Ranking Every Rookie QB by Week 1 Starting Potential
Recent draft classes have set a new expectation of immediate success from rookie quarterbacks.
The 2012 rookie quarterback class set that precedent dangerously high, with three rookie quarterbacks—Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) and Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)—all leading their teams to postseason berths and emerging as superstars in their first NFL seasons.
While Wilson’s quick rise to stardom was unexpected, Luck and Griffin were both considered elite prospects entering the 2012 NFL draft. The 2013 draft class, however, has no quarterback prospects of that caliber.
That makes the precedent dangerous. Expecting one or two quarterbacks from this draft class, let alone three, to emerge as superstars in their rookie seasons is a high bar to set that almost certainly wouldn’t be reached.
That said, recent trends indicate that even in a class that lacks any surefire franchise quarterback prospects, multiple teams will turn to rookie quarterbacks as early as Week 1 of next season.
While there may not be even one quarterback in this draft class who should be starting for an NFL team right out of the gate, there are 10 signal-callers in the class who could reasonably be expected to at least compete for a starting job. The following slideshow ranks those quarterbacks based not only their overall potential as a prospect, but on which are most NFL-ready as they prepare to join the league.
Unlikely Starters But Potential Draft Picks
Outside the top 10 quarterbacks in the 2013 draft class, all of whom have a good shot of being selected in the draft’s first four rounds, there are a number of other signal-callers who have a shot at being selected in the late rounds.
Among the other quarterbacks, Tulane’s Ryan Griffin and Kansas State’s Collin Klein have the most developmental upside as potential late-round picks, but neither should be considered a starting candidate in their early years in the NFL.
Other potential late-round quarterback selections who project more likely as career backups than quick starters include Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers, Louisiana Tech’s Colby Cameron, Arkansas State’s Ryan Aplin, Western Michigan’s Alex Carder, Illinois State’s Matt Brown, Duke’s Sean Renfree and Southern Utah’s Brad Sorensen.
10. Matt Scott
An athletic quarterback with pocket-passing ability and a good arm, Arizona’s Matt Scott is a rising prospect in the 2013 quarterback class. That puts him at risk, however, of being taken out of the context of where his stock truly should be: an early Day 3 pick as a developmental quarterback project.
Scott has playmaking ability and intriguing physical upside, but he has a long way to go in his development. Only a one-year starter at Arizona in a spread-option offense, Scott is inexperienced and will have to adjust his game to an NFL scheme. In his one year as a starter, Scott had inconsistent accuracy and was mistake-prone.
With his athleticism and ability to throw and make plays on the run, Scott will get looks as a developmental prospect with the potential to run a read-option offense. Don’t, however, expect Scott to become the next Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson in 2013.
9. Zac Dysert
Miami’s Zac Dysert is an impressive quarterback physically, driving the ball deep with a strong arm and throwing well on the run. He has the upside to be a good starting quarterback at the next level, but remains a flawed player who needs time to develop into the passer he could be.
Dysert is a gunslinger—he guns the ball deep and makes aggressive throws, but needs to improve upon his accuracy on both short and deep throws. He consistently stares down his reads, forces too many passes into coverage and is coming from a spread offensive system where he worked mostly out of shotgun.
Dysert is a bit of a small-school sleeper who could be one of the better quarterbacks out of this class if developed well, but he isn’t ready to start as a rookie.
8. Mike Glennon
There is a lot to like about North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon as he projects to the NFL. He has great size (6’7”, 225 pounds), can launch the ball deep, has good mechanics and experience in a pro-style offense.
Glennon, however, may be the most mistake-prone among the top 10 quarterbacks in the draft. He forces passes into coverage and across his body at an alarming rate, and his downfield accuracy is inconsistent.
Glennon has high upside as a pocket passer, but he needs to become a more disciplined passer and decision-maker. With proper coaching and development, he could become a very good starter, but starting him immediately could have disastrous results.
7. Tyler Bray
Tennessee’s Tyler Bray is a tall (6’5”) quarterback with the strongest arm of any in the 2013 draft class. As a passer, he can launch the ball deep and hit receivers for big plays down the field.
Bray has huge upside and could be among the top five quarterbacks drafted, but he needs time to develop. In three years at Tennessee, he never quite put his talent all together, and needs to become both a more accurate passer and more disciplined signal-caller.
Bray did have the advantage of playing in a pro-style offense in college, but he never quite broke through as expected even with some fantastic wide receivers on his offense in recent seasons. If thrown into the fire right away, flaws with his accuracy, footwork and decision-making will be quickly exposed.
