The Top 10 2013 NFL Draft-Eligible Quarterbacks
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A lot is going to change between now and next April, but as we head into the 2012 college football season, we can still rank the draft-eligible quarterbacks based on where they stand going into the season.
Any of these quarterbacks could skyrocket into the No. 1 spot with a strong campaign, and many quarterbacks touted as first-round picks going into their last year in college football end up waiting until the later rounds of the draft to hear their name called, if they hear it at all.
Here are the top 10 2013 NFL draft-eligible quarterbacks...until they start playing the games.
1. Matt Barkley, USC
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Barkley is the safe, pro-ready quarterback prospect that the NFL will love. He internalizes the offensive scheme and operates deftly within the choices and discretion he has in the game plan. Barkley's size, athleticism and arm strength are not ideal, but there are reports that his arm strength is improving.
Barkley is an excellent touch passer and throws with good velocity on the move. Most importantly, his pocket presence and mental toughness are very advanced. These attributes are the building blocks of NFL success more than a rocket arm or a big frame. Barkley keeps the whole field in play and uses his mind to defeat a defense as much as his arm or feet.
2. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
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Wilson is a more dynamic talent than Barkley. The ball comes out of his hand hot and he can make the stick throws that are a staple of the NFL passing game diet. He's very accurate on short and intermediate throws, although his deep accuracy is a work in progress.
The crucial mental toughness and pocket presence needed to stay afloat in the NFL are there in Wilson, and he moves well within the pocket. Wilson also will hang in and take a hit to deliver a throw. His decision-making can be questionable and there are questions about how Wilson will react to losing his head coach and three best receivers.
3. Geno Smith, West Virginia
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Smith is an underrated prospect because some want to chalk up his production to his system.
He has possibly the best mental toughness, pocket presence and field vision of any quarterback in this class. His release is quick and produces a lot of zip on the ball. Smith is not just accurate—he can be hyper-accurate to set up back shoulder throws and run-after-catch opportunities.
Adding some bulk to his thin frame will be important for Smith, and he could be more accurate throwing deep, but his quick and steady mind is NFL-ready. He can go through progressions and dissect defenses like a pro quarterback, and he is an above-average athlete for the position.
Look for the national media to start to see what an excellent NFL prospect he is in January a la Ryan Tannehill.
4. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
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Logan Thomas is the kind of quarterback prospect the pros drool over. He is big and athletic, with a good arm. From a tools perspective, no quarterback in this class can touch him. His mechanics and velocity are terrific, and he is definitely a franchise quarterback prospect.
Thomas' mental approach to breaking down defenses is still very unpolished because he plays in a run-first offense. He doesn't do well sensing pressure and reacting appropriately, and almost exclusively looks to run when he is flushed from the pocket. The Clemson pass rush flustered him, and Thomas will have to show improvement and more diversity in his ability to defeat defenses to climb this list, but it is within his grasp because of his skill set.
5. Tyler Bray, Tennessee
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Bray has the size and effortless mechanics/velocity to put on a show this year, especially considering the receivers he'll have to throw to—Da'rick Rogers and Justin Hunter. Bray had a recent vandalism incident that makes you question his maturity.
But Bray has a ton of bravado on the field and will make aspirational throws that create big plays, although he'll also make some throws that leave your scratching your head. He's also very skinny/lanky for an NFL quarterback prospect, not very mobile and inconsistent. Bray is the biggest wild card on this list.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia
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Murray appeared to be the shortest top 2013 NFL draft prospect at the recent Manning passing camp, according to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. Jeremiah loved his footwork, delivery, velocity and accuracy, and it shows up on film. Like Matthew Stafford, Murray is benefiting from an offense that asks him to take a lot of snaps from under center, giving him great drop-back footwork.
Russell Wilson may open the NFL's mind about quarterback height, but it is a clear strike against Murray in draft scouting.
He's a decent-to-good athlete, and he's very tough. It would help to see his completion percentage take a jump from 61 to the 65 percent range if he is going to leapfrog some of the 2013 NFL draft quarterbacks with more ideal frames.
7. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
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Jones is being mentioned among the top quarterbacks in this class, but in reality, he is a second-tier prospect, at best.
He has shown few signs that he can operate outside of the Oklahoma spread offensive system. He is a predictable quarterback who doesn't seem to go through progressions or adjust to pressure well.
Jones is a leader with a good arm and great size. He will definitely be drafted as a quarterback with the potential to start down the line, but he has telltale signs of being a system quarterback, and his decision to return to school this year shows that he knows he has to tighten up his game to really get the attention of the pros.
8. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
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Manuel's raw athleticism alone makes him an intriguing prospect, but he is also a good pocket passer with smooth mechanics. He is a good passer and he does not have a run-first mentality despite having that weapon in his arsenal. He is also big, although he did get banged up in his first year as Florida State's starter.
Manuel's decisions need to improve and he needs to show more ability to break down defenses and rise to the occasion in the Seminoles' toughest matchups.
Manuel has a similar outlook to Logan Thomas this year, but he is not nearly as prominent on scouts' radars. A few signature performances in big games could do a lot to change that.
9. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
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Glennon is not a hot name in scouting circles right now, but Jeremiah loved his size and arm strength at the Manning passing camp. He called him a "player on the rise" heading into his senior season. Glennon finished extremely strong with an 11:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three wins to close the season.
If his accuracy becomes more consistent, Glennon could move up draft boards very quickly. His football IQ is reportedly "very high." Consistency is the most important thing Glennon needs to display this year to get his name into the mix to be a quarterback of the future in the NFL.
10. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
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Mettenberger has almost zero big-time college experience, but that is about to change as the signal-caller for one of the premier programs in the NCAA.
He has an ideal NFL pocket passer frame and has very good arm strength. He seems to be mentally tough, but it will be hard to fully evaluate that until the bullets fly in the SEC.
Mettenberger's accuracy and consistency on the deep ball are rough. He'll need to show this year that he can make all of the throws, including throws that don't just require velocity. He could be a very hot name coming out of this season if he leads LSU to their typical elite season.