Deep draft analysis: Quarterbacks

Sure, there’s Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, but what about the other quarterbacks in the class? NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas offers his deep analysis on the QB possibilities at the next level.

MARIOTA, Marcus | Oregon | QB | rJr | 06:03.6 | 217 | 4.53
The Heisman Trophy favorite recently captured the Davey O’Brien Award and Maxwell Award on his way to becoming the odds-on favorite to be named the first pick in the 2015 draft, especially if current standings hold true (Tampa Bay has the worst record). A gifted athlete, the junior put up impressive numbers, hitting on 68.6% of his passes (280-of-408) for 4,121 yards, 40 touchdowns and three interceptions entering the national title game in 2014, adding another score on a 26-yard catch, in addition to reaching the end zone 15 times via 125 carries for 731 yards. Many analysts felt that if Mariota had declared for the 2014 draft, he would have been wearing a Houston Texans uniform today. One of four players in major college history to throw for over 10,000 yards (10,463) and rush for over 2,000 yards (2,198), scouting analysts see the uncanny play-making ability in the Oregon passer that the 49ers have with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. NFL Combine Coverage
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Much like the San Francisco QB, Mariota needs to be accounted for at all times, as he not only has a rifle arm, but is very dangerous when he spots a crease and explodes through it as a ball carrier. He also uses very good touch and anticipation to move the ball. His athleticism matches the “new wave” of quarterbacks in the NFL, as he is very effective operating in play action. Still, much like Kaepernick, Mariota has operated in a pretty simplified offense and it is rare to see him line up under center. He is the type that gets locked on too long trying to connect with his primary target and must do a better job of scanning the field rather than becoming so reliant upon his first read.

Mariota has above average lower and upper body mechanics, showing quickness in his pass set. He shows good mobility getting back quickly to set up and unlike most West Coast/spread quarterbacks, looks very comfortable lining up under center rather than in the shotgun. He shows a snappy overhead release. Even when he carries the ball lower than ideal when moving out of the pocket, he shows good zip behind his tosses.

The Ducks junior has a good, quick, snappy overhead release. He carries the ball low at times, but still has enough arm power to prevent it from slowing his delivery. When he comes over the top, his release is high and very consistent. He has more than enough arm strength to make all the throws at the next level. He throws the long ball with touch and accuracy, zipping the post. Even when he throws off his back foot, his arm strength is above average. The thing you see on film is the speed and distance he consistently gets on his long balls.

He is consistent in the mid-range, has the strength to go deep consistently, rarely sprays the ball on long throws and would rather run with the ball then force it into traffic. He has above average touch on screens and good zip on slants and hitches. He can air it out when needed, making it look easy throwing long. He has shown good improvement with his touch, as he no longer throws the ball too hard, a problem he had at times earlier in his career. He also showed a better ability to keep the ball in play, putting more air under the ball.

Mariota has more than enough arm strength to make all the throws at the next level. He throws the long ball with touch and accuracy, zipping the post. Even when he throws off his back foot, his arm strength is above average. The thing you see on film is the speed and distance he consistently gets on his long balls. He has the arm power and made strides to be consistent on all throws at this point. He does a nice job of hitting his receivers in stride. He is seldom late getting the ball to the receivers, firing the pass out quickly. He does not wait long to throw and shows good anticipation on when his receiver will get open. When protected, he stands tall in the pocket. When protection breaks down, he has a “running back’s” mentality. He has made good improvement sliding out of the pocket to buy time, but still is prone to bolt when protection collapses. When he tries to make plays that aren’t there, he tends to hurry, causing him to lose sight of the defender, resulting in a costly sack.

WINSTON, Jameis | Florida State | QB | rSo | 06:03.2 | 228 | 4.65
To most scouts, Winston possesses all the tools you look for in a pro passer – impressive size, decent mobility and a cannon-like arm. He has a quick over-the-top release that sees him consistently connect when heading down field, as he displays that rare quality to “thread the needle.” He has good balance to throw on the move and enough functional foot speed to be a running threat. That confidence in his scrambling ability does lead to trouble, though, as he is often too quick to bolt the pocket rather than scan the field. As good as he is with the long ball, he will struggle just as much with his short-to-intermediate passes. He needs to be more consistent setting his front foot, as he does have balance issues when he fails to properly transfer his weight stepping into his tosses. Off the field, his antics have been well-publicized and the school’s idea to play the “Three Monkees” (see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil where football players are concerned) is alarming. Two words to any team thinking of drafting this Seminole – RYAN LEAF.

