2016 NFL Draft Quarterback Review or How I Learned to Love Carson Wentz

The Philadelphia Eagles have been the subject of trade up rumors regarding one of the top two picks throughout this whole process. Nine days before the first round the Eagles traded up with the  Cleveland Browns and acquired the second overall pick. The Eagles sent Cleveland their 8th overall pick, their third and fourth round picks this year, their 2017 first round pick and their 2018 second round pick. They also received Cleveland’s 2017 fourth round pick.

Overall this was a really good trade for Philadelphia, so long as they get their franchise quarterback. The Eagles upgrade this year’s first round pick and most likely get the better of their fourth round swaps. So really their net loss is one first, one second and one third round pick spread out in three separate drafts.

Now if the franchise quarterback doesn’t work this is a bad trade and both General Manager Howie Roseman and Head Coach Doug Pederson will be fired. That’s how these gambles work. If the prospect you trade up for becomes great, everyone is a genius.

Typically in preparation for the NFL Draft I will study anywhere from 150-300 prospects. This year with so much focus on the Eagles getting a franchise quarterback I spent a lot of time on that position. I watched about 30 quarterback prospects including 12+ games from the top 3 guys- Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch. It’s important for the Eagles to get this right and I wanted to have as much information as possible on the guy they bring in.

The quarterback I have spent the most time on is Carson Wentz because, based on the information I have received, Jared Goff already knows the Rams are taking him 1st overall and the Eagles will be taking Wentz 2nd. Of the 30 or so quarterback prospects I watched(some stayed in school) only 12 received draftable grades.

Here are my 2016 NFL Draft Quarterback Rankings

1)Paxton Lynch/Memphis 6’7/244- Most will be surprised I have Lynch over both Goff and Wentz. For me this isn’t about where Lynch is right now, it’s about where I think he will be in a few years. He came from a spread offense so the learning curve will be a challenge for him, but just physically he is easily the best quarterback in this class. He has the best frame, pound for pound is probably the best athlete and has the best arm.

It’s not just arm strength for Lynch, he’s actually really accurate down the field. He has the best deep ball in this draft. He’s pretty accurate with the short and intermediate throws, but he will laser in some short throws and miss on some easier throws. He’s also not used to making those anticipation throws playing in such a quarterback friendly offense.

That concerns coming from this offense scares a lot of people off from grading him so high, but I love what he accomplished at Memphis. People forget just how bad of a program it was when he came there. He elevated them into a top 25 team with zero NFL talent around him. His performance at Ole Miss was the most impressive quarterback performance from this class. Somebody in the teens or maybe in the 20s of the first round is getting an absolute steal at quarterback.

2)Carson Wentz/North Dakota State 6’5/237- I see Wentz with a lower ceiling than both Jared Goff and Lynch, but a much, much higher floor which is perfect for the Eagles. The knock on him is that he needs a year or two to sit, but I think that is based on the level of competition he played against. The kid is ready to go right now if need be.

Think about Ben Roethlisberger when he came out. He came from a MAC program in Miami(Ohio) that wasn’t loaded with NFL talent and did face very much NFL talent. In the game he did face some NFL caliber competition, the Iowa game, he threw for 250 yards and his offense put up just 3 points. Still, he came into a great situation in Pittsburgh, his coaches tailored an offense around his strengths and he won all 14 of his regular season starters that year.

Wentz comes from a west coast offense at North Dakota State that utilizes a lot of screens, deep route trees for their receivers and a lot of movement before the snap. He doesn’t come from some radical spread offense and he isn’t a one read and go type of quarterback. He can go through progressions, make changes at the line and properly read a defense.

When studying Wentz it’s important watch all of his 2015 tape. If you just watched the first couple games you see a quarterback who struggles to throw the deep ball with accuracy and whose ball placement is very inconsistent. But the thing I love about Wentz is how quickly he progresses. He’s the Breaking Bad of quarterback prospects. The first couple games from him start at slow, but you see a ton of promise. As his 2014 and 2015 seasons went on he just kept getting better and better until the finale when you are left speechless and wanting more.

Mentally he is way ahead of the game and his deep ball keeps getting better. Physically he runs like a slot receiver, okay speed, but outstanding quickness. His agility score from the combine was almost identical to Marcus Mariota’s to give you an idea. The reason I say he has a lower ceiling than Lynch and Goff is his arm isn’t elite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very, very good, but he doesn’t have the elite deep ball that Lynch has and he doesn’t have the deadly accuracy that Goff has(although he’s only that accurate under 30 yards).

Those guys have a chance to be better than Wentz, but it’s far from a lock. Wentz is the most likely prospect to turn into a franchise quarterback and will probably take less time to do so. For a team like the Eagles who have very few glaring holes(depth issues yes, but not glaring holes like a Cleveland or San Francisco) and a ton of talent on both sides of the football, Wentz makes a ton of sense.

