NFL Hot Press: Teams Starting to Feel Optimistic About QB Class

Teams Starting to Feel Optimistic About QB Class

Updated Oct. 30, 2015
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

The NFL Draft has not offered a strong class of quarterbacks for teams to find their starters of the future over the past three years. The top quarterbacks in the 2013 (E.J. Manuel) and 2014 (Blake Bortles) classes were taken more out of default than them actually grading out as top signal-callers for the next level. The 2011 and 2012 drafts produced first-rounders and good starters on the second day of the draft like Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Our sources in the NFL are starting to feel optimistic that 2016 could be more like 2011 and 2012 with a quality quarterback class that has depth. They hope that the optimism is realized when the final grades are amassed and there are a number of quarterbacks proving to be worthy of selections in the early rounds.

Among the senior prospects, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook has first-round potential, and he isn’t the only one whom evaluators are watching. Sources have said that some teams and scouts have taken a liking to North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. There are also scouts who really like North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

Over recent years, the strengths of drafts have come from the early entries skipping eligibility to enter the NFL, and that will be called on for the 2016 NFL Draft to produce a deep quarterback class. Cal quarterback Jared Goff has been hyped by the media all season, and Memphis junior Paxton Lynch has broken out as a pro prospect. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Ohio State’s Cardale Jones have had roller-coaster careers, and each could decide they’re tired of waiting for things to work out in college and move on to the NFL.

After once being considered a future star, Hackenberg has turned into a love-or-hate prospect with many evaluators. One East Coast area scout told that he likes Brissett more than Hackenberg and believes Brissett will end up grading out higher. A strong finish to his junior year is critical for Hackenberg to have first-round hopes.

Another junior quarterback who has caught the eye of NFL evaluators is Kentucky’s Patrick Towles. Sources say they really like Towles’ (6-5, 240) physical skills for the NFL but are concerned about his anticipation and awareness. Of all the juniors, Towles may be the most likely to return for his senior year.

Even without Towles, this class the potential of seven signal callers grading out in the first three rounds with Cook, Wentz, Brissett, Goff, Lynch, Hackenberg and Jones. That’s not including other senior quarterbacks like Stanford’s Kevin Hogan or USC’s Cody Kessler. With this amount of potential prospects, it gives some teams that are likely to be picking in the middle or late in the first round hope that while they may not get a quarterback in the first round, they will be able to come out of the draft with a quality signal-caller on the second day.

In speaking with sources, they say that at this time none of these players are as good of prospects as Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota were last year. So while last April had more high-end talent, this year’s class features a lot more depth. With a huge number of teams needing a franchise quarterback, this could be the draft they’ve been waiting for.

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