HUNDLEY, Brett | UCLA | QB | rJr | 06:02.4 | 222 | 4.64
Despite back-to-back record-setting years as a red-shirt freshman and sophomore, Hundley heard what scouts were saying about him – the first sign of pocket pressure and he bolts. Trying to make a concerted effort to stand tall in the pocket this year led to inconsistent results early in the season, including seeing the QB get sacked five times by Virginia’s pressure defense. After he was harassed throughout the Utah clash to the tune of minus 24 yards rushing in a loss to the Utes, the junior went back to making things happen with his feet – gaining at least 89 yards on the ground in each of his next four contests. He’s managed to record 102 touchdowns at the helm, fourth on the Pac-12 Conference record chart, where his 151.6 pass efficiency rating rank sixth and his pass completion percentage of .678 is second-best in league annals. The finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and semifinalist for the Maxwell Award has run or thrown for a touchdown in 38 of 39 games. This year, he completed 70.4% of his throws (259-of-368) for 3,019 yards, 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions, adding eight more scores on 148 carries for 548 yards.

Hundley is a smooth, athletic mover who sets up quickly and is ready to throw, but because of his long limbs and stride, he must be conscious of setting his feet and stepping into his pass attempts (will throw off balance or off his back foot, at times). He has good chest depth and definition, but has to do a better job of squaring his shoulders before firing the ball. While he operates strictly from the shotgun, the Bruin has more than enough quickness to drop back from center in the pro game, just no experience doing such. He is fundamentally sound with his balance and agility when setting up, but still needs to refine his foot placement through his delivery, even though he does a good job of carrying out his fakes and is a threat to run with the ball.

PETTY, Bryce | Baylor | QB | rSr | 06:02.5 | 230 | 4.74
An assortment of minor injuries, coupled by inconsistent play, all but ruined Petty’s chances of moving up into the first two rounds of the draft. One of the finer athletes available to teams at his position, there are some scouts feeling he is nothing more than another Jake Locker, which certainly will not help when his “body of work” is presented to the general managers. The reigning Big Twelve Offensive Player of the Year did not “get out of the gate” healthy, missing the second half of the season opener vs. SMU and the next game due to a lower back injury (reported as having cracked bones in his spine), but he came back to complete 62.1% of his passes for 3,305 yards, 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. In his first season as a starter, Petty ranked second in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 174.29 in 2013, the second-best annual number in school annals. His 2013 interception percentage of 0.074 ranks second on the FBS season-record list (.0074; three interceptions on 403 attempts). He possesses a very quick release and good release point. With fourteen touchdowns as a ball carrier in 2013, third-best in the nation among quarterback, along with five more scoring romps this season, he shows outstanding footwork that allows him to square up to any part of the field and deliver with accuracy, along with the escape-ability to keep defenses honest with his running ability. He is very effective at hitting his targets coming out of their breaks and shows enough touch on his deep throws to get the ball over the receiver’s outside shoulder. He can make all the throws with good precision, and when he’s given time to throw, he has a quick and compact release. There can be a slight wind-up when he wants to put more steam on it, but he doesn’t drop the ball low. He has a nice follow-through motion and keeps a tight spiral.

