An early look at the 2012 quarterback class

Everyone's heard of Andrew Luck, but what about the rest?

Every single year we hear the same thing. In 2009 Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman would pale in significance compared to next year’s quarterbacks. People talked up Sam Bradford correctly, but Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow were vaulted above their means. When reality set in, the 2011 class came into focus.   

By August people started to look at Andrew Luck, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett – and wondered if Christian Ponder could work his way into round one. When the 2011 draft arrived Luck was staying in college and Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert were now on the scene. With the Seahawks still looking for a long term answer, attentions now turn to 2012.   

Next year is a better class” is the turn of phrase rearing it’s ugly head once more.   

Let me start by saying, I’m not ruling it out. It’s still far too early to project and who knows who will join the party? Certainly nobody was talking about Cam Newton this time last year. You have a prospect in Andrew Luck who many believe to be a generational prospect capable of forming a dynasty. I’m not completely sold on that, but clearly the guy is very talented. Whoever owns the #1 overall pick in 2012 will almost certainly be taking the Stanford quarterback.   

After that, it’s a mixed bunch with some potental among the underclassmen who are never certain to actually declare (see: Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford). The 2011 class had it’s critics but four guys went in the top twelve picks. Even without Andrew Luck, there was unnatural first round depth this year and no guarantee that it’ll be repeated any time soon.   

Many tout Matt Barkley as a potential top ten pick in a years time and certainly he is a talented player. However, he still has a lot of things to work on because his footwork and decision making can be refined to max out his potential as a third-year junior starter. He’s had flashes of brilliance including a superb display against Stanford last season. He followed it up with an equally classy performance against California. Yet there were too many games that SC should’ve dominated and didn’t and Barkley’s numbers were poor. He was a non-factor in defeat to Washington, out-shone by Jake Locker. He was only OK against Washington State and patchy against UCLA.   

I’m not convinced he’ll declare after the 2011 season, but there’s no way of knowing as we sit here today. Sanctions preventing USC from featuring in a BCS Bowl game will be lifted for Barkley’s senior year, which will be tempting. The potential to go first overall may also sway his final decision, a prize almost certainly out of the question with Luck taking center stage.   

Landry Jones is in a similar situation having started unexpectedly as a freshman due to Sam Bradford’s unfortunate injury in 2009. He developed as a sophomore into a much more accomplished passer and has a chance in year three to cement his credentials to be a first round pick. He has the size (6-4, 220lbs) and major production in Oklahoma’s pass-friendly offense (64 touchdowns already).   

I like his arm and he’s efficient, but I’ve seen two sides of him. One, the inch perfect four touchdown display against Florida State last year where he recorded 380 yards and completed 30 of 40 passes. Then there was the frustrating game against Missouri, where Blaine Gabbert out performed Jones on the big stage with the Sooners ranked #1. Such is the issue I have, that when he’s at his best he’s ultra efficient and when he’s bad it’s because he becomes sloppy. Can he shine past the stat-padding offense and become the focal point that Sam Bradford became? Or does the offense mask a guy who’s got all the tools you look for but simply isn’t special?   

Alongside Luck, those are the three names you’ll read about the most, but what about some of the others?   

Kirk Cousins may end up being the second best prospect available if he keeps going. He’s mobile, he’s generally accurate and he appears to have the arm. He needs to add some weight to a 6-3 frame which scraped above 200lbs as a junior. You’re looking at a guy who has shown he can make a range of throws and does a good job switching between targets. He completed 67% of his passes last year in a tough three-way divisional battle in the Big Ten.   

The problem with Cousins in 2010 was consistency and the occasional flash of bad decision making. There were some excellent games and performances mixed in with some pretty rancid displays. 9/20 for 131 yards and an interception against Minnesota isn’t good enough when you’ve shown capable of 69% and three scores in a win against Wisconsin.   

If he can become more consistent and add weight, he’s one to watch.   

Another player to keep an eye on is Ryan Lindley at San Diego State. Again, you’re talking about ideal size (6-4, 215lbs). He has a nice quick release, but has a tendency to stare down his targets. The arm is strong enough as you’ll see on the video below and certainly there’s some potential. You’re also looking at a guy who in three years starting has never completed more than 58% of his passes. He’s also thrown 39 interceptions in that time, alongside 67 touchdowns.   

