There will be much debate regarding who is the top player in the deep 2016 NFL Draft. Many pundits will claim this quarterback class doesn’t include a signal caller worthy to be taken over the likes of agile offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil or dominant defensive end Joey Bosa. However, the fact remains if you don’t have a quarterback, you have little or no chance at a championship. The 2015 Denver Broncos were certainly the exception rather than the rule with shoddy quarterback play and a dominant defense. A frontline quarterback keeps franchises in the mix year after year.
There will be a franchise quarterback from this draft, plus there is very good depth at the position. Unfortunately, teams will still reach in the second round. The top two quarterbacks will be very good, there may be more, but it’s very difficult to separate the wheat from the tares.
Jared Goff, California: First Round Grade – Much will be made about his slim frame, but Goff is a tough quarterback who will grow into his body. He started as a freshman and has improved each season. What sets him apart is his ability to move within the pocket, feel pressure, and keep his eyes down the field. His delivery and footwork in the pocket are very similar to Peyton Manning. His arm strength is more than adequate and he is an accurate passer. Many will compare Goff to Teddy Bridgewater but Goff’s arm is much stronger. He has a shot at being a difference maker and will at least be an above average starter. Goff is younger than Carson Wentz and far more developed.
Carson Wentz, North Dakota State: First Round Grade – In many cases small school prospects are difficult to grade due to the level of competition. With Wentz, the zip of the ball off his hand is noticeable, a very good athlete, long and rangy with good footwork. He has a very smooth over the top delivery and can throw with velocity and drop it in the bucket and he is accurate where it counts most on the intermediate throws. Wentz has the perfect size and frame for a quarterback and has a shot at being a difference maker, no doubt an above average starter. There is very little separation between Goff and Wentz. The arm strength advantage goes to Wentz, pocket awareness and level of competition, advantage Goff., a very tough decision which will likely take place with the Cleveland Browns at number two overall. A very tough decision and the difference is level of competition. North Dakota State wins every year and won last year when Wentz was hurt.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis: First Round Grade – Lynch is a huge kid with a big arm and good athleticism,a high risk, high reward type of player. His footwork is shoddy as is his ability to read a defense. He has a cannon which will no doubt entice some tea , likely in the first round. He could develop in time to be a solid starter but could also be a bust. For a team that needs a quarterback, his raw skills will be too much to pass on. He won’t get out of the first round.
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: Third Round Grade – Hackenberg is a tough kid who took a pounding behind a porous offensive line and hung in there under dire circumstances instead of transferring. He is a big kid, somewhat mechanical, and can make all the throws but is somewhat skittish. Will likely go earlier than he should, but if given time,he could develop into a starting quarterback.
Cardale Jones, Ohio State: Third Round Grade – Jones is a big kid with a giant arm. He was undefeated at Ohio State, including a national championship, but struggled as a full time starter. He needs a lot of work, but if given time could develop into a solid starter. The raw skills are there.
Connor Cook, Michigan State: Fourth Round Grade – Cook was the prototypical Michigan State quarterback. He may look good out of the gate but has a very low ceiling. Cook has good size and a good arm, but footwork and accuracy are shoddy at best and there are also some questions regarding his mental toughness. Likely a backup quarterback, but he could develop into a starter in the right situation.
Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State: Fifth Round – A Florida transfer, Brissett possesses a very good arm and is a big kid. He took a beating with the Wolf Pack but didn’t throw many interceptions, often being undermanned but hanging in the pocket. Brissett needs some mechanical improvement but could be an excellent value down the road.
Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech: Fifth Round – He didn’t play well at Florida but his numbers dramatically improved at Louisiana Tech. Big and athletic, Driskel needs polish on mechanics but with time could be a starting quarterback, a sleeper with a potential payoff.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford: Fifth Round – Hogan is a smart, tough experienced kid. Nothing really stands out about him but he is solid in every aspect. His learning curve is less than most given the power pro-style offense he ran at Stanford. Hogan will be a solid backup quarterback and a good influence in the locker room. Not a high ceiling but a solid pick, especially if he drops to the fifth round.
Jake Coker, Alabama: Sixth Round – Coker is unheralded, was not invited to the combine, and may not get drafted. A big kid, he is a big arm with big game experience and could be a developmental steal. I would take him in the fifth round and groom him.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Sixth Round – Prescott will no doubt go higher than he should. He lacks accuracy, footwork and the ability to throw from the pocket. Prescott is a good athlete on film but did not test well at the combine and is a career backup at best.
The Rest in order, all likely undrafted free agents:
Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
Cody Kessler, USC
Brandon Allen, Arkansas
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Trevon Boykin, TCU
Travis Wilson, Utah
Vernon Adams Jr., Oregon
Marquise Williams, North Carolina