Taking a quarterback early in the NFL draft is both exciting and terrifying all at the same time. The boom or bust and nothing in between potential when drafting a “possible franchise quarterback” is as pronounced as any position in football. Perhaps that’s because teams are impatient to find out whether they have something truly special in a new passer. If that player fails to make their mark early, they’re viewed around the league as “damaged goods”. A poor first or second season can damage a pro’s career very quickly. When evaluating prospects, it’s tough to know for sure who will take the league by storm immediately, who will hang on in the league as a journeyman backup, who will develop with time and improvement and who will fizzle out in a couple years. That said, here are the most compelling prospects entering this draft as we approach the combine:
1. Jared Goff, California
When you put up a 2015 stat line of 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, everyone is going to take notice. His season was prolific by any standard. And while his accuracy at 64% was also impressive, Goff comes out of a system built on short passes. His success will be determined by his ability to adapt to a Pro system. But there’s no question he’s been incredibly successful and he has the size and IQ to succeed.
2. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Some think he is the best in the draft. The big question with him is of course the lack of competition he faced. That said, his stock is rising with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. He benefited from a Pro style offense in college which will immediately appeal to many organizations.
3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Another small school QB, teams gush over his 6’7″ frame, accuracy (67%) and ability to take care of the football (only 3 INTs in 2015). At one point, some thought Lynch had a shot at being the first overall pick in this class. He’s a little less developed than the two passers ahead of his here but if he can get in the right situation where he’s a backup for a couple years, he could be a fantastic pick.
4. Connor Cook, Michigan State
Cook has the size you’d want in a franchise QB, much like the three listed ahead of him. Teams will fall in love with measurables and he’s likely to wow at the combine. The big concern is accuracy problems.
5. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Some viewed Prescott as a high draft choice had he left as a Junior and question his decision to return to Mississippi State for his senior season. All Prescott has done is improve, show IQ, leadership and continued toughness. He may get drafted lower than some of the passers ranked below him here, but he’s a tough player that you want on your team.
6. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
A very up and down season but many believe he has what it will take to be successful at the next level. Many feel he was surrounded by poor talent.
7. Cardale Jones, Ohio State
It’s all potential with Jones. He’s extremely raw and he’s the epitome of a “boom or bust” player. If he puts it together he could be special. Certainly the best athlete listed here.
8. Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Under the radar passer that could surprise some teams. A good performance at the Senior Bowl has his arrow pointing up.
9. Cody Kessler, USC
The main criticism of him is his size. Clearly those people have never seen Drew Brees play. Kessler is an accomplished passer that has good game manager abilities. He’ll need to bounce back from a poor Senior Bowl week, though.
10. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Like Hackenberg, he’s great when he’s and brutal when he’s bad. Consistency is the best question mark here.