After publishing my rankings on all the other positions in the draft, I want to wrap things up with the quarterback class. Overall this is a pretty weak group of signal-callers coming into the league for this upcoming season. There are four of them that could end up being selected in the first round because of how many teams are looking for a QB. After that the other players available all have question marks, whether those are injuries, a lack of size or arm strength, accuracy or decision-making. Personally I would only select two of them in the first round and maybe another five on day two.
I watched tape on a few other guys if you want my opinion on them, but this is a very good and deep draft at many positions. Some teams will reach to find their solution at the most important position, while better prospects stay on the board.
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson:
The thing that stands out about Watson is the fact he’s not afraid of the big moment. He had two huge games against Alabama in the National Championship with 400+ yards and four touchdowns in each of those games. The Clemson star possesses supreme confidence, but definitely not what you would consider pin-point accuracy. He’s too careless with the ball (30 interceptions in the last two seasons), especially late in games, although many of those picks should not have been made, as they were typically safe throws or came down to miscommunication. Watson didn’t have problems connecting on deep balls with air under those throws, but rather when his first or maybe even second read wasn’t open, as he struggled fitting the ball into tight windows. He is great at laying the ball up for his playmakers and excels at back-shoulder throws, but he struggles with accuracy on some timing throws throughout games, mainly when he’s sloppy with his footwork. He will throw some passes to where only his receiver can make the catch and others where the ball sails over the guy’s head, sometimes right into the defender’s hands. At the scouting combine he looked exceptional dropping back and getting the ball out on time. He will have to show he can do it in pads as well. Watson presents outstanding athleticism for the position and consistently burned defenses with his scrambling ability, but he will have to work on not leading defenders to the play with his eyes and looking safeties off from where he wants to go with the ball. A couple of things I don’t think people give him enough credit for are his pocket presence and how tough he is. He has a nifty running style in the open field, but he takes a lot of big shots and comes back into the huddle like nothing happened. To me what you get with Watson is a proven winner and leader, who will need some time to get accustomed to making pre-snap adjustments by himself and will have some growing pains with his decision-making, but he possesses a trait nobody else in this draft class has shown – the ice in his veins to not let the stage be bigger than himself and shine in the most crucial moments. He has the demeanor and leadership qualities to be the face of a franchise.
2. Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina:
Mr. Biscuit looks like the prototype for the quarterback position and has excellent athleticism. The knock on him is that he was just a one-year starter (13 total games), but he put up impressive numbers that season (30 TDs and only six INTs with a 68 percent completion rate) on more than 400 pass attempts. Trubisky shows nice pocket presence with subtle movement to avoid the rush, but also has the strength to shrug defenders off and scan the field some more. He’s not afraid of hanging in the pocket and delivering passes with defenders right in his face. When he has room to step into his throw he can exploit voids in zone-coverage, but he also is the best of this class in throwing on the run. The North Carolina one-year wonder wins with accuracy and anticipation, as he loves to throw comeback- and out-routes. I think he does an excellent job not letting defenses read his eyes and he keeps them off balance with nice pump-fakes. Something he excels at is red-zone efficiency, as he threw for 17 touchdowns and not a single interception. He certainly has the mobility to take off and pick up first downs when things break down. I would have liked to see him push the ball down the field a little more, but he definitely has the arm strength to make all the throws. Trubisky got caught against robber coverages at times and might get fooled at times by what defenses do after the snap. Statistically he had his worst games as a Tarheel in the Sun Bowl against Standford and he did make a mistake on both of those interceptions, but if you watch the game you also see some perfect throws, the escapability he possesses and the killer instincts, even though he had two touchdowns dropped by teammates. At this point he certainly isn’t a finished product and he only has one year of starting experience, which was in a spread-offense, but he has all the tools you are looking for in a franchise quarterback and we don’t know how good he can be one day. If it’s as good as his 2016 season was – look out!
3. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame:
Kizer has elite size for the position. Moreover, he possesses a strong arm, huge hands and is a great overall athlete. He has shown he can throw with touch and timing, making two or three throws where you go “wow” in every game he played. What bothered me about his tape was the fact he struggled too often late in games, breaking down his mechanics and trying too hard to make things happen. That even led to him being benched in the fourth quarter twice in 2016. His future coaches in the NFL will have to work hard on that aspect of his game and make him understand that he can only do his job. Another thing he lacks is innate pocket presence, as he takes a lot of blind-side sacks. On the other hand, what impressed me most about him was the toughness he displayed. Notre Dame lost their left tackle (Ronnie Stanley) and center (Nick Martin) – the two most important positions on the offensive line – to the NFL last year and Kizer took a lot of big hits, but he got up every single time and rallied his troops again. The N.C. State game comes to mind, where in the blistering rain Kizer was buried by multiple defenders throughout the day, but did everything he could to give his team a shot at winning. That’s what you want to see in a leader. He has some snaps over the course of games where the play is absolutely dead and he refuses to take the negative gain by running around and trying to create some positive yardage, but at the same time he will have to learn when to live for another snap, just throwing it away or taking the sack instead of throwing balls up for grabs. The former Irish QB certainly isn’t ready to play at this point and probably should have gone to school for another year, as consistent accuracy and poise simply aren’t there yet, but he has a very high ceiling and could bring some big pay-off in a couple of years when you give him time to develop. When you listen to him, he definitely sounds smart enough to get it done in the league.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech:
This guy is a gunslinger with a cannon of an arm. You never know when and how the ball is coming out of his hands, throwing it from all different angles. Mahomes shows unbelievable competitive fire and had to put up 50 points with his offense to have a chance to win. There were only two games where they lost by more than one score last season. The Red Raiders threw the ball more than anybody else in 2016, as their quarterback passed for 470 yards or more in half their games and once finished with 734 yards in a single game versus Oklahoma. He can throw the ball on a line-drive, but he’s even better at putting some air under it and dropping it into a bucket. His ability to scramble around, reset his feet and fire the ball over half the field is unbelievable, but he can also take off and be elusive in the open field. There’s no doubt the Texas Tech QB does some pretty bad things and makes some questionable decisions, but his throwing talent, fearlessness and just pure playmaking ability are crazy. You see some plays where he runs all the way to the sideline and makes defenders commit to him before floating it over the top of them. Or another time he has two defenders right in his face and shoots the ball 50 yards down the field off his back-foot. He’s just fun to watch. To me Mahomes is kind of the wildcard in this quarterback class, because you know about how he can throw the ball all over the yard and improvise, but we haven’t seen him take a five-step drop and go all the way through his progression to find the open man. He needs some pro-coaching bad, but at the same time he shows some things you can’t coach. NFL coaches will get crazy about how loose he is with the ball in his hands and when he just heaves the ball somewhere when taking a hit. He’s simply a true football player, but he needs to learn how to play in a pro system and could easily turn out to be a huge bust if some team reaches for him in the first round. If he somehow finds a way translate his game to the next level that gamble on him could turn out to be a god-send.
5. Chad Kelly, Mississippi:
This guy has a huge arm and loves to show it off. He can get the ball out with timing and anticipation, but also hang in the pocket and deliver shots down the field. What stands out about him is his extremely quick release, even on deep balls, as he often gets rid of the ball at the last moment. His favorite throws are hitches, out-routes from the slot and back-shoulder fades, where he lays it to the outside where only his guy can get it. Other passes I think he does a terrific job on are slants and different in-routes, where he rifles it low to the ground, to where the defensive backs can’t get their hands on it. He displays excellent mobility and finds a way to escape the pocket when necessary. As a runner he’s extremely tough and fights for first-down yardage, even though GMs and coaches might be scared about him getting injured. Kelly plays his best against the biggest competition, most notably his two games against Alabama. I mean he won in Tuscaloosa as a junior. He was the only one to defeat the Tide at home over the last four years. His biggest problem on the field is the fact he wants to make things happen if they’re not there. You like the confidence to fit the ball into some tight windows, but Kelly also has to understand when the receiver isn’t really open. The former Ole Miss QB tore his ACL in the later parts of 2016 and made some questionable decisions including being involved in a bar-fight, running onto the field of his brother’s high-school football game and other stuff. Now he had surgery on his hand and won’t throw for up to three months. Without those medical issues and off-the-field concerns he could be a first-rounder. I know he probably won’t be drafted before day three, but in a year where everybody’s saying there are no true franchise quarterbacks available, why not take a chance on this guy? He has all the tools to be that player and he’s just a gamer. If Johnny Manziel is drafted in the first round, why not even take a chance on Kelly?