A final mention for another quarterback I recommend keeping in your thoughts when we eventually get closer to the 2011 college football season is Austin Davis of Southern Mississippi. He’s a more modest physical talent and admittedly I’ve only seen him once – in last season’s ‘Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl’ loss to Louisville where he threw two touchdowns and registered 205 yards. He showed an athleticism and mobility, a zip to his passes if not the big-time arm and this was a controlled performance. His task is to take things to the next level as a senior.   

They are the names I recommend. Now for those that I think are slightly over rated.   

Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State) is not a NFL quarterback in my view and I wrote about that in greater detail here. Great college achiever, potentially a good coach down the line, but not a player I expect to see on a Sunday. Nick Foles (QB, Arizona) will be labelled with the classic ‘west coast offense’ tag that is given to so many players with physical limitations. He puts up the big yardage, but he’s not a clinical player who stands out and certainly his offense encourages production. When I watched him in 2010 I saw a later round pick, but he has every chance to be over drafted in the same way Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton saw their stock rise.   

Terrelle Pryor (QB, Ohio State) is a fantastic athlete and sometimes you watch him and want to believe it’s possible that he could develop into a prospect. It won’t happen though and nobody is going to touch him in the early rounds, if at all (at least as a quarterback). Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) had a 4277 yard season in 2010 and looked the part of a pro-prospect, but how can you seriously consider a guy who will be 28-years-old in October and hit 29 as a NFL rookie?   

By request I’ve added a Robert Griffin (QB, Baylor) video below. I’ve not had the opportunity to sit down and really look at Griffin, so feel uncomfortable passing judgement. I like the guy having seen a few interviews over the last 12 months and he’s someone I look forward to watching in 2011. You’re talking about a very mature, humble individual who completed 67% of his passes last year. What I can determine is that he’s the focal point of the Baylor offense, he’s incredibly elusive and capable of making plays with his legs. The offensive scheme at Baylor may never truly test him as a pro-prospect, but he starts the season against TCU’s defense on September 2nd which should be interesting.    

Here’s the tape:   

Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)   


Matt Barkley (QB, USC)   


Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma)   


Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State)   


Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State)   


Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss)   


Nick Foles (QB, Arizona)   


Terrelle Pryor (QB, Ohio State)   


Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State)   


Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State)   


Robert Griffin (QB, Baylor)  


  1. Kelly

    Hey Rob,

    Great stuff as always. Can you throw out some potential big names at DT (Marcell Darius types) WR (AJ Green Types) CB (Patrick Peterson types)

    And…what are your thoughts on whether Marcus Lattimore will enter the 2012 draft? I know RB isnt much of a need but I fell in love with this guys ball skills in 2010. He looked amazing as a freshman and that sort of reminded me of a bigger Adrian Peterson. Do you see him as a top 10 pick?

    • Rob

      Hi Kelly,

      Lattimore will be a true sophomore in 2011 which means he won’t be able to declare for the 2012 draft. He’s a thoroughly exciting prospect though and if he continues to perform could easily be a top pick in the 2013 draft.

      At the other positions, it doesn’t look like a great class for DT’s. There’s a nose tackle at Georgia called Jenkins that I like, big 335lbs guy, maybe heavier. Not a lot of three technique options in terms of a top early grade. Alshon Jefferey at South Carolina is a big bodied guy who could be an early pick. Jeff Fuller at Texas A&M looked impressive with late first round potential in 2010 and then of course there’s Justin Blackmon who won the Biletnikoff. One playmaker to keep an eye on is Mohamed Sanu at Rutgers who I really, really like. He’s suffered due to a complete mess at QB, with the starter transfering despite having a lot of talent. He catches, runs, scores TD’s. He’s a guy you get creative with and he’s one of my favorite 2012 prospects.

      There are a couple of top end corners, Gilmore at South Carolina (who are my favorites for the SEC with all their talent) and Kirkpatrick at Alabama – who’s a big size guy. Other notable mentions: Coples (DE, UNC), Davis (RB, Arkansas), Richardson (RB, Alabama) and Martin (OT, Stanford).

