NFL Draft: QB Power Rankings After Latest Pro Day Workouts
The maxim I have always used for the draft is that teams without a franchise quarterback need to find one.
In 2013, that may be difficult, as many teams look like they lack the caliber of passer needed to take the next step as a franchise, while there aren't many of those passers available. However, necessity can often breed desperation and a few more of these quarterbacks may look attractive to teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, etc.
The danger of getting the wrong quarterback (either a "bust" or a poor fit) is clear. Once the two-to-three years pass of giving him every possible avenue of success—drafting protection, weapons, modifying the offense and so on—the franchise is a mess and the general manager and head coach are looking for new jobs.
The dangers of never taking a chance on a passer are less severe and often overlooked. The last team to win a Super Bowl without a top-caliber quarterback was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. It's a different NFL in this decade and the chances of that happening again are pretty slim.
Before we get to the rankings, one note: These are not the order in which these quarterbacks are graded on my board. While some may consider "power ranking" in different ways, I think of it as which quarterback has the most momentum as of right now (i.e. which quarterback is having the best couple of weeks). That momentum may affect their eventual drafting order, but it hardly affects their level of skill.
1. Geno Smith (West Virginia)
The biggest knock against Geno Smith seems to be that he's not at the same level as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. However, to look at it another way, Smith is clearly a better prospect than Christian Ponder, Jake Locker or Brandon Weeden—probably closer in terms of overall skill and athleticism to Ryan Tannehill.
Can an NFL franchise build around Smith? Absolutely, and one will.
Smith's ridiculous passing percentage at West Virginia was largely due to the offense, and he will need to slightly refine his mechanics and accuracy at the next level. Until then, his arm strength and athleticism will be more than enough to carry him as a rookie.
Stock Watch: Top-10 pick (Oakland, Cleveland, Buffalo)
2. EJ Manuel (Florida State)
If the NFL draft is about picking what players were (or even are), slide EJ Manuel down to the seventh round and count me among his biggest detractors. I live in North Florida and was treated to plenty of Florida State games this past season. I was usually driven to throw things in exasperation as I saw Manuel's talent largely untapped.
Yet, the NFL draft is actually about what a team thinks a player can do at the next level. It's a nuanced way of looking at it, but it's closer to fact. Teams don't care about what a player did in college, except for as a piece of evidence in the overall puzzle.
Of all the quarterbacks in this draft class, Manuel has the biggest and best set of tools. He's just not a great craftsman right now. QB coaches and offensive coordinators around the league are lining up to take this guy to the next level. Expect one of them to make this selection a lot earlier than critics will predict.
Stock Watch: Top-20 pick (Bills, Buccaneers, Eagles)
3. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)
After Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson is the quarterback I would most want starting for my team in 2013. He's got more than enough arm strength to make all of the throws, he has the accuracy to hit guys in stride and he's got enough athleticism to make teams pay if they don't account for him—though he's hardly a candidate for the zone-read.
The knocks on him are pretty obvious: He takes a lot of ill-conceived chances with the ball and needs a lot of work on his mechanics. His best tape from school is from the Bobby Petrino era and that makes him a "system QB" in a lot of people's eyes.
What I like best about Wilson is that he's the type of quarterback teammates will rally around. He's always willing to fight for the extra yard and will dive headlong into a pile to do it. For every boneheaded interception, there are a handful of excellent throws that other QBs wouldn't even attempt.
Stock Watch: Round 1 to early Round 2 (Bills, Cowboys, Jets)
4. Matt Scott (Arizona)
This is the perfect example of a power ranking being more about momentum than skill or draft order. I sincerely doubt that Matt Scott is going to be the fourth quarterback drafted this April, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone rising more quickly than this young man in the eyes of media and "draftniks."
Here's the bottom line on Matt Scott: NFL teams are looking for great athletes who can throw the ball. Scott isn't Denard Robinson on the ground and he isn't Matt Barkley through the air, but he might be the best combination of both, as he provides enough speed and agility to run the the zone-read or a full complement of rollouts, and enough accuracy to hit all the throws.
He's got work to do before he contributes at the next level, but there aren't many guys with more potential.
Stock Watch: Late Round 2 to early Round 3 (Vikings, Jaguars, Raiders)
5. Mike Glennon (North Carolina State)
I've been on the Mike Glennon train for a while and it seemed like it might never pull into the station. With NFL Network's Bucky Brooks jumping on, however, more people are taking the NC State passer seriously.
