Draft Comparisons: Quarterbacks

Pro scout Eric Galko shares his take on the 2012 Draft class of quarterbacks and who they compare to in the NFL.

NFL Draft Prospect Comparisons: Quarterbacks
Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting

It's sometimes best, especially when trying to peg how a quarterback could develop in the NFL, is to have a (sometimes rough) comparison for a combination of the prospects current ability as well as what he can potentially develop into in the right situation.

While these comparisons are NOT an easy, obvious, and exact comparisons, as each player, especially at quarterback. However, these comparisons could be a solid indication for how these tough to project prospects could turn out in 2-3 years in the NFL, and why each of these prospects may have teams either excited or nervous.

Andrew Luck, Stanford: Aaron Rodgers/Peyton Manning
While Andrew Luck will likely always be compared to Peyton Manning as a prospect because he'll be inheriting a franchise that has had so much success with him as their quarterback, Luck is more of a mixture of two All-Pro passers. While he possess the Peyton Manning-esque mental make-up (maybe even further along coming out of college) because of his pre-snap recognition and developed understanding of the game, he also has the under-rated mobility, accuracy, and timing of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This is why Luck is such an elite prospect: Imagine the potential of a quarterback who's as sharp as Manning and can make plays across the field and with his feet at the same level as Aaron Rodgers.

Robert Griffin, Baylor: Donovan McNabb
To me, there are 2-3 prospects every year that are just too hard to compare, both for good and bad reasons. We never saw prospects like JaMarcus Russell, Reggie Bush, or Patrick Peterson before, making them both unbelievably exciting and somewhat risky as a prospect. While Griffin is hard to peg and is in that mold of a truly "unique" prospect, he displays many of the same mobility features, deep touch, and desire to develop as a pocket passer to Donovan McNabb, especially coming out of college. Griffin has flashed much more as both a runner and downfield passer than McNabb, and is much more highly thought of coming out of college. Griffin is no sure bet and could have a career of flashes, excitement, but no Super Bowl's if he doesn't drastically improve as a pocket passer, similar to McNabb's entire career.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Matt Schaub
While the (lazy) comparison of fellow aged quarterback prospect Chris Weinke from 10 or so years ago, but Weeden is a much better passer, talent, and further along mentally in football IQ. While I don't believe Weeden (as is true with most quarterback pas the 3-4 elite passers) is a quarterback who can dominate regardless of receiver talent, I believe he could use his accuracy, vision, and touch to consistently pick apart defenses if he has ample talent around him. To me, Matt Schaub landed in an ideal situation for a mediocre talent at quarterback, much better off than Matt Cassell did in Kansas City, but he's also more accurate and confident in his reads than Cassell, similar to why Weeden is sure to have success in the NFL if given a shot with ample talent around him.

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: Josh Freeman/Aaron Rodgers
Another Aaron Rodgers comparison, this link is why Miami is such an intriguing landing spot for Tannehill. While coming out of college, he's further along in mechanics and pocket presence than Rodgers, his compact release and mobility talent means that he may able develop (if given Rodgers-like year or two development) into a complete passer than Rodgers has become. I do think he also has a lot of the same ability in the pocket and athletically to Josh Freeman, who also I thought needed some time, but seemed to assume leadership abilities in Tampa Bay. Also, something Tannehill possess that I loved in Freeman coming out that he has a short memory and doesn't seem to be a "rhythm" passer.

B. J. Coleman, Chattanooga: Ryan Fitzpatrick/Peyton Manning
Despite hailing from a small school, B.J. Coleman does not face the same worries that many small school quarterbacks get hit with. After studying Peyton Manning for a full year in his redshirt season while at the University of Tennessee, that time lead to both his devotion, value, and understanding of how to use the film room as a quarterback along with having an uncanny resemblance to Peyton Manning in all of his mechanical and footwork techniques as a quarterback. However, he also has some of the limitations as an inconsistent downfield passer and sometimes need for rhythm to be successful, a la Ryan Fitzpatrick, who ran very hot and cold this past season but has been given the thumbs up as the Bills "franchise quarterback."

