakota State he ran a pro-style offense with a lot of different personnel packages, alignments and varieties to come out of them, plus he had more freedom at the line of scrimmage than any of the top quarterback in this class. Even though he’ll have to learn when a play is over and simply throw the ball away, coaches always said he looked like an All-American free safety when the Bisons had a turnover and that just tells me what kind of competitor he is. To me it doesn’t matter he played in the FCS, I saw enough from him at the Senior Bowl week to know he can play with the very best, the only real concern for me are his lack of reps, since he only started 23 games and missed time due to injury. The two things that put him in top for me are his intelligence and the fact he has proven he is a winner. If he learns not to show defenders that much with his eyes, he will turn into an elite signal caller someday.
2. Jared Goff, California
When you are the guy to take a team from 1-11 to 8-5 in two years that says a lot about your character and fight. Goff is clearly the most accurate thrower in the draft and his resume speaks for itself. He doesn’t have a huge arm, but there aren’t any throws he can’t make, he spreads the ball around well and has shown the ability to pick apart defenses a lot of times in the Bear’s up-tempo spread offense. The Cal standout has very sound, coordinated footwork, makes a lot of pre-snap reads and delivers the ball accurately even with pressure in his face. He knows when to hit his pass-catchers right out of their break as well as showing beautiful touch on throws down the seams. The big concern with him is his slim frame, which I think he could certainly add 10 to 15 pounds to. While he moves very well in the pocket, he isn’t a real scrambling threat and doesn’t throw the ball as well on the move as he does when he has his feet set, but he has great overview of the field and has shown me a ton of toughness, as he took quite a pounding at times but still didn’t miss a single game due to injury.
3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Boy, did he show off his arm at his pro day. On a very windy day Lynch threw some deep balls that made scouts’ jaws drop and with Goff and Wentz more than probably going first and second overall, he clearly is the next guy up as far as QBs go. He is all of 6’7’’, has huge hands, broad shoulders and overall a very intriguing skill set. In the pocket he displays light feet and good vision downfield. Much like Goff his frame could use some more weight, but he always gets up after taking a hit. His biggest problems are the fact he relies too heavy on arm talent rather than using proper technique and that he takes too many sacks. Even though Lynch set the records for most passing yards and touchdowns in 2015, he still is far from reaching his potential. If he learns how to combine what he can do with his arm with better fundamentals and when to get rid of the football he has a very high ceiling.
4. Connor Cook, Michigan State
This guy is a winner. He leaves MSU with a record of 34-5 and a lot of big wins including an appearance in the College Football Playoff. At 6’4’’ Cook has ideal size and the body type to maintain NFL hits, as he showed in the Big Ten where he had guys like Joey Bosa coming off the edge. I like how he sees the field and delivers the ball to all different levels with power as well as touch, depending on the circumstances. Cook struggles at times when he doesn’t have a clean pocket or the play is just breaking down in general and teams still question why he wasn’t a captain for the Trojans, but I give him a ton of credit for returning to East Lansing to help his team compete even though he was projected to be a first-rounder in last year’s draft.
5. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
This is one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire draft. After being labelled as a consenus first-rounder following his freshman year he has had a huge drop-off in years two and three. And while he certainly didn’t play up to his talent over that time, there were a couple of factors that hurt him. First of all he was much more comfortable in a pro-style offense like he ran under Bill O’Brien, before going to more of a spread look. Next he had a horrific offensive line in front of him that even had problems protecting their signal caller on screen plays. And finally he spent the majority of his time during his sophomore and junior season in the shotgun and while he has very good footwork from under center, he tends to get sloppy when lined up in shotgun. To me that was a huge reason for his lack of accuracy, which often is a knock on him. Hackenberg did a lot of things that didn’t show up on the stat sheet like checking out of plays, getting his team in the right one and being smart with the football, like throwing it away if the play wasn’t there. You can’t just overlook how his play declined after he burst onto the scene, but if he works on consistently keeping his feet moving and can work in more of a pro-style offense he could become a star.
6. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
This Bulldog looks more like a linebacker. When he came to college he was a great athlete and runner with the ball, but he became a much better quarterback this past season by doing most of his damage from the pocket. Prescott is often compared to Tim Tebow, but while he has similar measurements and also played under Dan Mullen, he is so much better of a passer. He has a big arm and is a true dual-threat QB with an aggressive, physical style of running, with the body type to withstand big hits. He will have to work hard on his footwork, not locking on his targets all the way and improve on how fast he can get through his progressions, but he has a unique skill-set and is a born leader, who head coach Dan Mullen called the best player he ever coached.
7. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
The best thing about Doughty is the fact he is smart with the football, which shows up in only 9 INTs in 540 pass attempts. This might lead people to think he doesn’t push the ball down the field, but he doesn’t shy away from trying to fit the ball into tight windows or giving his receivers a chance to make plays on it. The kid throws a very catchable ball with a tight spiral and to the spot where only his man can get it. He doesn’t have great arm strength and spent a lot of time in the shotgun which leads to questionable footwork as he gets sloppy a lot of times and he completely stops his feet after the first pump fake, but he can work with timing-routes, spreads the ball around and doesn’t turn it over much.
8. Cardale Jones, Ohio State
The description “big body with a huge arm” fits Jones pretty well. He burst onto the scene in a 59-0 blowout against Wisconsin, where he impressed with some big down-field throws and aggressiveness. When he gets out of the pocket and tucks the ball he is a determined runner. Jones was benched seven games into the season, but he showed improved footwork and had a 7-0 record during that span. His anticipation skills are still a work in progress and he wasn’t asked to read a lot of defenses, but he could succeed in a run-based offense, where he can fire shots down the field on play-action and develop his overall game.
9. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
You don’t want to be the guy next up after Andrew Luck, but Hogan has done everything right during his collegiate career. With a record of 36-10 he has proven to be a winner and do whatever it takes to get there. You can argue he had to orchestrate the most complex offense in college football with an enormous amount of personal groupings, blocking schemes and all kinds of stuff. Hogan has a cannon of an arm and great mobility on bootlegs and as a scrambler. While he doesn’t have a pretty release or pin-point accuracy, his instincts, smartness and understanding of his limitations at least make him a very good back-up.
10. Brandon Allen, Arkansas
When Bret Bielema took his ground-and-pound mentality to Arkansas he needed someone to take the pressure off the ground game, but Allen developed into something much more than that. He throws a very catchable ball with a tight-spiral and he shows great touch. He knows how to lead receivers on routes and has experience running bootlegs and throwing the ball on the run. I would like him to step into throws more aggressively and not twist his upper body that much. Allen lacks NFL size and loses trust in his protection when he gets hit a lot, but he has nice escapability and a good all-around skill-set.
Three more names: Cody Kessler (USC), Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech), Vernon Adams (Oregon)
Kessler doesn’t have the arm strength or size that attract scouts, but he gets the ball out quickly, has a feel for the pocket and is very accurate to at least make him a quality back-up.
Driskel on the other hand has all the traits you look for – size, arm strength and athleticism – but his accuracy gets wild at times and he hasn’t shown anywhere near the growth he was expected to when he arrived at Florida.
Labelled by many as a future CFL quarterback, Adams is an unbelievable playmaker, who doesn’t get any recognition because he doesn’t measure six feet. I’m not saying he is that type of player, but Russell Wilson has been pretty good too. If you want to know what he is capable of, just watch his performance at the East-West Shrine game.