VIKINGS POSITION NEED – Considering the Vikings used a first-round pick on Bridgewater last year, the need in this year’s draft is drastically reduced. But after trading Matt Cassel and allowing Christian Ponder to leave via free agency, there may be a Day 3 developmental quarterback on their radar to compete for a roster spot with Kafka.
POSITION ANALYSIS – The class has two elite players – Jameis Winston, who is almost surely going with the first pick, and Marcus Mariota, who will be the most discussed pick of the first night because teams may be willing to trade up to get him. Beyond them, there are some upside projects that teams will hope to roll the dice with and come up big. Not a great class after a top-heavy start, but we’ll see a dozen or more go.
THE CREAM OF THE CROPJameis Winston, Florida State, 6-3¾, 231 – Third-year sophomore…Started 27 of 28 career games, completing 562 of 851 passes for 7,964 yards with 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions…Won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman…Has prototype size…Has a strong arm and good deep passing accuracy…Is solid in both the shotgun and under center…A proven winner who brought his team back from behind several times late in games…Did not play as well as a sophomore as he did as a freshman…Has had numerous off-field incidents, including a couple that were quite serious…Has a long windup in his delivery that may need to be modified in the NFL…Ran a 4.97 40 at the Combine with a 28½-inch vertical jump and a 8-7 broad jump.
PROJECTION: One of the most heralded college quarterbacks in recent history, he likely doesn’t make it past Tampa Bay with the first pick of the draft.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon, 6-3¾, 222 – Fourth-year junior…Started all 41 games of his college career, completing 779 of 1,167 passes for 10,796 yards with 105 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions…Won the Heisman Trophy last season…Prototype size…Incredible production at Oregon and a proven track record of success, having won 35 games…A model citizen with an ideal combination of size, arm strength, athleticism and work ethic…Is a dangerous playmaker when on the move…Very inconsistent deep-ball accuracy…Played in an offense that greatly simplified his decision-making process…Will need a lot of refinement to learn the basics of a pro-style offense…Doesn’t protect the ball well – had 27 fumbles…Ran a 4.52 40 at the Combine with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A franchise QB in the making, Mariota has a ton of upside but will need to go to a team with patience and teaching skills. He could go as a high as No. 2 on draft day but won’t make it out of the top 10.
THE NEXT LEVELBrett Hundley, UCLA, 6-3¼, 226 – Fourth-year junior…Started all 40 games of his college career, completing 837 of 1,241 passes for 9,966 yards with 75 touchdowns and 25 interceptions…Has the arm strength to make all throws needed for an NFL QB with excellent velocity…Has good mechanics and a quick release point…Has quick feet and consistently was able to extend plays and make the tough downfield throw…Inconsistent production; had more touchdowns and passing yards as a freshman than either of his final two seasons…Played in a simplified, quick-read offense and took just about every snap out of the shotgun…Hasn’t played his best in the most important games…Takes off from the pocket too soon too often… Ran a 4.63 40 at the Combine with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: The most difficult QB prospect to project because he has all the physical gifts to be a star but hasn’t played with any consistency. Some question his mental makeup to be an elite QB. His upside will get him drafted higher than he probably should go.
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State, 6-2½, 213 – Fourth-year senior who started 35 of 37 career games…Two-year full-time starter who completed 567 of 898 passes for 7,702 yards, 55 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in that span…Mountain West Player of the Year in 2014…Has excellent pocket awareness and moves well within the pocket to extend plays…Throws the ball well on the move with accuracy…A natural leader who made the most of an offense that didn’t have a lot of elite athletes around him…A little undersized by NFL QB standards…Has a funky release point and will have to improve his mechanics…Is not a textbook passer and wasn’t asked to read through progressions very often…Did not work out at the Combine after getting a medical exclusion for a right hamstring injury.
PROJECTION: A player who comes from a simplified offense in a non-power conference, he will need time to adjust to the NFL, but if he can improve his throwing motion and foot mechanics he has the chance to be a starter in the NFL.
Bryce Petty, Baylor, 6-3, 230 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who completed 520 of 831 passes for 8,055 yards with 61 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in that span…Has good arm strength and can make any throw…Has good anticipation skills and throws into tight windows…Has good lateral movement, a quick release and the strength to extend plays…Played in a gimmick college offense that had almost no snaps from under center…Locks in on primary target too often and rarely needed to make second reads…Looked awkward for much of the Senior Bowl and struggled with three- and five-step drops…Ran a 4.87 40 at the Combine with a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He has all of the physical tools to be an impressive quarterback at the next level, but given his struggles at the Senior Bowl, it appears as if he is a work in progress.
