Shutdown Corner

Quarterback picture is still foggy as draft draws near

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Part of the 2013 QB class, trying to get separation at the scouting combine. (USA Today Sports Images))

With less than one month until the NFL draft, a quarterback class with minimal actual first-round talent is coming into sharper view. At no time in NFL history has the quarterback position been more important to team success, which leaves those teams without a certain solution grasping for answers. More often than not, those types of teams try to remedy the situation by reaching for their franchise guy, a move that leads to a lot of unemployment in front offices. The 2013 draft class is full of potential NFL talent, but it seems that each quarterback has at least one fatal flaw. As our own Greg Cosell wrote in his most recent piece for Shutdown Corner, some of those flaws are coachable, and others are most certainly not.

[Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers nearing long-term extension]

With that time winding down, we've taken another look at the tape and the rumors, and here's where we see this year's marquee draft prospect quarterbacks going.

Geno Smith, West Virginia

Pros: Tremendously productive player with attributes that contribute to efficient stats and performances. Excellent size, arm, and mobility, though he's not a run-around read option guy. Can legitimately make all the NFL throws. Throws well on the move.

Cons: Needs to shore up his mechanics, especially under center, as he took most of his college snaps out of shotgun. Footwork can be an issue and this leads to some serious inconsistencies. Made hay against some inferior defenses (Baylor) and struggled against tougher ones.

Where he could go: Smith won't make it out of the top 10. Jacksonville is a possibility with the second overall pick, Oakland is a real probability at 3. You could also see the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, and Buffalo Bills in play. Almost certainly will be the first quarterback selected.

E.J. Manuel, Florida State

Pros: Big, tough, mobile quarterback with a great arm and the best potential ability to play in read-option, zone-option, and Pistol offenses of any quarterback in this class. Plays the play action and boot action game with great aplomb. Senior Bowl MVP wh responded very well to more advanced coaching.

Cons: Primarily a first-read passer who struggles with multi-read throws and throws into zone coverage. Doesn't always react well to more complex coverages. Doesn't throw with great anticipation.

Where he could go: In my opinion, most of Manuel's flaws are easily coachable, and he may have the most untapped talent of any quarterback in this class. But with the flaws there, he'd seem to be a good fit at the late first round/early second round level. Watch out for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early second round -- Eagles head coach Chip Kelly tried to recruit Manuel to Oregon.

Matt Barkley, USC

Pros: Has perhaps the best overall array of mechanics in this draft class, and commands a pro-style offense very well. Experienced starter in a complex system. Outstanding footwork. Throws with tremendous anticipation, looking especially polished on short and intermediate timing throws.

[Also: Will QB Matt Barkley get drafted in the first round?]

Cons: Barkley's long-discussed arm strength issue is real, and it will affect him at the next level. Most balls he throws over 15 yards in the air tend to sail with wobbly spirals and questionable accuracy. Legitimate questions about his ability to throw into tighter windows at the NFL level, especially in cold weather under pressure.

Where he could go: A team like the Cardinals or the Bills might take a shot at Barkley early in the first round, but that would be a surprise -- even at his pro day, when he showed that he was fully recovered from a separated shoulder, NFL teams were on the fence about his velocity. Most likely, he'll be fighting with Manuel for position in the late first and early second rounds.

Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

Pros: Tough, mobile quarterback experienced in multiple systems. Like Barkley, he's a very good boot-action quarterback, but his arm is much stronger -- Nassib can make the stick throws Barkley can't. Deals well with pressure in his face. Equally good under center and out of shotgun.

Cons: Nassib has a real problem sailing deeper passes over the heads of his receivers, and this showed up over and over again in Senior Bowl practices, when he had no pressure to deal with. Footwork is an issue, and he holds onto the ball too long at times. Seems to have trouble processing more advanced defenses in time.

Where he could go: Some analysts (like Russ Lande of the National Football Post and our own Greg Cosell) believe that Nassib is the best quarterback in this class. I'm not subscribing to that theory, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens when the Bills, now coached by Nassib's former coach Doug Marrone, are on the clock. Seems like an early to mid second-rounder to me.

