NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
2015 DRAFT PREVIEW: QBs
Overview: Round about this time last year the word around the NFL was that the 2014 draft had potentially one the best QB classes since that great group back in 1983. In the end, though, it didn't quite turn out that way. Blake Bortles did go third overall to Jacksonville, but Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom had been considerd at one point in the draft process to have the potential to be the first player selected overall, dropped well into the back half of the opening round, while second rounder Derek Carr was the only other QB selected in the top 50 picks.
Fast forward to this year and once again there is the potential for a very good QB class at the upcoming draft. Juniors Marcus Mariota of Oregon and UCLA's Brett Hundley, Florida State redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston, and Baylor gunslinger Bryce Petty, for example, all have top 5-10 potential, although obiously, the first three still have to opt to turn pro this winter. And each has questions to answer. Mariota and Petty, for example, have to prove they are more than just system QBs, while Hundley needs to be more consistent. At the same time, Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner who led the Seminoles to the national titlelast season, may end up being the best of thebunch, but he's also likely to be the most polarizing prospect in this year's draft. Nobody questions his physical tools, but like Johnny Manziel this past year, there have been some off-season hiccups that Winston will have to explain to NFL personnel people whenever he does the enter the draft. Meanwhile, Stanford junior Kevin Hogan could also ultimately draw some top 10 consideration were he to enter this year's draft, but there are teams that aren't as sold on his skill set as some of the other top-rated passers.
There should also be a relatively deep second-tier group of QBs this year including productive passers such as Sean Mannion of Oregon State, Braxton Miller of Ohio State, Nevada's Cody Fajardo, Shane Carden of East Carolina, Andrew Manley of Eastern Illinois, Chuckie Keeton of Utah State and Taylor Kelly of Arizona State. It will also be interesting to see how NFL teams ultimately grade athletic Auburn QB Nick Marshall, who was originally a CB at Georgia before leading the unheralded Tigers to last year's national title game. At barely 6-1 Marshall is short for an NFL QB and he is still a much better athlete than passer and could end up back at corner or even receiver in the pros, but he is also a playmaker with a unique athletic skill set. At the same time, other juniors who could impact the early rounds of the 2015 draft if they were to declare for the upcoming draft include Connor Cook of Michigan State, Florida's Jeff Driskel, Jacob Coker of Alabama, Cody Kessler of USC, BYU's Taysom Hill, Dak Prescott of Mississppi State, Nate Sudfield of Indiana, Matt Johnson of Bowling Green and North Carolina's Marquise Williams. Then there's Notre Dame's Everson Golson who returns to the Irish lineup this fall after he was was suspended all of last year reportedly for cheating on a test.
Top 20 QB Prospects
Sleeper file: Hard to imagine an FBS QB with over 10,000 career passing yards being considered a 'sleeper' but that's the case for Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke who hasn't received much national attention as ODU just moved into the D1A ranks last fall and will only play their first full FBS schedule this season. In fact, Heinicke actually won the Walter Payton Award - the FCS Heisman Trophy - in 2012 before ODU moved up to the D1A ranks last fall. Hienicke also isn't exactly a prototype pro passer as he is barely 6-0 and lacks a cannon of an arm. But like the Saints' Drew Brees who isn't much bigger, Heinicke has a quick release, is very accurate - he completed 70% of his pass attempts in 2013 - and is very mobile with over 1,000 career rushing yards. Meanwhile, other small-school QBs to watch include Bryan Bennett of Southeastern Louisiana, Kevin Rodgers of Henderson State and Princeton's Quinn Epperly.
Future file: One of the phrases that resounded around the NFL prior to the 2014 draft was that none of this past year's top QB prospect was the next Andrew Luck. And that may very well be the case again this year as none of this year's best prospects at the position comes without some kind of question. Of course, the Andrew Lucks of the football world only come along once in a decade or so. However, 2016 may be one of those 'or so' years as Penn State sophomore Christian Hackenberg appears to have the tools, including prototype size (6-4, 235) and a big arm, to be the next superstar QB prospect to head to the draft. Meanwhile, other sophomore QBs to watch inlude the much traveled Gunner Kiel who appears to have found a home at Cincinnati, Houston's John O'Korn, Trevor Knight of Oklahoma. California's Jared Goff, Davis Webb of Texas Tech and Matt Johnson of UNC-Charlotte. And there may be an even more impressive group of redshirt freshman QBs this year including Max Browne of Southern Cal, Miami's Kevin Olsen, Mitch Trubiskey of North Carolina, Tennessee's Riley Ferguson, Malik Zaire of Notre Dame, Troy Williams of Washington, and Fresno State's Zach Greenlee. At the same time, the consensus top incoming freshman QB this year is Kyle Allen who will try and replace Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, while UCLA commit Josh Rosen is the top-rated prep QB this year.
If you have comments or suggestions, e-mail the Editor, Great Blue North Draft Report. The GBN can also be reached by phone at (613) 692-1088 or regular mail at 320 Shadehill Crescent, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2J 0L6.
The GREAT BLUE NORTH DRAFT REPORT is a division of SQUITERLAND ENTERPRISES, Ottawa, Ontario,Canada