2017 NFL Draft Position Review: Quarterbacks

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2017 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2017 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated March 9, 2017. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Quarterbacks

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

Merging the 2017 and 2016 prospects
Carson Wentz
Dak Prescott
DeShone Kizer
Pat Mahomes II
Paxton Lynch
Mitch Trubisky
Deshaun Watson
Jared Goff
Cardale Jones
Christian Hackenberg
Jacoby Brissett
Davis Webb
Connor Cook
Kevin Hogan
Brad Kaaya
Brandon Allen

The 2012 class was a banner year for quarterbacks. The 2013 class was ugly in comparison, and 2014 also paled in comparison. The 2015 quarterback class was top heavy with two legit top-of-the-first-round prospects, but little depth behind them. Last year was an interesting class, with two studs in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott. The entire league had Prescott wrong, including the Cowboys because if they had known Prescott was be that good, they would have taken him and not tried trading up for Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook before settling for Prescott. Goff looked horrible as a rookie and could end up being a bust. One can’t make any judgements on Hackenberg, Jones, Brissett, Hogan or Allen from last year.

Two years ago in this article I wrote, “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.” There isn’t a quarterback in the 2017 class close to Winston.

Just to be clear, this article is all my opinion based off my own study and information I’ve gotten from scouts and coaches who know more than I do. I like Kizer and Mahomes as prospects more than Lynch, Goff or Hackenberg. I think Trubisky and Watson are overrated as prospects, but I still would rather have one of them over Goff. I think Jones, Hackenberg and Brissett have potential, but they are projects. I think Webb and Kaaya are prospects on a par with Cook and Hogan as future NFL backups.

Safest Pick: Pat Mahomes II, Texas Tech
My track record here is pretty good. Wentz and Winston are franchise quarterbacks. I’m proud that I picked Derek Carr over Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, who all wrongly went ahead of Carr in the 2014 NFL Draft. Carr has turned into a franchise quarterback, while the other three are on their ways to not working out in the NFL. Manziel was already a bust for Cleveland. Bortles is getting close to that for Jacksonville, and Bridgewater’s future is uncertain with his injury, especially since teams had durability concerns about him entering the 2015 NFL Draft.

Normally, this is a pretty easy choice for me, but it was extremely difficult this year. There is no Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston,or Marcus Mariota in this draft class. I think all of the top four quarterbacks of Kizer, Mahomes, Watson and Trubisky carry some serious risk. Trubisky, I will hit on below. Kizer has the best skill set with the most upside, but I feel like something could be missing from him. He must go to a great situation with good coaching and talent around him to pan out. In my opinion, Watson’s accuracy and interception issues are very scary. Add in the massive scheme change, and I do not think that Watson is a safe pick in spite of his great intangibles.

I have to pick someone for this designation, and my gut tells me Mahomes. Many would probably say this is crazy, but I believe in him the most. He has a cannon for an arm along with mobility and a propensity to make big plays for his team when nothing is open. Mahomes is confident and a competitor who took the starting job away from Davis Webb at Texas Tech. Mahomes also has the pedigree of a pro athlete with his father and godfather. He is a great kid off the field who studies a lot and wants to be a great player. Mahomes has an ‘it factor’ and I think he can make the transition to a pro-style system.

Previous Picks:
2016: Carson Wentz
2015: Jameis Winston
2014: Derek Carr
2013: Geno Smith

Biggest Bust Potential: Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
This was a tough call, but I chose Trubisky because he could go as a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and I think he carries a lot of risk. Trubisky was the most consistent quarterback on tape from 2016, but across NFL history, very few 1-year starters have panned out. Bill Parcells wanted quarterbacks who were 3-year starters or had 30 college starts. Watson has that experience, Mahomes started 29 games but played in over 30, and Kizer came close to 30 starts.

