Today is the last time we can meet like this on a Friday morning before the 2017 NFL draft and profile some of the prospects who will be chosen. I completed a very non-round number of 55 profiles over 11 weeks and got to as many as time would allow between the Cowboys' final (only) playoff game and the draft. We did our best.
Even though the plan was to get as far as we could on defensive prospects, the past two weeks were about getting some thoughts down on the high-profile running backs (week 10) and quarterbacks (below). History will judge a draft often on what sort of top-caliber QBs it produces, so let's make sure we summarize the 2017 group.
On the surface, it looks pretty sparse. There are guys who arrive at the draft who seem destined to be star QBs for the next 15 years, and to be honest, 2017 isn't one of those. That isn't to say that this draft won't supply the next Manning or Brady, but on the surface, this group is not dripping with marquee qualities.
But hype leading to the draft is not a real important component on what makes a QB. Substance is the only factor, and there appears to be some real chances for substance here. Unlike other players at other positions, we don't have to ask if a QB is a "first-rounder" or not. If he is a QB and he is better than others in the group, then he is going to get pushed up the board. There are many teams in the NFL that are "a QB away from being twice as good," and those teams will always take a shot if a player is the best of the available bunch.
So everyone gets pushed up the board at this position. Are there any first-round QBs in this draft? Not really. Will four go in the first round? Most likely.
And here is why, if you don't take a QB in the top 40 picks, you are essentially down to a 1-in-25 chance of finding a starter. Which is why it is maddening to go on and on about "who is this year's Dak Prescott?" Odds are there isn't one. Not this year. Not next year. If Prescott can repeat what he did in 2016, then he will be in the 3-4 percent of QBs taken after pick No. 40 who turned into anything. If he wins a championship, he will then rise to the 1 percent of QBs who won it all and were missed on draft day in the first 100 picks.
In other words, there isn't a Dak Prescott in this draft, most likely. Or a Russell Wilson. Or a Tom Brady. When those names are continuously brought up, nobody points out that during that stretch, 158 other QBs were taken after pick 40. Of those, the best QB of the entire bunch never got to 50 career wins. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub and Marc Bulger got close. Here is a list of QBs, starting in 2012, who still have a chance to do something. Kirk Cousins is certainly in that mix.
I cut the list off at 28 for room, but there are actually another 19 more, making it 47 QBs taken after pick 40 since 2012. And the collective sum total of all of them pretty much is Russell Wilson, Cousins and Prescott. Otherwise, a bunch of unlikely possibilities.
And that is why, if anyone has a chance at a ceiling higher than your knees, we overdraft him. I highly doubt all five of these guys go in the top 40, but four of them probably will. Not because they will be great, but because they have a chance. And that is how QBs get overdrafted every year.
Patrick Mahomes II
QB - Texas Tech - #5 - Junior
6-foot-2 - 225 - 4.80 speed
Two-year stats: 25 starts - 752 of 1164 for 9,706 yards - 64.6 completion percentage - 77 TD/25 INT - 262 runs for 741 yards - 22 rushing TDs
Mahomes is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft and only needs one team to think he is a potential winning lottery ticket. His ceiling seems quite high.
POSITIVES: When you watch Patrick Mahomes play football, you are certainly taken with his immense arm and his confidence in his ability to make something out of nothing. He can throw the ball a mile and on a rope. He can wiggle out of jams and keep a play alive where he certainly can make magic. He reminds people of Brett Favre, which seems ridiculous until you see one of his crazy improv plays and hair-trigger decisions that sometimes go well (see concerns, below). He is elusive when he keeps the ball and does a nice job of finding the sticks. He has irrational confidence in his ability to fire the ball out of trouble to a touchdown. His deep shots might be his best attribute. He has very impressive escapability and also can throw the ball off balance and against his body. He appears to have the full attention of his huddle and his team. They want to see him lead them. As tough as can be. He keeps getting up for more punishment.
CONCERNS: He thinks every idea is a good idea, which will require a coach that thinks similarly. There are many coaches who want play-making QBs, but do not want the collateral damage of hair-trigger decisions that go the other way. Mahomes puts the ball in the wrong place pretty often, and this is a concern, not because turnovers are always his fault, but because he generates them by passing up a small gain as he continuously hunts for the bigger gains. Sometimes, his eye-level drops to try to see pass rushers, which causes him to lose sight of receivers. And yes, he plays in a Texas Tech program that does not have a play-book, huddle, or structure that makes NFL people comfortable. He has tools, but will also be seen as quite a project where they attempt to find if he can fit in the complex classroom of the NFL offense.
Overall, he seems like someone teams hope to harness the downside to pursue the improv genius.
QB - North Caroline - #10 - RS Junior
6-2 - 222 - 4.67 speed
Two-year stats: 13 starts - 344 of 493 for 4,273 yards - 69.7 percent - 36 TD/6 INT - 409 yards rushing - 5 rushing TDs
Trubisky burst on to the scene for only one season, but it turned plenty of heads and may put him in the first hour of the draft.
POSITIVES: For a guy who waited 3 years for his chance, he was pretty polished when he got his chance. He has good size and movement in the pocket and can roll out and throw on the run with accuracy. He gets the ball out quick where it needs to go in today's quick RPO offensive structures. He seems content in marching a team by taking what is given by coverages and seeing the field. He is calm in intense situations and led his team to late drives on several occasions and in hostile settings. He can throw off balance with tremendous velocity and can make all of the NFL throws that you wish for. He seems to be comfortable in the face of blitzes and can make quick reads to get the ball out.
