Drafting a quarterback. The mere idea of drafting a prospect at quarterback can give a GM or coach sleepless nights and cold sweats. Succeed, and your legacy with a team can be bolstered. Fail, and your time with a team (and perhaps even your career) can be cut dramatically short. For every Tom Brady selected in the later rounds, there are many Ryan Leaf-type players, high-round, high profile picks at quarterback that just don't pan out for one reason or another. It's important for teams to do their homework on quarterbacks, as it is with any other position.
This year's draft is a bit weak at the position, but I'll try to rank every player at the position that may be drafted (or signed as a UDFA) this season. I'll also provide a scouting report for each player, in case you're curious. Here's my list:
1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Winston is the best quarterback prospect in the 2015 draft. He is also the most polarizing. If he succeeds, he could be a pro-bowl caliber player. If he fails, he could fail big. While Winston comes from a pro-style offense at Florida State, he is also prone to emotional outbursts and has been flagged with character issues throughout his career. He's a great talent, but will he be mature enough to succeed in the NFL? If he keeps his head together, he's a pro-bowl caliber player. If he doesn't, he's this year's Ryan Leaf. While Winston is the best quarterback in the draft, he is also an extreme gamble for any team rolling the dice on him. He will be a top 3 pick this spring, likely going 1st overall to the Bucs. Here's some film.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. Mariota is getting a ton of hype heading into the draft, but I'm not fully sold on him. While the numbers are there (Mariota had an extremely solid final season in college), there are questions about his ability to play under center (something he did not do much of in college). He played in an offense at Oregon designed to minimize quarterback errors, and has a habit of locking onto one receiver. While Mariota projects as a first round pick, potentially a high first round pick, you're looking at a system-type of guy. Mariota could be a serviceable starter in some systems, but I don't see him as a pro bowl guy. Wait around and draft Brett Hundley, and you'll get similar results. Here's some film.
3. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA. Hundley, like Mariota, will have to adjust to a pro-style offense. Hundley has taken almost all of his college snaps in shotgun, and he struggles with decision making at times. That being said, Hundley could have slightly more upside than Mariota; Hundley is slightly more mobile, and that could help Hudley break through as a starter. Like Mariota, Hundley is going to be a system guy. In the right system, he could be a Kaepernick-style player. He's not going to blow up the scoreboard statistically on a weekly basis, but if used correctly, he can win you games. Hundley projects as a second round pick. Here's some film.
4. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State. Mannion is one of the more NFL-ready QBs in the 2015 draft. He's got solid arm strength and played in an NFL-style offense. His knocks? First, he's more of a traditional pocket passer than a mobile guy. That means he'll need to play in a scheme where his lack of mobility isn't an issue. I've seen him projected as a 5th or 6th round pick, but the Draft Advisory Board gave him a third round grade last season heading into the draft. He doesn't have the quickest release, but he's a very efficient passer. If he falls, he could be a steal for the right coach. He's a decent game manager that can win you games as a starter by playing consistently. He's an accurate guy who reminds me of Andy Dalton in ways. Could be a solid starter or outstanding backup out of the gate. Here's some film.
5. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. Petty is an intriguing prospect. Heading into the season, he was viewed as one of the top, if not the top, seniors in this class. However, his final season was fraught with inconsistency and will negatively affect his draft stock. When Petty is on, he's solid. When he's off, he can be bad. He hasn't played much under center in college and tends to lock onto one receiver. These facts point to Petty as a potential backup at this stage in his career, although he could mature into an NFL starter with time. He projects as a 3rd or 4th round pick. Here's some film.
6. Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina. Carden is one of the more overlooked quarterbacks in the 2015 class. He has the potential to be much higher ranked than teams have him, but projects as a 7th round pick. That late, he could be a steal. At worst, he's a Bruce Gradkowski type of player. He's not the most talented guy physically, but he put up great numbers in college. He has the talent to be an effective starter in the NFL, or at worst an elite backup. I think he's way underrated going into the draft. Here's some film.
