An alternative take on the 2012 quarterback class

August 29th, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

Guest blogger Daniel gives us an insight into this year’s group of college quarterbacks…

Hey everyone, you may be familiar with me as the guy from North Carolina who made a brief appearance last year to tell you the team with the #1 pick would shy away from taking Cam Newton. Since that turned out so brilliantly I’m back to provide you with more excellent advice. In truth, I’m just a fan who like many of you watched his team put off any attempt at developing a prospect at the position in favor of hanging onto an ageing veteran who holds the franchise record for all time passing yards and had lead them to post season success – a Super Bowl appearance, even. A team leader and great guy by all accounts who, in spite of all the plaudits just mentioned, you aren’t entirely upset to see move on at this stage of his career.

Yes, I’m talking about Jake Delhomme, a slightly watered down east coast version of Matt Hasselbeck, but the end result is the same. With the current prospects looking like long shots thanks to the aforementioned short term strategy, I spent some extra time watching the best college QBs last year figuring one of them could be my team’s next franchise signal caller. Beyond that, hoping we would strike jackpot on the next elite QB – the one who could replace all the leadership ability of the guy who just left while also adding that extra quality and game to game consistency he may have lacked.

As a result, I can offer what I think of some QBs still in college that are touted as having NFL potential. I respect Rob’s opinions a great deal and in fact our thoughts on a number of players overlap by a significant amount. In terms of top prospects, I get the sense that Rob looks first at the physical tools a guy offers so he can judge their peak upside before making sure they can pass a base level evaluation of mental capacity/QB instincts and college production. Proper measurement of those latter factors weighed against the player’s upside and their surroundings (teammates and competition) can be very difficult – it’s the difference between getting Matt Ryan and Matt Leinart.

Personally, I approach this equation slightly differently although it ultimately reaches a similar end. I start by asking myself, “Can this guy make NFL plays?” which could be answered in a number of ways. Of course you want to know can if a guy can throw the deep out, if he can make throws under pressure and if he can make reads quickly. But Michael Vick scrambling for 20 yards is an NFL play. Same with Roethlisberger abandoning a play to run into defenders, shove them off, then complete a pass once coverage breaks down.

In short, a guy just has to pass the eye test and I look for things they bring to the table as much as things they take off . After that, I factor in physical tools and everything mentioned above to judge value. That’s where someone like Greg McElroy, who passes the eye test – if you squint – drops down. He’s small and takes away your ability to throw down field but I can see him completing passes in the NFL. Problem is he’s as near his upside as you can get for a college player and he was in a perfect situation at Alabama that made him look way more accurate than he was. At his absolute best, he should still never be more than #2 on your depth chart. And that’s why he fell to the 7thround – I’d have called him as a UDFA as long as I had an established starter. Contrast that with a player who had enormous physical upside but uneven production in college like Josh Freeman or two first rounders from the same draft as McElroy in Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker. Withthe new rookie salary cap (Cam Newton’s contract is for $22 million over 4 years), Rob’s approach of taking a shot on a player with the tools to be a franchise QB, even if a team isn’t 100% sure on them – guys like Gabbert and Joe Flacco – could become the new trend.

Now that I’ve explained my “credentials” and thought process, we can move on to the players. At the least, I can offer a local perspective on some lesser known names you may not be familiar with on the other side of the country:

I’ll start with Landry Jones who, like Rob, I am not a big fan of. Physically, he’s got first round tools. The size and arm are good and the athleticism is adequate. He’s no Newton/Locker/Gabbert/Luck/etc in terms of mobility, but he isn’t a complete statue either. My issue is with everything else that I want to see in a big-time QB prospect. The quickest way to sum it up is by comparing him to his OU predecessor – he’s everything Sam Bradford wasn’t. The arm is stronger, he isn’t constantly injured in college (and his body looks more sturdy) but he’s less fluid and mobile. Also, Bradford had the accuracy and mental part of the game down as well as you could at his age.

Jones runs hot and cold. When he’s hot, I think “yeah, this guy could go in round 1″ but he’s cold way too much to actually be worth that grade. Even if he improves this year I would remain skeptical. I think, ironically, Jones will be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of the “spread offense” he plays in due to the success of Bradford and a few other QBsin the NFL. In truth, he looks much less developed playing in the same offense as his predecessor and I firmly believe that at another college he would be viewed as a guy with a big arm who is inconsistent and inaccurate. Another thing, and this may be venturing a bit too far into the realm of speculation, he just doesn’t pass my sniff test in terms of intelligence/self-awareness. It’s nowhere near the Ryan Mallett level of concern but he does set off some warning signals there and I would advise an NFL team to make sure he checks out during the interview process. Still, we live in a world where Christian Ponder went in the top 15. With that and the new rookie salary cap to consider, Landry Jones is assuredly a first round prospect. I just wouldn’t want to take that risk.

Another guy I agree with Rob on is Nick Foles. Total system guy who is very stiff in the pocket. He’s one that really falters on my “can I see him making NFL plays?” test. Other than his height and some pretty college stats there isn’t much he brings to the table. I don’t buy the Robert Griffin hype either. Like him as a player in college but have a hard time picturing him in the NFL. He still has time though, since he could theoretically pull a Case Keenum and stay in college for another 3 years. I need to see more of Kirk Cousins since I only caught a couple Michigan State games last year but my initial impression is that he might be a guy who gets rated highly for his “make up” rather than his actual ability. Is his upside higher than a mediocre starter? I need to see more. I haven’t seen enough of Austin Davis or Ryan Lindleyalthough I hear about both a lot. What I have seen of Lindley made me think late round tools prospect, although I know some people who like him a lot more.

Moving on, here are a few names that are long shots this season but might be potential first rounders at some point. You may be familiar with Mike Glennon as a result of the Russell Wilson transfer to Wisconsin. I’m not sure how the story has been reported nationally but the reality of that situation is that the coach (Tom O’Brien – who nurtured Matt Ryan, the Hasselbecks and a few others at Boston College) chose two years of Glennon over one year of Wilson. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was the right choice, but it would certainly raise eyebrows if I was an NFL scout. Glennon is 6-6, has a rocket arm and was rated right around Landry Jones and Andrew Luck coming out of high school. He’s probably more of a 2013 prospect than 2012 but that’s my big scoop. He has yet to start a game and he has flaws like any other player but I’d offer him as someone you might want to take a look at in the coming season.

Some other names that could gain traction this year ~ not a fan of EJ Manuel as an NFL prospect, although I think he’ll be effective for FSU. Big (if inaccurate) arm and can fall forward for 6 yards a pop just about any time you need it. John Brantley isn’t good and I don’t care what fairy dust Charlie Weis sprinkles on him, he shouldn’t be more than camp fodder in the NFL. I’d like to see what JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger can do at LSU if he can get on the field this year. I’ve noticed Rob is big on Logan Thomas. Here in ACC country he has flown under the radar a bit but the tools are intriguing. Virginia Tech has a very soft schedule this year so it’s possible he could benefit from that greatly. I’d be wary of getting too excited about Tyler Wilson at Arkansas. Mid rounder in my opinion, and I’d take an extra long look when evaluating anyone from a Petrino offense (responsible for Brohm, Jamarcus, Mallett, Ponder and soon Manuel). That doesn’t mean there isn’t a diamond in there somewhere – Aaron Rodgers was a “Tedford QB” – but you have to make sure what they’re doing can project to the NFL.

I’ll finish up withthe Luck vs Barkley debate that I imagine will grow old quickly this season. I have to disagree with Rob on this one, as I am a big Luck backer. I know the hype machine has spiraled out of control and personally, I don’t think he’s the greatest prospect in the history of the NFL draft. For instance, his arm is adequate but it isn’t the typical cannon you see in a #1 overall QB. His deep ball needs a lot of work – one of his interceptions against Oregon in particular is very ugly and you could even see his receivers have to hold up for the long TDsin the second half of the Orange Bowl. You can gain arm strength in the NFL (ask Tom Brady) and you can even throw deep with great effectiveness without it (ask Philip Rivers) but right now it’s his biggest knock and something that would get exposed in the NFL.

That’s the only major flaw I can find in him. He brings everything else to the table and I think the aspect he brings to the table that makes him special, maybe something Rob has underrated a bit, is his pocket mobility. Stanford’s offensive live deserves a lot of credit for keep Luck clean and making him look good, but Luck himself is a big reason he only took single digit sacks last year . He is extremely clever at moving his feet and getting into the best positions to throw with space. This is before mentioning the couple of long runs he took off on – overall, I think his mobility will be a big asset in the NFL and it makes his game compare favorably to Rich Gannon, the MVP version.

In comparison (and perhaps also considering players such as Cam Newton and Jake Locker are becoming more common) Barkley seems a lot more rigid and immobile (although he is by no means slow – probably runs a 4.8 and can pick up first downs in the NFL if a lane is open). His arm talent is special and he brings every NFL throw to the table – he can gun it sideline to sideline and there is not a single throw he cannot make. Still, there is something that bothers me about him. At times, he almost seems too mechanical and I like to see fluidity. I think Luck’s former coach and new Seahawks enemy Jim Harbaughtermed it “athletic instincts” in an interview about what he looks for in a QB – even someone like Matt Ryan who isn’t known as a scrambler seemed very fluid on the move at Boston College – Barkley has to set himself to throw, or at least load up so he can fire a ball with pace on the run. You also have to remember that he’s around 6-2. Now, that’s adequate height to play in the NFL and he stands tall enough in the pocket that it shouldn’t be a major concern but if we’re moving towards 6’4+ athletic freaks who can run and throw showing up every year, you have to be damn special to go #1 overall.

Is he? Well, I actually agree that Barkley’s game against Stanford was more impressive than Luck’s against USC. He fired the ball downfield the entire night and carried a team that didn’t have a run game working against a great defense. Matching scores the entire game down to the TD that put USC up with only a minute to go. The thing is, that game was the most impressive I have ever seen Barkley (granted, I missed his 5 TD game against Cal the next week) and it was just another day at the office for Luck. Luck’s game that night reminded me of Drew Brees last season – he just took what was given to him (often short passes underneath) and killed you with ruthless efficiency. Now, I don’t think his accuracy is Brees level – he’s very good there, not great. But anytime I say something like that, I feel like I’m scrutinizing him like I would redshirt senior’sfinal season because his game is so advanced. He’s just 21. And Barkley is even younger at 20. They can both still improve so much over the next year. Clearly the #1 and 2 guys on the board in my opinion and I can’t see either falling out of the top-10.

19 Responses to “An alternative take on the 2012 quarterback class”

  1. Troy says:

    Very good article.

    What’s your take on Stephen Garcia? I’ve always been a fan of his (short of his off field issues) and love to watch him play, but I’m curious to see what you, a person that actually understands QB scouting, thinks.

    • Daniel says:

      I’m not a big fan of Garcia. He has talent…but not enough to make up for being a knucklehead. Also, about half his passing yards last year were compiled by throwing the ball to Alshon Jeffery. Tough kid who isn’t afraid of contact and has an arm on him, though. Provided he keeps his head screwed on straight the rest of the year (which isn’t a guarantee) he’ll easily make an NFL roster but I can’t see him going very high in the draft unless South Carolina has a monster year. And even then you’re probably looking at the mid rounds.

      I guess I could see him spending a few years on a bench with one team then becoming a starter (not necessarily a good one) elsewhere if he puts in the work necessary. Good suggestion as a guy who has been overlooked a bit – he has NFL talent but when you factor in his off-field issues with his flaws as a player I doubt most teams will view him as anything more than a developmental project. Still, plenty of 6th rounders and UDFAs have had success in the league

  2. Colin says:

    Luck seems to panic when things breakdown. He’s not used to things being out of sync. This year will tell alot, but Barkley seemed better at making things happen when plays brokedown.

    • Daniel says:

      I agree with this somewhat. You have to factor in that he really hasn’t been put in many situations where he’s had to face adversity on the field. His freshman year he was just an accessory to the Toby Gerhart show and Stanford ran away with so many games last year he wasn’t challenged much. Against Oregon he failed and against USC he completed a couple short passes before an RB had a long run on the game winning drive. Doesn’t tell you much

      I think the Orange Bowl against VT answered that concern some. In the first half he struggled against the pressure he was under (and wasn’t used to) against a very good defense (of which he didn’t face a ton in the regular season) but he still held his ground. Then Stanford came out after halftime and absolutely ran away with the game – scoring more points against VT than anyone else all year – although, as mentioned, a couple of those long TDs he threw off play-action weren’t the greatest passes I’ve ever seen.