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: Seneca Wallace/Drew Brees
The former NC State turned Wisconsin quarterback is a more unique prospect than I think he's been given credit for. First off, he was able to transition from a wide open, use of mobility offense at NC State (where he had great success) to an anticipation, read and react, pocket-based offense at Wisconsin. While his size is a major deterrent and a scheme-limitation as he transitions to the NFL, his high release as well as his comfortability dissecting linebacker and safety drops so well (was the best based on film at this at the Senior Bowl), he actually deserves the "undersized, Drew Brees-like" comparison. His sporadic play ability combined with his sometimes lack of confidence in the middle seems to draw similarities to Seneca Wallace (along with his athleticism), he's far more polished as a passer and has a higher ceiling than many give him credit for.

Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: Jon Kitna
This is where the comparisons get a little dicey and less "supportive". While I've had Cousins rated highly since his sophomore season when he flashed to me, Cousins seems to be limited overall as a quarterback and seems like a quarterback who could start in the NFL, but will likely always be deemed "replaceable". He has the leadership and intangible qualities that will win over in interviews and in the locker room, but on the field, he's limited. At times, he diagnosis pre-snap well, and anticipates coverages smoothly. However, he seems lost at times in the pocket and making reads, and struggles to jump off initial pre-snap read against a more complex defensive team. His accuracy and touch across the field, willingness to throw receivers open, and mental ability are great, but his indecisiveness, lack of a big time arm to make up for late reads, and his lack of NFL needed pocket presence and vision make him more of a developing fringe starter in the NFL.

Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: Phillip Rivers (Raw)
One of the tougher comparisons to put my finger on, Osweiler's need for maybe an overhaul of his technique and footwork means that he could be a very different quarterback from today if he gets the chance to sit for 2-3 years and develop. However, another quarterback who had ideal size, mechanics question marks, and the fiery leadership that NFL teams love was Phillip Rivers coming out of NC State. While he was far more productive and was our top rated quarterback that season,  he also faced some of the same concerns. It will take an ideal sitiuation and time for Osweiler to be an NFL ready starter, which is why many "project quarterbacks" don't work out, but teams love his leadership and confidence, both of which make him a worthy project in the 2nd-3rd round area.

Ryan Lindley, San Diego State: John Skelton/Jay Cutler
Maybe the hardest quarterback prospect to compare of them all, Ryan Lindley has the rare and frustrating blend of a quick release, a big time arm, displays of outstanding ball placement when he can use his velocity, along with widely inconsistent accuracy, poor downfield reads and decisions, and overall poor diagnosis. He's a mixture of a gunslinger with a quick release (Jay Cutler) and a pocket passer who needs a lot of refining and patience (John Skelton). Both of these comparison quarterbacks have become starters (Cutler obviously better), yet Lindley may never become that if he can't become more decisive, accurate, patient, and heady as a passer.

Nick Foles, Arizona: Derek Anderson
A pure anticipation, big arm quarterback in my opinion, Nick Foles isn't worthy of a Top four round pick unless he's in that West Coast offense like scheme in the NFL along with more coaching. His drop back is awkward, he relied almost purely on anticipation and timing routes in college, and doesn't reposition himself smoothly nor consistently on point with footwork in the pocket. He has the big time arm and when he's in rhythm, he displayed some top notch qualities as a quarterback. But similar to Derek Anderson, he needs ideal protection, a combination of vertical threats and wide catch radius receivers, and time in an ideal system for him to have any chance at being an NFL starter.

Eric Galko is a contributing NFL scout for Patriots Insider at Scout.com.  

Eric Galko is the Owner, Director of Scouting of Optimum Scouting and lead editor for OptimumScouting.com.  He has been scouting college football for eight years, and for pro teams and other sports professionals for the last four years. Eric is also a  member of the FWAA

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