With the 2012 college season well underway, it seems like a good time for fans and media personalities alike to re-evaluate preseason projections and debate Heisman candidates and BCS National Championship matchups.
But even beyond that, we need to look at which players will make the transition from college roles to a professional roster.
After the excitement of Andrew Luck and RGIII being taken with the first two picks a year ago, we’ll look to five quarterbacks who have increased their own draft stock this season.
Not only have the West Virginia Mountaineers been dominant this season, putting up 115 points in the past two weeks alone, but Geno Smith has been the epitome of consistency, throwing 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the year.
That kind of production has not only lifted West Virginia to fifth in the AP Poll, but should also be a clear path to a Heisman nomination for Smith.
Perhaps most impressive with Smith has been his poise in critical situations. Despite being high-scoring games, they have not been blowouts. Baylor responded to West Virginia’s 70 points with 63 of its own, and against Texas, the Mountaineers faced a four-point deficit going into the fourth quarter, yet went on to win 48-45.
Both overshadow Manuel in touchdowns and yardage, but it is Manuel’s two interceptions that had helped Florida State reach a No. 3 ranking going into its matchup with North Carolina State.
Notably, against Clemson—ranked 17th at the time—Manuel went 27-for-35 throwing for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
However, what has hurts Manuel will be a poor, one-point loss to NC State where Manuel completed just 58.6 percent of his passes with only one touchdown in the first half as well as an interception.
As a quarterback, Shaw’s production is tempered by the rushing prowess of Marcus Lattimore, but with only 10 pass attempts against Georgia, Shaw still managed two touchdowns and rushed for a third himself.
He also put up 162 yards, the bulk of which came on a 62-yard completion to D.L. Moore.
While Shaw has had a successful 2012 campaign, it seems that, still, his health is scrutinized weekly. A year ago he missed time due to injuries and another year under coach Steve Spurrier would prove invaluable with this year’s draft class already saturated with quarterbacks.
Returning as a senior would also give Shaw time to prove he can play healthy and continue building stock for the 2014 draft.
One player who has no problem with earning pass attempts is Landry Jones.
Against Texas Tech alone, Jones completed 25 of his 40 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns, keeping in line with his 135.2 passer rating this year.
Oklahoma’s lone loss to a strong Kansas State team has kept the Sooners outside of a Top 10 ranking, but even in that game, Jones threw for 299 yards and a season-high 43 attempts.
If Jones and Oklahoma can exceed these numbers against a Longhorns defense that allowed 268 to Geno Smith and West Virginia a week ago, it would certainly earn him style points, particularly on a big stage like the Red River Rivalry.
Klein’s numbers have not been overwhelming this season—just 887 yards and seven touchdowns through the air—but where Klein has been invaluable is matching that production on the ground, rushing for 405 yards and an additional seven touchdowns.
In recent years, the NFL has seen an influx of dual-threat quarterbacks—including the last two Heisman trophy winners, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III. Even the 49ers have had success utilizing second-year backup Colin Kaepernick in a Wildcat role and Klein could continue this trend in 2013.