NFL draft positional analysis: Quarterbacks

Two quarterbacks could go in the first seven picks and three in the first round. But what are the assets, liabilities and statistics that the top 10 quarterbacks bring to the draft?

VIKINGS QUARTERBACKS – Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke.

TEAM NEED – The Vikings are convinced that they have a long-term solution at QB in Bridgewater, which will likely take them out of the market to even consider quarterback in the first two days of the draft. But Hill is an aging veteran who, barring injury, will likely be the No. 2 quarterback again this season. Heinicke is viewed as a project, but would face a training camp battle if the Vikings use a late-round pick on a quarterback.

POSITION ANALYSIS – Because of the importance of the quarterback position, players here tend to have their value inflated. There isn’t a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck in this year’s draft class, but Carson Wentz and Jared Goff could both be off the board in the first seven picks and Paxton Lynch could get selected before the first round is over. Other than those three, it would appear that there are more developmental picks than potential starters in the Class of 2016.

CREAM OF THE CROP

Carson Wentz, North Dakota State, 6-5¼, 237 – Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who started 23 of 24 games played in that span, posting a record of 20-3 as a starter…In his final two seasons, he completed 358 of 566 passes for 4,762 yards with 42 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and rushing 201 times for 936 yards and 12 TDs…Missed eight games as a senior due to a broken wrist…Played in back-to-back FCS Championship games…Has a prototype blend of size, arm strength and athleticism…Has a very tight release and is mechanically sound…Can make plays with his legs…Reads coverages well and consistently audibles out to a better play…Never played elite competition and the jump in talent will be pronounced…Doesn’t have ideal timing on routes and will fire passes by receivers when he forces them…Is prone to fumbling…Ran a 4.77 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 30½-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: A small-school product with huge upside, he will likely come of the board in the first seven picks, perhaps as high as No. 2 to Cleveland.

Jared Goff, Cal, 6-4, 215 – Third-year junior who started all 37 games of his college career, completing 977 of 1,569 passes for 12,200 yards with 93 touchdowns and 30 interceptions…His numbers in terms of yards, completion percentage and touchdowns rose every year…Has all the attributes needed to play in a pro-style offense…Can throw the full route tree and throws will good velocity…Has ideal high release and gets rid of the ball quickly and accurately…Has a good pocket presence and naturally slides to extend plays…Has a thin frame than isn’t ideally conducive to the NFL and the beating QBs take…Didn’t play well against his toughest opponents in 2015…Provides nothing in the way of a running threat – he had negative yardage rushing as a collegian…Ran a 4.82 40 at the Combine with a 27-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: There are some scouts who believe Goff should be the first QB off the board. Even if he isn’t, he likely doesn’t make it past the top seven or eight picks.

Paxton Lynch, Memphis, 6-6¾, 244 – Third-year junior…Started all 38 games at Memphis and completed 758 of 1,205 passes for 8,865 yards with 59 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, and rushing 288 times for 687 yards and 17 touchdowns…Played running back in high school and is still somewhat new to playing traditional quarterback…Has a huge frame with the ability to add more weight and bulk strength…Has a strong arm and throws a tight spiral consistently deep downfield…Is accurate on the move and makes plays when the pocket breaks down better than any rookie in this year’s class…Has a strong football I.Q. and is extremely coachable…Throws too many bad passes and tends to sail passes to open receivers…Has made it this far on natural talent and will need to improve his fundamentals…Takes too many sacks and needs to improve his internal clock on when to gets rid of the ball…Ran a 4.86 40 at the Combine with 36-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Lynch is still a work in progress, but his upside is big. He likely won’t make it out of the first round because, if, for no other reason, it appears Denver needs a quarterback.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Connor Cook, Michigan State, 6-4, 217 – Fifth-year senior…Started all 39 games his final three seasons, completing 664 of 1,153 passes for 9,100 yards, 70 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in that span…Won the 2015 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for college football’s best QB…Suffered a throwing-shoulder injury that didn’t require surgery but remains a concern…A veteran starter for a power conference that plays pro-style football…Reads the field as well any prospect in this year’s class and is quick to see an opening and lead his target…Throws a tight spiral and can make all throws…Instinctively feels pressure and steps up to extend plays…Isn’t a natural leader and doesn’t have a glass-eater mentality toward the game…Will throw a careless pass when pressured, which doesn’t fly for long in the NFL…Has a cocky personality that will turn off some teams…Ran a 4.79 40 at the Combine with 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: If you were to ask him, he’s a first-round pick. But Cook is a talented player who has potential background red flags from outsiders looking in that may see him slide farther than he should.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, 6-2¼, 226 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year full-time starter who completed 560 of 873 passes for 7,242 yards, 56 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in that span…A huge running threat, in his final three seasons he ran 502 times for 2,403 yards and 37 touchdowns…A two-time All-America and two-time First Team All-SEC…Joined Tim Tebow as the only players in SEC history to have 60 TD passes, 40 TD runs, 8,500 passing yards and 2,000 rushing…Is a student of the game and reads defenses well…Has a strong arm and quick-twitch set-and-throw mechanics…A dangerous dual threat as a runner and passer…Is not elite on deep ball accuracy…Forces passes too often and needs to refine his game to avoid unnecessary passes that will get picked off in the NFL…Played in a quick-read offense that didn’t ask him to go through progressions…Ran a 4.79 40 at the Combine with a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Perhaps unfairly compared to Tebow too often, there will be some teams that view him as having a game that doesn’t translate to the pros, but given time to develop, he could become a very solid pro and could come off the board somewhere in the early stages of Day 2 because of his strong intangibles.

