We’ve heard it all spring. “This isn’t a good draft for quarterbacks.” And I agree whole-heartedly. There have been just five franchise guys drafted in the last two years: Andrew Luck, RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson. None of the guys in this year’s class are worthy of comparison to that group. With that said, the league is always desperate for quarterback upgrades, so a few of these guys stand good chances of going in the first round.
I've provided comparisons to other NFL quarterbacks, but keep in mind these are parallels based on style, not necessarily talent level.
1. E.J. Manuel, Florida State (6-5, 237)
6,063 pass yards, 66.8% completed, 41 TD, 18 INT, 8 rush TD between 2011-12
Manuel has some learning to do at the next level, but his upside is big. He’s my top guy because of his physical talents and his intangibles, both of which are unmatched by his peers. He’s a beast of human built in the Cam Newton-mold, and in addition to his powerful frame he also ran a 4.65-40 at the combine. He’s the best fit in this group to be successful with the read option. I also believe he has the tools to be an effective passer in the NFL. He has a strong arm capable of making all the throws and has shown great touch and accuracy on fades and dump-offs. He’ll need to work on his progressions and decision-making, though, and his accuracy does get shaky at times. The kicker is his poise and general demeanor. Manuel looks and sounds like a guy who can command a huddle or a press conference with equal confidence and grace. He’s the one “face of the franchise” guy in this class.
NFL Comparison: Daunte Culpepper
2. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State (6-7, 225)
7,085 pass yards, 60.3% completed, 62 TD, 29 INT between 2011-12
Glennon has a big arm. He won’t be racking up much rushing yardage, but he will hang in and take a hit to make the throw. He threw too many picks at State and will have to work on his decision-making and also improve his accuracy on short and intermediate routes. Glennon might not be the guy to elevate a franchise, but if placed in a situation with a significant amount of talent around him his strong arm could do some damage. Glennon seemed to struggle as a dropback passer relative to his snaps from the shotgun, so he’ll need to become more comfortable on the move.
NFL Comparison: Drew Bledsoe
3. Geno Smith, West Virginia (6-2, 218)
8,590 pass yards, 68.5% completed, 73 TD, 13 INT, 4 rush TD between 2011-12
Smith posted some ridiculous numbers at West Virginia and he ran a 4.59-second 40 at the Combine. Despite his test speed, I also don’t see him as a particularly skilled runner, more of a scrambler. He’s a pocket passer who thrives on working in the short and intermediate areas. He’s exceptionally accurate and throws well when off balance, but that might get him in trouble at the next level. He has a tendency to throw off his back foot and while he has a strong enough arm to make all the throws, it’s not a cannon that will make up for undisciplined mechanics. He’ll have to adjust to working from under center as he was in the shotgun or pistol almost exclusively at WVU. Smith will be good, but he’s not the next coming of RGIII.
NFL Comparison: Tony Romo
4. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (6-6, 232)
3,612 pass yards, 59.4% completed, 34 TD, 12 INT in 2012
Bray is a guy who benefited from having great players at wide receiver. Often times he’d throw off his back foot and his wideouts (Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers at various points) would make a play on a jump ball or an underthrow. Unlike Smith, though, he does have a rocket arm, perhaps the strongest in this draft. He can light it up down the field and fire the ball into small windows, both qualities that will help his chances of succeeding in the pros. He also showed toughness and will stand in facing the rush and complete passes under duress. Which is key, because he isn’t very mobile. Bray has major issues when it comes to mechanics, however, and he drew public criticism from his head coach for not approaching the game the right way.
NFL Comparison: Jay Cutler
5. Matt Barkley, USC (6-2, 227)
6,801 pass yards, 66.5% completed, 75 TD, 22 INT between 2011-12
Barkley’s arm strength has been a popular topic of conversation leading up to the draft, but it’s not as soft as Chad Pennington’s, who he’s often compared to. He won’t wow you with his velocity or with his deep ball, but Barkley can make the necessary throws so long as his feet are set. His biggest asset is his experience and intangibles. Barkley was a four-year starter in high school before doing the same at USC. He’s a confident leader. His size could hinder him at the next level and he’s slow-footed, however, and when he can escape he’s not the best thrower on the run. All in all, Barkley is a prospect who lacks upside and versatility, but he’ll still be a safe bet to go in the first two rounds due to his reliable fundamentals.
NFL Comparison: Andy Dalton
6. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (6-2, 215)
7,025 pass yards, 62.7% completed, 45 TD, 19 INT, 4 rush TD between 2011-12
First off, don’t be confused by the rushing touchdowns, as they were all on QB sneaks. But, they still count. Wilson is a tough kid who consistently stood in the pocket and took big hits to make throws under heavy pressure. He has a strong arm and puts zip on the short and intermediate passes. Be it because of his delivery or lack of height, Wilson doesn’t show proper trajectory at times, which harms his accuracy beyond the intermediate range. His stats took a dip in his senior season, but he had to deal with the departure of his head coach, his offensive coordinator and top three wideouts from the previous year.
NFL Comparison: Philip Rivers-lite
7. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (6-2, 227)
6,434 pass yards, 62.4% completed, 48 TD, 19 INT, 4 rush TD between 2011-12
Nassib is the type of guy who wows in a workout in tee-shirts and shorts. He’s a well-built dude with a strong arm and decent mobility that throws well on the run. He can fire the ball down the field and hit those tight windows, but he also has the tendency to “Favre” the ball and sling it way too hard when touch is needed to make a completion. He has a quick release, which is another quality held dear to talent evaluators. Nassib shows a concerning lack of reliability when it comes to reading defenses and anticipating his route runners, though, and his accuracy is too inconsistent to be a strength. A confident and competent quarterbacks coach has little reason to rate Nassib any lower than a top-40 pick, though.
NFL Comparison: Jake Locker
8. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (6-4, 225)
13,448 pass yards, 65.0% completed, 97 TD, 38 INT, 3 rush TD from 2010-12
Jones was a four-year starter at Oklahoma and he put up some serious stats. In each of his last three years as a Sooner he topped 4,000 passing yards and connected on at least 29 touchdowns. He has a smooth, easy throwing motion that belies the strength behind it. He can make all the throws necessary to play in the NFL and he has a good, solid frame. Jones showed a tendency to fall apart in the face of pressure, though, and his lack of mobility results in pressure finding him more often than you’d like.
NFL Comparison: Kerry Collins
Best of the Rest
Zac Dysert, Miami (OH)
Matt Scott, Arizona
Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt