2015 NFL Draft Position Review: Quarterbacks

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2015 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2015 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated March 5, 2015. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Quarterbacks

Quarterback Class
Early-round talent: C
Mid-round: D
Late-round: D
Overall grade: C-

2014 prospects vs 2013
Jameis Winston > Blake Bortles
Marcus Mariota > Johnny Manziel
Garrett Grayson < Teddy Bridgewater
Brett Hundley < Derek Carr
Bryce Petty < Jimmy Garoppolo
Sean Mannion > Logan Thomas
Shane Carden < Tom Savage
Cody Fajardo < Aaron Murray

The 2012 class was a banner year for quarterbacks. The 2013 class was ugly in comparison, and 2014 also paled in comparison. That is the case once again. Although the difference is that Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are far better prospects than any quarterback since Andrew Luck in the 2012 class. In this analyst’s 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 or 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.

If you were to merge the two classes together, Winston would be the clear cut No. 1. Mariota would be the second rated-quarterback, and multiple team sources have said that Mariota is a better prospect than Bortles; a few teams said the comparison is not even close. After Winston and Mariota the 2014 first-rounders and Carr would slot in, ahead of Grayson. That being said, WalterFootball.com knows some teams that have a higher grade on Grayson than they did on Bridgewater last year.

Garoppolo and Grayson are about equal as prospects. Some teams might rank Hundley ahead of those two, while others would firmly put Hundley behind them.

Petty and Mannion are about equal to the fourth- and fifth-rounders from last year of Thomas, Savage, Murray and A.J. McCarron. However, Titans’ sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger was a better talent than all of that group but fell because of off-the-field and injury concerns. Carden and Fajardo may not get drafted this year.

Safest Pick: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Overall, Winston is the best pure passer in the 2015 NFL Draft; the rest aren’t even close. Winston has a great skill set for the NFL with a strong arm, superb accuracy, amazing anticipation, field vision, football I.Q., the ability to hit tight windows and leadership. There is no doubt that Winston is the safest pick on the field with zero football flaws. Jameis Winston is the real deal. I honestly believe he is going to have a Hall of Fame career.

Previous Picks:
2014: Derek Carr
2013: Geno Smith

Biggest Bust Potential: Brett Hundley, UCLA
This was a tough call, but I’m going with Hundley. The reason is how he struggled to read the field in college and didn’t show significant improvement from 2013 to 2014. Hundley never hung tough in the face of a rush while delivering passes. That led to him being sacked over 100 times the past two years. If Hundley’s first read was covered, he regularly looked to run immediately. He has a nice skill set and seems to have a good work ethic, but he needs a lot of development as a pocket passer.

Previous Picks:
2014: Johnny Manziel
2013: Mike Glennon

Quarterback Rankings by Attributes

NFL prototype: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  1. Jameis Winston
  2. Garrett Grayson
  3. Marcus Mariota
  4. Bryce Petty
  5. Brett Hundley

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 have 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.

Hands down, Winston is the most accurate passer in this group. It’s not even close. Even from his first game as a starter, Winston was deadly with his accuracy. He had completion percentages of 67 and 65 percent in his two years at Florida State. Not only can Winston put the ball in a shoe box downfield, he has amazing anticipation to lead his receivers open and throw accurate passes before they are even turned to the quarterback. His tremendous football I.Q., instincts and anticipation lead to him being even more accurate. Entering the NFL, Winston’s accuracy is phenomenal.

You might be surprised that I have Grayson rated second considering Mariota had higher completion percentages in his career. However if you watch the offenses the signal-callers ran, it is clear why. Grayson was throwing the ball with timing and accuracy into tight windows out of a pro-style offense. Mariota’s college system consistently produced receivers running open in busted coverage. Grayson does have to get better at throwing deep balls more accurately though.

Don’t get me wrong, Mariota was accurate in college. However there were points in his career that his placement would be off at times, but he made strides. Accuracy potential is there with Mariota, but he has to learn to throw into tight windows. Oregon’s offense produced wide-open receivers, and he won’t be able to live on that in the NFL. When Mariota had covered wideouts, he typically ran the ball rather than throwing into a tight window. That will have to change at the next level.

