2016 NFL Draft Top Five Quarterbacks
Much was made out of the weak crop of quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Outside of the top two guys (Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston) there just wasn’t much talent. This next group of signal callers is better, but filled with question marks, even with the top passers. Without any further ado, here are my top five.
1. Christian Hackenberg | Penn State | 6’4″ 236 lbs.
Prior to evaluating Christian Hackenberg, I was somewhat skeptical because of his not-so-pretty stats last season. One big thing for me when evaluating prospects is seeing consistent improvement each season.
Hackenberg impressively posted a 20-10 interception-to-touchdown ratio as a true freshman in 2013. Last season, however, his ratio declined to an ugly 12-15.
So, why am I overlooking his poor numbers from 2014?
First off, Christian Hackenberg thrived in Bill O’Brien’s highly advanced NFL-style offense as a true freshman. Not only was Hackenberg doing stuff as a true freshman that most guys can’t dream of doing, he was doing it at a high level.
Then, Bill O’Brien left to coach the Houston Texans in the NFL. In came new head coach James Franklin.
Under Franklin, the offense almost completely changed. Not only did Hackenberg have to learn a new system, he had to play in one that wasn’t made to fit his strengths, to say the least.
Also, Hackenberg’s supporting cast… I’m just going to say it’s a miracle in itself that the he led that team to a winning record.
Christian Hackenberg is the complete package. He has the size, arm talent, smarts and leadership to start at quarterback from day one in the NFL.
2. Gunner Kiel | Cincinnati | 6’4″ 208 lbs.
This was a tough choice at number two. If you only look at the tape, it’d be Cardale Jones. But, that’s sort of the problem. There simply isn’t enough tape of Jones for evaluation to warrant ranming him ahead of Gunner Kiel, at least at this point. And if it were a tie, Kiel would get the nod because of his first name.
Kiel hasn’t gotten the same amount of hype as some of the other big name quarterback prospects in this class, particularly as Connor Cook or Jared Goff. However, he is the only one out of those three who has shown legitimate NFL-starter potential.
The main reason for Kiel not getting the same attention as those guys, is because he transferred from Notre Dame to Cincinnati after losing the starting gig. After having to sit out his sophomore year, Kiel finally got his shot last year.
Why would I rank a guy that had to switch schools to start, and only has one year as a starter under his belt, ahead of both draft darlings Connor Cook and Jared Goff?
Because Gunner Kiel can win in the NFL with his ability to throw the ball with precision, timing and good velocity. He also has functional athleticism, and can play in and out of the structure of the offense.
Behind Christian Hackenberg, there isn’t a better quarterback prososct than Gunner Kiel.
3. Cardale Jones | Ohio State | 6’5″ 250 lbs.
At least as far as physical traits go, there isn’t a more tantalizing quarterback in this class than Cardale Jones.
Possessing prototypical size, a cannon arm and some wheels–Jones is a rare specimen.
Did I mention Jones throws the ball with accuracy?
Outside of Carolina Panthers’ stud Cam Newton, Cardale Jones is the most physically gifted quarterback in awhile.
Now, Jones isn’t without questions.
The fact that he sat third on the depth chart before Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett got hurt, and the dominance of the Buckeyes regardless of which player was taking snaps, makes you wonder how good Jones really is. The immense talent around Jones only adds to the list of questions.
Jones has limited experience, and all of that experience has been in an extremely simple offense with limited reads.
This season will be big in determining Cardale Jones’s draft stock. Jones could realistically go in the top five or the seventh round.
4. Carson Wentz | North Dakota State | 6’5″ 222 lbs.
While Carson Wentz is pretty much an unknown among most fans, he won’t be for long.
I’ve studied nine different quarterbacks from this class so far, and Wentz was definitely the most impressive. He’s not just a big tall guy with a huge arm, although he is obviously those things too. Wentz sees the field very well goes through his progressions, stands tall in the pocket and throws the ball on a frozen rope with accuracy.
The North Dakota State quarterback also showed off his athleticism, running for over 600 yards in his lone season as a starter.
Oh yeah, and he won a National Championship last year as well.
Other than his level of competition in the FCS and just one season of play, it’s really hard to poke holes in Carson Wentz’s game.
Carson Wentz–remember his name.
5. Connor Cook | Michigan State | 6’4″ 220 lbs.
Connor Cook is getting absurdly miscast as a franchise savior, but that notion is ridiculous. Cook looks the part, but he isn’t.
There are two huge flaws in Cook’s game. He’s awful under pressure, and he is even worse throwing on the run outside of the pocket.
When everything goes right, Cook can look good. But when forced to improvise Cook falls apart at the seams. And in the NFL, everything goes right.
Unless Connor Cook can improve upon his two biggest deficiencies, I can’t see him ever being more than a backup.
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