I also think that Trubisky has a second-day skill set, yet will go high as if he were a top physical talent. Like the other top signal-callers of the 2017 NFL Draft, Trubisky is making a big scheme change for the next level. I could see Trubisky being forced on the field sooner than he is ready because of where he was drafted and end up being in over his head. You could make an argument that Watson, Kizer, and Mahomes have bigger bust potential than Trubisky, but my gut tells me Trubisky.

Previous Picks:
2016: Connor Cook
2015: Brett Hundley
2014: Johnny Manziel
2013: Mike Glennon

Quarterback Rankings by Attributes

NFL prototype: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  1. Mitch Trubisky
  2. DeShone Kizer
  3. Davis Webb
  4. Pat Mahomes
  5. Brad Kaaya
  6. Deshaun Watson

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.

Trubisky is the most consistently accurate quarterback in this draft class as he throws passes with good placement. His passes are very catchable for his receivers, and he can fit them into windows between defenders. Kizer has a stronger arm and also can make some brilliant passes into tight windows. He just lacks consistency. Kizer’s completion percentage in 2016 was thrown off by playing a game in a literal hurricane and having bad wideouts who dropped a ton of passes. Still, Kizer will throw some beautiful passes into tight windows to beat good coverage.

Webb, Mahomes and Kaaya all flash good accuracy, but they lack consistency. Webb’s accuracy suffered when he had to work off his first read, and he also lost accuracy by getting rattled by the pass rush. Mahomes’ accuracy could be streaky, but he has potential. Kaaya is deadly with his accuracy when he has a clean pocket; however, Kaaya doesn’t pass well while seeing a pass rush.

Watson was off with his accuracy for a lot of 2016, displaying poor ball placement, especially when going downfield. The junior missed a lot of potential big plays as a result. He threw the ball more accurately in the final month of 2016 and in the playoffs, but his accuracy issues led to interceptions and missed opportunities.

Arm Strength:
NFL prototype: Joe Flacco, Ravens
  1. Pat Mahomes
  2. DeShone Kizer
  3. Deshaun Watson
  4. Davis Webb
  5. Brad Kaaya
  6. Mitch Trubisky

Recap: The quarterback with the strongest arm doesn’t always mean that much, but in this group, Mahomes stands out. Mahomes has a fire hose for a right arm. The ball explodes out of his hand, and he can make throws from a variety of platforms that other quarterbacks can’t just because of his gun.

While Mahomes is the No. 1, none of these quarterbacks have weak arms. Kizer has a very strong arm that can make all the throws required with an easy ability to get vertical. Watson has a good arm with a nice delivery. Arm strength will never be an issue for him.

Webb has good arm strength. He has the ability to throw some frozen ropes to the far sideline and downfield. Kaaya has a quality arm, but not rifle. Trubisky is behind the top five, but he can fire a decent fastball when needed. He doesn’t have a cannon that will won’t blow anyone away, but his arm is adequate for a starting quarterback. None of these six signal-callers lack the arm strength for the NFL.

Field Vision:
NFL prototype: Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Mitch Trubisky
  2. DeShone Kizer
  3. Pat Mahomes
  4. Deshaun Watson
  5. Davis Webb
  6. Brad Kaaya

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 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.

Trubisky is the best of this group as he is skilled at reading defenses and working through his progressions to find the open receivers. Kizer is inconsistent and needs more experience, but he also uses his eyes and doesn’t turn to his running skills when his first read is covered. Kizer will show tremendous field vision at times. If he were consistent, he would be rated first in this category.

Mahomes’ field vision is very good when he gets outside of the pocket. He needs to improve his field vision when passing from the pocket, however. Watson can struggle when his first read is covered, taking off to run too often. His vision has to get better for the NFL. Webb also locks onto his primary read far too often. He needs to do a better job of working through his progressions as he far too often pre-determines where he is going with the ball.

Kaaya is an interesting player in terms of field vision. He has very good field vision to work through his progressions and find the right receiver, but that only happens when he has a clean pocket. When Kaaya feels the pass rush, he drops his eyes and watches the defensive linemen swarm around him. He doesn’t keep his eyes up to look downfield while gliding in the pocket to get more time to make the throw. Kaaya puts too much pressure on his offensive line to be perfect for him to be an effective quarterback. Kaaya’s field vision is one of the reasons why he is graded behind all of these quarterbacks by NFL teams.