3)Jared Goff/California 6’4/215- I get why people see Goff as the clear cut number one quarterback, but I also get why others wouldn’t want to spend a high draft pick on him as well. He’s the most accurate quarterback under 30 yards I can ever remember scouting with a very quick release and good mobility in the pocket.  But his deep ball leaves a lot to be desired. He also has a very skinny frame and very small hands(9 inches).

So with Goff you are getting a little bit of a project. He needs to get up to at least 225 pounds if he wants to be someone’s franchise quarterback. Pass rushers are bigger and faster than ever. Skinny quarterbacks are a dying breed. Remember Michael Vick was 6’0, 210, was an elite athlete and could never last a full season. Goff isn’t going to survive this league at 215 pounds.

The small hands issue really depends on the city that drafts him. Buffalo would be nuts to, but a team like the LA Rams(who are taking Goff #1) can get away with it more because they play in a nice weather region in a division with other warm weather teams. Small hands cause issues with grip and velocity in rainy, windy and snowy conditions. This is why Miami could get away with taking Ryan Tannehill and his 9 inch hands.

The arm strength issue with Goff is a big one. When I put on the tape against Washington State I saw a defense that schemed to take away the shorter routes and dared him to beat them deep. It worked for about a quarter before there was just too much separation from the Cal receivers. That had more to do with the speed of Cal receivers vs the WSU defenders than anything, but it did show a glaring weakness that better NFL defenses will be able to expose. Just another reason why he isn’t ready to be a full-time starter and how important it is for him to get a lot stronger.

4)Christian Hackenberg/Penn State 6’4/223- Not someone who would be a popular pick in Philly because of the Penn State connection, but still a quarterback who has all the physical tools you could ask for. For me he reminds me of Jay Cutler. Good athlete, huge arm, can make elite throws very few can, but will also make some really poor decisions out there.

The hope with Hackenberg is that his first year as a starter at Penn State is a better judge of his future in the NFL as opposed to his last two. The thing you have to consider with Hackenberg and anyone outside of the top 3 quarterbacks is that you are rummaging through the bargain bin. If the quarterback prospect didn’t have some major flaws or issues, he probably wouldn’t be a late day two or day three type of prospect.

5)Brandon Doughty/Western Kentucky 6’3/213- A quarterback I am definitely higher on than most, but again, another prospect who gets overlooked or unfairly criticized because of his school. He’s actually the poor man’s version of Jared Goff in this class. Extremely accurate, quick release, not a huge arm and a very skinny frame, but a ton of potential. He’s a lot like Tom Brady coming out. Skinny, arm strength needs improvement, but his feel for the pocket and accuracy make him worth the project.

6)Nate Sudfeld/Indiana 6’6/234- A really tough prospect to project. He makes NFL level throws at times, but he also went through stretches where he struggled to show any consistent accuracy. I believe improvements in his footwork will greatly improve his accuracy. The team that drafts him will need their quarterback coach to okay the selection and convince the front office that he can fix his mechanics to turn him into a more consistent quarterback.

7)Jacoby Brissett/NC State 6’4/231- For me Brissett reminds me a lot of Donovan McNabb when he came out. People forget just how raw he was when he came out. Brissett is even rawer. He is a big quarterback with good wheels and a cannon for an arm but he processes the field way too slow right now. Vision is my biggest concern with Brissett. He needs time to learn an NFL offense and get comfortable enough with it to make quicker decisions before he can compete for a starting gig.

8)Cardale Jones/Ohio State 6’5/253- All physical ability and potential, but very little ability outside of that right now. This is like drafting Cam Newton out of high school. Very similar physically, you just have to re-teach the entire position to Cardale.

9)Connor Cook/Michigan State 6’4/217- I have a lot of issues with Cook, but the main reason I have him rated so much lower than most is his limited potential. When I put on the tape I saw a less accurate, but more mobile version of Nick Foles. Average arm strength, terrible composure against pressure and a very low ceiling. Cook played at a very solid college program and still never had a better completion percentage than 58.7% and only completed 56.1% of his passes this season surrounded by NFL talent.

10)Dak Prescott/Mississippi State 6’2/226- Prescott may be the most overhyped quarterback in this draft. He is getting a ton of day two love, but I see a guy you take a late round flier on and hope you can turn him into a halfway decent backup, similar to what Green Bay is trying to do with Brett Hundley. In college he ran a spread offense where he was a one read and run type of quarterback. He has far too much development ahead of him to warrant a high draft pick, especially when you consider he doesn’t have an elite arm like a Cardale Jones. You are taking on a project with an average arm by the NFL’s standards.

11)Vernon Adams/Oregon 5’11/200- Another prospect who will be brought in and developed as a future backup in this league. He’s really undersized for the position, but he’s a terrific athlete who can throw the football all over the field. He was the second best quarterback at the Senior Bowl last February and has shown some early pocket skills that can be developed rather quickly.

12)Cody Kessler/USC 6’1/220- The very definition of a quality spot starter in the making. He’s very accurate with a great feel of what’s around him in the pocket, you just don’t have anything to work with that screams high ceiling. Think of him like a Luke McCown, high end backup, no where near starting caliber at the next level.

 

 

 

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