GRAYSON, Garrett | Colorado State | QB | rSr | 06:02.2 | 218 | 4.84
The rifle-armed pocket passer is never going to be confused for being a scrambler, but if given time to locate his receivers, he does so with great accuracy. He’s ranked third in Mountain West Conference history with a 146.4 pass efficiency rating, placing seventh on the league all-time charts with 8,963 yards passing that includes 64 touchdowns and a pass completion percentage of .619 (tenth in MWC history with 668-of-1,079attempts). This season, he’s been successful on 250-of-386 chances (64.8%) for 3,779 yards, 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He is ready to throw at the end of his drop. He shows a smooth release and gets to his set point with balance and agility. He has the ability to read the coverage and knows what is going on. However, he locks on to his primary target and needs to do a better job of locating his second and third receiver. He will make some bad decisions when flushed out of the pockert or when pressured (has thrown 26 interceptions at CSU). He possesses good touch, doing a nice job of leading the receiver to the ball with minimal adjustment. He throws good fades and is effective on wide-open streaks. On his long throws, he does a good job of hitting his receivers in stride and over the outside shoulder.

CARDEN, Shane | East Carolina | QB | Sr | 06:01.7 | 218 | 4.92
When you have a receiver with the elite athleticism that Josh Hardy possesses, a quarterback can look really good airing the ball out on Saturdays. Now, Carden needs to show NFL QB coaches that crave the “big man in the pocket” that while he is not tall in stature, he can stand tall under pressure. Extremely accurate, his pass completion percentage of .673 is the second-best in Conference USA history, ranking third in league annals with a 147.3 pass efficiency rating. He is the first quarterback in school history to both pass for over 4,000 yards in a season and eclipse 3,000 in three-straight years. He is the first QB in school history to pass for over 10,000 yards in a career (11,557).

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. 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 24 times on the ground during his career. He is quick dropping back from the line of scrimmage to his set point, displaying good coordination on the move and the body control to move around the pocket with ease. With teams like New Orleans and San Diego starting to show age at quarterback, Carden could be a nice pick-up to groom in the mid-round area.

FAJARDO, Cody | Nevada | QB | rSr | 06:01.1 | 217 | 4.45
The more I see the Wolf Pack quarterback play, the more I am convinced that he can provide New Orleans with a seamless transition process for the day that Drew Brees finally retires. Playing with a mediocre cast has not helped him in the won/lost column, but coincidentally, the master of the pistol offense joins former Nevada star, Colin Kaepernick, as the only players in major college history to throw for over 9,000 yards and run for over 3,000 yards in a career. Among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision players, Fajardo ranks sixth in pass attempts (1,319) and pass completions (864), placing eighth within that group for yards passing (9,535). He also ranks fifth overall and second among active quarterbacks with 44 touchdown runs, topped by Keenan Reynolds of Navy (sixth overall with 61). His 3,433 yards rushing placed fifth overall and first among quarterbacks. The Nevada senior has outstanding foot quickness and balance driving away from center, showing impressive body control to throw on the move. He is equally effective passing off the sprint or from drop-back action. He has very quick wrist delivery and the body control needed so he does not have to plant to unleash the long ball. He is not the type that will get “happy feet” when the pocket is compromised, but when forced to run, he is the type that needs to be accounted for, evident by his 44 touchdowns rushing. He not only has confidence in his rifle-arm, but also shows very good mechanics, as he consistently keeps receivers in their routes in the short-area passing game and can really lay the ball up and hit his targets when he has to uncork the long bombs.

BRIDGE, Brandon | South Alabama | QB | rSr | 06:04.5 | 233 | 4.68
You hear scouts whispering his name, yet, the media is just waking up to the South Alabama quarterback. It is not as if he was well-established before the 2014 season, having spent two seasons at Alcorn State before transferring to USA for his final two campaigns. Now, after a senior season that saw him throw for 1,927 yards and 15 touchdowns on 160-of-307 attempts (52.12%) and scoring four times on the ground, he hopes his 2014 numbers convince a team to give him the opportunity to become just the third Canadian to ever start for an NFL team (Mark Rypien and Jesse Palmer are the others).

Bridge’s rookie campaign in the states showed promise, as he hit on 150-of-291 throws for 2,086 yards and 19 touch-downs, in addition to scoring eight times on 120 carries for 447 yards at Alcorn State in 2010. A coaching change after the season saw Bridge fall out of favor with the new staff, limiting him to mop-up chores in five games, as he threw for 632 yards and five touchdowns on 49-of-98 attempts in 2011.