Petty is similar to Mariota as a system quarterback. Hundley and Petty are tied for fourth. They both need to improve their accuracy and ball placement for the NFL.

Arm Strength:
NFL prototype: Joe Flacco, Ravens
  1. Marcus Mariota
  2. Jameis Winston
  3. Brett Hundley
  4. Garrett Grayson
  5. Bryce Petty

Recap: The quarterback with the strongest arm doesn’t always mean that much. Last year, the quarterbacks with the strongest arms where Logan Thomas, Zach Mettenberger and Tom Savage. All were third-day selection, and none are viewed as the rock-solid quarterback of the future for their respective franchise.

I give the edge to Mariota, but he and Winston are extremely close. I think Mariota may spin the ball a little faster and tighter, but they both have strong arms that can make all the throws.

Hundley and Grayson both have good arms. They can make all the NFL throws. At the Senior Bowl, Grayson showed the arm strength to have his passes cut through some wind and hit receivers downfield. Hundley and Grayson are above average with arm strength.

Petty’s arm is adequate, but it isn’t a cannon that will won’t blow anyone away.

Field Vision:
NFL prototype: Peyton Manning, Broncos
  1. Jameis Winston
  2. Garrett Grayson
  3. Marcus Mariota
  4. Bryce Petty
  5. Brett Hundley

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 on to 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. Such quarterbacks also can help get wideouts 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.

This was not a tough call by any means; Winston is absolutely the best of this group. He has excellent field vision entering the NFL. Winston is very advanced at reading defenses and working through his progressions to find the open receivers. He has also shown the ability to look off safeties. He is also ranked first because he stays patient in the pocket and delivers the ball well while under duress. Winston keeps his downfield while under pressure, and while Grayson does that somewhat, Winston clearly does it better than any of the group. He hangs tough and reads the field to deliver the ball even when he knows he’s going to take a shot.

Grayson has quality field vision. He has quick eyes to work through his progressions, and he showed the ability to move around in the pocket and still keep his eyes downfield. His field vision still needs some work, but he’s better than the other quarterbacks in terms of reading a defense and going through his receiving options.

Mariota shows the potential for good field vision at times, but never got consistent. There were plays where he would scan his options and other plays where he would tuck and run when his first read was covered. Mariota didn’t have a lot of complex plays called where he would drop back, survey many options, look off a safety and fire the ball to an open receiver. Oregon’s offense was much more simplistic. Mariota improved in 2014 and should continue to get better with NFL coaching. This one of the biggest hurdles for Mariota to overcome in order to turn into a good pro.

Petty is in a similar state to Mariota. He needs to improve his field vision and ability to read defenses. Hundley is a mixed bag. His field vision was excellent against Arizona State last year, but that was an aberration. Hundley’s field vision was awful in other games.

NFL prototype: Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Jameis Winston
  2. Marcus Mariota
  3. Garrett Grayson
  4. Brett Hundley
  5. Bryce Petty

Recap: This was a tough one. While Mariota threw fewer interceptions than Winston, Oregon’s offense didn’t present him with NFL-style decision-making like Winston’s did. As far as developing NFL decision-making for throwing against pro secondaries in an NFL playbook, Winston is further ahead than Mariota. Generally, Winston had sound decision-making when you consider his body of work over the past two seasons.

Mariota, Grayson, Petty and Hundley all did well with their decision-making. Because of his offense, Grayson could have a smoother transition to the NFL, but Mariota was very adept at avoiding turnovers. Grayson and Hundley each only threw five interceptions last year. Mariota totaled four, but a number of picks were dropped. Petty allowed seven and could have had more.

NFL prototype: Andrew Luck, Colts
  1. Marcus Mariota
  2. Brett Hundley
  3. Jameis Winston
  4. Bryce Petty
  5. Garrett Grayson

Recap: All five of these quarterbacks have some athletic upside with the room to grow. It isn’t like last year’s group where guys like A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray were pretty much tapped out athletically and what you saw was what you would get.

A few sources have stated that the quarterback who has the most upside in this draft class is Mariota. And that makes sense because he adds more of a dynamic running element than any of the other quarterbacks. In terms of athletic skill sets, Mariota is firmly the best in the draft class.

Hundley isn’t far behind Mariota in terms of arm strength and running talent. Winston has good athleticism for such a big quarterback and isn’t a statue in the pocket. He can take off and hurt teams with his feet. For an example, check out his highlight-reel touchdown run against Oklahoma State in the season opener.

Petty has the ability to move around and make plays on the ground. In the NFL, his ability to run and hurt defenses on the ground won’t be as strong as it was in college.

While he’s last on this list, athletically, Grayson has some upside to him. He can move around with his feet and pick up some first downs on the ground. Grayson has the potential to develop as a passer as well.

NFL prototype: Cam Newton, Panthers
  1. Marcus Mariota
  2. Brett Hundley
  3. Jameis Winston
  4. Bryce Petty
  5. Garrett Grayson

Recap: Mobility is becoming a more sought-after attribute for quarterbacks in the NFL. The league’s top young quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all have excellent mobility. They aren’t statues in the pocket like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Offensive coordinators like to challenge defenses with spread-option plays. Mobility also can help a quarterback to avoid hits and, in turn, avoid injuries if the skill is used wisely. Jon Gruden and Rich Gannon have always maintained that there are a few third downs in every game that a mobile quarterback can provide a first down over other quarterbacks who may have to force a pass into a covered receiver. Having mobility is in demand.

Mariota is the most mobile quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft, and no one else is even close. He is a quick, shifty runner who can destroy defenses with his feet. Over the past two seasons, Mariota ran for about 1,500 yards with 24 touchdowns. His mobility and running ability is very rare.

Hundley is a mobile quarterback. He is very skilled at moving around defenders and extending plays with his feet. Hundley also can pick up yards running through the secondary.

Winston is a lot like Big Ben with the ability to avoid sacks with his size and feet. He is very tough to bring down for defenders. Winston can move around in the pocket and take off downfield when he has to.

Petty and Grayson both have good pocket mobility with the skills to run for a first down in third-and-manageable situations.

Ball Security:
NFL prototype: Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Marcus Mariota
  2. Garrett Grayson
  3. Bryce Petty
  4. Jameis Winston
  5. Brett Hundley

Recap: Obviously, turnovers are killers for offenses in the NFL, and quarterbacks who turn the ball over a lot won’t stay on the field long.

A lot has been made about Winston’s interception total from last year, but this is closer than you would think, and I don’t actually think a lot separates him from the top. Mariota had a lot of fumbles in college, but he was lucky that Oregon recovered them the vast majority of the time. He also should have thrown more interceptions as he had quite a few dropped last season. So while Mariota did a good job of avoiding turnovers, his numbers are a little misleading.

Grayson and Petty both did a good job of avoiding turnovers. Winston’s interceptions are also overblown. Not all of them were on him as he had a very young receiving corps and his offensive line struggled in pass protection at times during 2014. If you look at Winston’s body of work over the past two seasons, there really was only two games that he had poor ball security – against Florida and Louisville last year.

Hundley improved his ability to avoid interceptions in 2014, but he still has to work on that for the NFL. Hundley also needs to avoid fumbles when he runs with the ball.

NFL prototype: Drew Brees, Saints
  1. Marcus Mariota
  2. Garrett Grayson
  3. Brett Hundley
  4. Bryce Petty
  5. Jameis Winston

Recap: The only quarterback with questionable intangibles is Winston. There are well-publicized off-the-field maturity questions with him. However, I believe they’ve been overblown and so do NFL teams. Scouts and sources say that Winston is very good in the locker room and team facility. He is a leader and hard worker who grinds tons of tape, and did everything the baseball and football coaches asked of him at Florida State. Winston’s problems came in his down time, but plenty of good NFL players grew up after entering the league as immature young men.

Obviously, Mariota’s intangibles are off the charts. He is known for being exceptional as a person with character, work ethic and dedication who leads by example. NFL teams love Mariota as a person and feel you couldn’t draw up character any better.

The remaining three signal-callers all have good intangibles. Grayson was a leader in his program’s resurgence. Hundley is known to be very hard working. Petty also is known to have intangibles that are a plus.

While Winston had some maturity issues in college, I think all of these quarterbacks present plus intangibles for the NFL.

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