6. Brad Kaaya, Miami:
The first thing that you see with Kaaya is that the ball comes out of his hand beautifully and his overall technique is pretty fundamentally sound. He keeps the ball high and always ready for the release, he runs excellent play-fakes and gets his feet set quickly. The Canes QB for the last three seasons can put some air under the ball and throw it with velocity to drop it into the hands of his receivers streaking downfield. What I like about him on tape is the way he sets plays up, by looking off safeties and then he has the ball-placement away from the defenders and giving his playmakers a chance. which shows up in the red-zone chance. Kaaya looks like a big-time QB with a clean pocket, but his mechanics and overall play break down when he feels the rush, the perfect example for me is Miami’s bowl game against West Virginia, where he struggled in the first quarter (5 for 13 for 29 yards), but once he was protected properly he picked their defense apart, going 19 for 21 for 253 yards and four touchdowns. The problem is if he gets hit a couple of times early he tends to see ghosts and doesn’t trust the protection. I’d like to see him get his entire body into throws even if it means taking a hit, because that’s when his accuracy isn’t the same it usually is. Overall, I think if Kaaya is surrounded with the right pieces, most importantly a solid offensive line, he can be a very productive quarterback. If you expect him to solve all your offensive struggles he won’t make you that happy. He doesn’t have a killer arm or great mobility, but he can make all the throws, spread the ball around and lead your team down the field.
7. Davis Webb, California:
This guy maybe is the best overall thrower of the ball in the draft. He looks calm in the pocket and can chuck the ball downfield off his back-foot when needed, but when he gets happy feet his ball-placement suffers. His style of play kind of resembles the guy who kept him on the bench last season and was picked first overall in last year’s draft – Jared Goff. By that I mean neither one of them is very mobile, but they both do an excellent job defeating the blitz when they see what the defense is doing. Like the Rams QB of the future, Webb was asked to throw the ball a ton in 2016, as he finished the season with 620(!) pass attempts for almost 4300 yards and 37 touchdowns compared to just 12 interceptions. No doubt those stats were inflated because of Cal’s up-tempo, air-raid offense, but he had to score tit-for-tat with all those high-scoring Pac-12 teams, as the Golden Bears defense gave up 42.6 point per contest. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not as good as Goff coming into the draft. He doesn’t read defenses or excel at making decisions the same way, but he has a stronger arm, doesn’t lack any confidence and was described as one of the hardest workers in the facility by his former coaches. Like I said, he shows some inconsistencies with accuracy throughout full games especially when the rush finds his way to him. A good example for what kind of player he is: Webb beat San Diego State to death on deep balls and almost led his team back in the fourth quarter, but he did feel the pressure in the end and threw the game-clinching pick. His talents will push him up draft boards and some team will probably take a gamble on him early in the second round, but he needs time to develop to have a chance in the league.
8. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee:
Dobbs is an unbelievably likable kid. What stands out about him are the mental toughness and intelligence he displays. The Vol’s starting QB over the last two seasons works quickly through his progressions and you can see how he often gets the ball to his second and third target, which translates very well to the pro game. He throws a very catchable ball and has a big arm to push it down the field. Dobbs is an outstanding athlete with the speed and elusiveness in the open field to burn defenses as a runner, but he also constantly buys extra time with his feet. He needs to keep his footwork clean and step into the throw to get the pass off right, because that’s when he gets inaccurate. On inside-breaking routes he delivers the ball on time and target, but occasionally he will release the ball flat-footed and therefore let it sail or plant it to the turf short of the receiver. Something I went crazy about on tape was the ball-security, or lack thereof, he showed. He tucks the ball high and tight, but he has to understand when to put his second hand on it to protect it, as he fumbled ten times last season alone. All things considered, Dobbs still shows too inconsistent overall play at this point, but he definitely has starter traits. I don’t think the next Dak Prescott is in this draft class (in terms of a mid-round gem), but if I had to guess who it could be, this would be my guy.
9. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh:
At 6’2’’ Peterman doesn’t impress with his physical attributes, but he had two solid years with 47 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions. He is at his best when he gets the ball out on time and with anticipation. He fits the mold of the so-called game-manager, but he also throws the ball well on the run and if nothing’s open he takes what he can get with his feet. Peterman lacks pure arm strength to push the ball towards the sideline or down the field and he is way too sluggish with his ball-security, but you can tell he has a good feel for the game. He works his way through progressions and puts the ball on his target when receivers come out of their breaks or right in stride to lead them down the field. When you want to see how good he could be, turn on the Panthers’ upset win over Clemson, in which he threw for over 300 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. Pitt’s head-coach and former defensive coordinator at Michigan State compared him to Kirk Cousins and I think that’s his ceiling. With all the speed in the NFL and more complex coverages I could also see him riding the bench though. I thought Cousins arm was quite a bit better coming into the draft, but with the way Peterman plays the game from his shoulders up he’ll get his opportunity to compete somewhere.
10. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech:
Similar to Dobbs, this guy is pretty raw, but he has arm talent. Evans runs extremely hard with the ball and has some shake to himself to slither through defenses. When you see him run through linebackers at the goal-line you think you’re watching Cam Newton at times, because he really is a load to bring down at around 235 pounds. As a passer he shows a lot of inconsistencies with his footwork and release, as he fires an absolute bullet to his receiver over the middle on one play and then shows a hitch and shortened rotation, which ends up with him floating a pass along the sideline the next. What I tip my hat off to him about was the supreme toughness he displayed for the Hokies, as he took a beating all day long against Clemson and still hung in there until the very end, almost leading a big comeback against the would-be national champs. There’s no question about how powerful his arm is, but at Virginia Tech you rarely saw him look any further than his primary target before taking off and you wonder about his field vision as well as if he can handle a full NFL playbook. While I like his ability to deliver to his weapons deep, he often doesn’t get rid of the ball on time, as it arrives right on the sideline on out-routes for example, instead of when his man comes out of his break and allows some yards after the catch. He certainly won’t throw as many jump-passes or run through people the way he did in college, but he is worth a shot on day three as a developmental prospect.
Just missed the cut:
Zach Terrell, Western Michigan:
This guy was almost a four-year starter and led his team to an undefeated MAC-title in 2016. Terrell has improved steadily over his time at Western Michigan with a magical senior year, in which he completed just under 70 percent of his passes for more than 3500 yards, 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions. While those numbers look much better than what quarterbacks in the major conferences put up because of the weaker competition and him having one of the premiere receivers in college football over the last couple of years in Corey Davis, what he’s done is impressive. Terrell is very accurate and throws with good touch. He sees the field very well and can put the ball over the top of linebackers. While he might not be a huge threat taking off, he shows a ton of toughness as a runner. His size and arm are not on an NFL-level and he will not be able to make all the throws necessary, but while he might not be regarded as one of the top prospects and wasn’t invited to the combine, he has confidence in himself and will work his way onto a roster.
C.J. Beathard, Iowa:
Beathard has starting experience in a pro-style offense in the Big Ten, where he won a lot of close games against elite competition. He pays attention to laying the ball in stride and can throw the ball on the numbers as well as over defenders or shovel it quick over the middle. I really like the way he sets up screens as well. His mobility is a lot better than what he gets credit for and he consistently made quarterback sneaks work. The former Hawkeyes QB has the arm strength to push the ball deep, but he lacks accuracy on those throws. I thought he had a much better 2015 than 2016 season, but so did the entire Iowa program. Beathard only had 30+ pass attempts three times in college because they were a run-heavy offense. He lacks some pocket awareness and completed less than 60 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. To me he should be a functional backup, but will probably be limited to that.
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M:
After transferring to A&M when Baker Mayfield arrived at campus in Oklahoma, Knight made the Texas program relevant again. His play style is kind of reminiscent of Marcus Mariota, as both those guys do a couple of unconventional things, like pitching the ball late to a teammate or side-arms throws when necessary. The difference between the two coming out is the fact Mariota showed the ability to make full-field reads occasionally, while Knight wasn’t really asked to go further than his first read a lot and Mariota completed 11.3 percent more of his passes. On the other I feel like the former Aggies QB displayed much better accuracy than his completion percentage in the mid-50s indicate, especially on short passes. The former Sooner and Aggie shows tremendous speed and overall athleticism when he gets downhill. The anticipation and ball-location are definitely questionable, but with his ability to escape the pocket and throw the ball on the run, you see some big-play potential.