  2. troy

    I’m a fan of Kirk Cousins myself, but for some reason I think that Ryan Lindley will be the guy (assuming he keeps his upward momentum) this FO will covet. I could be completely off with this comparison, but he reminds me a bit of Whitehurst.

  3. Charlie

    Nick foles is absolutely horrible. all he throws is slants and check downs. It’s trent dilfers next favorite QB!

    • O

      Couldnt agree more.
      Great college QB though

  4. O

    What about Jeff Tuel (Washington State)? He probably wont declare for next year’s draft, but do you guys think he has a shot at the NFL?
    He impressed me last year, making good throws down field with a pretty dreadful supporting cast.

    • Rob

      I haven’t seen Tuel having not had access to Washington State tape, apologies.

      • T-Town

        Tuel has the size 6’3/214 and arm to be in consideration in 2013. I can’t imagine him declaring for 2012.

        I believe he is already on pace to break most of WSU’s passing records and he has been likened to Drew Bledsoe in terms of ability and raw talent.

        He will need to have a breakout year and the Cougs will need to win for him to start getting exposure to help his draft stock since he is a virtual unknown outside the state of WA and the PAC-12.

        • O

          Thanks T-town and Rob (no need to apologize!)

  5. Trenchtown

    What do you think about Robert Griffin from Baylor looking like a Cam Newton – skills player who rises up the board? He will have more starting experience, but he isn’t quite as big. Maybe a mid round David Garrard pick as an alternative

    • Rob

      I’ve added a paragraph on Griffin to the article (before the tape) and I’ve also added a Griffin video at the bottom. He’s not as explosive as Cam Newton, but he’s a step above your Tyrod Taylor’s because physically he looks the part. A prospect I look forward to watching in 2011.

      • Carl

        Robert Griffin is one of the most explosive punters in college football.

        • Rob

          I’d love to read ‘part-time punting skills, adds a dimension to his game’ on the scouting reports next year!

  6. Dude

    Thanks Rob,

    I really enjoy the looks ahead. But what do you think the chances are that Luck, Barkley, and Jones come out in the same year. I like Jones more than most and would say Jones is a better prospect than anyone this year. Thoughts?

    • Rob

      I’d say it’s very unlikely. I expect Barkley to last the distance at USC, which would open the door for a Jones to declare all being well and if he feels comfortable with that situation. He needs to go from being efficient in that system at Oklahoma to stand out. Too many times he didn’t look special in my opinion. I want to see him go into Missouri as the new #1 ranked team and dominate, not be outshone by Blaine Gabbert. He has everything you look for in a top QB prospect – arm, mobility, size, release mechanics. But I want to see it all come together into a top-ten prospect, not just a guy who doesn’t jump off the screen.

  7. Nate Dogg

    Any worries about how Luck will perform after losing his head coach and offensive line this off season? I’ve heard claims that he’ll be exposed without that talent around him. I’m not really buying it but I also haven’t watched a ton of Luck. And even if he does struggle, how badly can he hurt his stock at this point?

    • Rob

      He still has an amazing offensive line and some talented skill players, so he should be ok. Harbaugh was a key aspect because he designed a lot of the scripted audibles, but Luck is good enough and experienced enough to succeed. They will contend with Oregon again for the PAC 12.

    • Mind of no mind

      I agree that it’s tough to lose his coach this year, and your question is valid, but at the same time, I remember a number of people saying before last season that he would be exposed when Toby Gerhart left.

      If Bradford still went #1 after his last college year, and Locker still went #8, I can’t imagine Luck doing anything to drop out of the top 10. I think he pretty much has the #1 spot locked up.

  8. Kelly

    One thing I was thinking about when evaluating our draft is that hopefully with the focus on improving the OL, we can finally get our TE’s in more of a receiving roll.

    WAY too often, it seemed to me like Carlson was asked to do blocking, which is fine, but he has not been utilized as well as he was in his rookie season.

    With more depth and solid blocking maybe we will see more of the Carlson who showed up vs. the Saints in the playoff game last season

  9. akki

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on Dayne Crist over the next year, to see if it’s possible him to become something, assuming he even starts. He keeps throwing passes to the middle of nowhere and I’m wondering if his issues can be pinpointed and fixed. Otherwise, he has the size, arm, and mobility of a good pro prospect. Plus, Carroll tried recruiting him to USC before losing him to Notre Dame.

