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2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top 13 Quarterbacks in the Class

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top 13 Quarterbacks in the Class

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    From Cam Newton to Greg McElroy, 13 quarterbacks were taken in the 2011 NFL Draft. This season, the class isn't as deep as the 2011 class was, but it features two elite prospects in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

    So, assuming that the 2012 Draft pans out like last year's and 13 quarterbacks are taken, who will go? Here are my Top 13 draftable quarterbacks:

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford

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    Everyone knows that Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in this year's class. If he'd come out one year earlier, he would've been the top pick of the 2011 class. As it is, he'll be the top pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, as the Colts have already decided to take him with the first pick.

    Of course, it was a foregone conclusion back before the 2012 season even began that Andrew Luck would be the first pick of the draft unless he regressed horribly.

    Luck led Stanford to two of the most successful seasons in the school's history. He completed over 70 percent of his passes for two years straight and was only intercepted 10 times this season (more than one of those because of tipped passes off of receivers' hands).

    In Stanford's bowl loss to Oklahoma State, he completed a mind-numbing 87.1 percent of his passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns. That is usually something that simply does not happen.

    I disagreed with this sentiment for most of the season, but he very well may be the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning.

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

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    Another no-brainer. Robert Griffin won the Heisman Trophy for a reason.

    That reason: 72.4 percent completion rate, 4,293 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, six interceptions and an additional 699 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns.

    You read that stat line correctly—he outperformed Andrew Luck in every single statistical category. He's also apparently very smart, and was considering staying at Baylor to finish his first year of law school. So why is he the second ranked prospect?

    Well, first of all, he comes from a spread system, while Luck ran a pro style offense, and spread system quarterbacks tend to have a learning curve.

    Second of all, he's smaller than Luck, at only 6'2" and 220 lbs. He's the same size as Aaron Rodgers, but smaller than is ideal.

    Lastly, he had one phenomenal year, while Andrew Luck had two. Don't let that fool you though; he's no flash in the pan. In 2010, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,500 yards, which is still great, just not as great as Luck's two seasons.

    Any other year, probably even including 2011, Griffin would be the top-ranked quarterback prospect, just not this year.

3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

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    Ryan Tannehill started the season strong, but his team fell short down the stretch.

    He put up respectable numbers for the 2011 season, completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He rushed for an additional 306 yards and four touchdowns. However, his play is widely inconsistent; for example, he threw nine touchdowns in three games, and only six in the remaining 10.

    His inconsistency probably stems from the fact that he's a converted wide receiver, and has only started at quarterback for one-and-a-half years.

    If he can improve his mechanics by the Senior Bowl and the combine, he could sneak into the middle of the first round. However, whoever drafts him must be aware that they're working with a raw talent that will need time to develop.

    Still, he's got great size and speed for a quarterback, so he could reward the team that takes a chance on him.

4. Nick Foles, Arizona

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    Nick Foles has had a lot put on his shoulders this season, as he's had to carry his team all year. Unfortunately, he didn't carry them to many victories.

    For the season, Foles threw for 4,334 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Pretty good production, but his lack of that clutch factor hurts him.

    The Arizona defense did make it difficult on him though, as they were 107th in points against. He regularly had to engage in shootouts with the other team, which is why he threw for so many yards.

    With the numbers he put up on such a bad team, he could bump his stock up if he performs well in the Senior Bowl, combine and interviews, but as it stands, he's a Day Two selection.

5. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

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    Kirk Cousins led his team to two of the best seasons that the program has ever seen, but even so, he leaves much to be desired.

    Cousins is one of those players that is good, but just plain unimpressive. For the season, Cousins threw for 3,316 yards, 25 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and completed 63.7 percent of his passes along the way.

    However, against Georgia's high end defense, he barely completed half his throws and threw three picks. Against Nebraska, the second best defense he faced, he threw no touchdowns, an interception and completed only 40 percent of his passes.

    Cousins struggles against tough defenses, but he's still a good prospect. He ought to make a solid backup quarterback, but nothing else.

6. Case Keenum, Houston

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    Case Keenum's stock took a nosedive after Houston lost the Conference USA championship to Southern Mississippi, but he saved some of it with his performance against Penn State in the Ticketcity Bowl.

    Keenum has a record 155 career touchdowns, more even than Kellen Moore. For the 2011 season, he threw 48 touchdowns to five interceptions and totaled 5,631 yards, completing 71 percent of his passes in the process.

    Keenum's biggest problem is the level of competition he faced (hint: it was low). He also looks suspiciously like a system quarterback who padded his stats to look better. However, when the Senior Bowl rolls around, if Keenum looks just as sharp against top level competition as he did against the other opponents he faced this season, then he could drastically improve his draft stock.

    Right now, he'd be a late Day Two pick.

7. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

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    Poor Russel Wilson. If he were just a few inches taller, he'd be a possible first-round pick. As it is, he's way too short to play in the NFL.

    Wilson had a special year with Wisconsin, leading them to their second straight Big Ten Championship and second straight Rose Bowl appearance. He was in the discussion for the Heisman for a while, and his production made him worthy.

