Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2016 Quarterback Rankings

1) Jared Goff, California Golden Bears
Career Stats: 12,195 Yards, 62.3% Completion, 96 TDs, 30 INTs
Height: 6'4          Weight: 214
Hand Size: 9 Inches

In my opinion, the quarterback discussion for this year isn't as difficult as many have made it out to be. I would take Goff over Wentz if I were drafting for almost any team out there. A three year starter at Cal, Goff significantly improved as a passer in each of his years. This is important and is also a huge reason why I like Goff more. He got to Cal and started right away on a team that ended up going 1-11. Goff played on some truly terrible teams and was one of, if not the only, bright spots. Starting with some of his more positive physical and mechanical traits, Goff has a very compact release that is similar to that of Mariota's from last year. This was huge in his development as he was able to get the ball out of his hands before some major blitzes came his way. This will also be a great trait early in his career as the Rams (who are likely taking him) don't have the best pass protection in the league. Goff is an accurate passer who also shows some very good ball placement. I really like his ability to hit a man in stride to allow them to pick up additional yards. There were multiple times in college where he was able to make tight window passes a fraction of a second before the corner got to the spot of the ball. Goff also shows very good accuracy on the short to intermediate passes of the field. He is practically money on any pass that is within 25 yards of the line of scrimmage. But even more impressive is his touch on downfield passes, something that has been called into question at times due to his lack of elite arm strength. But what stands out to Goff to me the most is how he feels standing in the pocket. He is a true pocket passer who didn't scramble unless it was an absolute last resort move. He shows an advanced understanding of recognizing coverages before the snap and is equally effective once the ball is snapped. Goff is comfortable going through his reads while standing tall, but does get a bit jittery in the face of pressure. Goff also needs to feel pressure better in the NFL. He had a tendency in college to hang on too long and not get the ball out and take some bad sacks. Goff will also need to work on stepping into his throws more. Too often he kind of just plants in throws rather than getting all of his weight into the throw. With his arm strength already being called into question, this could be crucial to his success at the next level.

2) Carson Wentz, North Dakota State Bison
Career Stats: 5,115 Yards, 64.1% Completion, 45 TDs, 14 INTs
Height: 6'5          Weight: 232
Hand Size: 10 Inches

An intriguing prospect due to his size and tangibles, Wentz has been shooting up draft boards in the recent months leading up to the draft. It wasn't long ago that he was a prospect that the Cardinals or Broncos should be looking into to groom over the next few seasons. But Wentz is now the odds on favorite to be taken second overall by the Eagles. When you first look at Wentz, the physical measurements check off every box that you would ideally like to see in a franchise quarterback. Tall and sturdy with a very powerful arm, Wentz has been compared to everyone from Cam Newton to Blake Bortles. Yet despite these physical traits, I don't see Wentz always taking advantage of them. His downfield accuracy is rather poor for someone who should be able to push the ball to his target on any and all deep passes. Additionally, Wentz had a rather unusual number of passes knocked down for how big he is. While he should be able to make any throw over his line, he didn't always find the best passing lane. He should be able to correct these errors as he has great athleticism that can be tapped by his next offensive coordinator. He was the same kind of runner as Cam Newton, but he carried the ball a decent amount on designed runs and was pretty damn effective at it. While he is a pocket passer, it is always good to have a quarterback who can pick up yards with his feet when necessary. He is very good at either picking up the short yards or getting some longer runs with uncanny elusiveness. While Wentz will likely need to sit for at least a year due to coming from the FCS level, it is somewhat encouraging that he comes from a system that utilized a lot of pro concepts, including drop back passes and timing routes. He also showed a lot of comfort in going through progressions to find an open man in coverage. However, Wentz will need to work on speeding up his process, especially when it comes time to pull the trigger. At first I thought I was imagining this, but Wentz really does hesitate just the tiniest bit before actually pulling the trigger on his pass. This is something he is going to need to fix in a hurry or else he is going to throw a ton of picks throughout his career. While I have my serious doubts about his ability to transition from a perennial powerhouse at the FCS level to the NFL, Wentz does bring some intrigue. Whoever drafts him just better surround him with the proper talent and get a good quarterback coach to help his development.

3) Connor Cook, Michigan State Spartans
Career Stats: 9,194 Yards, 57.5% Completion, 71 TDs, 22 INTs
Height: 6'4          Weight: 217
Hand Size: 9 & 3/4 Inches