CONCERNS: The biggest concern is not having just a whole lot to go on before 2016, so you are curious how a guy performs when a book is out on him. The book is really small at this point and there is a sample size issue in his evaluation. That said, he threw 446 passes this season and put a nice reel together. He will sometimes lock on to one guy which can be dangerous. He will often times neglect his mechanics to throw off balance which certainly doesn't help the ball placement. His game against Virginia Tech was in the rain and it looked uncomfortable all day throwing the wet ball. That day included some poor body language which you prefer to not see from your QB. Like so many prospects, he has almost no under-center snaps.
Overall, in a season without any top-tier QBs, I can see why many have him listed as QB1 or close to it. He seems to be able to do what is needed on Sundays.
QB - Clemson - #4 - Junior
6-2 - 221 - 4.66 speed
Past two years: 30 starts - 721 of 1,070 for 8,697 yards - 67.3% - 76TD/30INT - 1,734 yards rushing - 21 rushing TDs
Watson is one who needs no introduction as a player who either did or should have won every award while leading Clemson to two amazing seasons that culminated with the national title.
POSITIVES: If you have watched any college football in the last two seasons, chances are you have seen Watson play against the best competition and do so very well. He has beaten everyone and he does so with an ability to make throws all over the field that are difficult to defend and then using his feet with RB type ability on the edge. He diagnosis blitzes well and throws very nice seam throws and slants. He can fit the ball in tight spaces and has off-the-charts field general characteristics. He also seems to have a great head on his shoulders off the field and that scores quite well. He is calm in big game settings and confident he can beat whatever you throw at him. He delivers the ball on time and excels at the 2nd phase of the play when you defy the Xs and Os. He makes you leave a QB spy on him, which helps his coverage reads with fewer defenders available.
CONCERNS: He lacks the gun of Mahomes or Trubisky to the outside, and sometimes can get baited by coverages into throwing the ball into harm's way. He is another high risk QB who is willing to break a few eggs to make an omelette in the sense that he knows he needs to score 35-40 points to win, and it might require a INT or two to get that done. He loves to use his feet, but like Robert Griffin III, he might not have the frame to handle the beating and already, like Griffin, enters the league with prior ACL history. He takes chances and risks the ball without the biggest gun in the league, so these are issues that a team will have to accept. But, it never kept him from dealing with everything college football could throw at him, including Nick Saban's best.
Watson is up on Tier 1 for me with Trubisky and above the others at this point.
QB - Notre Dame- #14 - RS Sophomore
6-4 - 233 - 4.83 speed
Two-year stats: 23 Starts - 423 of 696 for 5,809 - 60.8 percent - 47 TD/19 INT - 992 rushing yards - 18 rushing TDs
Kizer has all of the potential to be special, but his 2016 regressed enough to make many skeptical.
POSITIVES: There is no question that people are looking for their Cam Newton/Dak Prescott/Jameis Winston type. In this dual-threat QB world, you want someone who is able to make the throws and able to keep the ball and sturdy enough not to succumb to contact or injury while being able to shrug off a linebacker and still stand tall and make the throw. On his day, Kizer can do all of these things and look the part. If you simply took his highlight film of his top moments, you can make the case that Kizer is your #1 pick in the entire draft. He is so big and strong and on a QB draw looks powerful and able to move the chains. When he throws, he does not lack for strength and even on the run can make it look easy. His double moves on a pump and go can make corners look silly. He moves well and gets out of jams. He really can do it all.
CONCERNS: After that glowing review, there must be a real question about what the issues with Kizer could be. The differences between someone like Kizer and Prescott comes down to between the ears for me. Kizer simply has poor processing in the moment of truth and makes some inexcusable mistakes that cannot be characterized as anything other than carelessness with the football. Now, let's be clear: every young QB has a tough time deciding on the run when to not even try the throw. They all can be more careful, while trying to make plays. But Kizer's panic throws are too much for me. His accuracy is all over the place, and I just don't trust his decision making. I realize his ceiling is very high, but I also would suggest his floor is quite low. He will have to harness this massive issue that is a real deal breaker for me. If someone can do it, they will have something. Because on the run, the man is very impressive. And his arm is strong. I just don't know that he knows where it is going.
In the end, Kizer has a chance and someone will take it. I am just not willing to get involved.
QB - Pittsburgh - #4 - RS Senior
6-2 - 226 - 4.82 speed
Peterman is certainly not in the same class of ceiling types as the names above, but many suggest he is the best of the rest.
POSITIVES: He appears to be the only guy in this conversation with a real handle on the play-action game from under center that so many teams desire. Pitt ran a pro-style offense with him going through the play-action bootleg game that is so often employed (Dallas loves it) and runs it very well. He knows where his reads are going to be and goes down them like a checklist. He is very solid and seems like someone you could plug and play to run your offense the way you wish to run it. He waited his turn and transferred from Tennessee to Pittsburgh to get his chance and then put 2 years of tape up that looked pretty effective. And before we call him a bus driver, let's also note the jaw-dropping 9.3 yards per attempt. He makes things look simple, but they still are very productive. He is a feisty competitor who will compete for you. He is a graduate who is married, so he is certainly settled down in his personal life.
CONCERNS: The biggest is pretty easy. He lacks the big NFL starter's arm. When he throws deep, he has to put air under it and this allows DBs to close in at that level. He looks like he is making rather predetermined decisions that certainly limit your ability to take advantage of busts that make themselves available over the course of the play. Too many of his throws bring defenders into the play and the ball gets tipped. His margins for error are significantly smaller than the others in this study, so he has to really be sharp to be great on Sundays. He had some real fumble issues in 2016 with seven.
Overall, he is likely the first of those you would look at as a candidate to be a long-term backup.
So, as you can see, we have had better QB crops, but there are still some interesting names to know. At the same time, this also tells us that the NFL is always looking for solutions to the fact that half the league doesn't think they have "their guy." The search continues to find the next one who can hold down the position and compete for postseasons and trophies.