I like this QB class more than most analysts. In fact, I think it’s one of the better classes in recent years at the top. Last year’s No. 1 QB for me was Paxton Lynch, and he’d rank No. 5 as a prospect this year. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff, wouldn’t be in the top 8 if the two classes were combined.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
2. Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
3. Deshone Kizer, Notre Dame
4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
5. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
6. Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
7. Davis Webb, California
8. Brad Kaaya, Miami FL
9. Alek Torgersen, Pennsylvania
10. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
Best of the rest
Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Patrick Towles, Boston College
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
P.J. Walker, Temple
Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
Seth Russell, Baylor
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin
C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
Mahomes has the highest ceiling. He reminds me of a cross between the swashbuckling young Brett Favre and the early-career Matthew Stafford. His arm strength and testicular fortitude are both his greatest assets and his biggest potential downfalls. He needs major work on pocket presence and understanding coverages on the fly. I like that he’s the son of a pro athlete and carries himself with maturity and easy confidence.
Trubisky and Kizer essentially tied for me. Trubisky gets the slight nod because I think there’s much less of a chance he fails miserably than Kizer. When I watch Trubisky I see a lot of the qualities of Aaron Rodgers as a prospect. Like Rodgers, it will take some time, dedication and personal growth both on and off the field to achieve his potential greatness. His lack of experience bothers me less than banking on QBs with lesser accomplishment and tools despite having played more. His ability to change arm angles and still throw strikes to any level of the defense, and how he can slide around to create better throwing lanes is very reminiscent of Rodgers.
Kizer is an enigma to me. I love his physical tools. He’s capable of fantastic touch and making anticipatory throws all over the field. His 2015 tape is better than any season of any other QB in this class…and then 2016 happened. In the midst of massively diminished talent around him and coaching tumult, Kizer’s game regressed. Everything looked slower, from his footwork to his processing speed. He did not interview well and his public spat with Irish coach Brian Kelly, while understandable, sends a poor message to potential NFL coaches. The 2015 Kizer is the best QB in this class. The 2016 one won’t get a second NFL contract.
Watson can be very good for a patient coach who can live with his occasional lapses in ball security. He’s a charismatic natural leader who handles pressure, both on and off the field, like a seasoned All-Pro. His pre-snap work in setting up his offense and reading the defense is better than advertised. I like his ability to extend plays and threaten with the run while still keeping his eyes down the field. That’s not easy to do, but Watson makes it look that way. I do have issues with his relative lack of arm strength. It’s a big reason why he had some problems in the red zone, and those small windows will only close faster in the NFL. He’s a borderline first-round talent to me and I’d love him to go to a current playoff team which needs to transition to a new QB in a year or two (Pittsburgh or Houston).
There is a fairly big gap between Watson and Peterman, though I like Peterman better than most analysts. I’m fine with him in the late second round. His arm strength and mechanics both fluctuate too much, and his overall game is inconsistent. Peterman’s good tape (Clemson, VA Tech, Virginia, Northwestern) is that of an instant NFL starter. He showed poise, anticipation and deft ball placement even against tight coverage. His bad tape (Miami, Oklahoma State) resembles Christian Hackenberg with a lesser arm.
Dobbs has similar consistency issues, but his even show up from drive to drive. One drive he’ll look sharp, delivering spot-perfect balls to the proper receiver and artfully dodging pressure. The next drive he’ll freeze under pressure or wildly miss open targets. I don’t know how to reconcile that. His brainy persona will be a great fit as a backup for some teams, but others won’t appreciate what he brings.
Webb legitimately shined in Mobile for Senior Bowl week, and it’s hard to discount that. He had great zip and touch on deeper throws and demonstrated the ability to throw his receiver open with smart ball placement. That was not evident on his tape at Cal or Texas Tech, where he started before Mahomes (justifiably) took his job. When he has a clean pocket and sight line, Webb is really impressive. Being dependent on those is what ruined guys like Ryan Mallett and Brandon Weeden. Webb’s floor is higher than either but his ceiling is that of a backup you hope doesn’t have to start more than 2 games in a year.
Kaaya is slightly built and lacks arm strength. He can be too slow to make decisions after his first read. I do like his touch on throws out to about 12 yards.
Torgersen comes from the FCS level. He was handily the best QB at the Shrine Game, showing a big arm and the ability to throw darts on the run. His game film was decent but he comes from a point-and-shoot offense where he didn’t have much input in the decision-making process. There is potential here, and he’s a very capable and functional athlete, but it’s going to need some time.
Rush should have a long, fruitful career as a non-threatening backup to an established starter who values the 4-year starter’s smart eyes and quiet competitiveness. His below-average arm and slow feet in the pocket are damning.
Of the rest, Kelly’s repeated bouts with immaturity make him a no-go for me. If he proves he can handle being more than 15 years old, I’ll happily repent and sign him to his second contract.
Liufau was masterful for a half at Michigan, a game I attended. Then he got hurt. The rest of his tape, and his Senior Bowl week, are not pretty from a scouting standpoint.
I wish Walker was taller because I admire his creativity and his willingness to stand in and take big hits to buy an extra beat for his receivers to get open. But he’s 5-foot-11 and has no proclivity for self-protection.
Evans intrigues me as a long-term developmental prospect, but leaving early and giving up the game reps he desperately needs but won’t sniff in the NFL probably makes him nothing more than an afterthought.
I didn’t watch enough of some other small-school guys to have an informed opinion. Only so many hours in the draft season…