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2012 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

Posted Apr 4, 2012

There is a much more distinct pecking order at the quarterback position in this year’s draft than there was in 2011, with Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III firmly entrenched at the top.

Based on draft position after the trade between St. Louis and Washington last month, their NFL destinations seem pretty secure, although the two are so closely coveted that the Indianapolis Colts with the first overall pick could surprise everyone.

Regardless, once both Luck and Griffin are off the board it’s anyone’s guess where the remaining talent at what has become the most important position on the field will land. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill are identical in size but polar opposites in experience, yet they could be fighting it out for the honor of being the third quarterback taken. Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins would like to upset the applecart and squeeze in there somewhere once the dust has settled. Don’t rule out the two big quarterbacks from the state of Arizona – ASU’s Brock Osweiler and Arizona’s Nick Foles – as early round picks either.

BREAKING DOWN THE TOP QUARTERBACK PROSPECTS (in alphabetical order)


Each year at the quarterback position someone climbs up the ladder the closer it gets to draft weekend and Cousins is that guy this year. A three-year starter and three-year captain for the Spartans, he carries an air of confidence about him. Cousins was slightly overshadowed by Brandon Weeden at the Senior Bowl but opened some more eyes at the Combine and his Pro Day. Whichever team drafts him will ask him to hit the weight room and add some bulk to his frame while also increasing his arm strength, but his accuracy, decision making and other intangibles could convince someone to take a flyer on him late in the first round or high in the second.

Once thought to be no threat to Luck as the top overall pick, RGIII’s stock has skyrocketed, beginning with an eye-opening performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February. His speed (officially a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash) and athleticism only further solidified his status as the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft and the accuracy and arm strength he displayed at his Pro Day has some believing the Indianapolis Colts might not make it a slam dunk that Luck is their choice. What could tip the scales in Griffin’s favor, although it’s a neck-and-neck race in this category, is his smarts, character and leadership skills.



Luck could have been the first quarterback taken in last year’s draft had he not chosen to return to Stanford for one more season. He has been labeled by some as the most surefire prospect to come out of college since Peyton Manning in 1998 and did nothing to dispute that on the field, at the Combine or at his Pro Day. Luck actually graded out slightly higher than RGIII in Indy (97-95) and turned in a 40 time (4.67), vertical leap (36 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) close to what Cam Newton did last year. He is one of those rare QBs that can start immediately for an NFL team, especially having run a pro style offense in college.



Tannehill emerged later in the 2011 college football season as a viable third option for NFL teams behind Luck and Griffin according to some draft experts because of his upside. Here’s a young man that was converted to wide receiver by the Aggies as a freshman and excelled at that position before being moved back to quarterback midway through his junior year. A foot injury after the season caused Tannehill to miss the Senior Bowl and prevented him from doing any of the agility drills at the Combine, so his Pro Day was a do-or-die performance for him. He answered the questions about his throwing ability by completing 65-of-68 passes and his 4.62 in the 40 put to rest any concerns about his foot. Unlike Luck, Tannehill likely would need to sit at least one year before being able to take over an NFL huddle.



What critics consider to be Weeden’s major flaw – his age – the 28-year-old Weeden believes works to his advantage because nobody can question his maturity or readiness. He stood out above all of the other quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl both in practice and the game and unlike the former NFL quarterback he is most often compared to, Chris Weinke, Weeden’s skill set and physical attributes seem tailor-made for the NFL. One knock on him is his mobility and what happens to his accuracy when he leaves the pocket, but that has not slowed down Tom Brady and his strong arm and ability to deliver the ball with great velocity and accuracy appeals to NFL scouts, as does his poise in the pocket and under pressure.



OTHER TOP QUARTERBACK PROSPECTS AT A GLANCE (in alphabetical order)


Nick Foles
6-5, 243
Arizona
RAT 145.6 / YDS 4,334 / TD 28

Ryan Lindley
6-4 229
San Diego State
RAT 125.7 / YDS 3,153 / TD 23

Kellen Moore
6-0, 197
Boise State
RAT 175.2 / YDS 3,800 / TD 43

Brock Osweiler
6-7, 242
Arizona State
RAT 140.5 / YDS 4,036 / TD 26

Russell Wilson
5-11 204
Wisconsin
RAT 191.8 / YDS 3,175 / TD 33
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