Scouting the Draft: Quarterbacks

In Part 1 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, we examine a relatively weak class of quarterbacks. Among the prospects, Bryce Petty and Ryan Williams had predraft visits.

In Part 1 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, we examine the quarterbacks.

PACKERS AREA OF NEED (1 TO 10)

Five: The Packers should be OK with their starter.

Doing more with less, Aaron Rodgers turned in a season that had him walking away with his second NFL MVP Award. He completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 4,381 yards. He tossed 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions, and averaged 8.11 yards per attempt. Throw all of those numbers into the soup, and Rodgers finished with a passer rating of 112.2 that ranked just behind Tony Romo’s league-high 113.2.

His 38 touchdown passes trailed only Andrew Luck (40) and Peyton Manning (39), even though he threw 96 fewer passes than Luck and 77 less than Manning. And Rodgers’ touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7.6-to-1 was double Romo’s second-ranked 3.8 and one of the best in NFL history.

Rounding out the depth chart are Scott Tolzien and newcomer Matt Blanchard. Tolzien didn’t take a snap last season but remains a promising prospect. He easily outplayed Matt Flynn last preseason, though Flynn won the No. 2 job based on his body of work in keeping the Packers afloat when Rodgers went down in 2013. With Flynn unsigned, the No. 2 job is Tolzien’s — for now, anyway.

“I think Scott is definitely an ascending player,” coach Mike McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine. “I still think he has more growth in front of him. Then, the other part of it is the quarterback position. I don’t think you ever pass on a quarterback. It’s the most important position in the game. If you have one at a value that you’re comfortable and he’s in a position to pick him, I think you pick him.”

The question is, will there be one worth taking in a pretty bad quarterback draft?

IT’S WORTH NOTING

In Thompson’s first four drafts, he took four quarterbacks. Since then, he’s selected just one quarterback in the past six drafts — B.J. Coleman in the seventh round in 2012. All five quarterbacks taken by Thompson stood either 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3.

THOMPSON’S SUCCESS RATE

Rodgers and Flynn more than offset missing picks on the likes of Brian Brohm and Coleman.

ROUND 1

Jameis Winston, Florida State (6-4, 231): The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner is a terrific prospect from purely a physical perspective. If the point is to win games, Winston did that with a 26-1 record in his two seasons. He completed 66.0 percent of his passes for almost 8,000 yards, with 65 touchdowns against 28 interceptions. However, it’s worth noting he threw 18 interceptions in 2014 — a big number considering he played on the more talented team most games. Along with the off-the-field troubles, the Buccaneers face an incredibly difficult position with the No. 1 pick of the draft.

“The thing that I like about Jameis Winston is I think he throws an extremely catchable ball,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s got all the arm strength you want but he makes it easy for the receiver based on the route. He understands it. He naturally and innately gets it.”

Marcus Mariota, Oregon (6-4, 222): The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner topped 5,000 yards of total offense and had 58 total touchdowns vs. just seven turnovers in his final season. From a pure skill perspective, there’s almost nothing he can’t do. And he’s flawless off the field, too. The questions surrounding Mariota come from the offense he played in at Oregon. Mariota, like so many college quarterbacks, operate out of a spread offense. Rudimentary things, such as calling the play or taking a snap from under center or throwing on a seven-step drop, are foreign concepts.

“We're seeing a lot more of that style of offense. Not to focus on Marcus (but) there are more unknowns with them,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said. “So, if you try to project what he’s going to be in the NFL (and) you don’t seem him actually do those things, it’s like anything in life. There’s more uncertainty on how he’s going to be able to develop because you don’t see if happen very often. You don’t see a lot of things on the college tape you put a value on, so you have to speculate about it a little bit. With those players, you almost have to look as much at the intangibles. On their pro days, you put them in an environment where they have to do some of those things. It’s not a perfect science, but it gives you an idea about it. At the end of the day, when you look at a lot of quarterbacks coming from those systems to the NFL, some make the transition well. A lot of it has to do with the intangibles, his aptitude, his work ethic, his mental toughness.”


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


ROUNDS 2-3

Brett Hundley, UCLA (6-3, 226): Playing for former NFL coach Jim Mora, Hundley completed 67.5 percent of his passes for almost 10,000 yards, with 75 touchdowns (plus 29 more on the ground) in his three seasons. However, he fumbled a whopping 29 times — a shocking number considering he’s got big hands.

“With his active feet, this pro-style quarterback will not have any problems stepping up in the pocket at the next level,” reads one note from his scouting report. “With the way he scans the field, he is simply an athletic mover who is ready to throw in an instant. He could be highly effective in a no-huddle offense due to that fact, as his style of play reminds some of Donovan McNabb.”

