2016 Draft – Position Group – Quarterbacks
This is an interesting draft for Quarterbacks, in that the need around the league looks to be high but there is a lot of fluctuation in projections for who will go in which rounds. Depending on where you look there are between 2 and 4 1st Round QBs, and as many as 6 getting hype as potential NFL starters. The locks to go early are Jared Goff out of Cal and Carson Wentz from North Dakota State, but Paxton Lynch and Christian Hackenberg are also getting some attention as high picks, and for sure won’t fall past the early 2nd Round.
Looking further down the board, I think this could be an interesting year for backups and projects at QB. Connor Cook, Brandon Allen (Arkansas), and Kevin Hogan (Stanford) all look to have floors as solid NFL backups, with Cook seeming to have a good chance to be a Kirk Cousins type player. Cardale Jones and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) have a lot of tools and in the case of Prescott a lot of experience, but would likely need a few seasons of coaching before you’d want to see them starting or really even playing in a game that mattered. Still, that makes for a fairly interesting group overall.
1. Jared Goff – California – 6’4 215lbs
If you are looking for the Quarterback with the best combination of NFL Skills, Projectability, and production against quality opponents, then Jared Goff is your man. Taking over as the starting QB for Cal as a Freshman and steering them back to respectability, Goff put up big numbers in an up-tempo spread offense, but his quick over the top delivery and accuracy play well at any level. He can complete any throw on the field, puts solid zip on his passes, and can make the reads to burn a zone or a blitz.
If there is a place to worry on Goff, it is that he has limited work from under center, getting hit early and often as a young QB has made him a flight risk, and his lack of bulk does create some worry about if he can hold up to the hits the NFL will deliver. All of that being said, Goff is about the surest thing you can expect as a QB coming out. The popular comparison is Matt Ryan and I think that is a good one. His upside is as the type of player who can make some Pro Bowls, carry his team for a few wins, but mostly be productive on good teams or middling on less talented teams. If the 49ers want someone to start right away, I think he is a great fit. St. Louis and the Jets also make a lot of sense, but I don’t see him falling that far.
2. Carson Wentz – North Dakota State – 6’5 237lbs
Carson Wentz appears to be the Draft Darling of this year, making his move swiftly up boards during the post-bowl season all-star games. It is easy to see why he is so popular – the kid has every tool you could ask for in a QB. He has prototypical size for an NFL QB, comes from a pro style offense in college, and is a highly productive winner. He sits in the pocket and studies the field, throws the deep ball with touch and accuracy, moves well in the pocket, scrambles enough to force a Defense to respect his running ability, and sells the fake on play action.
So what is the blemish on this dreamboat all the NFL GMs are swooning over? Well, for starters the competition he faced at North Dakota State wasn’t exactly the best of the best (though the Senior Bowl helped answer some of that). He doesn’t always throw with anticipation, and when he throws on the run he has a tendency to float it out there too much. He could use a bit of time sitting or playing in a run first offense at the NFL level as he learns how to read the field better and throw into tighter windows with greater anticipation. He strikes me as an Alex Smith type of dual threat who can rush for a few hundred yards a year and bust off a big one now and again, but I think his arm is a bit better and his upside could be much higher if given the chance to develop. I could see he and Blake Bortles developing similarly over time. If Cleveland wants someone to sit behind RG3, Dallas wants to spend it’s 1st Round pick on an heir to Tony Romo, or the 49ers are willing to do another year of Gabbert Time, those would all be good landing places.
3. Paxton Lynch – Memphis – 6’7 244lbs
Goff is the pro-ready “safe bet” of the 1st Round, and Wentz is the projectable phenom…so where does that leave Paxton Lynch? Well, with a ton of size and a big arm he would have been the projectable QB in almost any other year and that is how I still feel about him. I think he has a strong chance to have the best career of these top 3 QBs if he lands in the right kind of situation. He didn’t throw much in High School after starting as a Runningback and playing in a Wing-T Offense. However, he has a lot of talent. He’s light on his feet and moves well in the pocket to go along with the size to take some hits in the NFL. His arm strength is solid, though not spectacular, and he makes good decisions with the football. His running abilities will force the Defense to be honest, and has the strength to throw on the run.
Though he has the strength to throw on the run and his decision making is good, his accuracy falters at times. He just hasn’t been a Quarterback that long despite logging a lot of playing time in college, and his fundamentals are not where they could be. If he were to be thrown into the fire I am not sure that his career would be that strong. If given the time to develop and if coached well he could be a very good player. I think in that way he somewhat mirrors Ryan Tannehill, with similar upside and similar chances to flat-line. He’d be an interesting pick for a team like Dallas or San Diego at the top of the 2nd Round as someone to let sit for a couple years and develop. At the bottom of the 1st Round I could see Denver taking him and with a run heavy attack it could work out. I also think Arizona picking him at the bottom of Round 1 to sit behind Carson Palmer could be a very smart move.
3 MORE TO WATCH
1. Christian Hackenberg – Penn State – 6’4 223lbs
Hackenberg had all the hype coming into the season despite having a fairly unproductive college career. He proceeded to have another middling year at Penn State and having his former college coach go out and grab Brock Osweiler, which feels a bit like a vote of no confidence as he’d have certainly been available to the Texans at pick 22. He still has an NFL build, all the arm strength you could ask for, quick feet, and any other tool you might want. What he hasn’t shown is pocket awareness, the ability to read the defense, consistent touch, or many other NFL skills. So what do you do with an every talent and few skills player? Draft him and sit him. I actually think he would be a really interesting pick if he fell to round 3 or 4 for a team like New England, San Diego, Dallas, Arizona, New Orleans, or the Giants. Basically, anyone with an older QB who has a few years left and would probably help coach a talented kid who isn’t ready to take their job yet.
2. Connor Cook – Michigan State – 6’4 217lbs
I actually like Connor Cook a lot. Brian Hoyer is the comparison I see most often, but to me Kirk Cousins is the Michigan State QB I compare him to more. I think you could almost look at one as his floor and the other his ceiling, which is a useful NFL player either way. He has good throwing mechanics when he can set up, and enough strength to make any throw with zip and touch. He can move around a bit and can run in short yardage effectively. Cook is a 4 year starter who makes reads and is willing to throw with anticipation. However, he doesn’t always set his feet and has trouble with his mechanics when forced to move around which kills his accuracy. He can at times take unnecessary risks with his arm, and his tendency to put too much on short passes can make easy completions hard on receivers. I’d love to see him land on a team that could use a solid backup QB and could allow him to develop more like New Orleans, Pittsburgh, or Chicago.
3. Dak Prescott – Mississippi State – 6’2 226lbs
Prescott has the size, mobility, experience, and leadership qualities of a 1st Round NFL Draft Pick. However, he lacks polish and there are questions about his accuracy. When protection was good he stepped into throws and his accuracy went up. When protection faltered Prescott struggled on short and intermediate throws. He doesn’t make great reads and has trouble throwing with anticipation or throwing a receiver open. People who think he can’t pick those skills up see Tim Tebow, and I can understand that comparison. However, I think he has a great mind for football and a strong work ethic than can potentially lead to being an NFL QB. That being said, he will for sure need time and a good QB coach. I would love to see him land somewhere like Arizona or the Giants where he can grow.