Is Glennon the perfect passer? No. He has some pretty big pockmarks in his game and certainly won't fit every system. However, in a league geared toward passing with plenty of teams striving to implement more vertical elements, Glennon has great size and a big-time arm.
Think poor man's Ben Roethlisberger (without the play-extending moxie) or Joe Flacco.
Stock Watch: Late Round 1 to early Round 2 (Cardinals, Cowboys, Texans)
6. Ryan Nassib (Syracuse)
Two men I respect highly have put Ryan Nassib on top of their quarterbacks for the upcoming draft—Russ Lande and Greg Cosell. Both have studied countless hours of tape on the top quarterbacks in this draft, and they're convinced Nassib can be the best of the bunch.
As much as I respect those men and trust that they put the work in, I can't agree.
To me, Nassib is the polar opposite of what we talked about a few slides earlier with Manuel. Nassib is a great quarterback right now, but I don't see the upside. His arm strength is good, but not great. He can make all of the throws if he has the time to set up perfectly in the pocket and he often makes good decisions.
I don't see the upside. I see a younger Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Stock Watch: Round 2 (Jets, Bills, Buccaneers)
7. Matt Barkley (Southern California)
Not sure anyone's stock could be more confusing this season than Matt Barkley. He was once considered the top player in the draft, but a disappointing season, injuries and concerns about his upside shot him down draft boards in a hurry. Now, it seems as if he's making a rebound, but his pro day isn't until March 27 and teams are still concerned about his shoulder.
Most quarterbacks can't help themselves with a pro day throwing performance, but if Barkley hits all the throws and showcases good velocity, he could work his way back into the first round.
Stock aside, Barkley's overall talent level has probably been overrated for years in a USC system that has consistently produced middling NFL passers alongside a solid group of the most highly recruited skill-position talent.
Stock Watch: Round 2 (Cardinals, Jaguars, Jets)
8. Landry Jones (Oklahoma)
Both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have Landry Jones as one of the top-five quarterbacks on their respective boards, and while I think that's far too high, it shows that there are things to like about Jones' game.
If we took names off the board and I described a quarterback that can hit every throw, has great intermediate-to-deep accuracy, needs some refinement in his short-throw mechanics and has the baseline size, athleticism and intangibles that teams look for, most of you would be jumping at Jones.
The biggest problem with his game is that he'll need to be broken down and have a lot of the Oklahoma offense purged from his system. He's been so ingrained with checkdowns that he needs to be taught to make longer throws under duress. He can do it, but it will be a process and many teams don't have the time or the patience to wait for that kind of project.
Stock Watch: Late Round 2 to early Round 3 (Jaguars, Steelers, Vikings)
9. Zac Dysert (Miami of Ohio)
Zac Dysert has had a rough draft season, as his Senior Bowl performance was widely panned and his pro day couldn't have been in much worse conditions for a passer. Oh, and he also tore a hamstring while training.
Still, he's got a great pre-draft team around him (his agent is Mike McCartney—son of legendary college coach, Bill McCartney—and his QB coach is Chris Weinke at IMG Academy). He's got a lot of upside as the "next great MAC quarterback."
His arm strength is undeniable and he has a gamer's mentality that enabled him to succeed in tough environments during his college career. He passes the eye test at the quarterback position and has all the tools to succeed. He projects as a borderline starter at the next level and (at worst) should have a nice long NFL career as a primary backup.
Stock Watch: Round 3 to Round 4 (Bears, Cardinals, Jaguars)
10. Tyler Bray (Tennessee)
During Senior Bowl week, other members of the media and I began calling Bray "The Real Honeybadger." This kid just doesn't seem to care about anything—on or off the field. He's got as much arm talent and upside as any quarterback in this draft class outside of EJ Manuel, but he seems to waste it every chance he gets.
Character issues aside (and he's got plenty), Bray has some of the laziest fundamentals I've ever scouted. Think Matt Stafford has an inconsistent arm slot? This guy can side-arm defenses to death. His footwork isn't much better, as he refuses to step up into many throws and will heave the ball off his back foot more often than not when pressure is near. At Tennessee, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson bailed him out of a lot of bad throws.
Stock Watch: Round 4 (Chargers, Bears, Browns)
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.