POSITION OVERVIEW: Perhaps the NFL has been spoiled in recent years. In 2011, four of the first 12 picks in the draft were used on quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder). Last year, the top two picks were QBs (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III) and Ryan Tannehill wasn't far behind. Given the success of quarterbacks taken high in the draft previous to that (Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford), the quarterback frenzy reached a fever pitch. Unfortunately, this year's draft class is mediocre at best. Geno Smith will likely be the first QB off the board, but in a competitive class he would be a push to be a first-round pick. Yet, there is little chance he makes it out of the top 10 and possibly could go in the top five. That's how crazy things have become. Fortunately for the Vikings, with the signing of Matt Cassel as a veteran backup to Christian Ponder, they won't be picking the scraps of a draft class that will be remembered more for the backup QBs it produces than the starters.
VIKINGS QUARTERBACKS – Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Joe Webb, McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
VIKINGS NEED – Considering that the Vikings acquired Cassel after he was released by the Chiefs, the only question now is which three QBs make the roster. Drafting a QB seems out of the question at this point unless someone the team graded as a third- or fourth-round talent makes it all the way to the end of the draft. At this point, it would seem the only question is whether it's Webb or MBT who makes the roster? From the strictly selfish perspective, the more quarterbacks that come off the board in the first two or three rounds the better, since the Vikings are almost a lock not to take anyone at that position and all that accomplishes is taking players off the board they had no intention of taking and keeping players on the board they are interested in.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Geno Smith, West Virginia, 6-2¾, 208 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who started the final 39 games of his college career…In three years as a starter, he completed 956 of 1,416 passes for 11,353 yards with 97 touchdowns and 20 interceptions…A high school All-American who was one of the most hotly recruited prospects his senior year…Set the Big East record for passing yards in 2012 (4,385)…Has a cannon for an arm and can make every throw needed…Completed 67.4 percent of his passes in his WVU career…Has excellent accuracy in short-to-intermediate passing games…Has good footwork to avoid pass rushers and extend plays…Reads his progressions well and doesn't force bad passes into traffic…Doesn't panic in the pocket and take off before he has to…A downside of waiting for receivers to uncover, he takes too many sacks…Doesn't play well in bad weather…Came from an offense that makes his numbers look better than they really are…Is thin by NFL QB standards…Took almost every snap from the shotgun and will need to adjust his game considerably at the next level…Has small hands (8¾ inches)…Ran a 4.59 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 33½-inch long jump and a 10-foot-4 vertical jump. PROJECTION: He was viewed as a Heisman frontrunner through the first five games of his senior season but struggled down the stretch. He grades out as a late first-round pick at best, but given the premium put on quarterbacks, he likely won't be on the board after the seventh or eighth pick.
Matt Barkley, USC, 6-2, 228 – Fourth-year senior…A four-year starter who made starts in all 47 games he played…Finished his college career completing 1,001 of 1,052 passes (64.1 percent) for 12,327 yards with 116 touchdowns and 48 interceptions…Named Gatorade National Player of the Year as a high school junior…First USC player ever named a captain three years in a row…Comes from a pro style offense that should help him transfer his skills readily to the NFL game…Excellent accuracy in the short passing game…Has a quick setup and strong over-the-top delivery…Has good touch on his passes and throws away from defenders…Has a strong enough arm to make all the needed passes…Very smart and a team leader who leads by example…Is a little undersized by NFL standards for quarterbacks…Doesn't have good escapability…Doesn't always keep his composure and will throw bad passes that will get intercepted…Regressed as a senior, posting lesser numbers across the board than he did as a junior, but played much of the season with a shoulder injury…Doesn't play with a lot of toughness and doesn't play with a lot of consistency from one game to the next…Did not work out at the combine. PROJECTION: Barkley entered the season as the top QB prospect, but following a year in which he didn't show the expected improvement of a fourth-year starter at a big-time program, his stock has slipped badly. We rate him as a second-round prospect, but expect to see a team trade into the first round to take him.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Mike Glennon, North Carolina State, 6-6¾, 220 – Fourth-year senior…A two-year starter who completed 613 of 1,012 passes for 7,085 yards with 62 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in that span…A high school All-American who was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia as a high school senior…Played his first two seasons backing up Seattle starter Russell Wilson, before Wilson transferred to Wisconsin…Threw 31 touchdowns in each of his two seasons as a starter…Has great height and can see over defenders to find open targets…Has a very strong arm, throws with excellent velocity and can make any throw that is asked of him…Can deliver an accurate pass while on the move…A team leader on and off the field…Very intelligent – he earned his Master's degree last December…Played in a pro-style offense…Is very thin…Not a great athlete and struggles to get away when the pocket collapses…Has a long Randall Cunningham-type delivery on the deep ball…Doesn't handle pressure well…While his yardage numbers went up as a senior, he threw the same amount of touchdowns, had five more interceptions and his completion percentage dropped by 4 percent as a senior…Has a lack of tangible game experience with just 26 career starts…Ran a 4.94 40 at the Combine with a 26½-inch vertical jump and an 8-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: He needs to refine his game but has ideal size and arguably the most arm strength of any QB in the class. His downsides are pronounced, which will likely keep him on the board until the early to middle portion of the second round.