      I expect this year will be a learning experience for him. I had Stanford (and Luck) as sleeper Pac10/Heisman candidates before last season when I think most were expecting about ~8 wins out of them. Fell just a bit short there in both cases but in spite of that, I don’t see either of those things in the cards this season. They lost a lot of solid players and while they still have talent on both sides of the ball I just can’t see them keeping up pace without Harbaugh and the missing seniors, especially since USC and a few other teams will be improved.

      Would not be surprised to see Luck show some chinks the armor as the team won’t be as supportive this year. I think that will be good for him, though, and by the end of the year he’ll have grown as a player with those reps in pressure situations.

      Now, will Barkley improve as well? Absolutely. I wouldn’t bet it on being enough to surpass Luck but if you do, you could probably get some good odds

  3. Luke Peters says:

    I disagree wholeheartedly on your take on Landry Jones and Matt Barkley.

    Matt Barkley has fallen in love with his constant “pump fakes” (see Cal, see Oregon) which slows his delivery and he doesn’t have close to a quality NFL arm. Most of Matt’s intermediate and deep throws have poor trajectory that NFL db’s will feast on.

    Even in his best Cal game of 2010, too many weak “off the back foot” throws. That’s why he easily got picked going deep against Oregon. Matt LOFTS too many passes.

    I’m not sure what you guys are watching. He can throw a 10 yd slant. I’m unimpressed with Barkley who plays smaller than his 6’2″ height.

    If you watch Barkley and can’t see a lot of Jimmy Clausen or even his predecessor in Sanchez, then we’ll have to sit down and watch an USC game together sometime. Same height, pump fakes, release and delivery, trajectory and mobility.

    Thanks.

  4. Luke Peters says:

    Landry Jones, stands tall in the pocket and fires bullets into tight windows downfield.
    He has a NFL arm, which isn’t everything, but his accuracy is excellent, too.

    I saw his games against FSU, Nebraska, Texas, CU and sliced and diced some of the best secondaries in the land and future NFL players. When you throw for 4,700+ with 38 td’s and 12 picks against that competition, it means something.

    Prince and Dennard, Curtis and Chykie Brown with Aaron Williams, Jimmy Smith and J. Brown.

    Landry has enough mobility to roll out and has shown good accuracy throwing on the run. He delivers with accuracy to give his receivers like Broyles the ability to ran after the catch.

    I think he runs OU’s spread as well, if not better than Bradford ran it. I like the 6’4” QB, that can stand in the pocket with poise and fire the ball downfield with accuracy against the best secondaries in the country.

    Who did Barkley exploit again?

    I’m not sure we’re even watching the same guys or games based on your opinions of Jones and Barkley.

    Thanks.

  5. Luke Peters says:

    How long do comments stay in moderation?

    I’m not trying to be offensive but it seems the only replies on here are when fans give you a big helping of kudo’s and you don’t post much criticism.

    Were my 2 posts about barkley and Jones offensive?

    If so, let me know and I’ll remove those comments.

    I just see a lot of Jimmy Clausen in Barkley and you guys rave about him. Did you watch the last 5 games of the season? 6 td’s and 8 picks?

    It would be nice for you to show that footage and explain how Bark could be the #1 Qb in the land.

    Thanks!

    • Rob says:

      Hi Luke,

      Unfortunately I receive several hundred spam message per day which requires me to formally ‘accept’ individual comments and delete others. When I’m busy with work (eg yesterday started at 11am and got home at 2am the following morning) I’ve not necessarily got the opportunity to go through the comments. The server was down at around 2:30am so even with the motivation to do so at that early hour, I was unable to rubber stamp your comments. This morning I awoke to eleven pages of spam messages but have OK’d all of your comments. I never delete criticism of either my own view or a contributors unless it involves insulting language. I think I’ve deleted four messages in three years writing the blog, which is testament to the people who visit that we’ve been able to keep this a great place to debate the draft.