    This season, Wilson completed over 70 percent of his passes for 3,175 yards, 33 touchdowns and a mere four interceptions. He also rushed for 338 yards and six touchdowns. Pretty good when you're on the same team as Heisman finalist Montee Ball.

    However, Wilson's problem is his height. He's listed as 5'11", but if he's really that tall, I'll eat my hat. He's actually probably more in the 5'9" or 5'10" range, which is just too short.

    Even so, he's too good a player to go undrafted and he managed to hold his own behind Wisconsin's pro-sized line, so there may be something there.

8. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

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    Brandon Weeden could be a very early draft pick if he weren't so old. Unfortunately, he's a spread quarterback that will be 29 before the end of his rookie season.

    Outside of that, he looks like a solid quarterback prospect. He can really hurl bullet passes and he does so accurately. He completed 72.3 percent of his passes for 4,727 yards (the second most in the FBS).

    He also led Oklahoma State to two consecutive 11-win seasons, with his only loss this season coming in double overtime on the road.

    But, you can't get past his age. If he starts playing at his best within a year, he'd only have about five years before he'd have to start thinking about retirement, and that's something very few teams will spend a high pick on.

9. Brock Osweiler, Arizona State

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    Brock Osweiler is a high-upside quarterback prospect. With another year of play, he could've been a contender for a very high pick.

    However, he decided to go ahead and declare for the 2012 Draft, which, given his high upside and the thinness of the quarterback class this year, may end up helping him out.

    He's already got a big arm, having thrown for over 4,000 yards this season. He's also even taller than Ryan Mallett, measuring in at 6'8". Even more, since he is a former basketball player, he's surprisingly mobile in the pocket.

    Since another year in college could've dramatically raised his stock, if he impresses at the combine, the college All-Star game and at his pro day, he could skyrocket into the second round. Taking him early would be a high-risk, high-reward type move.

10. Kellen Moore, Boise State

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    Kellen Moore is too small to play in the NFL. One hit from Ndamukong Suh would cripple him.

    However, he did some special things while at Boise State, so he's going to get drafted as someone's backup.

    Kellen Moore won 50 games as a starter. That's a record that will probably never be broken. He also put up impressive numbers along the way. He threw for a career 14,667 yards and  142 touchdowns and has a career quarterback rating of 169.1. That is something that's hard to top.

    But, again, he's too small to play in the NFL. Drew Brees is also short, but he's taller than Moore, has a bigger arm and probably outweighs Moore by more than 20 lbs. It's not the same at all.

11. Jordan Jefferson, LSU

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    With his poor play against Alabama, Jordan Jefferson's stock has gone down, but at 6'5" and 225 lbs, he's too big and athletic for anyone not to draft.

    Despite losing his starting spot to Jarrett Lee at the beginning of the season for an arrest, Jefferson has been the better quarterback the whole time he's been on the field.  For the season, Jefferson threw for 684 yards and rushed for an additional 300. Not great, but he didn't see a ton of playing time either.

    I expect Jefferson to be drafted late by someone looking for a developmental quarterback/running back/wide receiver.

12. Chandler Harnish, NIU

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    Speaking of athletic quarterbacks, there's NIU's Chandler Harnish, who became the first player in  NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 in a single season.

    Harnish looks like a poor man's Jake Locker, and he could be a sleeper prospect who could develop well under the right system. Unfortunately, he mostly played an easy schedule, and the toughest team he played—Wisconsin—shut him down pretty effectively.

    Still, he's looked great outside of that one game, and numbers don't lie.

13. Dan Persa, Northwestern

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    Dan Persa was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NCAA for the last two seasons—when he wasn't injured. Unfortunately, he was injured a lot.

    In both 2010 and 2011, Persa completed over 73 percent of his passes and passed for a combined 4,900 yards in the two seasons. He also rushed for over 500 yards in 2010 and reportedly benches almost 400 lbs.

    Still, he has persistent injury problems. Between 2010 and 2011, he missed at least part of seven games. He's also probably 6'0" even, which is shorter than teams prefer.

    Still, he's accurate and physically impressive, so he may get taken higher than the last few rounds if things fall into place correctly.

The Other Guys

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    Of course, there are still a lot of quarterbacks that are draftable in the late rounds. Once you get past the first four rounds, it's usually just one team's preference in what they want.

    Here are some other quarterbacks that might get drafted.

     

    Dominique Davis, East Carolina: He threw for 3,200 yards and 25 touchdowns, but also turned it over 19 times.

     

    Austin Davis, Southern Mississippi: Led his team to a good season and threw for 3,800 yards and 30 touchdowns on the way.

     

    Ryan Nassib, Syracuse: He was clutch in Syracuse's upset win over West Virginia.

     

    Ryan Lindley, San Diego State: Was supposed to be a first or second-round pick in the preseason, but struggled with accuracy.

     

    John Brantley, Florida: Unimpressive, but technically proficient, and played a very tough SEC schedule.

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