Mike Glennon, North Carolina State

Pros: Big and surprisingly mobile quarterback whose lower-body mechanics keep him in line. Compact delivery, but when he flicks the ball, it really sails -- he's got the velocity to make every throw he needs to, and he can do it on the move. Experience in a West Coast Offense will put him one up on the competition when it comes to NFL playbook verbiage.

Cons: Glennon needs a lot of work in two areas -- reading coverages, and deep-ball accuracy. While he can make every throw, he also makes quite a few that he shouldn't. Will fail to detect lurking defensive backs, leading to needless interceptions. Has real issues throwing accurately under pressure.

Where he could go: Glennon would be an ideal project quarterback for any team with a vertical passing offense, but he's hardly the Joe Flacco-style some make him out to be. He's an ideal late second-round pick, though he may be snapped up sooner by a team in love with that raw velocity.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Pros: Vocal leader who guided his team through the Bobby Petrino mess and a subsequent change in offensive structure. Less than ideal size (6-foot-2, 215), but has a better than average arm and will confidently make throws downfield. Reasonably mobile quarterback who throws well on the run. Has impressed in interviews with NFL teams -- more than most players, Wilson's intangibles are actual strengths as opposed to imaginary attributes.

[Also: QB Mark Sanchez learning West Coast offense under former pro]

Cons: Wilson's confidence in his arm will lead him astray at times, and he'll go through bouts of erratic play. History of head injuries may have teams cautious. Tries to do too much at times.

Where he could go: Wilson needs to be developed in a shotgun-friendly system. He's a second-round talent, and he's clearly displayed the toughness and leadership to transcend the trend of former Petrino quarterbacks who have been less than impressive at the NFL level. Late second- to early third-round, most likely.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

Pros: Put up amazing numbers as Sam Bradford's replacement for the Sooners. Good size for the position. Has enough of an arm to strike deep passes to either sideline. Not a burner, but mobile enough to run the boot-action game and elude pressure.

Cons: Inconsistent in his mechanics -- needs development in the consistency of his footwork and delivery. Lag in throwing motion leads him to struggle with anticipation; he'll likely not time his new receivers right away at the NFL level. Tends to put too much air on deep post and seam throws. and NFL defenses will catch up quickly.

Where he could go: Probably the third round. Jones has some interesting attributes, but he's nowhere near Bradford coming out of college in terms of effective mobility and deep accuracy.

Matt Scott, Arizona

Pros: Probably the fastest on-field quarterback in this draft class -- Scott has the burners to elude front seven defenders consistently and can make real gains as a runner. Has learned, for the most part, to use his legs on designed runs and scrambles; understands that he needs to be a passer first. Throws with surprising anticipation. Good sense of the short to intermediate game. Better than average loft on deeper passes, through he'll occasionally throw on a rope when he shouldn't.

Cons: Slight build (6-foot-2, 213) could get him in a lot of trouble as a mobile quarterback in the NFL. Ran a heavy shotgun spread offense under Rich Rodriguez, and though the NFL is far more attuned to such systems these days, Scott will need development as a pocket passer. Lanky, erratic delivery; needs to find one arm slot and get used to it.

Where he could go: Scott has been projected by many as a third-day pick, but teams are certainly intrigued by his attributes, and some believe that his mechanical issues can be cleaned up relatively quickly. Given the league's need for mobile quarterbacks, I wouldn't be surprised if Scott saw himself selected as early as the late third round.

Tyler Bray, Tennessee

Pros: Dynamic arm talent -- Bray has the best pure velocity in this draft class, and it's comparable with the NFL's best. Good accuracy on deeper throws, especially posts and outs. Can hum the ball into tight windows.

Cons: Bray was able to get away with a lot at the collegiate level that he won't in the NFL. His mechanics are inconsistent at best, he's not functionally mobile, he does not throw well from a muddied pocket, and he throws shorter than he is with a sidearm delivery. Does not possess good touch or accuracy on throws that require anticipation and timing. Has displayed immaturity off the field.

Where he could go: At this point, Bray is basically a statue with a cannon attached. Those NFL teams in love with arm strength and the patience to take time with everything else will find Bray appealing. He should have stayed in school another year and continued to develop his palette, but given his decision to come out early, I see Bray as the last-drafted of the quarterbacks profiled here. I give him a third-day grade, and even though he plays an overvalued position, I think that's where he'll hear his name on draft weekend.

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