The NFL Draft is here after months of frenzied anticipation, but those looking for a quarterback might want to temper their excitement. Despite touting a standout class of left tackles and a few intriguing hybrid linebackers, this year’s draft looks pretty weak under center.
Last year’s class produced the likes of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson, but the class of 2013 isn’t nearly as hyped or talented. Still, the scarcity and salience of the quarterback position paves the way for a few of these QBs to be drafted in the first round Thursday. Over-inflated value aside, let’s run through the most promising arms set to be drafted this weekend.
5. Matt Barkley, University of Southern California
Yikes. After shattering records his junior season, Barkley was slated as a clear-cut first rounder in last year’s draft, even with the myriad of talent on the board. Instead, Barkley chose to return to USC for one more run at a BCS title.
A season littered with losses and injuries dented Barkley’s draft stock. Now, Barkley could go anywhere from No. 8 to the Bills to lost somewhere in the third round. With experience running a pro set, he could adjust to the NFL more quickly than other quarterback prospects. Barkley’s a smart field general who’s comfortable changing plays at the line, reading defenses and going through progressions.
However, Barkley’s lack of size or arm strength is worrisome, and scouts note that he overthrows targets when under pressure, which would inevitably lead to a ton of turnovers in the NFL.
4. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
After taking over for Russell Wilson in 2012, Mike Glennon has made a name for himself with a cannon arm. Tossing 31 touchdowns for over 4,000 yards last season, he stands to be an early-round draft pick.
Glennon struggles with accuracy, but his pocket presence shows a lot of maturity. Scouts are weary of his inconsistency, but consider this: In late-season wins over Clemson, Maryland, and Louisville, Glennon tossed 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
He’s garnered comparisons to Joe Flacco, and could end up being a serious steal in this weekend’s draft. A little work on footwork and accuracy will do wonders.
3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
It just doesn’t make sense.
Nassib has been projected as an early first-round pick for months, but scouting reports and resumes don’t align with such a prediction. He tossed 26 touchdowns and only 10 picks with the Orange last year, yet his gunslinger mentality and reliance on arm strength alone will lead to far more interceptions as a pro.
Nassib is perhaps the smartest quarterback in this draft class, and showed encouraging leadership and toughness at Syracuse. Despite a weak supporting cast, Nassib kept ‘Cuse in games, and scouts love his velocity and quick release.
He may have a promising career ahead of him, but a top-10 pick might be a little too much for Nassib’s services.
2. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
Manuel’s stock continues to soar through draft boards. Initially seen as an early-round pick, an invitation to Thursday night hints at top-20 potential. Only 19 players will attend the draft at New York’s Radio City Music Hall this year.
After completing 68 percent of his passes and scoring four touchdowns on the ground, Manuel brings an explosive short element to any offense. Scouts knock his downfield accuracy and his penchant for forcing passes into coverage, but Manuel’s velocity and sideline-stretching play action ability makes him an enticing prospect.
Teams as high up as Buffalo at No. 8 have been linked to Manuel’s name in recent days.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia
How he’ll pan out remains to be seen, but WVU’s Geno Smith is the no-brainer No. 1 quarterback in this year’s draft.
Smith is a confident, likable player who makes quick decisions and fits bullet passes into tight windows. Despite a lack of comfort outside the pocket, Smith does run a sub-4.60 40-yard dash, and his ability to stretch defenses downfield hint at playmaker potential.
Smith misses targets high too often, which like other quarterbacks on this list will lead to pesky turnovers, and he played college ball in a shotgun spread offense, meaning that there will be some adjustments if he goes to a team like the Jaguars at No. 2. Still, in a weak quarterback class, Smith leads the pack.