Written by Kip Earlywine
This will be the finale of the this little quarterback miniseries. Before I get to the final three quarterbacks I’d like to spotlight, let me first cover some quarterback options I suspect will not be drafted by Seattle:
Brock Osweiler / Ryan Tannehill: GM John Schneider had plenty of nice things to say about this pair of quarterbacks at the combine, which probably means he won’t draft them. Who the heck talks up players they want to draft, anyway? Its not that I think Schneider was being disingenuous. Its just that I think that by the time Seattle plans on selecting a quarterback, both of these players will be long gone, and Schneider knows it. If anything, perhaps its possible that he’s talking these guys up to help them get drafted before Kirk Cousins or Russell Wilson.
Nick Foles: Foles is pretty much the antithesis of a point guard quarterback. He has poor mobility, stares down receivers and generally plays in a pure one read spread offense. Foles was statistically strong in his senior season, but it was purely because of the mindlessly simple offense he played in. The Wildcats lost eight out of nine games at one point this last season, which helped get the head coach fired and probably strips Foles of any “winner” label. Foles is as unlikely a Seahawk quarterback as can be found in this draft, and he will probably be drafted before Seattle takes a quarterback anyway.
BJ Coleman: In the comments section found here, I go into detail about why I don’t rate Coleman very highly. Here’s the abridged version: he lacks charisma/leadership, lacks accuracy, lacks pocket presence, lacks zip, locks onto receivers, was beat out by instant NFL washout Jonathan Crompton when at Tennessee, and he failed to “wow” everyone despite playing small school competition whereas other small school guys like Chandler Harnish put up much more impressive performances. He’s got size and some mobility, but holy cow, what a project. The only way I could see Seattle drafting him is if they rule out all quarterbacks under 6’2″.
Ryan Lindley: It wouldn’t shock me if Seattle drafted Lindley. He’s got good size, a strong arm, under-rated athleticism, solid footwork and impressive mechanics. There are two major flaws in Lindley’s game that make him a tough sell as a game manager or point guard type though. The first is his poor accuracy. The second is the fact that he basically never checks a 2nd read. In a lot of ways, he’s similar to Washington’s Jake Locker last year, with a lot less talent. The Seahawks had Locker rated very low on their board last year. Its not that I don’t think the Seahawks would pass on Lindley in the 7th round, but I think Lindley will probably come off the board in rounds 3-5, and I’m not convinced the Seahawks would rate him high enough to draft him before anyone else does.
Aaron Corp: Other than being a former USC player recruited by Carroll himself, I don’t see a lot of reasons why Seattle would be interested in Corp. He’s suffered a ton of lower body injuries which has turned him into a statue in the pocket. Seattle took Mallett completely off their board because of mobility issues and I don’t see why a guy with a fraction of Mallett’s talent would be any different. A healthy Corp ran a surprisingly good 4.72, so its not that Corp is innately non-athletic. Can he stay healthy though? Richmond was 3-8 with Corp as starter last season.
Chester Stewart / Stephen Garcia / Patrick Witt / Dan Persa: I can see reasons why these guys could interest Seattle, but its very likely they will go undrafted and if Seattle targets them, I don’t think it will be until undrafted free agency.
Okay, with that out of the way, I’ll cover the final three notable quarterbacks that might interest Seattle at some point in the draft (excluding division II or otherwise obscure options).
Jacory Harris. Size: 6’4″, 195. Class: Sr. Age: 21
Outside of Luck and Griffin, there are only a three natural point guard quarterback prospects who stand roughly 6’3″ or above: Ryan Tannehill, Darron Thomas, and Jacory Harris. The shortest quarterback acquired by this front office to date was JP Losman who stands 6’2″, so it is legitimate to wonder how much height will impact Seattle’s choices in this draft. If height is indeed a sticking point, Harris could be a late round option. I suspect height won’t be an issue, but I guess we’ll see.
Harris is without a doubt the skinniest quarterback in this draft class, weighing in slightly below the shrimpy Kellen Moore despite standing five inches taller. He’s no stranger to injury in college, though his toughness should be commended. Despite being described as “rail thin” by media outlets and taking some brutal hits as a result of his feather like stature, Harris displayed impressive toughness, missing only 4 starts out of 51 games during his 4 year starting career. There is of course massive potential for weight gain with Harris, he could probably gain twenty or even thirty pounds of good weight, and he would probably need to at the next level.
Statistically, Harris looked the part last season: high completion rate, high yards per attempt, and a solid TD/INT ratio. There was a time two years ago when some draft pundits such as Mel Kiper pontificated that Harris could be a future 2nd round pick. Then Harris suffered through a disastrous 2010 season in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Even after a nice bounce back year in 2011, conventional wisdom is that Harris will not be drafted. But in terms of raw talent and potential, he’s a lot better than most quarterbacks that fall out of the draft, which means he could be a 7th round consideration for the Seahawks.
Harris has above average mobility and despite his skinny stature he has a heck of an arm. Harris is also pretty smart about taking some heat off of the fastball when a pass needs to arrive with touch. I haven’t seen a ton of his play, but when I have, I’ve been impressed by his accuracy and the ease at which his receivers bring the ball in. Harris is tough, confident, and is no stranger to making plays. His mechanics are surprisingly solid, as is his footwork. Harris’ young age coupled with 47 career starts is also impressive.
