2016 NFL Draft Scouting Notebook

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, it’s officially here… The NFL Draft is upon us as the first round commences at 7:30 tonight in Chicago, Illinois. On the eve of one of the most momentous annual events in football, let’s analyze some of the most important areas of this year’s draft class.

 

NFL Draft Order

 

1 1 Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee)
2 2 Philadelphia Eagles (from Cleveland)
3 3 San Diego Chargers
4 4 Dallas Cowboys
5 5 Jacksonville Jaguars
6 6 Baltimore Ravens
7 7 San Francisco 49ers
8 8 Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia through Miami)
9 9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10 10 New York Giants
11 11 Chicago Bears
12 12 New Orleans Saints
13 13 Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia)
14 14 Oakland Raiders
15 15 Tennessee Titans (from LA)
16 16 Detroit Lions
17 17 Atlanta Falcons
18 18 Indianapolis Colts
19 19 Buffalo Bills
20 20 New York Jets
21 21 Washington
22 22 Houston Texans
23 23 Minnesota Vikings
24 24 Cincinnati Bengals
25 25 Pittsburgh Steelers
26 26 Seattle Seahawks
27 27 Green Bay Packers
28 28 Kansas City Chiefs
29 n/a New England Patriots (Forfeited)
30 29 Arizona Cardinals
31 30 Carolina Panthers
32 31 Denver Broncos

 

 

  • An In Depth Look at an Intriguing Quarterback Class

 

This is a fascinating quarterback class due to the wealth of sleepers and QB guru tailor made projects. There’s only one undisputable NFL starter among this group but behind him lies a variety of potential stars down the road in need of developing their skills further. Let’s break the ten draftable prospects down:

 

The Rankings

As I’ve scouted these prospects in depth, I’ve noticed that they (as expected) break down into three main tiers:

 

  • Day 1 NFL Starters

This is the category of quarterbacks who are ready to step in on the very first day and pilot an NFL offense. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, these prospects are ready for the job and they can be the franchise centerpiece the minute they step onto the practice field.

 

  • Potential Franchise Quarterbacks With Advanced Development First

These are the quarterbacks who undoubtedly have the tools and ability to win starting jobs and become franchise quarterbacks but need a year or two riding the bench behind an older, more entrenched starter in order to hone their craft further. They often possess the physical tools to make offensive coordinators drool but they are behind in terms of football IQ, instincts, and mechanics that a true NFL starting quarterback must have to succeed. These are players to be drafted to start one day for your football squad, but not the first day.

 

  • Fringe Future Starters/Backups/Projects

And lastly, we come to the most volatile tier where just about anything can happen. These are your projects, backups, and potential spot starters down the road. Prospects in this tier can range from the Tyler Wilson’s of the world to the Tom Brady’s of the world and everything in between. These players have largely been written off by the larger scouting community but still possess one quality or qualities that make a detail oriented scout pause with interest. These players are typically serious projects who require a great deal of work with a competent quarterback guru. 99% of these prospects will never be true impact players in their careers, but with the right coaching and patience, the remaining 1% could be some of the greatest steals of the draft.

 

With that explanation out of the way, let’s start ranking these prospects within their tiers.

 

Day 1 NFL Starters

 

 

  • Jared Goff, California. 6’4, 215 lbs.

 

Here we come to our first and last potential day 1 starter at quarterback in this year’s class. Goff has all the tools required to become a bona fide star in this league, but still requires some fine tuning.

 

Positives:

Goff is an accurate passer with good mechanics. He typically has tremendous touch on his passes and puts the receiver in a position to make a play. This accuracy is enabled by his solid footwork, the backbone of any quarterback’s fundamentals. Goff is also a natural thrower of the football who makes the entire process look easy and smooth (an underratedly important quality). Where he truly makes his money however is in his pocket presence and innate rhythm. Goff has an outstanding feel for the pocket, he understands how to move around within it in order to extend plays and get the ball out without being trampled by the pass rush. He does not panic under pressure and has surprisingly excellent mobility that enables him to scramble around when needed. Goff also boasts impressive quarterback rhythm. This is a strangely intangible quality that a prospect either has or does not and cannot be taught. It’s a simply feel for the game, a way of sensing out plays and making them happen. Goff has an innate rhythm and feel for the game that will go a long way.