7. Brandon Bridge, QB, South Alabama. Bridge is the most intriguing QB prospect in this year's draft class. He's raw, extremely raw, after starting only 12 games in college. He's tough, and played through an ankle injury in 2014. He's got an extremely strong arm, and is a very mobile quarterback. He's a Kurt Warner-type of prospect who may bounce around for a few years between the NFL and the CFL before carving out a long-term role with an NFL team, but he could eventually become a starter with patient coaching. He projects as a 6th round pick, and could be an intriguing late-round pick. I'm banking on potential here, but there's a lot with Bridge. Here's some film.
8. Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State. Grayson is an extremely controversial prospect. Some scouts love him, some hate him. I'm kind of in the middle. While I think his likely role will be as a solid backup or potential starter in some systems, I don't think he's a terrible pick either. He's got decent arm strength, but the biggest knock on him is a weird throwing motion that could pose problems in the NFL. He projects as a 3rd or 4th round pick, but that could be a bit high. Here's some film.
9. Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada. Fajardo is a very Kaepernick kind of prospect. That's not surprising considering that he was Kaepernick's replacement at the University of Nevada. He's a dual-threat player, having rushed for more than 3000 yards and passing for over 9,000 yards in college. His mobility is his strongest point. His weakest points include inconsistent throws and a tendency to crumble under pressure. He projects as a backup in my opinion. However, he doesn't make a ton of mistakes, a fact which will help him stick with a team. He projects as a 7th round pick. Here's some film.
10. Tyler Heinicke, QB, Old Dominion. Heinicke has the potential to be a serviceable backup in the NFL. He's used to running a no-huddle offense, and has a quick release. He stays calm under pressure, but his arm strength is average at best. He is a capable rusher. He does have inconsistent mechanics and is inexperienced playing under center. He projects as a 7th round pick or undrafted free agent. Here's some film.
11. Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State. Halliday would be higher on this list if it wasn't for medical concerns; he dealt with a bad broken ankle in college, and has a small frame. He has also played his entire college career out of a shotgun-style offense, which will make teams hesitant to draft him; he projects as a 6th or 7th round pick. He has shown flashes of ability. He's an accurate passer who has performed well against top-level competition. He'll go late, but he could be a steal if he checks out medically. He projects as a backup early in his career. Here are some highlights.
12. Blake Sims, QB, Alabama. Sims is an interesting prospect. He's a guy that has a tendency to come through in big games, and could surprise if given a chance to play in an NFL game. That being said, teams are looking at potentially moving him around, playing him either at QB or another position, such as running back. He reminds me a bit of Colin Klein a Heisman finalist from Kansas State who's college ability didn't help him grab a spot in the NFL. That being said, I think Sims is a better prospect than Klein was, and could make an NFL roster. He projects as an undrafted free agent, but he could stick with a team. He's got good arm strength, but he comes from an Alabama program that has had many successful college quarterbacks who have not seen much NFL success. Maybe Sims will break that trend. Here's some film.
13. Bryan Bennett, QB, Southeastern Louisiana. Bennett is an extremely athletic guy, similar to Johnnny Manziel on his feet. His mechanics are strong, and he has a quick release. That being said, he's streaky and makes mistakes at times. He'll likely stick on an NFL roster as a developmental guy. He projects as a 7th round pick or undrafted free agent. Interesting note, Bennett was replaced by Mariota at Oregon. Here are some highlights.
14. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State. Kelley projects as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He's got some very good intangibles; he's a strong leader, is confident, and is capable of producing; he leaves Arizona State with 10,223 offensive yards generated and 79 passing TDs in 37 career starts. That being said, his completion percentage has declined each of his 3 years as a starter, so that's a problematic trend. With the right coaching at the NFL level, he could develop into a nice backup or spot starter, but for now, will likely be seen by scouts as a developmental prospect. He's shown flashes, and could surprise a lot of people if the pieces fall correctly. Here's some film.
15. Anthony Boone, QB, Duke. Boone is an interesting prospect. He projects as an undrafted guy, and is built like a running back (6'0, 231 pounds). While he does make mistakes from time to time, he has a strong pocket presence and is good at reading defenses. His decision making isn't always the best though. Boone is a guy that could stick with a team as a developmental guy at the next level. Here's some film.
16. Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia. Mason projects as a 7th round pick or UDFA, and could be a decent NFL backup. Mason is a clutch guy who performs well in big games. That being said, he can get flustered when the pocket collapses. He's inexperienced, and will need time to develop at the next level. He projects as a backup or practice squad guy early in his career. That being said, he is a mature, patient guy who completes passes. Here's some film.