      As for the quarterbacks, I have to disagree with you on the Clausen/Barkley comparisons. I was a huge critic of Clausen’s (see link):

      http://seahawksdraft.blogspot.com/2010/01/jimmy-clausen-debate.html

      As you can see we idenitified a lot of the issues that have since proven true in the pro’s. I know that Daniel, as a Panthers fan, has shared similar sentiments. Clausen was a completely limited quarterback working within a system that fluctuated his stats and limited turnovers. When thrown into a not ideal situation as a rookie starter in Carolina, those issues were highlighted significantly.

      My impression of Barkley is that he’s a much more polished quarterback. I appreciate that he’s not perfect and ended the season with poor numbers, but then you’re talking about a true sophomore starter for a team that is experiencing massive change and a lot of drama off the field. In samples of 6-7 games that I’ve seen Barkley, I’ve seen enough as a pure technical passer to believe he can take the steps to becoming a very good NFL quarterback. I suspect there will be games in 2011 where he struggles too – and I won’t ignore those struggles in a final judgement of his talents – but certainly I’ve seen a lot of positives so far as detailed in the articles I’ve written about him.

      On Landry Jones, again I take your views on him with the upmost respect but unfortunately we’ll have to disagree. I think he’s over rated and feel somewhat vindicated that two people I trust – Daniel here and Tony Pauline of Draft Insider/Sports Illustrated – have also said similar things. Pauline gave Jones a fourth round grade – harsh, but ultimately highlights that he isn’t a top-10 lock like some think. For the record Pauline gave Barkley a first round grade.

      I rate Jones in the R2/3 region along with a lot of others such as your Kirk Cousins and Austin Davis’. They are players you draft potentially behind an ageing veteran, you let them learn and develop and if it doesn’t work out, it hasn’t cost you the earth. When you take a QB in the top-10, that’s a different kind of statement. I wouldn’t feel comfortable investing my future success in Landry Jones, knowing my reputation is on the line with that guy. I don’t have those same concerns with Luck/Barkley.

      • Luke Peters says:

        Sorry for my impatience and attitude.

        It sounds like you know what you’re doing and am glad you didn’t like Clausen coming out because I didn’t either.

        Nobody is going to nail every prospect, heck, many GM’s make plenty of errors, so I don’t expect anyone to be perfect.

        How long have you and your colleagues been evaluating and writing on prospects?

        Could you attach evaluating links to Bradford, McCoy, Sanchez, Freeman, Flacco, Stafford, JaRussell and Brady Quinn.

        I’d love to read your pre-draft analysis of those or any other QB’s you’ve evaluated if you still have links you can attach.

        Thanks and sorry for the impatience.

    • Colin says:

      Well Luke, when 90% of your offense is screen plays out of the shotgun, it’s hard to be impressed with Landry Jones.

      • Luke Peters says:

        Almost sounds like Tom Brady. Spread ‘em out 4 wide and toss to Welker or Woodhead. No, I’m not comparing Brady to LJones, but there is a lot more shotgun spread going on in the NFL than it seems people want to discuss.

        Brady, Brees, ARodgers…. You see a lot of spread ‘em out and find the hot receiver with the free release. Seems that it was successful for ARodgers in the SB over Pitt.

        We’ll see soon enough. I like what I’ve seen from Landry Jones more than Matt Barkley.

        I see Jimmy Clausen and Mark Sanchez in Barkley’s game but that’s my observation.

        • Colin says:

          Yes but no. Brady, Brees, Rodgers, etc all have the ability to go under center and make pre snap reads and be fully functional there from a passing standpoint.

          Also, in your own words, “spread em out and FIND the hot receiver with the free release”. Key element. Find. Jones in all honesty isn’t doing much finding. It’s a scripted, designed offense for one look and if it’s not there check it down. Have you seen how many blind screen passes he throws? Not to mention the 3-5 pure blind swing passes he hits every game? That won’t fly in the NFL.

          I haven’t seen anything out of Jones that strikes me as better than Matt Barkley. That could change, however.

