The 2015 quarterbacks draft class is one of the thinnest in recent memory, especially behind the two marquee names who could potentially go with the first two picks. Here’s a quick pre-draft look at the top end of the 2015 quarterback class, with selected quotes from both the “Pros” and “Cons” sections of the player profiles in the USA Today Sports 2015 NFL Draft Preview.
JAMEIS WINSTON, QB, FLORIDA STATE – 6-4, 232
On the field, Winston is an elite pro quarterback prospect. He has the size to stand tall in the pocket, the mechanics and strong arm to make all the throws, and as he demonstrated with NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci at the Combine his football intelligence is off the charts. He’s a confident, poised leader on the field with a track record of success. But he’s not perfect; his on-field decision-making has been suspect, and he’s been prone to interceptions—especially when trying to create plays on his own. And there is a ton of off-the-field baggage, which any team that intends to make him the face of their franchise needs to deal with.
NFL Comparisons: A big quarterback who keeps his eyes downfield? Sounds a lot like Ben Roethlisberger. Winston has also drawn comparisons to the likes of Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers.
From the USA Today Sports NFL Draft Preview: “A big, physical player who can handle the speed of the NFL game. Makes poor decisions when trying to create on his own.”
MARCUS MARIOTA, QB, OREGON – 6-4, 219
Mariota gets two huge checkmarks in the “athleticism” and “character” categories. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner makes plays with both his arm and his feet, and his Combine showing was off the charts. He’s accurate on the run and makes good decisions with the football. However, coming out of the Oregon offense he has little experience under center… or calling plays in the huddle… or progressing beyond his first couple of reads. All the tools are there, but he’ll need to prove he can read NFL defenses and throw into the tighter windows of the NFL to have success. It’s not that anyone is saying he can’t, just that he hasn’t had to and will need time to learn how to do these things at the NFL level.
NFL Comparisons: The athleticism of Colin Kaepernick, with the same accompanying questions about his passing. The upside would be a more athletic Russell Wilson; the downside something more like an Alex Smith.
From the USA Today Sports NFL Draft Preview: “Has a rare ability to avoid the rush and make a play with his arm or his feet. Not completely comfortable in the pocket and often bounces around instead of setting his feet.”
BRETT HUNDLEY, QB, UCLA – 6-3, 222
Hundley has all the physical traits to be an NFL quarterback: big, solid frame, strong arm, and quick release, with the added bonus of elite rushing ability as well. However, there are concerns about his accuracy, especially on intermediate and deeper throws—that his high completion percentage was inflated by shorter, open throws. Scouts also worry about Hundley being too slow through his progressions as well as inconsistent decision-making and that he is too quick to bail on a play and rely on his rushing ability. With his physical tools you know some team will jump at the opportunity to coach him up, but that coaching up will take time.
NFL Comparisons: Hundley’s skill set sounds similar to that of Jason Campbell coming out of Auburn; he has also drawn comparisons to Donovan McNabb. Both Campbell and McNabb fared better in the shorter passing game of the West Coast offense; perhaps that’s where Hundley is headed as well.
From the USA Today Sports NFL Draft Preview: “Big frame that can stand the pounding he’ll take at the next level. Huge questions about accuracy despite deceptively high completion percentage numbers that were built largely on shorter and open throws.”
BRYCE PETTY, QB, BAYLOR – 6-3, 230
Petty found success in Baylor’s offense, but while evaluators like his size, arm and intangibles concern abounds that the Bears’ offense claims the larger share of credit for that success. He’ll face the same transitional issues as Marcus Mariota: taking snaps under center, calling plays in the huddle rather than looking to the sidelines, working through progressions and making NFL-level reads. Scouts believe he may have the head to tackle those issues, and they certainly like his frame and arm; the question then becomes, how quickly can Petty make the transition?
NFL Comparisons: Petty’s game compares to Blake Bortles coming out of college, though he’ll get to develop off-Broadway rather than on the main stage. Other comparisons such as Alex Smith, Austin Davis and Drew Stanton peg Petty as a developmental guy with at least a modicum of upside.
From the USA Today Sports NFL Draft Preview: “Ability to drive the ball down the field using his lower body. Struggles to read complex defenses.”
GARRETT GRAYSON, QB, COLORADO STATE – 6-2, 215
Grayson’s improvement in his senior season helps him crack the radar in a thin year at the quarterback position. He has enough size and arm to make the throws, but everything he does—from reads to footwork to release—needs to be sped up to have success in the NFL. Following the refrain of most of his quarterback classmates, he has the tools but needs time to develop.
NFL Comparisons: Most of the existing comparisons for Grayson are NFL backups or worse, including Jimmy Garoppolo, Greg McElroy and Landry Jones. He’s also drawn comparisons to Ryan Tannehill and Mark Sanchez as a mobile, functional quarterback who lacks the ability to go deep.
From the USA Today Sports NFL Draft Preview: “Has poise and pocket presence along with a strong, accurate arm and capable footwork. Tends to throw flat-footed or even off his back foot when the pocket is clean.”