    I’m also interested in seeing a 3-tech DT rundown like Kelly asked for. So we want to get a better interior push from our defensive line, and that has to come from the 3-tech. When pick #25 came around, I was thinking Muhammad Wilkerson and his 9 sacks last year, but we went OT. Afterward, I read somewhere that Wilkerson was a better fit for the 5-tech in Seattle’s system. Any idea why someone might think that? Assuming that you can’t get a top-10 do-it-all DT easily, what requirements does a Seattle 3-tech DT have, and who meets those criteria in 2012?

    • Rob

      I’ll keep an eye on Crist if he starts.

      Standing here today, it doesn’t look like a great DT class in 2012. I’ll do some digging and see if anyone stands out.

      As for WIlkerson, he played DE at Temple and not inside, so 5-technique was a logical fit for him. He’s used to playing off an edge rather than the interior.

      • akki

        Thanks for the clarification on Wilkerson. Looking at his highlight reel again, he wasn’t always the outside lineman, but he was pretty much never lined up inside the offensive guards.

  10. Catabu

    Congratulations for getting mentioned in mainstream media! I am reading your blog since about January 2010 (although never had anything to add in the comments since all I wanted to say had already been said by the extremely awesome (and flameless) community that’s gathered on this blog) and your articles and analyses get better everytime. You truly deserve this attention (even more so when I think about “experts” like Mel Kiper) for the awesome work you do every day.
    I am truly lucky to be a Seahawks fan and to have such great sites like your blog, Field Gulls (also VERY VERY good) and 17Power as my source for anything related Seahawks!

    Sorry if those sentences sound kinda awkward, but it’s getting late here in Germany…

    And sorry for the offtopic, but this had to be said.

    • Catabu

      Whoops. I thought I am posting this in the Fox Report post. Sorry for that.

      • Rob

        Thank you for the kind words Catabu and it’s great to hear that the blog is well received in Germany. Really appreciate it and hope you’ll keep visiting.

  11. rymong

    I believe that the #6 on the USC defense in the Andrew Luck video is Malcolm Smith, the Seahawks last draft pick of 2011. He’s not in the game until the 2:40 mark of the video.

    There are some pretty good looks at him. Looks very fluid, real comfortable in space. But, very light in the pants and takes some bad pursuit angles.

    Don’t mean to derail the post, just thought I’d give a heads-up.

    • Rob

      Not at all, thanks for pointing it out rymong.

      • Derek

        If that is Malcom Smith as #6, I cannot believe the missed tackle at around the 4:20 mark. Also, Andrew Luc seems to easily out run him. Scary!! Oh well as a 7th rounder who cares.

  12. T-Town

    Hey Rob what do you think of Case Keenum? He will be in the 2012 draft (unless he gets hurt again and is given another medical redshirt.)

    Just another system QB who won’t translate well into the NFL?

    • Rob

      That’s the way I’d look at him.

  13. SoCalSeahawker

    I love Lindley! I’ve been watching him for the past three years and he will be the real deal. What you didn’t mention, which hurts his completion % some, is during the latter part of his freshman year and during his sophmore year he attempted about 60 passes a game. They were able to get a little more balanced this past year and they made a bowl game. Imagine that.

    By looking at this class I have no issues with the Hawks not spending a high pick on someone they really weren’t excited about in this year’s draft. If things go as expected, they should be picking in the upper to middle part of the first round next year. At that point they should have their pick of a couple guys who they can look to as their future!

    • Rob

      I have only seen Lindley sparingly, two games… so really appreciate hearing from someone who has a much more extensive knowledge of the guy’s ability. Thank you, SoCalSeahawker.

  14. Blake

    If we trade our First rounder for Kolb and miss out on this class I am going to shit a brick.

  15. Ed

    No trade for kolb. Either get hass back, late pick for palmer or let whitey play. Get a fa backup (leinart/devlin) and get your running game going this year

    • Michael (CLT)


  16. TonyB

    Heard an analyst on 710 today, he was calling Landry Jones a Sam Bradford clone…don’t recall the analyst’s name nor his credentials however..

