If you ask five different draft experts who is the top quarterback prospect in the 2013 NFL draft, it's entirely possible that you'll get five different answers.
One pundit will say it's easily West Virginia's Geno Smith. Another will tout the arm of North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. A third draftnik will gush about the NFL-readiness of USC's Matt Barkley, or hail the athleticism of E.J. Manuel of Florida State.
However, at least one respected draft mind has his money on Ryan Nassib of Syracuse.
Appearing on the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft", Greg Cosell asserted that it was Nassib who was the cream of this year's crop, claiming that after studying film of both Smith and Nassib that it's Nassib he sees as the better pro prospect.
My No. 1 quarterback based on the film study I've done is Ryan Nassib, I liked him overall more than Geno Smith. I think he's a much more precise intermediate thrower. I think the ball comes out with a little better velocity at the intermediate level. And I think he's a little more accurate. And I like his footwork a little bit better.
Cosell doesn't stand alone in his high regard for the 6'2", 227-pound Nassib. Russ Lande of The National Football Post not only has Nassib ranked as the top quarterback but the top player on his board overall, stating that "I am confident that he will develop into a high end starting quarterback in the NFL."
Lande thinks that Nassib won't make it past the Buffalo Bills at eighth overall in April's draft. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden told The Syracuse Point-Herald that he's inclined to agree, citing the obvious relationship between Nassib and current Bills (and former Syracuse) head coach Doug Marrone.
I think Buffalo is the team in this draft to keep an eye on. It is going to be real interesting. They just let (Ryan) Fitzpatrick go. They need a quarterback. They could potentially be looking at Geno Smith and their former quarterback, Ryan Nassib. The interesting thing here is, Mike, Nassib was 3-0 against Geno Smith. He beat West Virginia three times and is a big reason Marrone got that job in Buffalo, because of the outstanding play of Ryan Nassib. I'd be surprised if Buffalo doesn't find a way to to reunite with their old quarterback.
However, there are also more than a few detractors where Nassib is concerned. Those include Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, who came away from Syracuse's recent Pro Day rather unimpressed with Nassib's "adequate" arm strength.
He is a developmental prospect with the potential to emerge as a solid backup/spot starter in his career. Nassib is a good college player, but I don't see him as a franchise quarterback.
It does not come as any shock that scouts that there is something disagree on.
So which is it? Who's right? Is Ryan Nassib a top 10 pick or a fourth-round reach?
As with every quarterback in this year's class, the answer isn't an easy one.
So far as Nassib's arm strength goes, I think that the truth lies somewhere between Cosell's assessment and Brooks', and even that comes with a caveat.
Brooks is correct when he asserts that Nassib needs to be "mechanically sound" when he's making intermediate and deep passes. When his footwork is sound and he's stepping into his throws then he is more than capable than making all the passes necessary to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, and he can get the ball there in a hurry.
However, his footwork can be iffy at times, and when it is, his accuracy suffers. Also, Nassib has a habit of putting too much air under his deep throws, and he needs to learn to throw those on a lower arc so that defensive backs have less time to get into position to make a play on the ball.
Nassib isn't going to blow anyone away with his athleticism either. No one will be confusing Nassib with Robert Griffin III after the former ran a 5.06-second 40-yard dash at February's NFL Scouting Combine.
With that said though, Nassib is hardly a statue in the pocket either. He showed the ability both to extend plays with his legs at Syracuse, and keep his eyes downfield searching for an open receiver while doing it.
The Orange also ran a smattering of read-option plays in 2012, so while Nassib isn't going to inspire the sort of terror in opposing defenses in that formation that Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers does, he has shown some aptitude at running the formation.
Where Nassib truly excels, in this writer's opinion, is between his ears. Nassib ran an up-tempo offense at Syracuse that wasn't exactly overflowing with firepower, and he did so with considerable poise.
When Syracuse stumbled to a 2-4 start in 2012, Nassib and the Orange could have easily just packed it in. They didn't, winning five of their final six regular season games, a stretch over which Nassib threw 13 touchdown passes against only one interception.
It doesn't matter how strong your arm is in the National Football League. If you make bad decisions with the football, you're going to pay for it.
Ryan Nassib, generally speaking, doesn't make poor decisions with the football.
I often find myself comparing Ryan Nassib to another 6'2", 220-pound quarterback, although I don't know that their games are necessarily similar enough to make the comparison completely accurate.
Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Neither player does any one thing that really blows you away on the football field. Both are/were considered "second-tier" prospects by many scouts. Both also were the unquestioned leaders of their teams in college. When Dalton stepped into the huddle at TCU you knew who was in charge. He asserted control.
Ryan Nassib did that at Syracuse, and you have to do that to be successful in the NFL.
So, is Ryan Nassib the best quarterback prospect in the 2013 draft class?
No, because I don't think there is a best quarterback in this year's draft class.
Every one of the higher-end prospects has warts. It's not going to be a matter of which player is the best. It's going to be a matter of which player a team thinks best fits their particular system and personnel.
And then it will be a matter of whether that team turns out to be right.
For that reason the jury on who 2013's "best" quarterback prospect is may well be a question that we won't get an answer to for a while, if ever.
However, if the Buffalo Bills (or another team) thinks that Ryan Nassib has what it takes to lead their particular club, then he's their best quarterback prospect, and that team needs to pull the trigger and let the draftniks fire away with criticism should they choose.
They'll all move on to Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel soon enough anyway.
It's the team that drafts Nassib that's going to have to live with the decision.
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