Shane Carden, East Carolina, 6-2, 218 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who started 37 of 39 career games, completing 1,052 of 1,579 passes for 11,991 yards with 86 touchdowns and 30 interceptions…Conference USA Most Valuable Player in 2014…Has natural feel in the pocket and reacts well when the bullets are flying around him…Throws with good touch and accuracy…A smart player with natural leadership ability…Doesn’t have ideal arm strength and struggles in poor weather conditions…Doesn’t have good quickness and struggles to escape when the pocket collapses…Throws too many passes that allow defenders to close in, especially on deep passes that he has to wind up on and put air under…Ran a 4.94 40 at the Combine with a 29½-inch vertical jump and a 8-8 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A player with good intangibles who doesn’t have a great arm, great speed or experience against elite competition. A Day 3 pick who will be viewed as a long-term project.
THE BEST OF THE RESTSean Mannion, Oregon State, 6-5¾, 229 – Fifth-year senior…Started 43 of 47 career games, completing 1,187 of 1,838 passes for 13,600 yards with 83 TDs and 54 interceptions…Set a Pac 12 record with 4,662 passing yards as a junior and his 13,600 passing yards are an all-time Pac 12 record…Great size and looks the part coming out of a pro-style offense at OSU…Has a natural over-the-top delivery and excellent field vision…A natural leader who doesn’t get rattled when the spotlight is on…Doesn’t have elite arm strength, has small hands and needs to step into passes to deliver the long sideline shot…Isn’t fast or sudden and rarely gets away when defenders close in…Holds the ball too long and will take big hits, which helps explain his high interception numbers…Ran a 5.16 40 at the Combine with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 8-9 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A classic drop-back passer who isn’t overly athletic and will likely compete for a career backup job in the NFL.
Blake Sims, Alabama, 5-11½, 218 – Fifth-year senior…Began his career as a running back before moving to QB in 2012…Didn’t become a starter until last season, starting all 14 games – completing 392 of 617 passes for 4,736 yards with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions…Has a big-time arm and plays his best under pressure…Moves well on the run as both a passer and runner…A team leader who head coach Nick Saban called “the hardest worker I’ve coached”…Very undersized for a pro quarterback…Limited experience with just one season as a starter…Didn’t look the part at the Senior Bowl…Ran a 4.57 40 at the Combine with a 30½-inch vertical jump and a 9-7 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A player with limited upside, he will likely be a late-round selection at best. Given the lack of success with recent Alabama quarterbacks, Sims will always struggle to keep a spot on a NFL roster.
Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, 6-1, 211 – Fourth-year senior…Started 44 of 46 career games, completing 1,238 of 1,827 passes for 14,959 yards with 133 touchdowns and 37 interceptions…Set FSC records in 2012 with 5,076 yards and 398 completions…Has a quick release and throws naturally and on target…Has good pocket presence and doesn’t get rattled by pressure in the pocket…Reads his progressions quickly and was consistently productive…Shorter than most NFL QB prospects…Doesn’t have ideal arm strength or velocity on the deep ball…Doesn’t have ideal mechanics and is inconsistent deep down the field…Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: A highly productive small-college QB, he has a chance to be a late-round pick who will have to fight for his football life every day he’s in a team’s camp.
Brandon Bridge, South Alabama, 6-4½, 229 – Fifth-year senior…Spent 2010-11 at Alcorn State, completing 150 of 291 passes for 2,086 yards with 19 TDs and 13 interceptions along with 601 rushing yards and eight TDs…Sat out 2012 after transferring and became the starter as a senior, completing 160 of 307 passes for 1,927 yards with 15 TDs and eight interceptions as well as 101-297-4 rushing…Grew up in Canada and was lightly recruited…Has good height and can see over defenses…Throws high-velocity passes and is willing to throw in tight windows…Can make all the NFL throws…Wasn’t accurate – barely completing 50 percent of his career passes…Locks onto receivers and alerts defenses where the ball is going…Very limited college experience…Ran a 4.72 40 at the Combine with a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He has a rocket for an arm that will get the attention of scouts late in the draft and could end up being the first South Alabama player selected in the NFL draft.
OTHERS TO WATCHBryan Bennett, Southeast Louisiana, 6-2¼, 211
Cody Fajardo, Nevada, 6-1½, 223
Connor Halliday, Washington State, 6-3, 196
Grant Hedrick, Boise State, 6-0, 191
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State, 6-2¼, 198
Hutson Mason, Georgia, 6-2, 207
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