Projecting Career Potential for the 2013 NFL Draft's Top QBs

Jon DoveContributor IFebruary 6, 2013

Projecting Career Potential for the 2013 NFL Draft's Top QBs

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    The level of talent in this year's quarterback class has been questioned, most notably the absence of a can't-miss prospect like Andrew Luck. However, there is top-end talent in this draft.

    Some rookie quarterbacks just aren't ready to make an immediate impact, and this year's group will need some time to make a lasting impression. However, it's not out of the question that someone like West Virginia's Geno Smith will have a breakout rookie season.

    Taking a look at their college experience as well as potential landing spots in the upcoming draft will aid in projecting the NFL career potential of each top quarterback. 

Geno Smith, West Virginia

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    Career Potential: Long-Term Starter

    West Virginia's Geno Smith has all the tools necessary to have a long, successful NFL career. He boasts the arm strength needed to attack all parts of the field, is poised in the pocket and exhibits the drive needed to improve.

    A major factor to his success will be the type of system he is asked to run. While at West Virginia, Smith ran a wide-open spread attack that simplified his reads. The majority of the time he only had to look to one side of the field before releasing the football.

    This has brought up legitimate questions about his ability to anticipate his throws and read a defense. However, this is the same concern that accompanies most young quarterbacks. Still, these concerns are enough to keep Smith from projecting as an elite quarterback.

    He has shown the work ethic needed to make adjustments, as well as the positive attitude to take to coaching. These are major factors in any young quarterback's development process.

    Smith is the only sure-fire first-round quarterback. It's hard to imagine a scenario where he falls out of the top 10. The most likely landing spots include the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

    Where he lands will have a major impact on his long-term success. The Chiefs, Cardinals and Bills have solid offensive-coaching staffs that work well with quarterbacks.

Matt Barkley, USC

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    Career Potential: Serviceable Starter

    Typically, the quarterbacks who project as elite prospects feature a strong throwing arm and ideal size. USC's Matt Barkley doesn't have the usual physical attributes that come with a potential elite quarterback. During the course of his senior season, Barkley showed less than ideal arm strength.

    A lot of his balls lacked the zip needed to fit into tight spaces. His measurements at the combine will be very interesting, as many feel he'll barely top the six-foot mark.

    Despite the above concerns, Barkley projects as a serviceable starter in the NFL. His experience and leadership ability will go a long way to help him overcome the negative parts of his game.

    It's also important to note that he showed a good understanding of the offense and the ability to anticipate his throws. This anticipation is the answer to any questions surrounding his arm strength.

    The key to Barkley's draft stock is that his floor is much higher than any other quarterback prospect in this draft. He may never develop into an elite quarterback, but it's highly unlikely he becomes a complete bust.

    Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets would make a ton of sense for Barkley. Both own early second-round picks and have a need for someone to come in and compete with the current starter. Barkley is more NFL-ready than the other quarterback in this league and can easily fill that role.

Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

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    Career Potential: Long-Term Starter

    Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is one of the faster rising prospects in this draft class. Teams are starting to take notice to his sound throwing mechanics, good decision-making and quick release. He has all the necessary tools to hold down a long-term starting job.

    Nassib is close, but he still needs some time to fully develop. His time at Syracuse didn't give him the opportunity to play against top-level competition. This and some questions about his ability to attack the deep part of the field are a concern.

    The NFL is a passing league where the most successful teams are able to vertically attack a defense. We've seen quarterbacks who struggle to stretch the field—like Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy and Christian Ponder—have some issues.

    Nassib will need to improve that area of his game if hopes to develop into something more than an average starter.

    He'd be a great fit for a team like the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets or Arizona Cardinals in the second round.

Mike Glennon, NC State

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    Career Potential: Long-Term Starter

    NC State's Mike Glennon used a solid week at the Senior Bowl to solidify himself as a second-round prospect. This is a quarterback who has first-round physical talents but needs time to develop a better feel for the game.

    His biggest issues surround an inconsistent throwing motion, a tendency to force the ball into coverage and an inability to deal with pressure. Glennon's mechanics become sloppy and break down when he faces a pass rush.

    This is a major issue, as he'll routinely have to deal with elite pass-rushers in the NFL. His ability to improve this part of his game will be the key to his long-term success.

    However, Glennon's ability to show improvement each year at NC State shows that he possesses a good work ethic. This, combined with his natural ability, gives him a good chance to become a long-term starter in the NFL.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

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    Career Potential: Serviceable Starter

    Tyler Wilson's career at Arkansas was filled with a ton of ups and downs. A lot of this had to do with the sudden firing of head coach Bobby Petrino. Wilson thrived under Petrino's tutelage and play-calling. However, things started to fall apart once Petrino was fired.