 

Negatives:

The number one issue with Goff is the system he comes out of: the Bear Spread system. He is going to have a rude awakening when he must play in an actual NFL offense that requires he play from under the center. In addition to this, he’ll have to make more in depth reads and play in an all around more complex and diverse playbook. There will likely be an adjustment period. Goff also has a rather elongated throwing motion that while isn’t a major red flag, will need to be tweaked at the next level. The main second area of concern for Goff is that he is extremely slight of frame. He is a very thin and light quarterback for his height that severely needs some time spent in the weight room to bulk up in order to be able to sustain the rigors of a sixteen game NFL season. He also has some in-game tendencies that could be potential issues as he occasionally gets hyper aggressive and forces the football and sometimes allows his accuracy to lapse when he becomes lazy in his mechanics. In addition to that, his arm strength is enough to get the job done, but some general manager’s will be left desiring a bit more in that realm. Goff has no truly glaring red flag or flags as he is a solidly well rounded prospect, but he possesses a myriad of tiny issues that will need to be addressed at the next level in order for him to become an elite NFL quarterback.

 

Pro Comparison: Teddy Bridgewater/Matt Ryan

 

GRADE: A- Prospect. Middle First Round.

Ideally would have one year on the bench to learn behind an entrenched starter, but he can play right away if needed. Potential franchise quarterback and immediate starter.

 

Ideal Fits: San Francisco, Cleveland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets

 

Potential Franchise Quarterbacks With Advanced Development First

 

  1. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State, 6’5 223lbs.

 

Positives:

The first thing that hits you when you watch Wentz is that he is a competitor. This is a fiery leader who refuses to quit on a down or slack off for a play. This kid has the passion for the game that every NFL evaluator hunts for. Wentz also boasts a near perfect NFL body at 6’5 223 with deceptive speed and mobility and more than capable arm strength. He’s an accurate quarterback with sound mechanics coming out of a pro-style offense that will allow him to ease right into his new system.

 

Negatives:

The main question mark that will leave practically every scout scratching their head is right next to his name: North Dakota State. How will Wentz adapt from going from Division II football to the National Football League? Did his sub par level of competition generate inflated statistics and overly impressive film? These are serious asterisks that come with Wentz as his enticing physical attributes often overshadow the fact that he has never played a down with and against athletes on the same plane as him. In addition to this, Wentz’s football IQ and instincts pose more red flags as he too often forces the football and panics in the pocket. This lack of poise in the pocket when under pressure leads to a breaking down of his fundamentals as his accuracy occasionally lapses. These problems are largely mental, and must be rectified by an excellent QB coach at the next level.

 

Pro Comparison: Blake Bortles

 

Grade: B+. 2nd Round.

Potential franchise quarterback down the road, but requires a great deal of work to get to that point. Needs at one or two years on the bench to learn true NFL offense, adjust to talent difference, improve accuracy, and develop football IQ. Needs a QB Guru. Has SKY HIGH potential, but it can only be unlocked with excellent coaching and patience.

