Hello, Emory University, and welcome to another edition of “The Beej Knows Best.” We are only (at the time when this is being written) 15 days away from the beginning of the NFL draft. Teams have identified their needs and are now making their big boards in preparation for the big day.
These big boards are organized not only by overall skill but also by position. And what is the most important position on the gridiron? The quarterback position. Each year, quarterbacks get overvalued and subsequently get drafted much higher than expected. Many of the experts are predicting one, if any, quarterback taken in the first round. Last year, after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, many scouts didn’t think any quarterbacks were worth a first-round grade.
However, Ryan Tannehill was drafted with the eighth selection and proved his value, Brandon Weeden was drafted at the 22nd selection and was a bust and Russell Wilson fell to the 75th pick and proved to be a revelation.
This illustrates how difficult it is to pinpoint not only where a quarterback will be selected but also how they will perform in relation to the pick value.
I have been closely monitoring the workouts, Pro Days and expert opinions on this entire quarterback class, because it is an anomaly in comparison with the last few years. This is because of two reasons: first, there is very little star power at the top, and second, because none have differentiated themselves up to this point. In this week’s column, I will attempt to take a stab at evaluating the Quarterback class and rank the top three prospects.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia University
I was a big Geno Smith fan coming into this season. I saw a smart, hard-working quarterback with a big arm and athleticism to boot. I viewed him as a front-runner for the Heisman. And if you look at his statistics, they would illustrate a quarterback who had an excellent season. But that does not tell the full story.
West Virginia had a subpar season, and Geno was unable to do anything about it late in games. Still, I think that he has excellent talent and will be able to make an impact at the next level.
Teams are looking for athletic, dual threat quarterbacks to keep defenses on their heels. Geno Smith certainly was not Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton.
Given some time to develop, however, I believe that his skills will translate at the next level.
2. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse University (N.Y.)
Admittedly, I knew very little about Nassib entering the NFL Offseason. He played for Syracuse, a team that I would rarely watch in a conference that I would rarely watch, so he slid pretty under the radar.
But I kept reading about him and as I continued to do research, I became more and more impressed by his body of work. He started all four years in college after being red-shirted.
His completion percentage, total touchdowns and quarterback rating have all increased each year. He is the prototypical height and weight for an NFL quarterback, filing in at 6-3, 230 pounds. He has a strong arm and can make all the throws necessary in the NFL.
His biggest drawbacks are that he played in a spread offense against less than elite competition, and his accuracy can be an issue.
However, in the right system and given some time to “season,” I believe that Nassib can be an above-average starter in the NFL.
3. Matt Barkley, University of Southern California
Matt Barkley has done an absolute free-fall since the beginning of the college football season. He came in as a top prospect, projected to go in the top-5 at least.
However, a poor season coupled with injuries has caused his stock to plummet.
In addition, his flaws have been exposed, which have also scared teams away. Unlike all the scouts, I still like Matt Barkley.
I like him for the intangibles. He was a four-year starter at one of the most prestigious football universities in the country, playing under the massive spotlight of the Los Angeles media.
It never went to his head. He stayed humble and he stayed a leader. His senior season did not go as planned, and his arm strength reminds many of Mark Sanchez. But I think he can be different.
At worst, he is a second-round pick who ends up being a backup quarterback but still provides locker-room leadership. And at best, he takes advantage of his poise, intangibles and accuracy to end up becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the league. He is a risk, but a risk worth taking.
These are the only three quarterbacks that I believe have a good chance at becoming starters in the NFL.
They all have the leadership skills and the quarterbacking ability to make a difference.
As of now, I only peg one of these quarterbacks (Geno Smith) as a first-rounder, but things can absolutely change with trades. Don’t be surprised if two teams drafting in the top 10 trade into the back end of the first round to snatch up Nassib and Barkley. They will have made the right choice.
I hope everyone has a fun, safe weekend, and I look forward to writing for you all next week.
–By Jayson Patel