NFL Draft weekend has finally arrived! While the first round is intriguing to draft enthusiasts and casual fans alike, the discussion about where the quarterbacks will go and what their NFL careers may be like dominates the draft weekend discussion. And for good reason: Quarterback is the position that can amplify or inhibit a team’s franchise and draft weekend success.
These eight quarterbacks are firmly projected to go in the top 100 overall picks, and should be counted on as a potential starters with their eventual teams. These projected team fits are what I’ve been told from sources in and around the league, and while surprises are inevitable, you can count on the teams listed to be the most interested in each quarterback as the first two days of the draft unfold.
Jared Goff, California – Los Angeles Rams
It’s a lock that Goff will be the first overall pick, but how he’ll fit in the Rams offense and organization as a whole is far from set. He enters an offense that hasn’t had success in numerous years, has little receiver or tight end support to speak of, and is reliant on a running game that features a young, still developing offensive line.
That’s all not to mention the immense pressure Goff will be under once he eventually unseats Case Keenum as the starter. He will be looked at as the reason for the Rams’ success or, more likely, failure during the early part of his career. There’s promise for Goff, thanks to an ideal mental makeup and football IQ. But it’s unlikely he’ll prove to be worth the trade that the Rams needed to land him.
Carson Wentz, North Dakota – Philadelphia Eagles
Despite hailing from an FCS program, starting roughly two seasons, and playing in an offense that didn’t really force him to grow as a timing, anticipation or multiple progression passer, Carson Wentz will be the second overall pick. He has the tools to develop into a different version of Joe Flacco, but does that merit the significant trade up the Eagles made to get him?
Only time will tell if the Eagles’ unique quarterback decisions will pay off. Regardless, it looks as though Wentz will have plenty of time to develop in Philadelphia behind Sam Bradford and/or Chase Daniel, and we’ll likely get our first look at the passer in 2017.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis – 49ers, Browns, Saints, Jets, Broncos
With the first two quarterbacks off the board at 1 and 2, Paxton Lynch becomes the feature storyline of the quarterback class. Expected to be the next quarterback off the board, he has interest from the 49ers at No. 7 all the way down to the Broncos at No. 31.
I’ve been told Wentz is the Broncos’ and Jets’ top quarterback (along with another non-QB needy team), and both teams have inquired about moving up to get him. If the 49ers pass (which GM Trent Baalke likely will decide to do) and Cleveland has their sights set on the next quarterback on this list, it could take a trade up to the top 11 picks for the Jets or Broncos to secure their hopeful “franchise quarterback.”
Connor Cook, Michigan State – Browns, Bills, Cowboys, Broncos
For all of Connor Cook’s successes in big games and career starts at Michigan State, he’s only a good, not great, on-field passer with limited arm talent and question marks about his decision-making. More concerning, however, are his off-field, leadership and overall character issues, as he had trouble gaining respect from teammates, coaches and other Michigan State personnel.
That all said, Cook still has interest from teams looking for a pro-style quarterback. The Browns (if they traded down), Bills and Broncos are the three likely first-round options, with Dallas being the team I’d project he ends with if he slips to round two.
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State – Bills, Broncos, Cowboys
Despite frustrating 2014 and 2015 seasons, there’s still significant interest in Christian Hackenberg as a quarterback worthwhile to develop. With ideal size, arm talent and flashes under Bill O’Brien as a true freshman in 2013, more than a few teams are excited for the opportunity to develop him.
Most intriguing for Hackenberg is his football IQ and experience running a legitimate pro offense. As a freshman, he had similar responsibilities and ran a similar offense to Tom Brady does in New England. That speaks volumes to NFL teams about his ability to adapt. The Bills are the odds-on favorite to take him in round two, but the Broncos at 31 and Cowboys at 34 have sincere interest as well.
Cardale Jones, Ohio State – Browns, 49ers, Cardinals, Steelers
Arguably the highest upside of any quarterback in this class, multiple teams would love to get their hands on Cardale Jones and try to shape him into the next Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton. He’s flashed the elite arm talent, mobility, ability to throw under pressure, and streakiness that should get teams excited.
Additionally, teams can appreciate that he wasn’t given a great opportunity to thrive at Ohio State, with limited starts and J.T. Barrett constantly breathing down his neck. The Browns are the team I’ve pegged for some time, but the Cardinals and Steelers would be awesome fits to groom behind their current starters. And when you mention athletic, mobile and strong-armed quarterbacks, Chip Kelly (in San Francisco) has to be in play.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State – 49ers, Texans, Cowboys, Cardinals
Dak Prescott is a favorite for many teams looking for a developmental quarterback, as his growth during his senior season and strong character/leadership dynamic has teams excited about his promise as a developing passer. While I have concerns about him ever becoming more than a potential game manager/running quarterback, the four teams above are more optimistic.
If the 49ers pass on a first-round quarterback, I’d feel pretty confident about them scooping him up in the third round. The Cowboys also value him highly and if they pass on a second-round passer, he could be their option as well. The Texans and Cardinals may not let him fall past them in round three if he somehow makes it there. And outside of these four teams, we could see a host of teams see his value and pick him late on Day 2.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford – Bills, Cowboys, Browns
On film, I can’t fathom how Kevin Hogan is a potential NFL starting quarterback, and arguably not even a quality backup at the pro level. His release is elongated, he’s late on perimeter throws and his arm talent isn’t special to make up for it.
That said, the Bills and Browns are looking for pro-ready options, and Hogan has managed the Stanford run-heavy offense well this past season. If Buffalo doesn’t land Christian Hackenberg, they could see Hogan as their fallback option in the third round. The Browns are looking to add multiple quarterbacks in this class, and Hogan could be one of the few they really want to add, especially if they don’t land Connor Cook.