It’s never too early to start identifying the top prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
College prospects are consistently changing. It’s good to keep up with them, so when your favorite NFL team has a specific need, you can have a good idea of who they’re targeting.
So we’ll say it’s time to start ranking prospects. We’ll start by ranking the best quarterback prospects in a very intriguing draft class.
Here we go.
Weight: 210 lbs.
What We See:
Murray is currently leading a very explosive Georgia offense and doing it admirably. Murray has a really great presence on the field. He has been playing with accuracy, and really displaying some incredible arm strength.
Murray was barely cracking my Top 10 at the beginning of the season. However, he has been significantly better in 2012. Murray is up nine points in completion percentage and almost three yards per completion over his average in 2011. Despite having the “gunslinger” mentality, he is still completing passes with a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Murray is very small for a quarterback. At 6’1” and 210 lbs, many people think he could be eaten alive by NFL defenders. I think the fact that he has had such success in the SEC is in his favor. My thought is that he really needs to improve his leadership and decision making process to make a smooth transition to the next level.
What the Future Holds
The NFL isn’t kind to improvisational quarterbacks who make mistakes. Whether or not the positives outweigh the negatives, players like this tend to be lightning rods.
If Murray can keep his head on straight and keep a solid work ethic, he should be ok. I don’t know that he’ll be a superstar. Instead he’ll be more of a competent player who can make plays with both his arms and legs. Murray is very smart, and should learn the game quickly. His success is up to him and how good he wants to be.
Weight: 220 lbs
What We See:
Look. This is really quite simple: Tyler Wilson is a NFL quarterback. He does everything well enough to garner legitimate attention from draft scouts.
Wilson is a great pocket-passer and really is ranked second behind only Bray in that regard. He stands in the pocket well, and delivers strong accurate throws to all areas of the field.
Wilson is athletic enough to hurt you with his legs if need be, but he is no RGIII.
Wilson believes in the traditional quarterback philosophy of throwing the ball before anything else. Wilson has been injured this season, and that has hurt his stock, but don’t mistake this guys ability. When given the opportunity, Wilson impresses; I expect that to continue all the way through the combine.
What the Future Holds:
Wilson will be as good as his system lets him be. Wilson should go to a team that utilizes the passing game. He would fit great with a team who uses an offense similar to New England’s, Atlanta’s, or Dallas’s.
Wilson has all the tools to be successful at the next level. He’ll have to improve his mechanics and intangibles, but is an exciting prospect leading up to the 2013 NFL draft.
Weight: 230 lbs.
What We See
Barkley was all the talk last season. He was considered one of the top draft prospects last season, but opted to come back for one more season. Heading into 2012, many experts had Barkley as the top prospect in all of college football.
I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.
There is no doubt that Barkley is immensely talented. He has a good arm and above average accuracy. The thing to me that puts him slightly behind Bray would be the comparable success he’s had with significantly greater weapons.
Barkley is a technician, and has really mastered his craft. He has very good mechanics and a great football mind. However, at 6’2”, he isn’t the ideal size you would want out of a franchise quarterback. Barkley also doesn’t consistently display deep accuracy or the throw velocity you would expect from a “top prospect”.
What the Future Holds.
Quick! Someone list off the last five USC quarterbacks that went on to legitimate pro careers.
The answer is Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinhart, Rob Johnson, and Rodney Peete.
History suggests that Barkley’s college success will likely not translate very well to the next level. Barkley should be looked at nothing more than a game manager who can be efficient in play action and throw close to medium range passes.
That isn’t necessarily bad.
If Barkley can go to a team with an established rushing attack then I think he can be successful. He doesn’t need to be tossing 30 passes a game, but if he can have games where he is 12-of-20 with a touchdown pass, he will have plenty of success at the next level.
Weight: 215 lbs.
What We See
Bray is a curious case. When you watch him play football, you are left in awe. When you hear about his off-the-field conduct, you are left questioning if he has any intelligence.
However, Bray the football player is one of the best pocket passers in the nation.
Bray is capable of making all the throws. While he doesn’t have the precision accuracy that West Virginia's Geno Smith does, he has a strong arm and is fearless.
What separates Bray from other pocket passers is his size. At 6’6”, Bray is able to see clearly over offensive lines to make correct reads. Bray uses his height as an advantage, but it’s his ability to sense pressure that makes him great. Bray has only been sacked twice in 2012, and that’s because he knows how to move around while still keeping his eyes downfield.
What the Future Holds.
Well… That’s up to Bray.
If Bray can keep his head on straight, he has the makings of a solid NFL quarterback. In my opinion, he is the NFL prototype for pocket passers at the next level. Bray’s arm strength and ability to read defenses make him an NFL starter out of the gate.
If he can go to a team that will work with him and refine his skillset, he can be a superstar.
Weight: 214 lbs.
What We See:
Geno Smith wasn’t exactly an under-the-radar player coming into 2012. However, he has still managed to turn heads and replace Matt Barkley as the top quarterback in this draft class.
Smith has been playing at a level that is unmatched this season. He is just coming off a 656 yard eight touchdown performance against Baylor that has increased his Heisman chatter significantly.
Smith has refined his game. His completion percentage is up 18 points from last season, and he is averaging an additional two yards per completion. In 169 pass attempts, Smith has tossed 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Smith is a dangerous dual threat quarterback. He has been able to pick teams apart with incredible accuracy. Smith has increased his pocket presence, which was a huge knock on his game last season. When the play breaks down, he’s smart enough to recognize where he can run while still keeping his eyes downfield.
Smith still leaves something to be desired. At 6’3”, I would like to see him put on a little more weight. He’s strong enough; if he could add weight, he could be a solid passer who can run people over.
What the Future Holds:
The future is bright for Geno Smith.
In a league that is featuring more dual threat quarterbacks with exceptional throwing ability, Smith could be among the best. His accuracy is what will set him apart. If Smith is able to be a “pass-first” quarterback who uses his legs when plays break down, he’ll see a great amount of success at the next level.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Thomas is a solid player with great size. He easily would have been my No. 5 quarterback if he weren’t having such a rough season. Thomas’s stock can easily shoot up, so keep an eye on him.
Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
I like Glennon a lot. He has everything you want from your QB prospect. He stands 6’6” and 232 lbs. He is considered to be a capable quarterback with solid accuracy. One thing that has dropped him in my rankings is that he seems to slightly regress every season. Until he can prove to me that he can be more efficient he’ll remain just outside the Top 5 for me.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Many people thought Jones would benefit from doing another season in Norman. Things haven’t transpired quite as well as experts would have predicted. Jones isn’t a lost cause; he still has great ability. If Jones can string together a couple of really good games, he could easily work his way back into second round consideration.
E.J. Manuel, QB, FSU and Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Both these players have surprised me this season. I think they are both quality quarterbacks who could come into a situation and surprise their coaches. I’d keep an eye on these quarterbacks who are having very successful seasons early in 2012.