Summer quarterback grades

The forthcoming college football season will obviously have a large say in where the 2012 class of quarterbacks are drafted. There could even be a couple of prospects who come from nowhere to contend at the top of round one (see: Cam Newton). Those who are expected to go early, may drop off the map completely (Jevan Snead anyone?). However, I’ve had a chance to take a look at the latest batch of quarterbacks that could be available next April and I want to put the grades down now as a marker for comparison during the season. It’ll give me a chance to ask – Did anyone improve their stock? Did anyone fall? Who did we leave off the list?

There are also a handful of quarterbacks I can’t judge yet, for several reasons. I’ve included a few notes on those players at the end.

The big three

Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) – 1st overall
A shoe-in to go first overall next year, even at this early stage there’s no doubt who’s name will be called first in 2012. Talent (and hype) have guaranteed his place at the top of the class.

Matt Barkley (QB, USC) – Top five
The big question is whether or not he decides to stick it out for the full four years in order to help USC challenge for the PAC-12. I suspect he will, but he’s the one player capable of pushing Andrew Luck.

Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma) – Round One
He has all the physical throwing tools, but mobility is an issue. Needs to stand out more in a prolific offense to max out potential as a possible early pick.

The best of the rest

Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State) – Rounds 2/3
Neat and tidy quarterback, solid not spectacular. Ticks a lot of boxes without flashing incredible physical talent.

Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss) – Rounds 2/3
Athletic and accurate, he could end up going surprisingly early next year. A definite sleeper pick.

Stephen Garcia (QB, South Carolina) – Rounds 4/5
Off-field drama could jeopardise any chances of playing in 2011, let alone being drafted. However, there is something there in terms of a potential pro back-up.

Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State) – Rounds 5/6
Inconsistency is the main issue. The potential is obvious and he isn’t lacking physically, but he doesn’t pass the eye test as an early pick.

Later round picks and possible UDFA’s

Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) – Rounds 6/7
Slightly generous given he’ll be a 29-year-old rookie, but someone may be willing to make him a 4-5 year back-up.

Nick Foles (QB, Arizona) – Rounds 6/7
Limited physical tools and plays in a favorable spread offense which paints a deceptively positive picture of his ability.

Robert Griffin (QB, Baylor) – UDFA
Great leader, great athlete – but it’s impossible to see how he fits as a pro-quarterback.

Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State) – UDFA
Size is a worry and so is arm strength. Has a great grasp of his offense but you just cannot imagine him in the NFL.

Case Keenum (QB, Houston) – UDFA
Starting a sixth year at Houston and he has great stats, but so did Graham Harrell.

Prospects I’m waiting to make a judgement on:

Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
After converting from receiver mid-way through last season, it’s hard not to be impressed by the numbers Tannehill recorded. He’s athletic and mobile in the pocket and has surprisingly good mechanics and physical tools. There are also a few things that he needs to work on. I’ve not seen enough tape to make a proper judgement, but even so I think it’s only fair to judge the player when he’s had a full off-season preparation as the bona fide starter.

Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
It’s perhaps a stretch to consider that Thomas – after just one year starting – will end up declaring for the 2012 draft. However, he is a physical specimen at 6-6, 245lbs and he’s drawn loose comparisons athletically to Cam Newton. He will start on a team that maintains a solid base and should be competitive in the ACC. If he explodes during the season, he’ll be tempted by the NFL. One to watch with interest.

John Brantley (QB, Florida)
Last year’s sleeper as a potential high draft pick, Brantley was caught up in a mess of an offense last season in the post-Tebow system. With coaching changes having taken place, Brantley will be the main beneficiary. Charlie Weis is his new offensive coordinator and he specialises in making average quarterbacks productive in a simple offense that limits turnovers. Brantley’s stock could boom, even if it isn’t a fair reflection on his talent.

Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
He caught the eye when Arkansas almost ended Auburn’s unbeaten run. When Ryan Mallett left the game with a concussion, Wilson looked like a seasoned pro before a late collapse gifted the Tigers their victory. We still saw flashes of potential and working in Bobby Petrino’s offense, we know he’ll be well drilled. Arkansas still have some playmakers and Wilson may just surprise a few people.


  1. Glen

    Hey Rob, got into a nice discussion about Cousins as maybe the perfect fit for a Pete Carrol offense. As you said “neat and tidy” and I couldn’t agree more. He displays the IQ that Carrol is said to desire, enough mobility, and good accuracy.

    Does his performance v Alabama in the BCS game drop him in your eyes, or is it the lack of raw physical talent? Would love if you could dedicate a post about him…he really intrigues me, espeially since I don’t see the ‘Hawks drafting top 10 next year 😉

    • Rob

      He’s been inconsistent and that’s want you want to see improve. Alabama’s defense the last two years is good enough to make a lot of quarterbacks look bad, so I don’t read that much into it. What I want to see in 2011 though is consistent performance in a division that has seen one contender lose a lot of key ingredients (Wisconsin) and another that is in chaos (Ohio State). Michigan State should be thinking about an unbeaten season. Can Cousins lead them to that achievement, while being consistently productive?

      I’ve posted thoughts on Cousins recently (check archive for last two weeks, I did a piece specifically on him). I’ll put together another detailed piece soon.

  2. Al U

    I’m interested to see that you have given Foles a day 3 grade. I saw only one Arizona game last season and the commentators were hyping him up as a future top pro. What I saw from him made me think that he must have had a bad day as he was uninspiring at best. However he still seems to be getting 1st or 2nd round grade in a lot of mocks. Maybe he’ll be next year’s Ponder, just hopefully not to the Hawks.

    • Rob

      He’s not close to the level required to be a top pick. Severely limited physically and plays in the most quirky, pass-friendly, high percentage offense you could ever imagine. It’s very easy to run, it’s not impressive to grade a quarterback in. Ponder at least was challenged from time to time. I can see Ponder ‘managing’ an offense as long as he cuts out the overly scripted, no-read plays/decisions and bonehead mistakes. Foles is even more limited than CP in terms of driving the ball down the field and opening up the playbook beyond short, high percentage near certain completions.

  3. Misfit74

    This is good stuff, as usual, Rob. I have to say that though I’m not very familiar with him, Nick Foles position on this list surprises me quite a bit. There appear to be a lot of folks that view him much higher from what I’ve been reading. Then again: that’s why I come here. 🙂

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