- This quarterback class doesn't stack up to last year's, but there is still a lot of talent available for QB-needy teams.
With the 2018 NFL season in the rearview mirror, up next for fans is free agency and the draft. The MMQB has a series of position primers to get you up-to-date on the top college players at each spot. Today, in the final installation of the series, the quarterbacks.
It’s time for the franchise-changers, the quarterbacks. But first, a disclaimer: Comparing this year’s QB class to last year’s group would be a disservice. In 2018, five signal-callers (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson) were selected in the first round, the most since 1999. There just isn’t as much QB talent in this year’s draft, featuring an overall prospect pool that is much heavier on linemen.
But the group is no laughing matter. Between two former Heisman candidates, one Heisman winner and a bunch of experienced, smart signal-callers, the 2019 quarterback class has some world-class headliners and impressive diamonds in the rough. Behold, the MMQB’s quarterbacks NFL draft primer:
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
The top quarterback in this year’s draft class, Haskins set 28 Ohio State records in 2018—impressive given that players like Braxton Miller, Terrelle Pryoer, J.T. Barrett and Troy Smith have recently come out of Columbus—tossing almost 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns this season. Despite some choosing to highlight his running ability, Haskins is the best pocket passer in this year’s draft, and has phenomenal touch on his short and medium throws. He has an absolute cannon for an arm and can stretch it downfield, but Haskins often overthrows receivers on deep routes. His long-range accuracy just isn’t fully developed.
When the pocket collapses, Haskins is slippery, and sometimes it’s near-impossible for a defense to bring his big frame down. That trait brings out some Ben Roethlisberger, but Haskins is even more mobile than Big Ben. He should be the first quarterback off the board and is a surefire top-10 pick.
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
The Heisman winner finally made his decision and chose football over baseball, bypassing a career with the Oakland A’s and committing his life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback.
Murray had a sensational 2018 season at Oklahoma, passing for over 4,000 yards, rushing for 1,000 and earning the Sooners a berth in the College Football Playoffs. However he still faces plenty of doubters at whether or not he can be an NFL franchise QB, mostly because of his size: Murray is just 5' 10" and 195 pounds. The shortest signal-caller in the NFL right now is Russell Wilson at 5' 11".
According to Pro Football Focus, Murray had only five passes batted down last season, while the 6' 5" Daniel Jones had 12, and 6' 4" Drew Lock had eight. Murray’s height shouldn’t hold him back too much, mostly because of his incredible arsenal of skills. The QB has a killer instinct as a runner, and he can turn a broken play into a smashing success. As a thrower, he’s got great zip on the ball. His accuracy needs some work, but he can whip the ball into tight windows. His shiftiness and overall athleticism put him over the top as a prospect. Murray is worth a top-15 pick.
Daniel Jones, Duke
Jones’s draft stock was already on the rise, and then he exploded for 423 yards and five touchdowns in Duke’s bowl game win over Temple. Jones is a towering QB, at 6' 5" and 220 pounds, with a gift for touch passes. On short and medium throws, Jones lobs the ball into the receiver’s hands with ease and grace. He’s great with his accuracy, but he needs to add some firepower into his deep ball—Jones lacks the velocity a lot of this year’s QB prospects have.
The Duke product is also a master manipulator, and a lot of that likely comes from learning from his coach, David Cutcliffe, a noted QB whisperer. Jones shows glimpses of being NFL-ready with his pre-snap adjustments and his reads from the pocket. He knows how to move a safety or linebacker with his eyes, which will serve him well at the next level. Duke runs a lot of RPO action, which tested Jones a lot, and he proved his mettle. He’s also a tough quarterback who isn’t afraid to take a big hit (but he has to be a bit more careful, too).
Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock has some of the most impressive arm strength in this year’s draft. Even when he’s off-balance or under duress, Lock has an uncanny knack for firing the ball downfield with plenty of mustard on it, which will almost certainly wow scouts at the combine. Lock is also an effective runner—he senses when trouble is puncturing his pocket, and he can tuck and run in a hurry.
The gunslinger mentality with Lock can sometimes lead into poor decision making. Watching his tape, there are plenty of examples of him forcing throws into tough coverage—he’ll obviously need to cut back on that if he’s going to make it in the NFL. The 6' 4" QB is still a gritty leader who has led Missouri to some success. In 2017, facing a 1–5 start, he led the Tigers to six straight wins and finished the season with 44 touchdowns.