    So hard to judge highlight tapes since it makes every single player looks like an All American….Just hope we don’t pick up someone like Barkley, he just seems like a wuss. I don’t want another glass QB after living through Hass’s era…

    • akki

      Yeah, it was Dave Razzano again. He called next year a tremendous QB class, listing off 7 guys as potential starters – Luck, Barkley, Jones, Keenum, Foles, Lindley, Weeden. Not all of them franchise QBs of course, so you could say the same about this year’s class. Surprisingly this time Razzano never mentioned solving our QB problem by signing Nate Davis.again.

      As an aside, Chris Weinke did well enough at 28 to be drafted in the 4th round, although he also played in a pro style offense and won the Heisman. Weeden has better athleticism and arm than Weinke did, but will be coming out of a spread system. Maybe that’s not too different from where Whitehurst is now, with the clock running against him while he’s stillgetting more late experience in reading defenses.

  17. Kip Earlywine

    Another QB not listed here who is on my radar: John Brantley (Florida). Yes, he had an awful season after a very hyped 2009 filling in for Tebow. If his 2011 season is a repeat of 2010, then he’d a late round flyer most likely. But the tools are there, and he’s also shown the ability to check multiple reads. He’s probably as fast as Gabbert, and has solid size (6’3″, 217). I really like his instincts when he tucks and runs. I hate saying this because of how dumb it sounds, but “he looks the part of an NFL” QB when you look at how he plays the game. The results say otherwise.

    That said, if Brantley “clicks” in 2011 and posts numbers closer to 2009, he could end up in what could be a very crowded 1st round QB discussion next year.

  18. Kip Earlywine

    I’m not saying this to be contrarian, but I think I actually like Luck a bit less than Jones and Barkley. Luck is a smart and accurate QB who makes multiple reads, but his release is kinda lazy (I would like it to be faster). This is tough to articulate, but here goes: his body language when playing is a little goofy- if he plays with that same style in the NFL, he’d be pretty unique, though perhaps still very successful. He “wings it” quite a bit and looks awkward when doing so, including some poor ball security habits… though you can’t argue with his results. All that said, I’m not quite sure if I see him as the future superstar others do. I’d feel nervous if Seattle drafted Luck #1 overall.

    I really like the “zip” Barkley puts on his tight spiral passes. He doesn’t have an Arm like Mallett or Locker, but neither does Luck. Its hard to put my finger on why, but the “crisp” nature of his play reminds me a bit of a shorter Philip Rivers.

    I really like Landry Jones and it has nothing to do with his mind boggling production for Oklahoma. He’s got great size, a great arm, and makes multiple reads, which is seemingly uncommon in spread offenses oddly enough. His mobility is average at best, could this be a sticking point? God I hope not. He has good awareness in the pocket and though he might have an off game here or there, I really like just about everything about this guy.

    Lindley is listed at 6’4″ 215… I find that very hard to believe. He looks tiny. I had never heard of him before today, but he’s interesting. He showed some ability to check reads, has a nice release…. but strength looks like its going to be an issue. Not a physical QB,might be vulnerable to injury in the NFL, and has a below average looking arm. I’d pass, but he could be a riser. He’s got some rare qualities.

    The rest of the QBs didn’t impress me much and with the exception of Foles, will probably be mid-late rounders. Foles doesn’t impress me either, but I think he’ll be next year’s Dalton/Ponder to get over-drafted because he’s a winner.

  19. seasalt

    Very good read on the QB’s Kip. I like Jones a lot. I thought he had good mobility and was very accurate on the move.
    It’s hard to get a good read on Cousins with a terrible line and bad receiver’s. He forces a lot of ball’s, can you blame him? Barkley reminds me a lot Drew Brees.
    keep up the good work Kip.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Thanks for reading. : )

  20. Nano

    Great, great work Rob. I’m glad you posted this article. I’ve been shaking my head at the “don’t draft a QB this year get Luck next year” crowd for months. It’s nice to have a concise summary rebuttal to that sentiment. If Luck stays healthy and performs even 80% of how he did in 2010, he still seems like a lock to go #1 overall. And trading up to get him would without doubt cost a ransom. Like Ricky Williams big.

  21. Ralphy

    Still no love for Brandon Weeden and he is the fourth best pro prospect behind Landry, Barkley and Luck.

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