    The main issues were Wilson's footwork and throwing style becoming sloppy, an inability to stand in the pocket in the face of pressure and a string of poor decisions. It's interesting to see such a talented quarterback fall apart because of a coaching change.

    This is something that should concern NFL evaluators, as coaching changes happen often throughout the league. Offensive coordinators are the hot group now that teams are starting to realize that offensive success typically results in team success.

    Another issue that will likely keep Wilson from become a long-term starter is his lack of elite arm strength. This problem is only exacerbated by his struggles in anticipating his throws and routinely making poor decisions.

    Wilson has upside, but the chances of him landing in a stable situation are small. Unfortunately, a stable coaching staff looks like the only way Wilson will cash in on his potential.

Tyler Bray, Tennessee

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    Career Potential: Career Backup with Upside

    Tennessee's Tyler Bray is the most polarizing quarterback prospect in this draft class. He has the potential to develop into an elite player, but also has issues that make him a candidate to quickly push himself out of the league.

    Bray's strong throwing arm, spurts of accuracy and willingness to vertically attack the defense make him an intriguing prospect. It isn't much of a stretch to say that Bray is the most physically gifted quarterback in this draft.

    However, he lacks the mental makeup to warrant consideration before the third round. He has made questionable decisions both on and off the field. In the past year, Bray was accused of throwing beer bottles from a balcony.

    Jon Cooper from Saturday's Down South had this to say about this incident:

    Bray has been accused of being immature for the first two years of his career —from his throat slash antics against North Carolina two years ago, to supposed rumors of his discontentment and selfishness in the locker room last year.

    He needs to wake up and realize what’s at stake. He has arguably the best arm in the SEC and is a top prospect in next year’s NFL draft. He has the highest ceiling of any current SEC quarterback right now. He has a team to lead and possibly a head coach’s future riding on his shoulders.

     

    It's situations like this that really turn NFL teams off to a prospect.

    Bray's on-field issues surround sloppy footwork, an unwillingness to stand in against pressure and a gun-slinger mentality. He really looks as if he doesn't respect each possession and is willing to take a risk just to make a play.

E.J. Manuel, Florida State

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    Career Potential: Solid Backup

    Florida State's E.J. Manuel is a hard worker who possesses good athleticism and a strong throwing arm. Those attributes alone should help Manuel secure a spot on an NFL roster for several years. However, inconsistency and an awkward throwing motion will hurt his overall success.

    We've seen in the past with prospects like Tim Tebow and Byron Leftwich that changing the mechanics of a quarterback's throw isn't easy. Adjusting this part of Manuel's game will be the first thing NFL teams focus on.

    Manuel also struggles in making proper reads and consistently delivering an accurate football. His accuracy is something that will improve with experience and any correction in his throwing motion.

    Despite the concerns, Manuel's work ethic and athleticism will allow him to stick on a roster. He could easily develop into a top-notch backup quarterback. Teams will be willing to take a chance on Manuel because of the upside he possesses.

    He'd be a great fit as a late-round addition for the San Francisco 49ers. His experience with the zone read, strong throwing arm and athleticism would make him a perfect backup to Colin Kaepernick.

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)

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    Career Potential: Solid Backup

    Zac Dysert possesses a strong throwing and the touch needed to deliver a catchable bucket pass. He has had a lot of success during his college career at Miami (Ohio), throwing for 25 touchdowns in his senior season.

    Despite his natural talent, there are plenty of reasons to doubt Dysert's chances of succeeding in the NFL. He struggles with the fundamentals of the position. His stance in the pocket is stiff, and he rarely steps into his throws.

    He doesn't do a great job dealing with pressure from the defense. That pressure is something that appears to always be on his mind, as he tends to fade away on his throws in situations where the defense gets limited pressure.

    Dysert also has a tendency to hold the ball too long. In the NFL, quarterbacks need to make quick decisions. Holding the ball has a tendency to result in turnovers.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

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    Career Potential: Career Backup

    Landry Jones had a long and successful career at Oklahoma, but that doesn't always equal a strong draft stock. Jones has the strong arm, size and athleticism to succeed at the next level. However, his struggles with consistency will limit Jones to the path of a career backup.

    He becomes really uncomfortable when his first read is covered. In this situation, he becomes hesitant and tends to force the ball into coverage. This becomes more of an issue when Jones is faced with pressure.

    Quarterbacks who can't quickly make reads panic when faced with pressure. Jones will make too many mistakes to stick as a long-term or serviceable starter.

    His unwillingness and lack of accuracy attacking the deep part of the field is a real issue. Much of Jones' success came because of Oklahoma's spacing and underneath attack.