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse, 6-2, 223 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter who completed 755 of 1,244 passes for 8,768 yards with 67 touchdowns and 27 interceptions…Showed steady improvement in each of his three seasons as a starter and is viewed as the best QB prospect from Syracuse since Donovan McNabb…Reads defenses well and does a good job of extending plays by sliding his feet naturally in the pocket…Has a strong body and can shed defenders once he is touched…Has good arm strength and velocity to fit passes into tight windows…Good at looking off safeties to open up throwing lanes…Intelligent player who diagnoses quickly and reads through his progressions when his primary target is covered…Had nine come-from-behind wins in the fourth quarter…Doesn't throw a tight spiral consistently…Is a muscular player, but doesn't translate that athleticism on the field consistently…Doesn't have ideal mechanics and will need to work a lot with his new position coach…Takes too long to set up and deliver passes, which will be a problem at the next level…Puts too much air under long passes, which allows safeties to react and break up passes…Saw his stock suffer after a sub-par week of Senior Bowl practices…Ran a 5.06 40 at the Combine with a 28½-inch vertical jump and an 8-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: He proved his value by being able to switch offenses mid-stream, giving him experience in two pro-style systems. He may end up being targeted by Buffalo in the second round, which could reunite him with college coach/new Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone. But if the Bills don't show an interest in him, he could be on the board late into the second round and possibly into the third.
E.J. Manuel, Florida State, 6-4¾, 236 – Fifth-year senior…Started 31 of 43 career games, including starts in each of his four seasons…A two-year full-time starter who completed 466 of 698 passes for 6,058 yards with 41 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in that span…A three-sport athlete in high school, he was a high school All-American…Replaced Vikings QB Christian Ponder as the starter for the Seminoles…Completed 67 percent of his career passes, completing better than 65 percent of his passes in each of his four seasons…Had a streak of 121 passes without an interception as a junior…Was named Most Valuable Player at the Senior Bowl…Passes the eyeball test and has a strong arm and excellent athleticism…Intelligent and can make the mental adjustments on the fly…Has good accuracy and can make any throw asked of him…Has good feet and can avoid pass rushers and take off, picking up yards in big chunks…Has good touch on the deep ball…A very good scrambler when coming out of the pocket and runs north-south instead of avoiding contact…Has a tendency of locking onto his primary target and not going through his progressions quickly enough…Did not show dramatic improvement in his second year as a starter…Bails out of the pocket too quickly when his primary target is covered…Has a hitch in his delivery that will need to be eliminated at the pro level…Takes too many big hits when confused and his intended target doesn't get open…Has a history of shoulder injuries…Ran a 4.65 40 at the combine with a 34-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: An intriguing prospect who needs some significant refinement to his game, his upside is as much as any QB in the Class of 2013. A team will likely draft him higher than we project him (late second round/third round), but he is best suited to play behind a veteran for a couple of years so a coaching staff can refine his game.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma, 6-3¾, 221 – Fifth-year senior who started 50 of 53 career games…Finished his college career completing 1,388 of 2,183 passes for 16,646 yards with 123 touchdowns and 52 interceptions…Gatorade Player of the Year in New Mexico as a high school senior…Replaced Sam Bradford as the OU quarterback…All-time leader in passing yards in Big 12 history…Has good size and footwork to shed defenders…Has a strong arm and has good touch on the deep pass to drop the ball in a small window...Has above-average accuracy on short to intermediate passes…A leader by example…Throws with a lot of velocity…Has a lot of upside and is battle-tested…Excellent production throughout his career…Isn't very sudden or agile when forced to tuck and run…Ran a system that if the primary target wasn't immediately open he checked down, which inflated some of his completion stats…Throws some really bad passes when a blitzer gets missed…Ran most of his plays out of OU's morphed pistol/shotgun offensive scheme and will require a lot of refinement to the next level given his lack of running skill…Was pulled out in the red zone because of the system the Sooners ran and doesn't have a complete body of work relating to closing out drives with touchdowns deep in enemy territory…Ran a 5.11 40 at the combine with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: Jones is an intriguing prospect in that he has many of the qualities teams look for when evaluating quarterbacks, but he has some significant downside to him, including that he doesn't react and respond well under pressure when the blitz is coming. He is a solid prospect who, if given time to mature behind a veteran QB for a couple of years, could have a bright future. We target him as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, 6-1¾, 210 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who completed 526 of 839 passes for 7,025 yards with 45 touchdowns and 19 interceptions…He played three years behind Patriots QB Ryan Mallett…Was named First Team All-SEC as a junior….A two-year team captain who holds 20 school passing records…Played his senior year after losing head coach Bobby Petrino and his top three wide receivers to the draft…Plays with a ton of leadership and a bit of a mean streak – has an offensive lineman's mentality and will stand his ground and take a hit if it means completing a pass…Doesn't have a rocket for an arm but has the needed arm strength and velocity to make every throw…Is adept at improvisation with his throwing motion to adjust for blocked throwing lanes…Is good at sliding his feet in the pocket to buy extra time…Showed good accuracy when on the move during the Senior Bowl practices…Doesn't have great mobility when asked to tuck the ball and run…Will force passes into tight coverage and will have passes intercepted…Has small hands for a QB (8¾ inches)…Has just 24 career starts and was knocked out of games with head injuries each of the last two seasons…Doesn't have great accuracy on deep passes and tries to make too many passes with just his arm instead of stepping into throws…Has a long delivery and gives defensive backs time to read and react to deep passes…Ran a 4.95 40 at the combine with a 28½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: When evaluating Wilson, it may be more telling to look at tape from his junior year. After losing his head coach to a scandal and seeing his top three receivers leave for the NFL a year ago. He isn't a player who jumps off the page at you, but will be a priority pick on the final day of the draft and should go somewhere in the fourth round.
Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio), 6-3, 224 – Fourth-year senior…Four-year starter who made starts in 43 of 45 career games…Finished his career completing 1,066 of 1,672 passes (63.8 percent) with 73 touchdowns and 51 interceptions…The first three-time team captain in school history…Led the MAC in both passing yards (3,483) and touchdowns (25) last year…Has good mobility in the pocket and is very good at avoiding sacks and throwing on the move…Has an NFL body…Throws with an ideal over-the-top release and is a dart-thrower in the short-to-intermediate passing game…Reads through his progressions quickly…Has good intangibles…Isn't the prototype leader on the field and is viewed by some scouts as too soft-spoken…Is a little too erratic from one series to the next and one game to the next…Played last year taking snaps almost exclusively out of the shotgun…Isn't a student of the game and has gotten by on talent more than preparation and attention to detail…Didn't have a good week at the Senior Bowl, which hurt his stock…Forces too many passes (his TD-to-interception ratio isn't good)…Did not work out at the combine after having surgery to repair an injured hamstring. PROJECTION: A player with all the physical skills to compete for a starting job at some point, but he doesn't come across as a player with a passion for the game and that should drop him into the final day of the draft.
Tyler Bray, Tennessee, 6-6, 210 – Third-year junior…Started 24 of 28 career games, completing 540 of 922 passes for 7,444 yards with 69 touchdowns and 28 interceptions…Exploded on the scene in 2012, throwing for 3,612 yards and 34 TDs…Has prototype size and excellent arm strength…Throws with good velocity and, when he steps into his passes, can uncork bombs deep downfield…Oozes confidence and was a hero at Tennessee, viewed by many as the best pure passing QB since Peyton Manning…Very accurate and has arguably the best deep accuracy of anyone in this year's draft class…Makes tacklers miss and extends plays…Doesn't have great natural footwork or mobility…Often negates his height advantage by throwing passes with a three-quarters motion…Needs a lot of work on basic fundamentals to excel at the next level…Doesn't read through his progressions fast enough…Was only a full-time starter for one year and took most of his snaps out of the shotgun formation…Played his worst against the best teams…Has had numerous run-ins with the law…Ran a 5.05 at the combine with an 8-4 broad jump (he opted not to attempt the vertical jump, citing an injury). PROJECTION: A classic example of a player who should have stayed in college for his senior year. He would have entered 2013 as the top-rated QB in the college game and, had he put together a solid season, could have been a high first-round pick. As it stands, he likely won't come off the board until early Saturday, not early Thursday night.
Colin Klein, Kansas State, 6-4¾, 218 – Fourth-year senior…A two-year starter who completed 358 of 585 passes for 4,559 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and ran 393 times for 1,573 yards and 33 TDs…A bigger threat with his legs than his arm, as a senior he rushed for 920 yards and 23 TDs…Is a confident passer who holds up under pressure and delivers a pass even if he knows he's going to get drilled…Very strong…An exceptional option runner who could be used in specialized packages even if he is a backup to a vested veteran…Has the quick-twitch mobility to effectively slide in the pocket and give his receivers a couple of extra seconds to uncover…A natural leader who plays with swagger…A full-time starter for two seasons and ran a gimmick college offense that didn't require him to read progressions and do the little things NFL QBs do…Has a weird throwing delivery that looks unnatural and will turn off a lot of scouts…Has seriously accuracy issues on the deep pass…Has shaky fundamental mechanics…Has limited passing production, which won't help his case in hopes of getting drafted early…Ran a 4.78 40 at the combine with a 29-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: The first "next Tim Tebow" to come after Tim Tebow, Klein is likely going to see his draft stock wane since the Wildcat is no longer a big option. But for the team looking for the "next Colin Kaepernick," Klein won't last long on the third day…if he makes it that long. It only takes two teams to cause a competition.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Dayne Crist, Kansas, 6-4, 232
Nick Florence, Baylor, 6-1¼, 200
Sean Renfree, Duke, 6-4, 225
Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt, 6-1, 213
Matt Scott, Arizona, 6-2½, 197
Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah, 6-3¾, 237
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Position Analysis: Quarterbacks
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