As I have gotten older the NFL Draft has become a a passion of mine. While some may not see a point in trying to project how these college players will perform at the NFL, I find the entire process fascinating. While it is pretty easy to identify the top players in the draft, finding the hidden gems can jettison any team from a borderline playoff team to a perennial Super Bowl contender.
While I do not have the resources of some draft "experts" I do feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it takes traits it takes to succeed at the NFL level.
Like any draft, the most high-profile players are the quarterbacks, and this year the cream of the crop have plenty of story lines that can be talked about come draft time. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Oregon offense blew away the competition this season on the way to a Pac-12 title, and a matchup on Jan. 12 against Cardale "12 Gague" Jones and the Buckeyes from Ohio State for the National Title.
Mariota was absurd this season from an efficiency stand point, totaling a TD:INT ratio of 38:2 with one game still to be played. Mariota definitely has the size (6'4, 230 lbs) and speed (4.4 forty) that has the potential to drive opposing defensive coordinators crazy as they try to game plan for the athletic specimen.
Mariota is not the only quarterback in this draft that has made a name for himself, although Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's has started to make more of a name for himself due to his off-the-field antics rather than his play on the field. Winston has battled his immaturity issues with a myriad of off-the-field incidents as well as battled inconsistencies throughout his redshirt sophomore season. Although some people find some of the antics performed by Winston to be major red flags, I think that these issues can be worked through as he gets older.
Going into the 2014 college football season, there was a lot of hype around UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, and his potential to fight to be the first quarterback selected in next years draft. However, Hundley did not have the season that many expected from him.
So now that we have finished the 2014-15 college football season underclassmen will be forced to make a decision in the next two days as to whether or not they are going to declare for the upcoming draft. While it is difficult to predict at the moment who will decide to declare and who will decide to go back to school, I feel like the logical thing for several underclassmen (Jones, Mariota) to make them self eligible due to the lack of depth in this years quarterback class.
So of the quarterbacks that have declared, or that I expect to declare this is how I would rank them at the current time:
1. Jameis Winston QB/Florida State
Year: RS Sophomore
- · Experience in Pro Style Offense
- · Premier Arm Strength
- · Exceptional Accuracy/Ball Placement
- · Stands Tall in the Pocket
- · Athleticism to Make Plays Outside the Pocket
- · Consistent Footwork
- · Still Room to Grow Mentally/Physically
- · Knows Where Check Down is
- · Keeps Eyes Downfield
- Anticipates throws exceptionally well
- · Off-Field Concerns
- · Weight Gain
- · Mechanics worsened as year progresses
- · Elongated throwing Motion
- Increase in Interceptions
- "What the Hell" Throws
Grade: Top 3 Pick
2. Marcus Mariota QB/University of Oregon
Year: RS Junior
- · Prototypical Size
- · Adequate Arm
- · Plus Athleticism
- · Ability to throw on the Run
- · Pocket Movement
- Ability to make plays with his legs
- · Ball Placement could use work
- · Needs to let Routes Progress Longer
- · System QB???
- o Screen Passes
- o Throws too a lot of space
- · Inconsistent Footwork
- · Touch Needs Improvement
- · Learn how to Slide
- Throws with a weak base far too often
Grade: 1st Round
I'm sure that there are a lot of you that will argue that Mariota is the better quarterback prospect than Winston. While Mariota has elite upside, with the ability to make plays with his arm and legs, I give the edge to Winston because of his experience in a pro-style offense. The fact that Winston has the experience in the pro-style system, and has the experience to recognize when to make checks at the line. While Winston does have a couple of moments each game that makes me scratch my head, I still feel like his overall game and ability to anticipate throws and drive the ball downfield makes me give Winston the edge.
3. Brett Hundley QB/UCLA
Weight: 227 lbs
Year: RS Junior
- · Prototypical Size
- When in a rhythm, ball comes out effortlessly
- YAC routes Ball Placement
- · Short/Intermediate Accuracy
- · Short/Compact Delivery
- · Good Touch to Intermediate Areas
- Average Arm Strength
- · Deep Ball Inconsistent
- · Needs to Keep Eyes Downfield w/Pressure
- · Lack of Plays Under Center
- · Average Arm Strength
- Lack of Snaps Under Center
Grade: Late 1st/2nd Round
After Winston and Mariota come off the board I have a feeling it's going to be a little while before we hear another quarterback come off the board. UCLA's Brett Hundley entered the season as a contender for the no. 1 overall pick, but after failing to regress, and battling terrible offensive line play Hundley was unable to take the next step in his development. With Ohio State's Cardale Jones deciding to return to school for his junior season, Hundley is now in prime position to be the third QB off the board.
Hundley has the prototypical frame, but has a tendency to drop his eyes with pressure. Hundley possesses an NFL caliber arm that would be best suited for a west-coast offensive system that relies on timing receivers being able to make plays after the catch. While I would not want to start Hundley from day 1, I could definitely see Hundley make his NFL-debut at some point during his rookie season. I would expect a team to trade back into the bottom half of the first round to draft Hundley, and ensure the fifth year option that is in all rookie contracts.
4. Garret Grayson QB/Colorado State
Weight: 220 lbs
Class: RS Senior
- Good size
- Stands Tall in Pocket
- Quick Release
- Ability to Evade Pressure in Pocket
- Good Accuracy in Short/Intermediate Area of Field
- Willing to Throw into Tight Windows
- Needs to Sit an Learn Behind Veteran
- Average Arm Strength
- Level of Competition
- Lack of Experience in Pro-Style Offense
- Stares Down Primary Read
Grade: Round 3
5. Bryce Petty QB/Baylor University
Weight: 230 lbs
Class: RS Senior
- Plus Size
- Gets Rid of Ball Quickly
- Exceptional Accuracy on Short/Intermediate/YAC routes
- Ball Placement Good
- Underrated Arm Strength
- Experienced Starter
- Ability to Prove Self at Senior Bowl
- No Experience Running Pro System
- Footwork is major question mark
- Not Going to Extend Plays Outside the Pocket
- Leaves a lot of Plays on the Field on Deep Routes
Grade: Day 3
- Chris Bonner QB/CSU-Pueblo
Bonner is a massive individual standing at 6'7", weighing in at a stout 235 lbs. With this frame, and rocket arm Bonner has a chance to increase his pre-draft buzz with some strong individual work outs. Bonner has good feet, and stays square to the line of scrimmage in his drop. Bonner possesses plenty of arm strength, and an effortless release. By no means is Bonner ready to step in and run an NFL offense, but I could definitely see him ending up as a day 3 selection if he is able to impress in workouts.
- Sean Mannion QB/Oregon State
Standing at 6'5" the former Beavers quarterback has the look of a typical pro-style quarterback in the NFL, and is going to get a chance to prove himself after accepting an invite to play at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Mansion possesses a strong arm, but his accuracy and touch need a lot of work. Mansion also has an elongated throwing motion, which paired with his tendency to lock on to his primary read could make for a recipe for disaster at the next level. I would say he tops out at a day 3 selection come April.
Photo credit to Kathy Vitulano on Flickr