2016 NFL Draft Position Review: Quarterbacks



Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2016 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2016 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: draftcampbell@gmail.com
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

This page was last updated March 17, 2016. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Quarterbacks

Quarterback Class
Early-round talent: B
Mid-round: B+
Late-round: B-
Overall grade: B

Merging the 2016 and 2015 prospects
Jameis Winston
Marcus Mariota
Carson Wentz
Jared Goff
Paxton Lynch

Connor Cook
Garrett Grayson
Cardale Jones
Dak Prescott
Christian Hackenberg

Sean Mannion
Jacoby Brissett
Kevin Hogan
Bryce Petty
Brett Hundley

Brandon Allen
Nate Sudfeld
Trevor Siemian

The 2012 class was a banner year for quarterbacks. The 2013 class was ugly in comparison, and 2014 also paled in comparison. Last year, the quarterback class was top heavy with two true "top of the first round" prospects, but little depth behind them.

For this article last year, I wrote, "Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are far better prospects than any quarterback since Andrew Luck in the 2012 class. In this analysts opinion, Winston is in Luck's league entering the NFL, but is just a hair behind. Winston is a better prospect than Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford. Winston is a true franchise quarterback who is a near flawless player on the field and is just a little bit behind Luck." There isn't a quarterback in this class close to Winston.

However the 2016 leading quarterback prospect Carson Wentz and the No. 2 quarterback Jared Goff, are better as prospects than 2014's first signal-caller selected, the Jaguars' Blake Bortles. Wentz and Goff would be top-16 picks in any draft class.

The depth of Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, Christian Hackenberg and Dak Prescott are Day 2 quarterbacks similar to Garrett Grayson from last year's class. That group of 2016 QBs are better prospects than Sean Mannion, who went in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.





Safest Pick: Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Normally, this is a pretty easy choice for me, but it was difficult this year. I think Wentz and Goff are at a similar level of risk. Goff didn't play in a pro-style offense and there are size concerns, while Wentz faces a big jump in competition and has a relative lack of starting experience. I decided to pick Wentz because sources across the league with a variety of teams have said that he is a complete quarterback prospect with a great skill set, off-the-field attributes, and football I.Q.; all while coming from a pro-style system. I think both Wentz and Goff will pan out. I think if either is a bust it will be because they went to a bad team with poor management and the organization itself ruins the player.

Previous Picks: 2015: Jameis Winston
2014: Derek Carr
2013: Geno Smith

Biggest Bust Potential: Connor Cook, Michigan State
This was a tough call because I think there is definite bust potential with Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg and Dak Prescott as well. I chose Cook because he could go as a top-60 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft and think he carries a lot of risk. As a quarterback, Cook is inaccurate and doesn't offer special traits. He missed on too many routine passes at Michigan State, and I don't believe his accuracy will get better in a league that is harder on quarterbacks than the Big Ten.

Team sources said that Cook was very disappointing in terms of his football I.Q. despite lots of experience in a pro-style offense. He did not have good play-recall in the combine interviews. Off the field, teams questions his leadership and what kind of a teammate he is. Overall, if there is one quarterback who has a huge slide in the draft and ends up not panning out in the NFL, I think the odds of that are the highest with Cook.

Previous Picks: 2015: Brett Hundley
2014: Johnny Manziel
2013: Mike Glennon



Quarterback Rankings by Attributes


Accuracy:
NFL prototype: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  1. Jared Goff
  2. Carson Wentz
  3. Paxton Lynch
  4. Cardale Jones
  5. Dak Prescott
  6. Jacoby Brissett
  7. Christian Hackenberg
  8. Connor Cook


Recap: The most important characteristic for any quarterback in the NFL is accuracy. Not only do accurate quarterbacks reduce turnovers and maintain time of possession, they increase the opportunities for skill-position players to make a bigger impact. Thus, accurate signal-callers will give teams more return on their dollars with high-priced wide receivers. It takes an accurate quarterback to be a weapon as a pocket passer, and the elite quarterbacks are able to beat good coverage with precision passes into tight windows.

There isn't a lot separating Goff and Wentz, but overall, I think Goff is the most accurate passer in the 2016 NFL Draft. He consistently throws passes with good placement. His passes are very catchable for his receivers, he fits them into windows between defenders, and he can make all the throws required in the NFL. Wentz has a stronger arm though and can also make some brilliant passes into tight windows. He demonstrated good accuracy despite not playing with quality receivers to help him. Wentz has more accuracy upside than Goff, but right now, I would say that Goff is the most accurate passer in this draft class.

