March 31, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
The Top 5 Quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft
Last September, I was having a conversation with a Personnel Director friend and he asked me if I had looked at North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz yet. I told him I hadn’t and that I would do it right away. A day later, I called him and told him that I felt Wentz was easily a late first and maybe by the end of the season he would move up to a mid -first round type. A few days later I started evaluating California true junior quarterback Jared Goff. At that time I wrote here in the NFPost that while I recognized Goff’s talent, I felt he would be better off staying in school another year to further develop his game and get bigger and stronger. The way the college game is being played, the colleges are not doing a very good job preparing quarterbacks to play in the National Football League. Most schools play in some variation of a spread offense and seldom do we see quarterbacks play from under center and have to read a whole field. While many of these quarterbacks have the traits to become solid NFL players, they aren’t ready to line up and play. An added problem is these quarterbacks are over drafted and because of that they are forced to play before they get a chance to develop and feel comfortable like Aaron Rodgers did. That has led to over 50% of the first round quarterbacks either outright busting or failing to live up to the position in which they were drafted. That is not going to change, because there is a lack of quality quarterbacks in the NFL clubs with a need at the position will take a quarterback higher than he deserves and play him before he is ready. It’s a vicious cycle that I don’t see changing in the near future. That said, the quarterback class of 2016 is not very deep and again players at the position will be drafted higher than their talent level. A General Manager friend of mine told me that if when scouting a quarterback I don’t see him as a potential starter in the league than don’t draft him. Looking at this year’s class I only see six and maybe seven quarterbacks who have a chance to become eventual starters in the league. There will be many more than that drafted in four more weeks and the cycle will continue. Carson Wentz – North Dakota State There is no question that Wentz is very talented and deserves to be the first quarterback drafted. He played in a more sophisticated offense than all of the other top five quarterbacks except Kevin Hogan from Stanford. Wentz has great size and is an outstanding athlete for his size. He has a very strong arm can spin the ball, is accurate short and deep and can make every possible NFL throw. He may very well get drafted within the top two or three slots of the Draft. My question is if he is ready to be drafted that high? Like other before him, he isn’t ready to jump in and play. Playing at the FCS level is much different than the NFL. What Wentz has going for him are the intangibles. He is very smart, has outstanding football character and is a natural leader. I think he will become a much better player than Blake Bortles once he established himself in the League. I can also see the Browns selecting him pick #2. Jared Goff – California I feel now the same way I felt in October. Jared Goff should have stayed in school. Yes, he is talented and yes he will be the second quarterback selected, but is he ready to compete in the NFL? Goff is intelligent and has leadership skills but from a physical viewpoint he needs to get bigger and stronger. While he spins the ball well, he has just a little better than average arm strength and I don’t see him every having close to the arms strength Wentz or Lynch have. His small hands don’t help either when it comes to ball security. Still he has a quick release and is a good decision maker. I don’t see the accuracy that others do because the offense he played in is geared to complete 70% of a QB’s throws. He still needs work on ball placement and timing and be more consistent with his deep ball. There is no question that Goff has upside and if he gets drafted by the right club, he will be able to sit and learn until he is ready. I see him going to Dallas at #4. Paxton Lynch – Memphis Earlier in the process, I had Lynch as my number one quarterback. He is a very good athlete for his size, has a very strong arm and is capable of making all the necessary throws. I have dropped him down to the third rated quarterback because of the offense he played in at Memphis and because of reports that he struggled on the board some when meeting with coaches at the Combine. Lynch has as much upside as any quarterback in this draft but he clearly isn’t ready to step in and play. From a physical standpoint he has as outstanding talent but he needs to learn and understand the concepts of an NFL passing attack. There will be a period of adjustment for him once he gets to the league, but in three years it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if he is the best quarterback of this years group. Kevin Hogan – Stanford Hogan doesn’t have the physical tools of some of the other quarterbacks in this draft but his intangibles are right up at the top. Hogan has been trained in the most sophisticated pro-style passing attack in college football. Once he gets to the NFL his learning curve will be much less than the other quarterbacks. Not only has he been well trained but he has excellent football character and he is a very good leader. Yes. He needs to work on his throwing mechanics but that part is easy. You can’t teach his maturity and decision making ability. He will come into the league as a solid backup and will eventually become a winning starter. While he may not take a team to a Super Bowl, he will be able to get his club to the playoffs. Connor Cook – Michigan State Cook is almost the opposite of Hogan. He has excellent natural tools in which to work with but he isn’t close when it comes to the intangibles. Like Hogan, he has been trained in a NFL style offense and has a lot of experience playing form under center. He has been a three year starter and a consistent winner in a very good conference. What people in the league question is his passion for the game, leadership and overall work ethic. He was a three year starter and was not voted as a captain. That is a huge red flag for any quarterback. There is no question that Cook can play the game at high level. He will be one of the bigger risk/reward players in this draft. How he turns out, won't be known for a few years at least.