Last year’s draft was defined by the quarterbacks who went first and second. The 2016 quarterbacks class can’t hold a candle to Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but that doesn’t mean two or more quarterbacks won’t go off the board on Day 1. And with solid teams like the Broncos and Jets potentially plugging a Day 2 quarterback directly into their potent lineups, it’s a class fantasy owners will want to examine a bit more thoroughly. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the top half-dozen quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL draft class. As an added bonus, we’ve included a quote for each player from DraftWire, extended NFL draft coverage from our parent company, USA Today Sports.
CARSON WENTZ, QB, NORTH DAKOTA STATE – 6-5, 237
Wentz has skyrocketed from intriguing FCS prospect to a probable top-five pick despite suffering a broken wrist during his final college season. He has the requisite size and big arm to play on Sundays, and unlike many quarterbacks coming out of college he has experience taking snaps under center in a pro-style attack. There are certainly concerns about his level of competition, but aside from that the negatives in his scouting report are generally coachable. He’ll be overdrafted—that is, he’s not an NFL-ready quarterback in the way that top-of-the-draft signal-callers like Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston were—but with time and the right situation he has all the tools to be a pro success.
NFL COMPARISONS: A big quarterback coming out of a smaller school has to draw comparisons to Joe Flacco, but the most common scouting comparisons for Wentz is Alex Smith: intelligence, athleticism, and enough arm to get the job done. Other reports have likened Wentz stylistically to Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Blake Bortles and Mike Glennon.
FROM USA TODAY DRAFTWIRE: “Might have the best physical skill set of any quarterback in the draft. If he can learn to adjust to the pace of the NFL and consistently locate the ball with better accuracy, Wentz could become the most successful passer in the 2016 draft.”
JARED GOFF, QB, CALIFORNIA – 6-4, 215
Goff has everything the NFL wants in a quarterback: a live arm, a quick release, accuracy, athleticism and a high football IQ. Like Wentz, whatever deficiencies scouts find in his game are correctible with coaching. The biggest concerns are a slight frame and a tendency towards happy feet in a muddy pocket, though the latter can be said about many NFL quarterbacks as well. There’s also the issue of his small hands, though that may be more Cleveland smoke than anything else.
NFL COMPARISONS: Any scouting report that makes a comparison for Goff—and my digging unearthed at least eight of them—references Matt Ryan. That’s certainly not a bad guy to be compared to.
FROM USA TODAY DRAFTWIRE: “He shows exquisite footwork in the pocket and enough arm strength to stretch the field. If he can brush up his ball location and timing, Goff is the only quarterback in this draft that can make an impact as a rookie.”
PAXTON LYNCH, QB, MEMPHIS – 6-7, 244
The top quarterback on some boards, Lynch has the size, arm, and athleticism the NFL wants in a quarterback. He has also demonstrated comfort in the pocket and the quick feet to move out of trouble while continuing to look down the field. Lynch improved in two key areas in his final college season, cutting back dramatically on the turnovers while running less; the NFL prefers a quarterback who can threaten with his feet but doesn’t depend on putting himself at risk to pick up yards. His internal clock and footwork need improvement for him to have significant success at the next level.
NFL COMPARISONS: Last year’s version might have drawn comparisons to Vince Young and Colin Kaepernick, but the new and improved Lynch more closely resembles Alex Smith, Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill in that he’s a quarterback who can run when needed but is far from deficient as a passer. There are also similarities to Brock Osweiler, and it’s worth noting that the offense he ran in college bears many similarities to what Osweiler’s former coach Gary Kubiak wants his Denver offense to look like.
FROM USA TODAY DRAFTWIRE: “Lynch’s arm is a cannon. He’s an exceptional athlete who shows remarkable calmness in the pocket and the ability to drop the ball in the bucket down the field. Love his ceiling but he’ll need good coaching and time to recognize it.”
CONNOR COOK, QB, MICHIGAN STATE – 6-4, 217
The NFL loves quarterbacks with experience, and Cook went 34-5 as a starter while playing for a national championship as a senior. He has the size and arm talent the pros are looking for… but all anyone wanted to talk about at the Scouting Combine was the fact that he was never a captain in college. In addition to the personality concerns, Cook has a tendency to force throws into coverage and has some mechanical and footwork issues that impact his accuracy as well. He also tends to struggle when plays break down, and scouts will ding him for coming up small in the bowl game against Alabama, though he was still battling a shoulder injury.
NFL COMPARISONS: The upside comparison is Kirk Cousins, who brought a similar skillset to the league as a fourth-round pick and ultimately wound up becoming (for the moment, at least) a franchise quarterback. Cook’s game has also drawn comparisons to Brian Hoyer, which has some upside as well but also sports a “journeyman” tag.
FROM USA TODAY DRAFTWIRE: “A high-variance player on tape who can make highlight reel throws as easily as he can mind-numbing decisions. His accuracy is poor and will need to improve before Cook is going to be trusted at the reins of an NFL offense.”
DAK PRESCOTT, QB, MISSISSIPPI STATE – 6-2, 226
Prescott has steadily improved his game from a run-first college quarterback to a potential NFL signal caller, working to get better each offseason. He has all the intangibles of a pro quarterback as well as athleticism and a strong arm. There is still plenty to work on with his footwork and mechanics, both of which contribute to inconsistent accuracy. Teams will also want to question him about his off-the-field decision-making after a mid-March arrest for DUI.
NFL COMPARISONS: Many of Prescott’s comparisons are unflattering, from Geno Smith to Brett Hundley to Tim Tebow—the latter in no small part because they shared a college coach. He also compares to classmate Paxton Lynch and has many of the same attributes as Colt McCoy, Tyrod Taylor and Robert Griffin III. At least there’s some upside in that group.
FROM USA TODAY DRAFTWIRE: “He’s got a solid toolset with the size and toughness to stand tall in the pocket, as well as leadership ability and experience. His accuracy and field vision aren’t where it needs to be yet. There is some ceiling here, albeit not as high as many think.”
KEVIN HOGAN, QB, STANFORD – 6-3, 218
Hogan is used to working outside the spotlight, having followed Andrew Luck at Stanford. Nonetheless, he found success at Stanford and has enough size, athleticism and football IQ to warrant NFL consideration. Coaches will want to work with his throwing motion and mechanics, which are far from textbook, but he’s the kind of capable game manager who if thrown into the fray won’t hurt his team’s chances. With that as a base to work from, don’t be surprised if an NFL team looks at Hogan as a developmental project who could hold down the fort in a pinch.
NFL COMPARISONS: Stylistic comparisons include Brad Johnson, who was primarily a college and NFL backup until given a chance to helm a team—and who wound up winning a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay; and Philip Rivers, another quarterback with an unorthodox delivery who has carved out a pretty good career on moxie, smarts and just enough ability to get the job done.
FROM USA TODAY DRAFTWIRE: “Maybe the sneakiest athlete in the entire quarterback class. Showed improved arm strength and the ability to complete more difficult throws. Often needs lots of time and space in the pocket to put his throws on target. That isn’t always available in the NFL.”