The 2012 NFL Draft is only days away and inevitably most of the talk in the lead-up has surrounded the quarterbacks. Here’s a quick look at the top contenders and where they’re likely to go.
1. Andrew Luck (Stanford) – #1 overall
Luck has been projected as the top pick in the NFL Draft for two consecutive years now as, prior to his decision to stay in school for one more year, Luck was ranked ahead of Cam Newton for last year’s draft.
This is one of those quarterbacks who has no apparent flaws in his game. He has a great arm, is accurate in his throws, shows good judgment with quick decisions and is athletic to boot. Andrew Luck is the top prospect of this year’s draft and he should be.
2. Robert Griffin III (Baylor) – #2 overall
Here we have a freak of an athlete who would be at home at any offensive position on the field (and would probably have made a pretty good defensive back too) had he chosen to be. Lucky for us, Robert Griffin III became a quarterback and is easily head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class excluding Andrew Luck.
RG3 is an awesome specimen. He’s faster than Cam Newton, more agile than most running backs but has the poise in the pocket to make some tough throws. He also has a great attitude and personality just oozes from the kid. As he said on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp “there’s really two number 1 picks this year”.
3. Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) – Top 10
After the top two, there is a clear gap to Ryan Tannehill. Despite the buzz surrounding his likely being picked in the top 10, this doesn’t mean he is worth that pick. However, you better get used to the idea because it is almost certain to happen.
Tannehill definitely has ability. In his time with Texas A&M, he put together a bunch of nice plays and showed he can make the throws. The question with the Aggie is his ability to make plays in pressure situations and to close out games. It is this quality that often separates the good from the great and is what his detractors point to most often when arguing that Tannehill isn’t worth the high pick.
Tannehill was originally projected as a low first to early second round prospect. Be prepared that that may be all he is.
4. Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) – Mid Second Round
This may surprise some of you. It shouldn’t.
Kirk Cousins is one of those quarterbacks that if you watched him in college, you’d say he’s solid but not spectacular. He was held back by his offense quite a bit and showed with his throws at the Combine that he certainly has a great deal of talent.
Cousins has been compared a lot to Kyle Orton. I can see that. He won’t impress you a whole lot but he will do his job and do it well. Consider this – with all the back quarterback play in the NFL, isn’t that the sort of quarterback worth investing in? He’ll probably never be elite but he’s far less likely to let you down either. In today’s “can’t miss” draft environment, this reliability carries a value all it’s own.
5. Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) – Late 1st Round, Early 2nd Round
Is Brandon Weeden an elite quarterback who is being devalued due to his age? That’s the question on the lips of a lot of team scouts and has many NFL teams interested in obtaining Weeden early in the draft to take a chance.
Is Weeden an old rookie? Absolutely. At 29, he is older than more than half of the current starters in the NFL. Despite this, he showed considerable polish at college level and there is a chance that he is ready for the pros. This alone will get him drafted high. However, he’s only ranked 5th on this list because at the end of the day he’s still a 29 year old rookie who only has a chance rather than being the elite prospect that Luck and Griffin are.
If Weeden can learn quickly, if his physical ability doesn’t decline too quickly and if he can emulate some of the gritty performances he made in college, he’s a bargain. That’s alot of ifs though – while I love Weeden’s upside, I hate betting on ifs, buts and maybes.
6. Brock Oswiller (Arizona State) – Third Or Fourth Round
There is only one word to describe Brock Oswiller – big. At 6 foot 7 and 240+ pounds, this kid is one of the biggest quarterback prospects the NFL has seen. Even better – he can throw and does have good athletic ability.
There are some serious issues here though. First of all, Oswiller chose not to work out at the Combine. Straight away this puts up red flags. For a prospect who has a lot of competition from the likes of Weeden, Cousins and Foles, it would have helped Oswiller’s stock a lot if he’d shown us what he could do. The fact that he didn’t suggests to scouts and coaches that he has something to hide.