NFL prototype: QB Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Mitch Trubisky
  2. DeShone Kizer
  3. Brad Kaaya
  4. Davis Webb
  5. Pat Mahomes
  6. Deshaun Watson

Recap: None of these quarterbacks were impressive in their decision-making, but Trubisky is the best of the bunch. He only threw six interceptions last year and did a good 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, Trubisky is probably further ahead than the others, but there were times when his decision-making breaks down.

Kizer only threw nine interceptions last year and did a good job overall of protecting the football. Kaaya avoided interceptions with only seven last year, but his decision-making was lacking as he took far too many sacks.

Webb, Watson and Mahomes all have issues in decision-making. Webb forces things because he gets stuck on his first read. Mahomes is a risky gunslinger who throws across the field far too often. He got away with it in college because of his offense and his arm strength, but in the NFL, he won’t be able to do that and has to eliminate that from his game. Watson threw 17 interceptions last year with some terrible decisions, especially in the red zone. He had 13 picks the year before, making for over 30 in his collegiate career. Improving his decision-making while transitioning to a NFL system is going to be a challenge for Watson.

NFL prototype: Cam Newton, Panthers
  1. DeShone Kizer
  2. Pat Mahomes
  3. Deshaun Watson
  4. Mitch Trubisky
  5. Brad Kaaya
  6. Davis Webb

Recap: In terms of an athletic skill set, the top quarterbacks have a ton of upside. Kizer has the best skill set in terms of size, arm strength, athletic ability, and rare physical traits.

Teams across the league feel that Mahomes has a lot of upside. He has elite arm strength with some other special traits. Watson also has a lot of athletic upside with a good skill set and great intangibles. Trubisky played well in his one year as a starter, so he could improve after gaining more experience.

Kaaya and Trubisky have upside to develop. Webb is pretty much tapped out athletically, and what you saw at California is what you will get in the NFL.

NFL prototype: Cam Newton, Panthers
  1. DeShone Kizer
  2. Deshaun Watson
  3. Pat Mahomes
  4. Mitch Trubisky
  5. Davis Webb
  6. Brad Kaaya

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 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.

Kizer 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.

Watson also has very good mobility. He can pick up yards on the ground plud also scramble in the pocket. Mahomes is a good athlete, and he made a ton of plays after scrambling out of the pocket. Mahomes can buy time and also could hurt NFL defenses with his feet. He was excellent at passing on the run for Texas Tech.

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

Webb had some ability to move around and did run some at California last year.

Kaaya has a crippling lack of mobility. He isn’t a bad athlete, but he is a statue in the pocket. He doesn’t move to buy time and often just freezes in the backfield with zero effort to avoid sacks. His field-vision issues and lack of mobility combined to lead Kaaya to taking a ton of sacks last year. Kaaya’s lack of mobility is a huge hinderance to his overall play.

NFL prototype: Drew Brees, Saints
  1. Deshaun Watson
  2. Pat Mahomes
  3. Mitch Trubisky
  4. DeShone Kizer
  5. Davis Webb
  6. Brad Kaaya

Recap: The only quarterback with questionable intangibles is Kaaya. NFL teams have said that Kaaya was focused on his draft standing during his final season rather than keeping his attention on the next opponent and winning that game. Multiple team sources say they question Kaaya’s lack of leadership skills for the NFL.

Teams feel that Watson’s intangibles are excellent. They say he is known for being exceptional as a person with character, work ethic, dedication, and leading by example. He isn’t the most vocal quarterback, similar to Marcus Mariota, but Watson is a leader who will be a positive presence in the locker room.

At the combine interviews, teams loved Mahomes. They feel he will be a leader of men in an NFL locker room. They liked his character and dedication.

Overall, Trubisky, Webb and Kizer were said to have quality intangibles from team sources.

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