 

Ideal Fits: Dallas, New England, New Orleans, Arizona, Philadelphia, Buffalo

 

A word on the Goff v. Wentz Debate…

There is no true #1 prospect and #2 prospect here. Anyone who tells you that one of them is simply better than the other is either incorrect. These are nearly equal prospects that will fit each evaluator’s preferences in a quarterback differently. For example, the L.A. Rams with the first overall pick will inevitably select Goff, but not because he’s better than Wentz. They will select him because he fits their team and their ideology better. He’s a Day 1 starter that can propel an already talented Rams roster to the playoffs unlike Wentz who cannot start Day 1, Year 1. Goff is also farther ahead in football IQ and mechanics due to his advantage of playing in Division I. Meanwhile, teams like the Eagles at the second overall pick will likely prefer Wentz anyway as he easily bests Goff in every physical category while also coming out of a pro-style system. The Eagles also have a quarterback in Sam Bradford (although a reluctant one) who can start for a year or two until Wentz is ready. There is no right answer here, just right fits for different teams. Both of these quarterbacks are on roughly equal ground… I personally prefer Goff because he is a safer prospect and far more ready whereas Wentz has a very high risk factor. But by the same token, Wentz has far higher potential than Goff. Both of these prospects are equal, they’ll be ranked to each evaluator based on their personal preferences. It’s important to keep that in mind.

 

  1. Paxton Lynch, Memphis, 6’7 225lbs.

 

Positives:

The striking feature of Lynch’s game is his astounding physical traits. The guy is 6’7 but can run like a deer. He has beyond ideal size for an NFL quarterback but unlike most signal callers his size, he actually knows how to manipulate the pocket and scramble when the play breaks down. These are phenomenal foundational aspects of his game. Lynch also boasts outstanding poise under pressure that allows him to avoid careless mistakes that most young quarterbacks would fall into the trap of.

 

Negatives:

I am nowhere near as high as most people are on Lynch, as I see him as a likely bust. His wealth of production came in a spread system with an incessant amount of short throws and screens which also came against sub par competition in a non Power Five conference. The system inflated his statistics and his good film. He will have a rude awakening playing in a true NFL offense at the next level. Lynch also has mediocre at best accuracy due to poor mechanics with an elongated throwing motion and bad footwork. These poor mechanics also hamper his potentially excellent arm strength as his throws lack the velocity and power a 6’7, jacked quarterback could provide them. He also is simply a bland prospect to watch with little “it” factor or game breaking ability. Lynch resides at the #3 spot in our rankings less because he deserves it and more because the numbers #3-6 are all packed with closely ranked project players.

 

Pro Comparison: Mike Glennon

 

Grade: B-. 3rd Round Grade.

I don’t see Lynch as a likely franchise quarterback. Would need at least two years on the bench under a hell of a quarterback guru. Needs a ton of work. Could only be successful under truly amazing QB coach, but ceiling is high due to physical attributes if he lands in right situation.

 

Ideal Fits: Dallas, Pittsburgh, Arizona, New England

 

  1. Connor Cook, Michigan State, 6’4 218lbs.

 

Positives:

Cook has an absolute howitzer hooked onto his right shoulder that can sling the ball across the field. He also possesses great mobility around the pocket, ideal size, and solid mechanics. Cook has developed a reputation of avoiding mistakes as an excellent game manager (not necessarily a bad thing) at Michigan State. He also comes out of a pro-style NFL offense that will allow him to acclimate quickly to the league.

 

Negatives:

Cook has long been reported as an immature and diva-ish quarterback. Many question why he was not voted team captain his senior year, and it serves as evidence that his leadership ability is not where it needs to be. Cook also struggles when under pressure as he allows his mechanics to break down and forces balls he shouldn’t throw. He is an all around aggressive thrower who often squeezes balls into risky places which becomes a major issue due to his inconsistent accuracy. He is a very streaky player

 

Pro Comparison: Andy Dalton

 

Grade: B-. Round 3 Grade.

Medium ceiling, high floor. Not going to be a true franchise quarterback or elite player, but can be a competent game manager under the right coach. Can come in and play right away. Not a player who will develop into anything special, but he can play some good ball and put talented team in a position to win. Leadership ability remains a serious question mark, great game managers are usually great leaders…..