Looking at tape of him, it is surprising to see that Oswiller is quite mobile in the pocket – something you wouldn’t generally expect from someone his size. He’s got a very big arm too which is an asset many coaches look for.
The negatives from tape are what will drop Oswiller’s stock heavily – this kid is as raw as the sushi I had for lunch. His decision making is awful, his ability to read defenses needs work and in general you wonder if he will have the ability to adjust to the complexity of an NFL playbook. Someone will grab the guy in the mid rounds to try and train him up but there are serious doubts as to whether Oswiller will ever be an NFL quarterback.
7. Ryan Lindley (San Diego State) – Fourth Round
Lindley is the big sleeper of this quarterback class for me. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I pick a pair of quarterbacks every year that I like and that Kirk Cousins was the first. Since then he’s gone from a third or fourth rounder to a genuine second round prospect. Ryan Lindley is now on that list.
Lindley has plenty of lumps – biggest among these in inaccuracy issues in college. He needed to have a big senior year and failed to do so. He had a chance to improve upon the perception of him at the Senior Bowl but failed to do so. His mechanics are the main reason for this which is why there is hope.
There is plenty to like about this kid. He’s got size at 6 foot 4, he’s got a big arm and he’s shown good decision making skills despite the turnovers he made. One big immeasurable he displayed during his time at SDSU was that he can hang tight even when times are tough.
If Lindley can get himself onto a team where he can sit for a few years and get trained up to iron out his mechanical issues then after that time we may be looking at the next Matt Flynn who comes out from behind the shadow of a starter and shines.
8. Nick Foles (Arizona) – Third Or Fourth Round
Here we have a quarterback who looked pretty good at college level but since leaving Arizona has been unable to to impress anybody. Prior to the Senior Bowl, Nick Foles was in the mix to be the third quarterback off the board with Ryan Tannehill at the bottom of the first round. Since then he has failed at every level to show the skills that seemed so evident in college.
When you look more closely at his tape, it just gets worse. While Foles fought well when his defense consistently failed to perform, eventually this pressure began to affect his ability. He appears unable to go through his progressions and find the open receiver. Foles has the bad habit of locking in on a receiver and if he can’t get out of this habit he will never be an NFL quarterback. However, he does have a rocket arm and can make very accurate throws when he makes the right reads so there is hope here.
9. B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga) – Fourth To Sixth Round
Here’s one of those small school quarterbacks that is really going under the radar this year. He has his share of fans among scouts, coaches and commentators alike. A lot of the reason he’s underrated is in the college he attended – UT-Chattanooga isn’t exactly recognised as being a haven of NFL talent.
Watching tape of him at the East-West Shrine Game, I was very impressed with what I saw from Coleman. Obviously there’s coaching needed with him. He needs to make his reads faster, his mechanics need work and he’s not particularly athletic but he does have above average arm strength and shows above average accuracy as well. Watch this guy – whoever takes him in the draft will at the very least have a very capable backup in a couple of years.
10. Case Keenum (Houston) – Fifth To Seventh Round
I have chosen to round out the top 10 with Houston quarterback Case Keenum for one simple reason – of the remaining signal callers, he is most likely to have a major impact either as a backup or as an average to below average starter.
Keenum did extremely well in his senior year in Houston and became a favourite of college fans who were cheering his team to the postseason. Despite this, Case Keenum looks to me like a system quarterback. He flourished in Houston because the way they played suited him. With that being said, if he can get drafted by the right team and fit his team’s system then he may get a chance to be a starter down the line.
Ultimately, Keenum may never be more than an adequate NFL backup. There is potential here though so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him push past the expectations of him.
So there you have it. I left some favorites off the list. I’m sure many of you wonder why the likes of Russel Wilson and Kellen Moore were left out. As usual, you can ask me any questions you have by tweeting me @chrissmithsz or by leaving a comment below.