17. Grant Hedrick, QB, Boise State. Hedrick is a guy that is capable of scoring both as a passer and on foot (18 career rushing TDs). However, he tends to make mistakes at time (19 career interceptions compared to 39 TD passes). He's not the best decision maker, and this will prevent him from being a team's main backup early on in his career. However, he has the raw talent to eventually develop into a capable NFL backup. If he can eliminate mistakes, he'll be a decent player. He does throw a nice spiral and has good placement on his throws when he is on. He projects as an undrafted guy. Here's some film.
18. Jerry Lovelocke, QB, Prairie View A&M. Lovelocke is the epitome of small school combine surprise. His numbers at Prairie View A&M weren't great (2473 yards, 16 tds, and 9 interceptions in 2014), but he had a strong combine and that could push him into the seventh round in 2015. He performed inconsistently against non-elite competition, and projects as a practice squad guy or developmental player early in his career. He's capable of making some plays on foot as well as out of the pocket, but his lack of performance will hurt his draft stock. He does have great arm strength, however, and he could stick with a team as a backup.
19. Ryan Williams, QB, Miami. Williams is an interesting prospect. He has dealt with injuries along the way (including a torn ACL), and missed his senior season thanks to that fact. He's shown some flashes, but will likely wind up going undrafted. At this point, he projects as a practice squad type of guy, but he could stick in the right system as a backup.
20. Gary Nova, QB, Rutgers. Nova is a guy that likely wind up as an undrafted player in 2015, but could find a place on an NFL team's practice squad. He wasn't invited to the combine, but put up decent numbers at Rutgers. He's an intriguing name to watch after the draft, and will likely sign as an UDFA. He has decent mechanics and will improve given time and coaching.
21. Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State. Waters is a guy that could stick with a team as a practice squad player or developmental guy. He's a intelligent player who doesn't make a ton of risky throws. That being said, he has a weird throwing motion and fumbles, a lot. He lost 8 fumbles over his final two seasons at Kansas State. If he can work on his fundamentals, he could mature into a competent NFL backup. He projects as an undrafted guy. Here's some film.
22. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss. Wallace is an underrated, tough player. He's played through multiple injuries, and has good arm strength. That being said, he has a bad habit of staring down his his WRs and making bad throws (including 41 interceptions at Ole Miss). There are also questions about his character. If everything goes perfectly, you could be looking at a spot starter or solid backup in the NFL, but he'll likely start out as a developmental prospect.
23. Chris Bonner, QB, Colorado State-Pueblo. Bonner is a small school guy who shows streaks of inconsistency. At times, his passes are perfectly thrown, and at other times, he's over-throwing his WRs. He has the look of a practice squad guy, but does a few things well. For example, he responds well to pressure and doesn't get overly flustered when facing a defender. He has some good tools, but needs to become way more consistent before making an impact at the net level. Here's some film.
24. Jameill Showers, QB, Texas-El Paso. Showers is another guy that will go undrafted, but could find a spot on a team's practice squad. Showers is best known for being the guy that Johnny Manziel beat for a starting job at Texas A&M as a freshman. He doesn't have huge numbers (23 career TD passes, 10 interceptions), and hasn't done a ton to stand out, but he will draw looks from some teams.
25. Cole Stoudt, QB, Clemson. Stoudt is a guy that will generate some interest among scouts as a developmental prospect, but he's extremely inconsistent. While he is a better player than Tajh Boyd in my opinion, he will likely wind up as a practice squad player in the NFL early in his career. He's improved a bit each year as a starter, but he still needs a lot of work to stick with an NFL team. Here's some film.
I'm ending the list at 25 since it's exceedingly rare for that many quarterbacks to find spots on NFL teams. Most of these guys will get a chance with an NFL team, some may not and may end up in the CFL to begin their careers. However, I've tried to give you a look at the top 25 prospects at the position according to the "experts" and rank them as I see them. My list isn't a prediction of where guys will be drafted, but rather, of how I view their potential as prospects. Every season, some great prospects are forgotten. Every season, some not-so-great prospects make a roster. This year's quarterback class isn't a great one, but some of these players will make an impact in the NFL very early in their careers.
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