Lynch, Jones and Prescott all flash good accuracy but they lack consistency. This trio also played in college offenses, and each member will need to improve his footwork for the NFL. They all will have to learn how to work under center, and accuracy comes from the ground up, so developing their feet will improve the consistency of how accurate they're at passing the ball. Lynch, Jones and Prescott all have potential to develop, so going to good coaching and team growth situations is vital to their draft stocks.

Brissett had decent accuracy in college. It didn't impress, but it wasn't bad.

Both Cook and Hackenberg had poor completion percentages over the past two seasons. Even though Hackenberg's number was worse, I think he has more accuracy than Cook. Regularly, Hackenberg would some beautiful, breath-taking throws into tight windows with a perfect pass downfield. He had a terrible offensive line with a lot of passes dropped by weak receivers during the past two seasons. Conversely, Cook had a good offensive line with some quality receivers, yet he still missed on routine completions. Like Hackenberg, Cook can make some great throws into tight windows along the sideline. They are pretty equal, but in the NFL, I think Hackenberg has more accuracy upside than Cook.

Arm Strength:
NFL prototype: Joe Flacco, Ravens
  1. Cardale Jones
  2. Carson Wentz
  3. Paxton Lynch
  4. Christian Hackenberg
  5. Jared Goff
  6. Connor Cook
  7. Dak Prescott
  8. Jacoby Brissett


Recap: The quarterback with the strongest arm doesn't always mean that much, but in this group, there is no contest. Jones has the most powerful gun, and he will immediately be among the top in the NFL in terms of arm strength with Flacco and Matthew Stafford. The 12-gauge nickname bestowed on Jones is fitting as he is an absolute cannon. The ball explodes out of his hand, and he can make throws that other quarterbacks can't just because of his arm.

While Jones is the clear No. 1, none of these quarterbacks have weak arms. Wentz, Lynch and Hackenberg all have strong arms with the ability to throw some frozen ropes to the far sideline and downfield. They can also nail the deep out with impressive power. Of the three, Wentz and Lynch look a hair stronger than Hackenberg.

Goff is behind the top four, but he can fire a quality fastball when needed. The bottom four can throw the ball with some velocity, but it doesn't explode out of their hand. They all have adequate arm strength, but none of them possess a cannon that will won't blow anyone away.



Field Vision:
NFL prototype: Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Jared Goff
  2. Carson Wentz
  3. Connor Cook
  4. Christian Hackenberg
  5. Cardale Jones
  6. Jacoby Brissett
  7. Dak Prescott
  8. Paxton Lynch


Recap: Field vision is one characteristic that separates the elite quarterbacks of the NFL. Quarterbacks who throw a lot of interceptions are inclined to lock onto their primary read and stare down receivers. Signal-callers with good field vision can quickly work through their progressions and see more than one receiver on a route. They also can help get wide-outs open by looking off safeties and playing games with their eyes. Many college quarterbacks enter the NFL with subpar field vision and have to improve this at the next level.

Goff is the best of this group, but Wentz isn't far behind. Goff has excellent field vision entering the NFL. He is very advanced at reading defenses and working through his progressions to find the open receivers. Wentz needs more experience, but he also uses his eyes and doesn't turn to his running skills when his first read is covered.

Goff and Wentz have shown the ability to look off safeties. Wentz keeps his downfield while under pressure. He hangs tough and reads the field to deliver the ball even when he knows he's going to take a shot.

After those two, Cook would be below. Sometimes he misses some open receivers, but he does read his receivers regularly.

Hackenberg and Jones are tough evaluations from a field-vision perspective. At times, they have done really well. Other times, Hackenberg's eyes would get caught up in the pass rush bearing down on him because of his God-awful offensive line. In Jones three starts to conclude the 2014 season and early in 2015, there were nice plays where he worked through his progressions. Other times, he would look to run too quickly. Both Hackenberg and Jones need development, but they have something to work with.

Brissett wasn't bad in terms of field vision, but he needs to speed up his process. Prescott and Lynch flash field vision at times, but coming from college offenses, they are going to need work, especially Lynch. Sources say the Memphis quarterback is far behind the other signal-caller because he wasn't taught much in college.



Decision-Making:
NFL prototype: Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Carson Wentz
  2. Paxton Lynch
  3. Dak Prescott
  4. Jared Goff
  5. Connor Cook
  6. Jacoby Brissett
  7. Cardale Jones
  8. Christian Hackenberg


Recap: Wentz stands out as the best of the bunch. He only threw two interceptions last year and did a superb job of protecting the football while moving the chains. As far as developing NFL decision-making for throwing against pro secondaries in an NFL playbook, Wentz is further ahead than the others.

Lynch only threw three interceptions last year and did a good job of protecting the football. Prescott also was strong at avoiding interceptions in 2015 while playing against a lot of talented defenses.