However, there is one major concern with Harris (beyond his weight). He’s not a very fast decision maker and he tends to be a 1 read quarterback. In fact, I’m very tempted to compare him to Tarvaris Jackson minus thirty pounds. Its not very often that you see a mentally slow 4 year college starter become a quick minded pro. That probably limits Harris’ upside to that of a quality backup.
I was tempted to include Harris in the list of unlikely draftables above, but I decided to include him as a realistic option in the event that Seattle excludes short quarterbacks and is looking to add another quarterback in the point guard mold.
Expected draft trajectory: Very late rounds, likely UDFA.
John Brantley. Size: 6’3″, 219. Class: Sr. Age: 23
Brantley is another fringe option, but I decided to include him since I feel he is a bit like a superior version of BJ Coleman. Like Coleman, Brantley has NFL size coupled with solid athleticism and a strong arm.
Brantley caught the attention of scouts when he posted terrific numbers in relief of Tim Tebow during the 2009 season (75% completion rate, 8.54 yards per attempt, 7 TD, 0 INT). Like Harris, Brantley had a miserable 2010 season and bounced back a bit in 2011.
Brantley physically looks the part of an NFL quarterback and is surprisingly polished in many ways. His delivery is inconsistent- occasionally its a bit elongated- but the ball gets out quickly and he’s got a strong, accurate arm. His footwork and pocket presence are above average. If you are looking to roll the dice on a quarterback who could be the next Matt Hasselbeck or Tony Romo, Brantley at least gives you a shot because he has the tools and the look of an NFL quarterback. On the downside, Brantley can sometimes lock onto receivers and he can get flustered easily. He might need to go to an offense that uses him in a game manager role and doesn’t ask too much of him.
One obstacle that could keep Seattle from drafting Brantley are his small hands. His hands measured 8 3/4″, the smallest hands of any quarterback measured at the scouting combine. Its believed that John Schneider values hand size as it impacts a quarterback’s grip on the ball in poor weather situations. It’s worth noting that Ryan Tannehill (9″) and Chandler Harnish (9 1/4″) also have small hand sizes.
Brantley’s tenure at Florida was pretty forgettable overall, and if a team drafts him, it will likely be because of his tools and not for his accomplishments. Still, Brantley could make some sense as a potential long term backup option with starter upside.
Expected draft trajectory: Very late rounds, possible UDFA.
Kirk Cousins. Size: 6’3″, 214. Class: Sr. Age: 23
A few months ago, Cousins would have been a solid bet to reach the mid rounds. His profile- a moderately talented pro-style game manager with a big personality- is a bit like Ricky Stanzi, himself a 5th round pick last year. However, it feels unlikely that Cousins will remain on the board as long as Stanzi did. After a good Senior Bowl showing, an impressive combine and no doubt countless impressive interviews, Cousins has vaulted his stock into likely day two contention.
Cousins is close to prototypical NFL size and is well regarded for his leadership, intelligence, accuracy and consistency. Athletically, Cousins has looked stiff and slow in some games while in others he was surprisingly fast on tuck and runs. Cousins is respected if not revered by everyone involved at Michigan State and despite humble beginnings at the program, he helped vault the Spartans into a perennial top 25 program. Cousins, a senior quarterback, was a full time three year starter in a pro-style system who posted very consistent statistics season to season. While Cousins is not an elite talent, his NFL readiness scores very highly, which will certainly interest the Seahawks as they are looking to create competition for Tarvaris Jackson.
A closer look at Cousins reveals some cracks in his armor, though. Cousins completion rate is inflated by an offense that throws a very high percentage of passes under 10 yards. Cousins has a decent arm, but I’ve noticed that he tends to look at his receivers instead of the defense, resulting in a lot of blind throws, interceptions and near interceptions. For his career, Cousins has nearly as many interceptions per attempt as Tarvaris Jackson had per attempt during the Seahawks 2011 season. That’s worrisome, particularly since Cousins is playing a much easier level of competition and throws short much more often than Jackson did. Cousins is an intelligent guy and seems to be a quick learner, but unless Seattle could coach him into reading defenses more, I think his upside in the NFL is probably limited to that of a Trent Edwards type player. Then again, Pete Carroll inquired into Trent Edwards not long after he came here, so maybe Cousin’s low upside isn’t much of a deterrent.
On the positive side, there is no denying that Cousins is a quarterback who tilts the field his way and gets his teammates to buy in. Cousins is no stranger to leading heroic 4th quarter drives. Even in the bowl game against Georgia, a game that was one of his worst last season, he completed a nearly 90 yard touchdown drive in two minutes without any timeouts to force overtime. There is nothing mechanically wrong with Cousins and his footwork shouldn’t be an issue. He’s essentially an average athlete, but he looks comfortable throwing on the move. Michigan State used plenty of play action and bootleg plays.
Overall, my stance towards Cousins is lukewarm. He’s likely to be just a backup at the next level, and as a starter I’m not convinced he’d be a better quarterback in our offense than Tarvaris Jackson. Seattle can do a lot better than Kirk Cousins, but if all Seattle wants is an NFL ready backup, I expect Cousins will rate very highly.
Expected draft trajectory: Rounds 2-4.