Bryce Petty, Baylor: It’s no wonder why Petty was brought to Green Bay for a predraft visit. While some teams are cautious about spread-offense quarterbacks, McCarthy embraces them because it’s such a good simulation for playing on third down — which is the money down at the position. Plus, Petty knows how to take care of the football.

In two seasons as a starter, Petty completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 8,195 yards. Impressively, he threw 62 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions, plus added 21 more scores on the ground.

“The guy that’s a natural thrower of the football is Petty,” Mayock said. “Do I have a whole bunch of questions about pocket awareness? Absolutely. But if you’re just going to stand there and play catch in the backyard or play seven-on-seven, that’s my guy. He throws a beautiful football.”

The Packers didn’t burn one of their precious 30 visits on Petty if they weren’t seriously interested in taking him. Thus, if he’s somehow on the board at the end of the third round, don’t be shocked if the Packers take him. Maybe McCarthy can work his magic and Thompson can deal him for a first-rounder in 2017.

Garrett Grayson, Colorado State (6-3, 213): While most of the draft attention from the media has been accorded Heisman Trophy quarterbacks Winston and Mariota, many talent evaluators feel Grayson has mounted a valid challenge to Hundley and Petty as the No. 3 quarterback. Running the Rams’ pro-style offense, Grayson rewrote the school record book with 4,006 passing yards, 32 touchdowns (seven interceptions) and 64.3 percent accuracy as a senior.

“He has enough arm strength to get decent accuracy on his long tosses when he steps up in the pocket,” reads his scouting report. “When he throws with a high release, he demonstrates outstanding quickness. He can throw across his body effectively, but there are times you have to question his ability to improvise on the move. Grayson does a decent job of placing his long tosses on the outside shoulder of his targets, but has better success executing those throws from the pocket. When firing deep on the move, his receivers will generally need to adjust, as his attempts will tend to flutter thanks to a lack of ideal arm strength.

If he’s on the board at the end of the third round, don’t be surprised if the Packers pull the trigger in a draft-and-trade scenario similar to the aforementioned possibility with Petty.


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


ROUNDS 4-7

Or, in this case, the final two rounds ...

Brandon Bridge, South Alabama (6-4, 229): After two seasons at Alcorn State, Bridge followed his coach to South Alabama. As a senior, he completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,927 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He played in a spread scheme. He has tremendous upside but couldn’t possibly be more raw. And 40 touchdowns vs. 27 interceptions for his career against subpar competition doesn’t exactly engender thoughts of stardom. Nor does his completion percentage in a league in which 60 percent isn’t good enough. But, given the state of the quarterback position, he’s well worth a flier. For what it’s worth, the Packers did not send a scout to his pro day. However, if the Packers are sold on Tolzien as their No. 2, then why not see if they can coach up Bridge for a couple of seasons?

“He’s a tall drink of water with a whip,” Mayock said. “He’s got not much of a clue about footwork. He gets out of position a lot. His accuracy is all over the place. But he’s the kind of guy you’d like to work with.”

Cody Fajardo, Nevada (6-2, 223): Facing the unenviable task of replacing Colin Kaepernick, Fajardo joined Kaepernick in the NCAA record book as the only quarterbacks in FBS history to throw for 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards. He started 43 games and finished with 65.1 percent marksmanship, 9,659 yards and 57 touchdowns through the air and 3,482 yards and 44 more scores on the ground. Among all active college players, he ranked eighth in passing and ninth in rushing.

“Fajardo shows above-average elusiveness on the run and has enough change-of-direction agility and quickness to slide and move around the pocket,” reads his scouting report. “Do not be confused about his high amount of rushing yardage — he is not the type that will look to run at the first sign of pressure, but he can make plays with his feet, as he doer a solid job of running with a normal stride and good balance. In the short passing game, Fajardo excels at putting the ball where the receiver can catch it. He throws a catchable ball with zip or touch and does a nice job of keeping the receiver in the route. He can drop the ball over the top and knows how to take something off his attempts on crossing patterns and shows good flare when he airs it out on his deep throws.”

His experience in the pistol and his athleticism would appeal to McCarthy.

Connor Halliday, Washington State (6-3, 196): Halliday’s senior season ended with a broken ankle sustained in the ninth start. At the time, he led the nation with 3,873 passing yards and 32 touchdowns and he finished No. 1 with 430.3 passing yards per game while operating coach Mike Leach’s wide-open spread attack. In 35 career games (28 starts), he set school career records with 11,304 passing yards and 90 touchdown passes. He went just 12-16 as a starter. At 194 pounds, he’s got to get bigger.

