By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report WriterFollow @GZSports_ZM
As the Super Bowl quickly approaches, the offseason process has gotten underway for 30 NFL franchises and many draft analysts. With the Steelers coming up short against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, I will begin to shift gears towards the offseason (specifically the 2017 NFL Draft). Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down my preliminary big boards for each position. First up: this year’s quarterback class.
This year’s quarterback class is a relatively weak class with no real clear-cut front-runner to be the first one taken. Below is my initial big board for the 2017 class.
- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
- Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC
- Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
- Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
- Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
- Davis Webb, QB, California
- Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
- Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
- Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
- Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
While it is a weaker class, there is still a lot of upside with this group, starting with DeShone Kizer. Realistically, the top three quarterbacks in this class are Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, and Deshaun Watson. Of the three, Kizer brings a better overall skill set than Watson and Trubisky and arguably has the greatest accuracy of any player in this class. His ability to read through his progressions, make just about any throw at any level, and sense pressure from a pass rush, each make him the most NFL ready quarterback. However, Kizer does struggle to throw on the run and has shown that he will at times stare down his intended target as the ball is snapped, even though he possesses the ability to make his reads.
Mitch Trubisky has the greatest potential of this class in the sense of how high his ceiling is. The former Tar Heel has shown confidence as a passer by seemingly never forcing throws where they would be low-percentage opportunities. While his accuracy compares well with Kizer, Trubisky simply isn’t a polished product at this point. After one starting for one season, Trubisky needs to continue improving his passing technique and his pocket awareness. He has been efficient under pressure, but at times would become panic when things began breaking down around him. As a somewhat mobile quarterback, Trubisky is able to scramble when necessary, but he needs to do a better job of protecting the football (he had four fumbles last season). Given the right situation, Trubisky has the potential to shine sooner rather than later, but he could also very easily turn into a bust (which is a common theme with this year’s class).
There is one thing that you cannot deny: Deshaun Watson is a winner. He has consistently delivered on some of college football’s biggest stages while showing great leadership. His athleticism is unparalleled in this year’s class, as his vision as a runner is almost that of a running back. This athleticism allows him to properly extend plays and make things happen when plays looked all but lost. While he has the best mobility of any quarterback this year, his arm is average at best and his accuracy was quite off this season. The interesting part of this is that Watson possess a quick, tight release and when he plants his feet properly with a solid base, his passes are a thing of beauty. Additionally (and this is less of an issue with me as it will be for NFL scouts), he is a bit undersized measuring in at 6’2″, 215 lbs. during the season. The reason this isn’t a big deal for me is that plenty of quarterbacks have proven that they can get the job done without being 6’4″+. Where teams will be concerned is with Watson’s sporadic accuracy and his lack of polish as a pure passer, considering that he is more of a dual-threat quarterback at this point. Whether Watson will end up as a 1st-round pick has yet to be seen.
Of the remaining quarterbacks in this class, there is no true standout player that jumps off the page. In my opinion, Pat Mahomes possesses the best traits to make him this year’s sleeper pick (although many scouts and analysts have given him 2nd-3rd round grades so I guess that’s hardly a sleeper). Mahomes flashes a little bit of everything as a quarterback: arm strength, field vision, mobility, and toughness. Last season at Texas Tech, he threw for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions while rushing for an additional 12 touchdowns. Much of this can be attributed to playing in the Big 12, but Mahomes is not like other big passers to come out of the pass-happy conference. The thing with Mahomes is that he has arguably the biggest disparity between his ceiling and his floor of any prospect in this group. At best, he could turn into a franchise quarterback similar to a blend of Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr. At worst, he is reminiscent of Blake Bortles and Brock Osweiler and other higher draft picks that never put it together (although there is still time for both quarterbacks, but I’m not holding my breath). Mahomes would greatly benefit from going to a team with an established quarterback to help him develop rather than being thrust into a situation where he will be required to perform right away.
Accuracy: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Arm Strength: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Passing Mechanics: Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Reading Defenses: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Mobility: Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Intangibles: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Biggest Sleeper: Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech
Highest Ceiling: Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Could Disappoint: Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Most Overrated: Brad Kaaya, Miami
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