2017 NFL Draft Prospects: Quarterback

qb-picThis post covers my preliminary rankings of the top Quarterbacks entering the 2017 NFL Draft. For analysis of the respective rankings of certain prospects, see the corresponding footnotes (+).

QUARTERBACK RANKINGS: (+)
1. Mitch Trubisky (UNC) | 6’3 230 (++)
2. DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) | 6’4 230 (+++)
3. Deshaun Watson (Clemson) | 6’2 215 (+++)
4. Brad Kaaya (Miami) | 6’4 210 (++++)
5. Davis Webb (California) | 6’4 230 (+++++)
6. Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh) | 6’2 225 (+++++)
7. Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) | 6’2 230
8. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss) | 6’2 225
9. Jerod Evans (Virginia Tech) | 6’3 235
10. Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) | 6’3 210

(+) The strength of this draft class is up for debate. The early, but growing, consensus is that this is one of the weakest draft classes in recent memory. The sentiment stems from the perceived lack of ‘sure-fire’ top prospects at the top and, to a lesser degree, a lack of quality depth. Nevertheless, there is a sufficient pool of talent that a few prospects should prove to develop into quality starting, if not elite performing, QBs at the next level.

(++) Among the prospects, Trubisky possesses the best combination of traits to develop into a franchise QB at the next level. He demonstrates above-average attributes across the board regarding accuracy, field vision, arm strength, pocket presence and escapability, mechanics and size. More information is needed to assess his leadership and poise. However, he’s exhibited an even-keeled demeanor, short-term memory, and general command of the offense in the games I’ve seen to date. As far as identifying red flags, his lack of significant starting experience and an abysmal performance in a bad weather game against Virginia Tech (13 of 33 for 58yrds and 2ints) are notable. With that said, he profiles similarly to last year’s second overall selection Carson Wentz–whose background raised similar concerns (lack of significant starting experience and inferior level of competition) that didn’t deter his quick acclimation and solid performance in a starting role as a rookie this season. In the end, Trubisky’s favorable attributes should win out and result in a top 5 selection in this upcoming draft.

(+++) More evaluation is needed to pin down where Kizer and Watson are most likely to fall in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft. On the one hand, Kizer arguably possesses the best combination of size, arm talent and athleticism in this draft class (including Trubisky). On the other hand, based on the games I’ve reviewed to date, he’s displayed stretches of uneven accuracy, decision-making and poise that should give scouts pause. With that said, it’s premature to chalk these inconsistencies to inherent deficiencies that will continue to limit his potential at the next level. This is because, in Kizer’s particular case, there were factors–such as time needed to establish trust and timing with new starters at WR and RB and being afforded limited preseason reps during a preseason starting QB battle with Malik Zaire–that could explain his uneven play to start the season. To that end, it’s notable that he performed significantly better the last five games of the season (producing a 12-2 TD-INT ratio in those games) compared to his first seven games (14-7 TD-INT ratio)… Similarly, Watson displayed notable stretches of uneven play throughout the season. There is little doubt that Watson possesses the arm talent to make every throw–in fact, he arguably displays the best deep ball accuracy among this class. But Watson’s demonstration of mental lapses resulting in costly turnovers at key junctures of games indicates the potential for uneven play at the next level. Even still, Watson demonstrates a predominant ability to make plays in high-leverage moments of games and that fact is likely to cause some team (possibly the Bills?) to take a chance on him in the first round.

(++++) Brad Kaaya represents a relatively safe bet to develop quickly into a dependable starting QB at the next level. In addition to significant starting experience and strong production in a pro-style offense at Miami, he possesses average to above-average traits across the board with no glaring deficiencies. Accordingly, its conceivable that teams with top roster talent and question marks at QB (e.g. the Giants and Texans) would consider selecting Kaaya in the late portion of the first round– even in the event that Kizer and/or Watson are still on the board.

(+++++) Of the mid-round QBs, Webb and Peterman demonstrate the greatest potential to eventually develop into starters at the next level. Webb arguably stacks up with Trubisky and Kizer in terms of possessing the best combination of size and arm talent in this class. Moreover, Webb amassed similar production running the same offense as last year’s first overall selection, Jared Goff. However, Webb’s inexperience, uneven decision-making (e.g. see San Diego St game) and inconsistent mechanics are factors likely to push him outside the first two rounds. Still, there should be little doubt that Webb is, in many respects, an idyllic developmental QB prospect for teams to take a chance on somewhere between rounds three to five… Just as Webb could be characterized as the best Trubisky/Kizer-lite (high-upside) mid-round prospect, Peterman could be aptly described as the best Kaaya-lite mid-round prospect of this class. Peterman demonstrated steady production over two seasons at Pitt and possesses a solid frame, functional athleticism, sound mechanics, and the ability to make accurate throws to all levels of the field. Accordingly, he represents the best bet to become a Trevor Siemian-esque find in the mid-to-late rounds.

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