“Some teams like his moxie, but they want him to become a better decision maker, as his 50 interceptions are not all the result of receivers not running proper routes,” reads his scouting report. “He maintains good body control on the move and is effective at stepping up in the pocket to take the hit and still deliver the throw. He has a fluid release and enough arm movement to get the ball out quickly, but needs to improve the velocity on his deep throws. Halliday has good arm strength, but it is not really spectacular. He puts good zip on his intermediate tosses and shows a good short touch.”

Shane Carden, East Carolina (6-2, 218): The American Conference Offensive Player of the Year passed for an AAC and ECU single-season record 4,736 yards, completing 63.5 percent of his passes with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a senior. The son of a minor-league pitcher, who has a striking resemblance to Brett Favre, threw for almost 12,000 yards for his career while operating out of a spread offense.

“Carden has good arm strength, along with a quick release that allows him to make all of his throws in the short-to-intermediate areas,” reads his scouting report. “He possesses the footwork, balance and quickness to slide and avoid the pass rush, but will not win many foot races in the open field, despite scoring 23 times on the ground during his career. Carden does need to show better judgment, as his problems occur when he fails to react quick enough to pocket pressure. He is not good at stepping up and away from pocket pressure to buy time so his target can get open. “

Bryan Bennett, Southeast Louisiana (6-2, 211): Bennett started his career at Oregon but, with Mariota entrenched as the starter and on his way to stardom, Bennett transferred. In just two seasons, he threw for about 5,500 yards and set the school record with 70 total touchdowns and 31 rushing touchdowns.

“Bennett has more than enough arm strength to get the ball into the seam, and loves to challenge secondaries from a vertical passing attack, as he has the ability to hit his targets away from the defender and over the outside shoulder when throwing from the outside hash,” reads his scouting report. “He’s one cool character who has ice water running through his veins. He doesn’t panic under pressure, as he is confident that if his receivers fail to get open, that he has the running skills to make things happen with his feet.”

Sean Mannion, Oregon State (6-6, 229): Mannion put up huge numbers in a pro-style offense. He owns 18 school passing records, with his 13,600 career passing yards ranking No. 1 in Pac-12 history and No. 8 in FBS history. He threw a school-record 83 touchdown passes, a category in which he ranks seventh in league annals. After throwing for a conference-record 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns as a junior, he slumped to 3,164 yards with 15 touchdowns as a senior. At 6-foot-6, he’s been compared to Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon. His release is far, far too slow — though he showed improvement at pro day — and his 5.14 in the 40 at the Combine was the worst among quarterbacks. That fact probably makes him less appealing for Green Bay than with other teams.

“The biggest concern is Mannion’s lack of mobility, resulting in him getting sacked 36 times as a senior,” reads his scouting report. “He fumbled the ball seven times and, even though he recorded a career-low eight interceptions, he had 55-of-453 passes defended (12.1 percent; eight pass thefts, 47 pass deflections). Mannion sometimes uses a three-quarters arm motion but has the wrist flick to get the ball out nicely. His smooth motion and good mechanics compensate for his lack of foot speed. He will generally throw over the top, generating a good wind-up motion, but will show a bit of a long arc on deep tosses.”

FOUR WILD CARDS

Ryan Williams, Miami As a true freshman in 2010, Williams started the final 10 games for Memphis, completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,075 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He transferred to Miami, where he sat on the bench in 2012 and 2013, then threw only one pass in 2014 because of a torn ACL sustained during spring practice. We talked to him before his predraft visit, when he mentioned that he dined with Packers scouts before Miami’s pro day.

Trevor Siemian, Northwestern (6-3, 220): Siemian started only as a senior but played extensively during his final three seasons. For his career, he completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 5,931 yards with 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. His career ended with a torn ACL sustained in late November.

Chris Bonner, Colorado State-Pueblo (6-6, 231): In two seasons, he put up monster numbers with 6,704 passing yards, 63 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for the Division II power. However, his accuracy went from 60.2 percent as a junior to 56.0 percent as a senior. Given how McCarthy values mobility, Bonner and his 5.12 40 time at pro day might not be a great fit.

Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion (6-0, 214): Somehow, Heinicke wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine. He ranks third in FCS history with 16,279 yards of total offense, fourth with 132 touchdown passes and sixth with 14,959 passing yards. That came in a spread scheme against subpar competition but he was a four-year starter. He’s got a good feel for the game, a quick release and excellent athleticism. It’s conjured comparisons to another former FCS quarterback: Romo. He ran in 4.62 at pro day but has had ball-security issues.

“Heinicke shows good pocket awareness and has a feel for stepping up or sliding away from the rush,” reads his scouting report. “He has solid instincts and presence, showing a great knack for feeling when the pocket will collapse, as he suddenly steps up to make the completion.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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