Sensing that his time was up at Alcorn State, Bridge transferred to South Alabama, but had to sit out the 2012 schedule under NCAA transfer rules. He was still relegated to reserve duty during his first season at South Alabama, throwing for 398 yards and one touchdown on 29-of-66 chances in nine 2013 contests. This season, he appeared in 11 games for the Jaguars, guiding the team to their first FBS postseason appearance, falling to Bowling Green in the Camellia Bowl.

Bridge has an athletic frame with very long arms, ideal for an over-the-top delivery. One of the new wave of athletic quarterbacks, he has good straight-line quickness (just a little stiff in his hips). He can gain decent yardage on the ground, but despite his timed speed, he is more of a power runner than one who will win open field foot races.

Bridge appears to have the arm strength to make all the throws. He has the athletic skills to move the ball with his feet, but is still developing the mental skills to know what to do as a passer. He shows good quickness and balance when flushed out of the pocket. He has the arm strength to throw off-balance and shows average agility when moving from the pocket. He has the foot quickness to elude and avoid, doing a fine job of running the QB draw and rolling out to hit his receivers in stride.

Bridge tries to make something out of nothing, at times. He shows good poise under pressure, but must do a better job reading the receiver and the route’s progression. He also must develop a better feel for where his secondary targets are, as he looks a bit mechanical locking on to his primary one for so long. He does a nice job of getting rid of the ball and sensing backside pressure, but there are times he will gamble that he can still make the play, holding on to the ball too long, which results in the costly sack, or result in the interception (had 27-of-762 passes picked off). His relative inexperience as a starter will see him rely more on his arm strength to fire the ball into tight areas. He will also challenge the deep secondary often, rather than throw the ball away when his targets are covered.

MANNION, Sean | Oregon State | QB | rSr | 06:04.2 | 220 | 4.94
Scouts liken Mannion’s tall frame and build to that of Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, but also recognize that he does not possess the rifle-arm that the Ravens’ star displays. He is the type of player better in a ball controlled offense where he can move the chains, rather than rely on the big play to ignite the offense. He compensates for a lack of NFL-caliber arm strength with very good accuracy, touch and anticipation. He established school and Pac-12 Conference annual records with 4,662 yards passing, setting another Oregon State mark while tying for third on the league season chart with 37 touchdown tosses in 2013. He also broke the OSU and Pac-12 record with 4,439 yards in total offense.

The “bottom fell out” on the senior during the 2014 season, though, as the team stumbled to a 5-7 record to observe postseason play. Mannion reduced his interceptions to eight this year, tossing 15 touchdowns on 282-of-453 attempts (62.3%) for 3,164 yards, but the immobile passer was sacked 36 times. He closed out his career with 1,187-of-1,838 passes (64.6%) for 13,600 yards and 83 touchdowns, but lost 804 yards on 132 carries.

Mannion lacks mobility and is no threat as a runner, but he shows enough movement skills, instincts and a quick release to make some plays out of the pocket. He has adequate flexibility and change of direction agility. Still, he only shows marginal acceleration and marginal avoidance skills in attempts to escape pressure.

While Mannion lacks foot speed to be a running threat, he does demonstrate adequate quickness when he drops and sets up, but he appears to lumber on the move and fails to bring his feet forward sometimes when stepping up in the pocket (lead-foot). He has good upper body mechanics to follow through, but tends to get too methodical in his drop from center to his throwing point. He does not show the body control to throw on the run and needs to show consistency and maintain balance in order to be ready to unleash the ball in time. Once he gets to his throwing point, he is quick to deliver.

While Mannion has a quick release, it is really not anything special. He carries the ball chest-high and plants well to throw, showing adequate quickness to unload the ball, though. He sometimes uses a ¾ 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.

Mannion can zip the short tosses and drive the ball well in the intermediate area. He can also flick the ball long, but has a long arc that lets the defenders settle under his pass to make the interception. He doesn’t appear to struggle throwing any of his passes, but needs to use better judgment. Most of his tosses come out with good ball speed, but there is doubt he can go deep, as the long ball tends to sail away from his targets and he needs to be more aware of the defensive coverage.


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