As rich in talent as last year’s quarterback draft class was, with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III leading the way as the top two overall picks, the 2013 crop is a bit lacking. In fact, NFL.com’s Gil Brandt told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King on Monday that Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill would be the top overall pick in this year’s draft, and Tannehill, the third of four quarterbacks taken in the first round, went at No. 8 last April.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith has been touted by the majority of the draft experts from Mike Mayock to Todd McShay to Mel Kiper, Jr., as the clear number one signal caller. FSU’s E.J. Manuel is in a close race with USC’s Matt Barkley for the second spot, with Manuel’s mobility and size giving him a slight edge. After those three, there’s a tight grouping led by Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon out of North Carolina State.
(In Alphabetical Order)
When Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones opted to return for another season rather than declare for the 2012 NFL Draft there were more than a few people opining they might regret that move. Barkley’s stock was high last season, especially after going head-to-head with Luck in an epic USC-Stanford showdown, and he was projected to be one of the top three quarterbacks taken. Instead, he had an up-and-down senior season for the Trojans that culminated with a shoulder injury against UCLA, forcing him to miss the season finale against Notre Dame and the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech, both losses. Barkley did not participate in any drills at the Combine because of the shoulder. His Pro Day didn’t help him much either as he struggled with the deep ball, but he did impress with his throws on the tougher wheel routes and corner routes.
Mike Glennon stood out back at the Senior Bowl during the week of practices, but Manuel stole some of his thunder in the game by winning the MVP. He performed admirably at the Combine and ran a 4.94 in the 40-yard dash, which is impressive for a man his size. His rail-thin frame is something scouts and GMs won’t be able to ignore because there will be a serious concern over how he can hold up in the pocket. If Glennon can work on getting a quicker delivery and improving his footwork in the pocket so as to avoid some of those speed rushers, he might be worth taking a chance on late in the second or in the third round.
Obviously, the first name that comes to mind when looking at E.J. Manuel is Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick of the Carolina Panthers two years ago and the winner of the 2011 Heisman Trophy. He is very similar in height and build to Newton and his 4.65 in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis ranked second behind Smith, while his 34-inch vertical leap was the best among quarterbacks. New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly tried to recruit Manuel to Oregon out of high school and sees him as a quarterback with all of the tools, calling him “an athletic specimen.” Some scouting sites have Barkley and even Nassib ranked ahead of Manuel, but his performance both in the drills and the interviews at the Combine definitely helped his standing. There are concerns over his tendency to force throws under pressure, leading to costly turnovers, but his arm strength and mobility are tough to ignore, especially in a draft considered to be so thin at quarterback.
If there is one quarterback from last year’s draft class that Ryan Nassib should be a big fan of it’s Russell Wilson. After leading the Seattle Seahawks deep into the playoffs and within 31 seconds of the NFC Championship, nobody questioned Wilson’s height anymore. Nassib, at 6-foot-2, is considered to be average in height but anything but in terms of toughness. In fact, his style reminds some of Brett Favre because of his gunslinger mentality and tendency to make risky throws, and that is not necessarily a good thing. Nassib’s strong arm and stout build could convince a quarterback-needy team to take a gamble on him in the first round or early second if that team believes he can be coachable.
Through the first five weeks of the 2012 college football season, Geno Smith was the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. His staggering performance on September 29th in a 70-63 win over Baylor was the pinnacle as he completed 45-of-51 passes for 656 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Smith’s passer rating was 248.0 and his completion percentage was 88.0. But WVU lost five of its last eight games, including a 28-19 decision to Syracuse and Nassib in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, causing a small drop in Smith’s stock. He bounced back by running a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, fastest of any quarterback, and did even better at his Pro Day. “I think Geno sees the game very well,” said Kelly, whose team picks fourth. “He’s got a great understanding. (West Virginia coach) Dana (Holgorsen) has done a great job with him in terms of his ability to run that system. He’s got a pretty good understanding of coverages, good understanding of protections.” Smith’s ability to run the very popular read option or the no-huddle style that Kelly prefers makes him the clear favorite to be the first quarterback off the board.
RAT 146.3 / YDS 3,612 / TD 34
RAT 136.1 / YDS 3,483 / TD 25
RAT 144.6 / YDS 4,267 / TD 30
RAT 133.5 / YDS 3,620 / TD 27
RAT 143.8 / YDS 3,387 / TD 21