Goff has good decision-making overall, but occasionally, he has a lapse in judgement that can result in some big plays for the other team. He had the most interceptions of this group, but to be fair, he also threw more than the others.

Cook and Brissett were solid in their decision-making. Jones was very good in his three starts against good opponents to close out 2014, but he had some struggles in decision-making last year. This adds to him being more of a challenge from a development and evaluation standpoint with a small sample size to study.

Hackenberg needs significant work on his decision-making. He cut down on his interceptions in 2015 to six from 15 the prior year, but he took too many negative yardage plays over the past two seasons. Obviously, it wasn't all his fault with that offensive line, but he has to improve his decision-making to become a quality NFL starter.



Upside:
NFL prototype: Cam Newton, Panthers
  1. Cardale Jones
  2. Carson Wentz
  3. Paxton Lynch
  4. Dak Prescott
  5. Jared Goff
  6. Christian Hackenberg
  7. Jacoby Brissett
  8. Connor Cook


Recap: In terms of an athletic skill set, the top quarterbacks have a ton of upside. Some sources have said that Jones' tool box makes him a poor man's version of Cam Newton, which is better than 90-plus percent of quarterback prospects. Wentz and Lynch have a ton of upside with athleticism, size, arm strength, and running ability. All three could be big time play-makers.

Some have compared Prescott's skill set with Russell Wilson, so obviously Prescott is a good athlete with arm strength and mobility. He also has impressed teams with his football I.Q., so he could be an intriguing player with his best football ahead of him.

Goff and Hackenberg have the upside to develop into a dangerous pocket passers in the NFL. Goff can also make some plays with his feet when he has to, while Hackenberg flashed at times after a tremendous freshman season playing for Bill O'Brien.

Connor Cook and Jacoby Brissett are pretty much tapped out athletically and what you saw was what you would get in the NFL.

Mobility:
NFL prototype: Cam Newton, Panthers
  1. Cardale Jones
  2. Carson Wentz
  3. Paxton Lynch
  4. Dak Prescott
  5. Jared Goff
  6. Jacoby Brissett
  7. Connor Cook
  8. Christian Hackenberg


Recap: Mobility is becoming a more sought after attribute for quarterbacks in the NFL. Some of the league's talented top young quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles and Russell Wilson all have mobility. They aren't the statues in the pocket like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The top four of the quarterbacks in this group all have above-average mobility for the NFL.

Jones has mobility and athleticism to hurt defenses with his feet. He also is tough to sack because of his size, and that leads to him being tough to tackle in the open field when he takes off and runs.

Wentz also has good mobility. He can pick up yards on the ground while also scrambling in the pocket. Lynch is a good athlete and was a running quarterback early in his college career. Prescott also was a running quarterback in his college spread offense and could hurt NFL defenses with his feet.

Goff is underrated for his mobility. He can extend plays with his feet and also showed the ability to pick up yards on the ground when all of his receivers were covered. Goff isn't big in the pocket to fight off sacks, but he has some quick feet and sneaky athleticism.

In college, Cook and Hackenberg didn't show a lot of mobility. Hackenberg was better than expected athletically at the combine, while Cook wasn't as good as some media reports made him out to be. However from their college game tape, Cook made more things happen with his feet than Hackenberg did.


Intangibles:
NFL prototype: Drew Brees, Saints
  1. Carson Wentz
  2. Dak Prescott
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Paxton Lynch
  5. Jacoby Brissett
  6. Christian Hackenberg
  7. Cardale Jones
  8. Connor Cook


Recap: The only quarterback with seriously questionable intangibles is Cook. NFL teams don't like that Cook wasn't voted a captain, and some believe that is because Cook was disliked in the locker room. He also didn't make great impressions on teams during the combine interviews, and some disliked him turning down the Senior Bowl.

Teams feel that Wentz's intangibles are excellent. They say he is known for being exceptional as a person with character, work ethic, dedication, and leading by example.

Prior to his DUI arrest, NFL teams loved Prescott from his Senior Bowl and combine interviews. They feel he will quickly be a leader of men in a NFL locker room. They liked his character and dedication. Obviously the arrest hurts, but it won't cancel out the strong feelings that teams have toward Prescott.

Overall, Goff, Lynch and Brissett were said to have quality intangibles from team sources. There was some media reports criticizing Hackenberg as a teammate and claiming he was disliked in the locker room. In speaking to former teammates like Carl Nassib and Donovan Smith, they both said those reports were garbage. Teams did feel that Hackenberg did too much blaming in his combine interviews though. Jones isn't considered to have bad intangibles, but he teams feel he needs more maturation.





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