Ryan Finley, NC State
No college quarterback last season had more completions in the 10-to-19-yard range than Finley. The former Boise State and NC State QB is top-tier with his accuracy and his ability to read defenses, especially against zone coverages.
He’s sensational at picking apart a defense and delivering a tight, smooth ball when he has a clean pocket, but Finley falters sometimes under pressure. He’s a willing scrambler who can dash from trouble quickly, but if he ends up on an NFL team with poor offensive line play, we might see some cracks in his mold. Much like Daniel Jones, Finley’s arm isn’t overly impressive. On throws longer than 20 yards, his accuracy plummets, but he’s a smooth rhythm passer in the short game.
Still, Finley is mightily pro-ready. In his five combined years as a college QB, he has developed a deep understanding of reads and progressions. He adjusts well to what defenses throw at him. Finley could be a smart selection for a team who might want to start developing their QB of the future.
Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier hasn’t received a ton of hype as an NFL draft prospect, but let’s not overlook his recent success as a Mountaineer. After he was suspended for PEDs at Florida, Grier transferred to Morgantown and posted 71 passing touchdowns in two seasons. He’s an older prospect—23 years old—who plays with moxie and has impressive accuracy.
Grier skipped West Virginia’s bowl game against Syracuse to start prepping for the draft, and at the combine he should draw attention with his impeccable anticipation and timing. Grier has an unorthodox throwing style, but it works for him and the results have illustrated just that.
One fear pro scouts likely have for him is that he’s a system quarterback. He thrived in Dana Holgorsen’s spread offense that drew a lot of man coverage. Grier has demonstrated less of an ability to read and attack a zone defense. Whether or not a team can incorporate him into a pro-style offense remains to be seen, but Grier’s numbers, accuracy and top-notch timing should boost him to Day Two.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Thorson’s draft stock has generated some buzz and controversy, with some pundits pointing to his 6' 4", 226-pound frame, big arm and exciting mobility as reasons to put him in the first round (and even in the top five, as some mock drafts had him prior to last season). Meanwhile, many label him as a clear bust. Thorson leaves Northwestern as the program’s all-time leading passer (10,731 yards), and his 53 career starts are the most in Big Ten history. Considering he tore his ACL in the Music City Bowl as a junior, that’s extremely impressive.
In a short-passing game, Thorson is an effective rhythm thrower. He understands when he needs to dial up touch passes and when he needs to throw heat, and he usually gets the ball into his playmakers’ hands. The Illinois native also is a opportunistic runner—he scampered for 27 rushing touchdowns in college and flashed improving mobility. But accuracy might be his downfall come draft day. Thorson overthrows his receivers far too much to be considered an early round pick. Still, he’s an experienced and accomplished QB who battled back wonderfully from adversity with his torn ACL. Expect to see him late on Day Two or early Day Three.
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
At 6' 7" and 245 pounds, Jackson is a physical beast, earning him comparisons to the 6' 5", 245-pound Cam Newton. He was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and leading the Bulls to a 10-2 record. But the one red flag in his numbers: a completion percentage of 55.3%. Jackson has a wicked-strong arm, but his accuracy issues are what bring the doubters out of the weeds. The Buffalo product also has a long release that isn’t consistent with what NFL scouts are searching for.
With the right coaching staff, however, Jackson can catapult into a star. His measurables are off the charts, making him worth a gamble in the later rounds.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
The Baylor-turned-Auburn QB had a breakout 2017 season, with an SEC-high 66.5 completion percentage to go with over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns. He led Auburn to an SEC West title and an Iron Bowl dismantling of archrival Alabama. Last season, though, Stidham showed some cracks—nearly all of his numbers dipped, and Auburn went just 8–5.
Stidham reportedly impressed coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl, catapulting his draft stock. He’s a supremely accurate QB with nice feel for ball placement, and he’s capable of making an accurate strike on deep vertical routes. But last year, his long ball accuracy took a hit. In 2017, he completed 42% of his passes longer than 20 yards. Last year, that number dropped to just 33%. On his first or second read, Stidham cashes in with a soft and catchable ball. But when he’s forced off track and has to settle for more difficult reads, the 6' 3" Stidham struggles. A successful SEC QB, he should still get taken late on Day Two or early Day Three.
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