 

Ideal Landing Spots: New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins

 

  1. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State, 6’4 220lbs

 

Positives:

Hackenberg has physical tools for days. He has a cannon of an arm and is a natural thrower of the football. He also has outstanding mobility in the pocket, and great quarterback rhythm. Hackenberg hails from a pro-style offense that will allow him to transition quickly to the NFL.

 

Negative:

Hackenberg is a physical dream for offensive coordinators… But practically every other aspect of his game needs to be reinvented. His mechanics are atrocious with bad footwork (often throws off his back foot) and an awkward throwing motion. He also has poor accuracy due to these mechanics. The Penn State product in addition to all this. forces balls overly aggressively, and panics under pressure. To top it off, he struggles to go through his reads and locks onto his first receiver leading to interceptions

 

Pro Comparison: Ryan Mallett

 

Grade: C+. Rounds 4-5.

Not likely to be a franchise quarterback… But there’s a chance. Needs a ton of work. At least 2-3 years on the bench under amazing QB coach. Must improve mechanics and football IQ to reach potential, but if he can, has very high ceiling. Long term project, lots of work involved.

 

Ideal Landing Spots: Pittsburgh, Arizona, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, New York Jets

 

Fringe Future Starters/Backups/Projects

 

  1. Cardale Jones, Ohio State, 6’5 250lbs

 

Positives:

      The positives with Jones are easily identifiable: his mind boggling physical attributes. This guy is an absolute monster. He has linebacker size and runs like it too. Jones possesses a rocket launcher of a right arm that can deliver the football in spectacular fashion anywhere on the football field. He has the the type of physical tools that offensive coordinators pray to the football heavens they’ll have a chance to play with one day.

 

Negatives:

     Cardale has out of this world athleticism and physicality… But just about nothing else. He comes out of a spread system in which he struggled to make reads or break down defenses. Doing that in a pro-style offense in the NFL is even harder. His mechanics are best described as horrific and that fact is reflected in his shaky (and that’s putting it nicely) accuracy. He also couldn’t even hold down a job in college, and comes to the league with little game experience. On top of it all, Jones forces footballs into places he shouldn’t leading to his high interception rate.

 

Pro Comparison: Jamarcus Russel

 

Grade: C-. Rounds 5-6.

Jones has physical tools for days but literally NOTHING else. Needs an out of this world QB guru to take him under his wing for years in order to have a chance to start. Needs at least 2-3 years on the bench. Mess of a prospect, but his physical attributes are just so tempting… Worth taking a flyer on just due to his physicality, but expect a bust out of him barring some truly special QB coaching.

 

  1. Jacoby Brissett, NC State, 6-3 236

 

Positives:

    Brissett boasts ideal measurables and good mobility in the pocket. He has good footwork and mechanics while playing the game intellectually, avoiding the mistakes.

 

Negatives:

    Brissett is a boring prospect to watch. There’s no game breaking feature of his game. His accuracy is mediocre, his arm strength is sub par (he too often lofts the ball), and often panics after the first read or two and takes off to scramble. His style is best described as: “meh”. He doesn’t do any one thing particularly well or bad, but also doesn’t appear like any potential difference maker.

 

Pro Comparison: Alex Smith/Tarvaris Jackson

 

Grade: C- Round 6 Grade.

Brissett is a guy who can come in and develop into a solid backup/spot starter but nothing more. He’s a bland prospect but also has some starting NFL quarterback qualities in his size, athleticism, mechanics, and game managing ability. Not going to blow your socks off, but intriguing sleeper for team in need of a good backup.

 

  1. Kevin Hogan, Stanford, 6-2 217lbs.

 

Positives:

Hogan is an experienced, battle tested player. He’s been a starter at Stanford for what feels like a decade and presided over Rose Bowl victories and Pac 12 titles. He’s a veteran consummate winner and it’s reflected in his tremendous leadership ability and high football IQ within a pro-style offense. On the field, he shows great mobility in the pocket and deceptive scrambling ability. His footwork also is NFL grade in addition to his solid pocket presence.

