We’re still a few months away from the 2013 NFL Draft. But with the NFL Scouting Combine 5 days away, college prospects will get a chance to turn their fortune around and push their draft stock up. While others who are regarded as highly-sought rookies could ruin their chances of getting taken in the early rounds by not making all the throws, putting in slow 40 times or by simply talking themselves out of the good graces of several teams during the interview process. There has been times where the interview process alone has destroyed a prospect’s chances at big bucks.
When it comes to quarterbacks, this years Combine is going to be especially significant with the class itself being so weak. That’s not to say that all these quarterbacks stink. But a quarterback who is currently ranked No. 2 or No. 3 could find themselves elevated to No. 1 if they can continue pushing what momentum they have heading into late April.
I’ll be going over the top-5 prospects at all positions. But for now, lets take a look at the most important position for all those teams who are in desperate need for a franchise quarterback.
Keep this in the back of your mind: 2014?s quarterback class figures to be must stronger than this year’s current crop. So teams who do need to solidify the position for years to come could try to get through this year with a stopgap option in order to pluck better value in 2014. The best example of this is the Eagles re-signing of Michael Vick. Chip Kelly knows there isn’t a rookie quarterback good enough to run his offense in 2013. So signing an aging veteran who is close to having most of the tools he needs to get through this year, what some describe as a lost year regardless, did make the most sense. Even though MANY disagree with the move.
1. Geno Smith – West Virginia
Coming off a disappointing performance against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, in which he passed for 187 yards and counted for 2 safeties (sack and intentional grounding), Smith opted out of the Senior Bowl, a move that came as a bit of a surprise to some experts coming off such a poor outing. Smith has all the traits to be a starter in the NFL in 2013 after coming off a senior season in which he threw for 42 scores and a mere 6 interceptions. But Smith played in a conference that was notorious for it’s bad defenses. And playing in Dana Holgorsen’s high-octane passing offense didn’t hurt either. Smith’s ability to use his legs is what sets him apart, in my opinion, from the other prospects. Some have Smith going as high as No. 1 to the Chiefs, No. 4 to the Eagles (read above) and to the Bills at No. 8. Chiefs GM John Dorsey has already gone on record as saying there is no “clear-cut guy” at quarterback that has separated himself as a first-round pick this year. There is always the chance Smith finds his value dropping between the end of the Combine and the first day of the draft. It’s happened before to guys like Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers. But for now, I predict Smith will be the first quarterback off the board.
2. Mike Glennon – NC State
Glennon has a strong arm, but he’s inconsistent and is “Drew Bledsoe-like” in the pocket. Meaning he can’t use his legs at all to get out of pressure when the pocket collapses. So footwork is an issue. He also has accuracy issues when he’s under pressure. The positives are his size. The kid is freakin’ huge at 6’7/220 pounds. He also showed the strongest arm of all the quarterback prospects at the Senior Bowl, so he’d fit perfectly in a vertical-based offense. That could be enough for a team in the late first round to take a chance on him. He’s someone who could push Smith for the No. 1 spot if he can put it all together and come up with a strong Combine.
3. Tyler Wilson – Arkansas
Some feel Wilson is the most “Pro Ready” of all the quarterback candidates, which could make him a surprise pick for a team like the Bills or Cardinals. Wilson started off slow during Senior Bowl practice, but he eventually gained more consistency, while showing smooth mechanics and a good, but not great, arm. He isn’t as tall as Glennon, but he has a strong build and has shown toughness. One big drawback is he has shown a bit too much confidence in some of his throws, which has resulted in bad decision making. He is also an injury risk, having dealt with multiple injuries in college. Not as mobile as RG3, Wilson has shown enough mobility to make a play when the pressure is there.
4. Matt Barkley – USC
I wasn’t even going to rank Barkley at all as he continues to recover from a separated shoulder suffered against UCLA in November. He isn’t expected to throw at the Combine since he has yet to be cleared by doctors, but sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Barkley still might decide to run and jump for NFL teams. That and the interview process will go a long way in how team’s view the player who was expected to be a top-5 pick in the 2012 draft and 2013 draft (before the injury). With his shoulder currently at 85-90% ready, he’s already been cleared by doctors to throw at USC’s Pro Day on March 17. Barkley has the greatest chance of all the prospects to knock Geno Smith out of the No. 1 ranking. He doesn’t have great height at 6’2, but he has excellent mobility. He can look at a certain area of the field, but confuse safeties by throwing to the opposite direction. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, he’ll have to work on his deep throws, but he does have some zip to his passes. For now, I’ll rank Barkley a little lower than others have him ranked (Mike Mayock ranks Barkley as the No. 2 prospect behind only Smith). That could all change by next week.
5. Ryan Nassib – Syracuse
Nassib will be the first Orangemen quarterback to be drafted since Donovan McNabb back in 1999. In order for him to separate himself from the likes of Landry Jones and EJ Manuel, he’ll have to improve on an inconsistent Senior Bowl that may have pushed his value down even further. Nassib doesn’t show well on deep passes, but did look much better on short-to-intermediate passes. He also showed a knack for quickly learning Syracuse’s new playbook in just 2 weeks. That could go a long way if a team projects him to be the eventual starter late this year. The best-case scenario is the Bills pass on Nassib with their top-10 pick, but use their second rounder or trade back into the first round. Nassib reuniting with his college coach Doug Marrone could do wonders for his NFL career. But again, there is a chance Nassib gets pushed out of the top 5 if Jones and/or Manuel improve their stock.
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