After Goff and Wentz, there is a good amount of debate as to who the next top quarterback available is. Lynch seems to be the most popular selection, but for my money I would take Connor Cook first. The most decorated quarterback in Spartans history, Cook certainly has his detractors, and those criticisms against him to in fact have merit. As you can see from his completion percentage, Cook is an extremely streaky passer. I don't think I have ever seen someone who is able to drop a forty yard pass on a dime one pass and then miss a wide open receiver on a slant on the next pass. It really is not an exaggeration. It really does not change simply from opponent to opponent or quarter to quarter; it can happen pass to pass. On top of that, his ball placement can be rather streaky. Cook didn't have any marquee wide receivers to throw to and the ones he did have tended to drop a lot of balls, but the fact is that Cook didn't always put the ball in the best place for his man to get it. You saw a lot of cases where he was throwing into the dirt or throwing the ball behind his man. These are the kinds of details that have moved him down a lot of draft boards. However, there is a good amount to like to his game. As mentioned, Cook can make some truly stellar throws. While he didn't have a lot vertical threats at Michigan State, he made some great deep passes. And when he is in a rhythm, he can make some unbelievable tight window throws. Cook may not have amazing arm strength, but it is enough to get by with some of the tougher throws he will be asked to make. He can get the ball outside of the numbers and can get the ball downfield. But equally as impressive is his ability to change the velocity of his passes based on where the ball is heading. He can rifle the ball on throws that warrant it but will also show a lighter touch when he has a man wide open and just needs to get it to him. While he has all the advantages of a three year starter operating in a pro system, teams are going to rightfully worry about his lack of feel for the rush and his tendency to lock onto the first read. For someone who is experienced in a system that allowed him to go through multiple reads and find who he felt was open, he too often locked on and pre-determined his throws which stagnated the offense at time. Far from a finished product, Cook would be an interesting pick as a project for a team like the Cardinals late in the first round, but really belongs in the second.

4) Cardale Jones, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Stats: 2,322 Yards, 61.7% Completion, 15 TDs, 7 INTs
Height: 6'5          Weight: 253
Hand Size: 9& 3/4 Inches

After embarking on a legendary run to the first college playoff title, the sky seemed like the limit for Cardale. But rather than capitalizing on his short burst of success, Cardale came back to school with the intent of improving his draft stock and repeating as national champions. Neither of those happened this year and he has been criticized since the Hawaii game for choosing to go back to school instead of taking a chance and likely landing late in the first round. His offensive coordinator didn't help him this year, but it wasn't completely Tom Herman's fault that Jones got benched midway through the season. While he does possess the best arm in the draft, Cardale can have a tendency to rely too much on it. This is a common problem from guys who come from spread offenses and who have cannons for an arm. Instead of trying to perfect his mechanics, Jones often just lets the ball fly and hopes that works. This leads to him overthrowing a lot of passes or putting the ball just out of reach for a wide open receiver. It wasn't uncommon to see an OSU receiver make a spectacular catch only to realize it shouldn't have even been that difficult to make. But despite these issues in his mechanics, there is a lot to like about Cardale that makes him one of the more intriguing prospects. As mentioned, his arm talent is absolutely insane. But even better than just having the ability to get the ball downfield is his ability to do it accurately. His precision and touch on deep passes is very impressive for his limited game reps. This also allows him to fit the ball into narrow windows, something that will be huge for his transition to a pro quarterback. And while he was asked to run a bit in college, Cardale didn't live off of it. He isn't very fast or very elusive and I think that he knew that. From the games that he started between 2014 and 2015, it looked like he actually wanted to be a pocket passer. He feels comfortable in the pocket in the face of pressure also looked comfortable going through reads, not just relying on the quick and short completion. This did back fire on him at times as he will try to do too much and not get rid of the ball, resulting on critical sacks. But when he does take off running, good luck tackling him. Cardale is tremendously difficult to bring down and shows Roethlisburger type improv skills in the pocket. I strongly doubt he gets taken in the first round, but there is so much untapped potential with Cardale he could be a target for teams in the second round who have an aging franchise quarterback starting the next couple of years.

5) Paxton Lynch, Memphis Tigers
Career Stats: 8,865 Yards, 62.9% Completion, 59 TDs, 23 INTs
Height: 6'6          Weight: 244 
Hand Size: 10 & 1/4 Inches

To be completely honest, I don't understand how Lynch is garnering so much first round hype. I don't want to start off sounding like I have a vendetta against the kid, so I'll go through the positives first. Lynch has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback and has very good arm strength. I don't think it is quite as good as Cardale's or Hackenberg's, but he isn't lacking by any means. He can really drive the ball down the field and is able to push the ball outside of the numbers. I'd say his arm strength is on par with Wentz's and is easily better than Goff's. On top of that, Lynch is a great athlete who was asked to do a lot on the run under Justin Fuente. Throwing on roll outs seems to come very naturally to him and he is able to hit targets at every level when he is on the move. It isn't often that you see this, but he never looked uncomfortable running to his left either which is something a lot of quarterbacks, even pros, can struggle with. Lynch has a very nice burst when he takes off running which really seems to throw defenders off as they don't expect a man his size to move that quickly. He can pick up yards with speed, power, and elusiveness. But what I really liked is how he keeps his eyes down field when the play breaks down. Running isn't necessarily a last resort for him, but he understands that when a play breaks down is when receivers get free and when he can strike for a huge gain. Lynch also shows very nice tough on all of his passes and has a high volume of completions in the short to intermediate parts of the field. He wasn't asked to throw deep a lot, but showed accuracy on those passes as well when called upon. So why did I sound so negative at the beginning? I worry quite a bit about the system that he cam from and how it will affect his development. Memphis ran a lot of quick passes and screens while Lynch was the starter, and a fair amount of his numbers can be attributed to his receivers and running backs doing most of the work on different screens. With such an emphasis on quick passes, Lynch was asked to pre-determine a lot of reads and as such isn't quite as good going through his progressions as others in this draft. You see this a lot on his film as his field vision was pretty terrible against better opponents and he threw a lot of balls into traffic. I think that just like Wentz and Cardale, Lynch is a project that is going to need to sit for a few years before he is ready to come in. I think any team that goes in with the expectations of making him a Day 1 starter is in for a very rude awakening.

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