 

Negatives:

It’s the first thing you’ll notice on tape: that funky, sidearm throwing motion. No quarterback coach will be able to change something as ingrained as that albatross of a throwing motion, and it likely curtails any chance he has at becoming an NFL franchise quarterback. It leads to his poor accuracy and diminished velocity. He usually can get the ball where it needs to go, but it won’t be pretty and it won’t put the receiver in a position to make a play.

 

Pro Comparison: Ken Dorsey

 

Grade: C- Rounds 5-7.

Hogan will never be a franchise quarterback, but he can be an excellent backup quarterback and spot starter with the right coaching. Horrid throwing motion will always haunt his game, and he can’t make it work like Bernie Kosar did. Luckily, his other qualities of leadership, professionalism, pocket presence, and football IQ will give him a shot to make an impact at some level.

 

  1. Dak Prescott, Mississipi State, 6’2 226lbs

 

Positives:

    Prescott is a violent, Tebow-esque runner who brings a running back’s attitude to the position. He also used his mobility smartly as he maneuvers around the pocket to extend plays while always keeping his eyes downfield. He maintains great composure under pressure: he’s not afraid to get batted around if he can make a play out of it. Tough guy.

 

Negatives:

     Prescott is coming out of a spread, pop gun style offense. He will likely have trouble adjusting to a true NFL offense with true NFL reads. Prescott also has serious work to do with regards to his mechanics. While they undeniably have improved over his career at MSU, they still are no where near NFL standards. His arm motion is overly stiff and elongated  (he likely is overcompensating for past struggles with mechanics) and he needs to learn to explode through his legs with his weight transfer. These bad mechanics lead to inconsistent accuracy and surprisingly little velocity on his throws for a players of his athletic ability.

 

Pro Comparison: Tim Tebow

 

Grade: C-. Rounds 6-7

Prescott has come a long way over the years in his passing ability, but he still isn’t an NFL quarterback. While he can do some truly impressive things with his scrambling, he just doesn’t have the mechanics and technique required to be an NFL starter or even quality backup. Could have a chance under a great quarterback coach, but don’t expect much here.

 

  1. Brandon Allen, Arkansas, 6’1 214lbs.

 

Positives:

Allen is a deceivingly quick player who can use his mobility to climb the pocket and scramble around when needed. He also stays composed under pressure with great pocket poise. Allen possesses good arm strength and solid accuracy: both enabled by his solid mechanics.

 

Negatives:

Allen has never truly been asked to do that much in his career as he’s been mostly a game manager quarterback on a play action, power run football team. He has less than ideal size at a wiry 6’1, and lacks any true game breaking qualities. His accuracy is good enough but hardly pinpoint, he has no deep ball game at all, and he sometimes locks onto his receivers and forces the football.

 

Pro Comparison: Case Keenum

This kid can play. He has decent arm strength, solid accuracy, and great mechanics. Needs to improve his ability to go through progressions and read defenses, but could be a pretty good game manager starter or solid backup. Give him a year on the bench and maybe he can compete for a backup or temporary starter job. He’s the Toyota Camry of prospects, he won’t be a stylish or sexy selection, but he’ll get the job done and better than you expect.

 

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This is an interesting quarterback class. There are two legitimate first round prospects worthy of the franchise player moniker while the rest are a fascinating bunch of projects and sleepers that could make an NFL team very lucky. This is a volatile year for quarterbacks that could surprise many.

