Future Top Drafted QBs?
Future Top NFL
The franchise quarterback. The face of an organization. Every team in the NFL craves him, but only a handful are fortunate enough to stake claim to an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or one of the Mannings, Peyton or Eli.
A month from now, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and likely Ryan Tannehill are going to be plucked out of the first round of the draft with very direct edicts from their new bosses—flatten the learning curve quickly, secure the starting job and eventually blossom into the kind of Pro Bowler who bring a Super Bowl to Indianapolis, the nation’s capital and Miami or Seattle, respectively. Anything less would be inadequate for a buzzy player commanding such a high price tag.
Luck is going off the board first, and Griffin will be No. 2, but who will be there successors in future years, those Cam Newton-esque gems who raise the hopes of an NFL city? Who’ll be the savior of 2013? 2014? How about 2017? It’s obviously early for such an exercise, but no less fun to speculate and debate over the would-be first round hurlers who’ve yet to complete their college—or even high school—careers.
Making no assumptions about which players will leave school with eligibility still on the table, here’s a look at future franchise quarterback contenders for the next five cycles of the NFL Draft.
The Sleeper … Mike Glennon, NC State
Glennon just might be the most underrated future first rounder of the upcoming season. He has it all in an NFL quarterback, yet casual fans don’t know him. Scouts, though, do. With a chance to finally start for the Pack, Russell Wilson’s successor threw for 31 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards. However, numbers don’t even come close to defining him. At 6-6 and 230 pounds, he’s able to see the entire field without obstruction. He stands tall in the pocket, calmly reads the defense and then unleashes with sound fundamentals. Glennon has consistently been compared to another heady Tom O’Brien pupil, Matt Ryan, who was chosen No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008. A key difference is that Glennon actually has a bigger arm. If he continues to evolve—and adds a little more muscle—he’ll soar up draft boards throughout the fall.
5. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith was recruited by Bill Stewart, but he really started to flourished when Dana Holgorsen was hired a year ago. In the first season in a more passer-friendly system, the nation’s eighth-ranked producer of offense threw for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He’s one of the smartest quarterbacks in the country, able to quickly adapt to a new playbook, and read defenses in order to locate the soft spots. While athletic enough to avoid the rush and sprint for the sticks, he’s at his best standing tall in the pocket and surveying the field for open receivers. Smith is not prone to locking in on a single receiver, checking down until he finds the optimal target. Even against tougher competition in the Big 12, he’s capable of using a second year with Holgorsen as a launching point to the NFL.
4. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
While Manuel hasn’t exactly set the passing world on fire with 24 career touchdown passes and 18 picks, he showed better decision making ability last season and turned into a more efficient, effective passer over the second half of the year. While he threw eight picks, he didn’t give up any over the final five games and threw just two over the final eight. Yes, he still has miles to go in his development, but few players have his combination of 6-4, 245-pound size, mobility, and arm strength. One of the nation’s top recruits, he’s just now starting to grow into his promise and potential with the abilities to grow into a special quarterback with a bit more time. Any quarterback coach worth his salt dreams of working with a player like this.
3. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Few quarterbacks in America are facing a more pivotal season than Jones, who regressed as a junior in 2011. A year after lighting up Big 12 skies for 38 touchdowns and 4,718 yards, his production and effectiveness was way down. Even worse, he tanked after star WR Ryan Broyles was lost for the year, throwing just one touchdown pass and six picks over the final four games. Still, it’s certainly not all gloom and doom in Norman for a quarterback who’ll graduate among the most prolific and winningest in school history. Jones has a pro-caliber arm, with the accuracy and quick release to exploit defenses on intermediate and deep routes. While he’s so close to being a top 10 pick, scouts will want to see more progression and an elimination of bad habits. They’ll be watching his footwork, monitoring his consistency and scrutinizing how well he adapts to a full season without Broyles.
2. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
If there’s a quarterback capable of knocking USC’s Matt Barkley from his perch as the de facto top prospect of 2013, it’s Wilson. He fashioned an auspicious debut as the replacement for Ryan Mallett in Fayetteville, throwing 24 touchdowns and only six picks while leading the Hogs to 11 wins. There’s not a lot to dislike about the 6-3, 220-pounder with prototypical size, arm strength and moxie to be a franchise quarterback. He’ll make all the throws necessary to be successful on Sundays, and is clearly benefitting from running a pro-style offense under the guidance of head coach Bobby Petrino. Scouts will particularly love the toughness of Wilson, who consistently delivers under intense pressure, and is always quick to bounce off the grass once he’s been pummeled by opposing defenders.
1. Matt Barkley, USC
In many ways, Barkley is the 2012 version of Andrew Luck. A Pac-12 star and presumptive top overall pick a year from now, he, too, made the improbable choice of returning to school a season longer than most people expected. The nation’s eighth-rated passer turned the corner in 2011, throwing for 39 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. Throughout a torrid second half, he toyed with opposing defenses, heightening the buzz that he’d be a top five selection this April. Barkley returns to Troy looking to complete some unfinished business, and solidify his spot among the draft-eligible elite. He’s already making NFL throws, showcasing the accuracy, mechanics and field awareness to offset only slightly above average arm strength. He makes great decisions, won’t get rattled and is surprisingly adept at completing passes while on the move. What won’t show up on film is that No. 7 is a high character, low maintenance kid who is not going to give coaches and GMs sleepless nights.