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State, 6-4½, 223 – Third-year junior…Started all 38 games of his college career, completing 693 of 1,235 passes for 8,457 yards with 48 touchdowns and 31 interceptions…Played under Texans head coach Bill O’Brien as a true freshman…Penn State’s all-time leading passer in yards and touchdowns…Prototype size and looks the part for an NFL quarterback…Has a very strong arm and can deliver the deep pass on target…Is both mentally and physically tough and doesn’t get gun shy when he takes a beating…Very low completion percentage (56.1) and it got worse in each of his three seasons and had a very pedestrian touchdown-to-interception ratio…Isn’t mobile and a complete non-factor when forced to scramble…Doesn’t have great field vision and locks on receivers too often…Ran a 4.78 40 at the Combine with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump.
PROJECTION: An interesting prospect because he has a lot of intangibles in his favor, but hasn’t proved it on a consistent basis. He may struggle to come off the board on Day 2 because his downside is pretty pronounced in key respects.

BEST OF THE REST

Cardale Jones, Ohio State, 6-5, 253 – Third-year junior…Never played a full season, splitting time the last two years with J.T. Barrett…In his three-year career, he completed 166 of 269 passes for 2,322 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions and rushed 153 yards for 617 yards and four TDs…Has an extremely strong arm, the best in this year’s class, getting him the nickname “12 Gauge” – his number and the velocity of his arm…Has incredible physical gifts that will turn heads and get some coach really excited about his potential…Loves the big stage and doesn’t let big games or big situations get to him…Is extremely limited in experience and could have made a lot of money if he stayed another year at OSU…Doesn’t read defenses quickly and will often throw ill-advised passes that would be intercepted in the NFL…Is not aware in the pocket and, if his first read isn’t there, too often he tucks the ball and takes off…Didn’t finish the workouts at the Combine after pulling a hamstring, but ran a 4.81 40 and posted a 36-inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: He has the look of a Daunte Culpepper type but is extremely raw and there are legitimate fears he will never live up to expectations. As such, some teams will have him well down their draft lists, but a team willing to take a chance could get a steal early in Day 3.

Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, 6-3¾, 231 – Fifth-year senior who spent 2012 at Florida before transferring to NC State and sitting out the 2013 season…Started all 26 games he played for the Wolfpack, completing 458 of 765 passes for 5,268 yards with 43 touchdowns and 11 interceptions…Was a dangerous threat with his legs, rushing 263 times for 899 yards and nine touchdowns…Has the needed size and arm strength scouts look for in quarterbacks…Has excellent mobility to both extend plays and take off for significant gains with his legs…Comes from a system that was complicated and called on him to play both under center and from the shotgun…Does not have good accuracy on deep passes and too many of them aren’t even close…Isn’t quick to read and react to a hot read and tends to hold the ball too long when plays are there to be made…Doesn’t have confidence at times and will check down too often…Ran a 4.94 40 at the Combine with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He has some good intangibles, but isn’t a pure quarterback that jumps out at scouts. He’ll get drafted, but will be viewed as a long-term project who will likely be a longshot to ever be a starter in the NFL.

Kevin Hogan, Stanford, 6-3¼, 218 – Fifth-year senior who redshirted behind Andrew Luck as a freshman…Became a starter midway through his freshman season and started 46 of 51 career games…Completed 727 of 1,103 passes for 9,385 yards with 75 TDs and rushed 315 times for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns…Nobody will question his toughness, his drive and his passion for the game…Has a strong arm and good accuracy at all three levels…Makes good decisions when the bullets are flying around him and has the field presence to step up in the pocket, extend plays and take a big hit to deliver the ball…Has a long release that will need to be modified or changed because he opens himself up to strip sacks way too often…Will force passes that can cost his team a game and hang his receivers out to dry to take a monster hit…Doesn’t have great quick-twitch mobility and gets choked off in the pocket too often…Ran a 4.76 40 at the Combine with a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Few QBs have a wider disparity in their draft value. Having played in a complicated pro-style offense for five years gives him a wealth of knowledge, but he’s no Andrew Luck and his road to the NFL may need to be one defined by patience of a coaching staff, which could drop him into the third day.

Brandon Allen, Arkansas, 6-1½, 217 – Fifth-year senior…He improved each season and, in his final two years, completed 434 of 709 passes for 5,725 yards with 50 touchdowns and 13 interceptions…Had a big senior season, completing 244 of 370 passes for 3,440 yards with 30 TDs and eight interceptions to elevate his draft stock…Has a very good high release and has the arm strength to make all the required throws…Has good accuracy and often hits receivers in the perfect spot to get yards after the catch…Is a good leader and will give you everything he’s got…Is undersized by NFL QB standards and, prior to last season, was viewed as a prospect who would be more of a training camp arm than a guy with a legitimate shot to being a long-term pro…Brings almost nothing to the ground game, averaging about one yard per rushing attempt in his career…Didn’t have a good week at the Senior Bowl, ranging from small hands (8½ inches) to a very erratic week of practice…Ran a 4.84 40 at the Combine with a 28-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He’s coming off a big season in a gimmick offense that many scouts don’t think will translate to the NFL. He will likely get drafted late, but his lack of prototype size will always make sticking on a roster a challenge.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Vernon Adams, Oregon, 5-11, 200
Jake Coker, Alabama, 6-6, 236
Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky, 6-2¾, 213
Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech, 6-4, 234
Cody Kessler, USC, 6-1¼, 220
Jake Rudock, Michigan, 6-3, 199
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana, 6-6¼, 234


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