 

Let’s broaden this discussion into the entire draft. Here are some of my favorite prospects this year:

 

 

  • Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

 

  • Elliot is one of my favorite players in this draft. He plays with an unmatched swagger and intensity while being one of the most well rounded players in this class. He can run in any scheme, catch balls out of the backfield, and block. He has enough speed to be a threat to take it to the house on any possession while also having enough bulk to fight in between the tackles. Elliot is a future star at the running back position

 

  1. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
  • I am completely on the Braxton Miller hype train. I had no expectation that he could develop into even a halfway decent wide receiver by the draft, but he has proved me mistaken. Miller’s routes are some of the best in the draft with a quarter of the experience at the position as other prospects. His already heralded athleticism makes him a weapon to take it to the house, and he can develop into a star kick returner and slot receiver. I see a healthier Percy Harvin in Miller.  

 

  1. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
  • This is another player who takes the field with swagger and passion. Alexander is a fiery corner from national title runner up, Clemson, who declared as a redshirt sophomore this year. Many scouts would’ve preferred he stay a year to develop his game, but he’s ready now. He has been an absolute shutdown corner for two years with the singular critique of his game being a lack of interceptions. Due to his premature entering of the draft, he’ll likely be available slightly later than he would’ve been next year: ensuring great value to whoever drafts him.

 

  1. Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
  • I love versatile players in the secondary, and Ramsey can do it all. He’s a cornerback-safety hybrid (though he admittedly prefers corner) who played the rover position at FSU. He’s a physical defensive back unafraid to come up to the line of scrimmage and lay lumber on an unwitting running back or blitz the QB, but also a true cover corner who can lock down receivers and make plays on the ball as a safety too. I like Ramsey far better at safety, but I think he’d be best served playing a little of both. He’s a versatile player who can be a defensive coordinator’s chess piece.

 

  1.    Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
  • I think the reason scouts are so down on Henry is because they are expecting the wrong things of him. Henry is not a lead NFL back. He’s taken too much of a beating in college and doesn’t have nearly enough skills in the passing game to take that role… But he can be an invaluable part of a committee backfield. The man is 6’3 and 240lbs but can run like a gazelle! He can be a bruising member of a group backfield who can churn out yards down after down the hard way. There’s a value in that. Don’t expect him to be a sexy superstar, but expect him to be a discreetly crucial part of a team’s offense.

 

  One last note on both Tennessee and Cleveland trading down…

 

  • Tennessee trades the first overall pick with a fourth and sixth round pick to the Rams in exchange for the fifteenth overall pick, two second rounders, and a third round pick in this draft. The Titans also received L.A.’s first and third round picks in 2017.
  • Cleveland trades second overall pick to Eagles for the eighth overall pick, a third round pick, and a fourth round pick in this year’s draft. The Eagles also send a first round pick in 2017 and a second round pick in 2018. Cleveland gives a fourth round 2017 pick to the Eagles.

 

The Titans and Browns nailed this one. Both of these rosters are equally deprived of talent across the board, and this infusion of draft picks will jumpstart both dormant franchises. They both made the right calls to obtain a lion’s hoard of picks in order to rebuild across the board. I also love the Rams’ move to obtain a franchise quarterback (one they refuse to announce till the actual draft but name starts with a “J” and ends with a “ared Goff”). While they are risking quite a bit on this pick, it’s about time they rolled the dice. This team is ready for the playoffs, all they need is a good quarterback and some help at the wide receiver position. They’re stacked on defense with a loaded D-line, and Todd Gurley is poised for a monster season at running back. This is a case of when it’s okay to gamble big on a trade up: the Rams are practically one piece away. Sadly however, while these were great trades for three teams… The fourth got hosed. What are the Eagles thinking? They need help across that roster and they offer up everything but the stadium for Wentz? They already had a solid stop-gap QB in Bradford, why take a risk like this and compromise future assets when you NEED AS MANY AS YOU CAN HOARD?! The Eagles roster is a mess, and selling off future draft picks in droves (even for a player as good as Wentz) is not the right way to rebuild. This is a bad move for Philadelphia even though Wentz has a chance to be a great player for them.

 

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This is going to be a fascinating draft. Tune in at 7:30 to catch all the action, and check SportsBuzzMiami.com for all the post-draft analysis!