          • Luke Peters says:

            When I watch Jones, I see a better arm, a more composed pocket passer with similarly good accuracy and enough mobility to run some boots and play action. It’s Stoops’ offense but you seem to focus on all of the screens but ignore his downfield bullets.

            Jones looks like he plays at 6’4+ while Barkley looks like he plays at barely 6′.

            I found a couple of pos/neg vids of both Jones and Barkley for your review.

            I haven’t disected what I saw, yet, but even in Barkleys positives against Cal and Oregon it shows all of his constant pump fakes, his happy feet and lack of pocket composure. He really looks like Mark Sanchez in the vid. Just like Sanchez and his pump fakes against Pitt in the AFCCG and getting whacked and fumble.

            The back foot throws and jump pass because he plays short. He constantly wants to get outside the pocket and is always looking uncomfortable. I don’t like that.

            I want a pocket passer with composure like a Brady. You watch Jones’ games and you see that.

            I didn’t disect Jones’ vid but did notice that they didn’t feature his games against some of the best secondaries in the country when facing Nebraska (Prince and Dennard) Colorado (Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown) and Texas (Curtis and Chykie Brown and AWilliams). I do know Jones will look like an NFL QB standing tall in the pocket with composure and fire bb’s downfield with accuracy.

            A big game for Jones will be on Sept 17th when he’s in Tallahassee for a game that FSU will be looking for serious revenge after getting embarrassed in Norman.

            FSU has the pass rusher in Brandon Jenkins and a solid secondary with XRhodes, Reid and Joyner. That will be a huge test for Jones.

            Take a look at the vids and tell me what impresses you about Barkley that he’s a top 3 NFL pick. I don’t get all the Barkley hype at all and hope the Hawks PASS on him. I see so much Clausen and Sanchez it scares me. 1st is Jones. 2nd is Barkley.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLms-PwGvys&feature=related

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8buzXhW6X8&feature=related

          • Luke Peters says:

            O.K. I had 5 minutes to check out Jones. I used the Okie St game because even though it wasn’t one of his best games of the year.

            Jones threw 18 passes in the “positive” OSU portion and only 1 was a screen to DMurray. There were a few short out routes to Broyles but that’s OU’s offense.

            I saw a lot of pocket composure (1 pass leaning back), I saw a lot of accuracy, I saw a lot of intermediate crossing routes, I saw an NFL arm who even B.M. said “stood tall in the pocket”. You’ll rarely hear that on Barkley.

            EVen at 9:21, Jones does a shoulder fake, is looking for a deep out to the right that’s not open, so he takes a few steps left and throwing against his body fires a beautiful ball down the left sidelines that was on the money.

            Go look at the balls LJones throws to Kenney in the positives.

            LJones has a big year to solidify his top 10 draft status but when I look for the “Potential NFL upside”, I see far more of that in the 6’4″ Jones than the helter skelter Matt Barkley, who ended the season with 6 td’s and 8 interceptions against who dat competition in the final 5 games.

            You’ll see soon enough.

  6. Dan V. says:

    No mention of Tanneyhill? I keep seeing his name pop up in mock first rounds. He’s got the size, and plays for a pro coach (Mike Sherman) in a pro system.

    I know his experience at QB in college is limited, but the upside looks intriguing.

    Where does he fit into this first round mix, if at all?

    Thanks,

    Dan

    • Rob says:

      Hi Dan,

      At the moment Tannehill is a mid-round level prospect at best in my view, with room to significantly improve his stock during 2011. There are things to like, but he’s not a R1 pick right now.

      • Colin says:

        Rob, with what you know about Landry Jones right now, would you be disppointed if the Hawks selected him next April? I like Barkley, and there’s no point in liking/disliking Andrew Luck. The Hawks will not be in position to get him.

        There is much to be seen in terms of evaluating QB’s between now and next April, but I feel like that is the next move this franchise HAS to make. There is no higher priority.

  7. Cody says:

    I haven’t heard this guys name at all, but I’m curious what your thoughts are on darron thomas from oregon? I saw him last year and I was impressed with good physical tools

  8. […] guest blogger Daniel also had some issues stating, “Jones runs hot and cold. When he’s hot, I think “yeah, this guy could go […]