6. Landry Jones
As a four-year starter at one of the nation’s preeminent college football programs, having produced very well there and with good physical tools, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones once seemed destined to be at or near the top of this list.
Jones, however, is not among the top candidates in this draft class to be an NFL starting quarterback. His career plateaued rather than progressing during his last two seasons at Oklahoma, and was consistently marred by puzzling mistakes and inconsistent accuracy.
Jones is a skilled pocket passer with good size (6’4”, 225 pounds) and a good arm. He maneuvers his feet very well and his experience (50 starts) is a positive. That experience, however, came in a spread offense where he rarely lined up under center. Many of his passes were short throws or screens.
5. E.J. Manuel
Physically, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel is as impressive as any quarterback in the 2013 draft class. With great size (6’5”, 237 pounds), a strong arm and good athletic ability, Manuel has the potential to be a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the NFL.
Manuel has good footwork, clean mechanics including a sharp release and gets good zip on his throws. For teams looking to run a read-option offense, Manuel is their best option as a potential rookie starter. He has experience running the option at Florida State and the athleticism and strength to run the ball at the next level.
Manuel, however, remains a project who should not be a Week 1 starter. He consistently stares down his initial reads, struggles with accuracy under pressure even on short passes, worked mostly out of the shotgun at Florida State and needs better downfield touch.
4. Geno Smith
If this list was a ranking of the most likely quarterbacks to start Week 1, West Virginia’s Geno Smith would be at the top, as there is a good chance he will be a top draft choice and be pressed into immediate action. He would be best suited, however, to enter a quarterback situation where he has time to develop his game before taking over under center.
Smith has the most potential of any quarterback in the 2013 draft class, with many impressive traits including a strong arm and great mechanics, including a textbook release and intriguing athletic ability.
He isn’t, however, among the most NFL-ready signal-callers in the draft class.
Smith has many areas of his game on which he must improve to be the great NFL quarterback he has the physical talent to be. He struggles with his footwork inside the pocket, especially under pressure, and tends to throw to his initial read. He worked primarily out of the shotgun in WVU’s spread offense, so he does not have considerable experience dropping from under center.
3. Ryan Nassib
Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib broke through as one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation with a strong senior season, and although it is questionable whether he should be considered a franchise quarterback prospect, he is among the draft’s most pro-ready signal-callers.
Nassib’s best fit to start immediately would be if drafted by the Buffalo Bills, where he would already know the offensive system by following his head coach at Syracuse, Doug Marrone, to the NFL. Regardless of where Nassib plays, his experience quarterbacking a pro-style offense under a current NFL head coach goes a long way in getting him ready for the next level.
Nassib has plenty of shortcomings in his game: He struggles with driving the ball deep, is mistake-prone under pressure and is inconsistent with his accuracy. Overall, however, he is a dropback pocket passer with good physical tools, has good size (6’2”, 227) and he has good footwork and mechanics. For a team looking for an immediate starter from the 2013 quarterback draft class, Nassib is among the best options.
2. Tyler Wilson
Tyler Wilson’s senior season at Arkansas was a struggle, which hurt his draft stock and may make him a second-round pick rather than a first-rounder. Nonetheless, for a team in search of an immediate contributor at quarterback from the 2013 NFL draft, Wilson is arguably the best choice.
Wilson is a true pocket passer with a strong arm and the ability to make any throw on the field. He has good pocket presence, established toughness and fluid mechanics.
Wilson needs to become more consistent with his accuracy and improve both his footwork and decision-making, and he worked mostly out of the shotgun in Arkansas’ offensive system. But although he will enter the NFL as a work-in-progress, he is among the class’ best-suited quarterbacks to start as a rookie.
1. Matt Barkley
There were certainly times during Matt Barkley’s disappointing senior season at USC where he did not look like an NFL starter at all. That said, the four-year USC starter is a polished dropback pocket passer and pro-style offense product. He is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the 2013 draft class.
Barkley certainly doesn’t have the strongest arm or the most athleticism among the upcoming rookie class. Nonetheless, he is a very good short and intermediate passer, has very good footwork inside the pocket and is mechanically sound.
Like all the other quarterbacks in this draft class, Barkley has some significant flaws that make him a work in progress. He has to become better at making reads and throwing the ball accurately under pressure.
But in a class without a surefire franchise quarterback, Barkley remains the best bet for a team looking for a signal-caller to step in under center from the beginning of his rookie season.
Dan Hope is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.