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NFL Draft – The Great QB Debate – 2016 class vs 2015 class

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota - Photo by Loren Elliot/Associate Press
NFL Draft – The Great QB Debate – 2016 class vs 2015 class
CPGM Headley

So let me get into how this debate started. It was late Sunday night, you know the worst night of the week when you know you have to go into work the next morning and deal with the Monday blues. But before going to sleep I decided to check Twitter (@CPGMHeadley) one last time before getting some much needed rest. And what do I see..? “I’ve seen some bad QB classes over the years, but this may be one of the worst overall. The 2016 QB class is trash.” Although I believe it is not a particularly top heavy class I had to reply back with my honest opinion that last year’s class might have had Jameis Winston & Marcus Mariota but this year’s class is much deeper and not all that bad if you look at the totality of the 2016 prospects. I really thought this was the consensus of all draft evaluators that this year’s class completely dwarfs last year’s hands down, but the tweet I received back gave life to this post. The great debate – 2016 class vs the 2015 class.

The 2015 Class:

Jameis Winston – 1st round
Marcus Mariota – 1st round
Garrett Grayson – 3rd round
Sean Mannion – 3rd round
Bryce Petty – 4th round
Brett Hundley – 5th round
Trevor Siemian – 7th round

The first thing that jumps out about this class is that there were only 7 quarterbacks drafted compared to 14 quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class. Winston and Mariota were the only two that were selected in the first 2 rounds in a league that reaches for quarterbacks year after year. You might think maybe NFL franchises have smartened up after the league drafted guys like Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn (sorry Browns), Christian Ponder, E.J. Manuel (sorry Seminoles), Kyle Boller, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Leinart, and Tim Tebow. But I beg to differ. It was just that the 2015 class had a dearth of talent.

Let’s break them down. The 2015 class had the better guys at the top, Winston is a franchise caliber pro style quarterback with poise and leadership that will carry the Buccaneers for years to come while Mariota transitioned well from a spread one read offense at Oregon to become a decent NFL caliber quarterback with more room to improve. That’s where it stops. Please tell me the next guy in the class that will become an NFL starter? Obviously players develop with coaching, practice, and film study so it isn’t impossible that one of the other 5 develop into a legitimate starting QB.

Grayson is playing behind a legend in Drew Brees whose only opportunity for playing time comes down to either a trade or an injury to the future Hall of Famer. Even when Brees went down for a game last year it was the Verizon commercial star backup QB Luke McCown who recently signed a new 2-year deal with the Saints getting the start.

Mannion a third round selection by the Rams is now the forgotten man on the depth chart as the team talked Casey Keenum up as the man that will get the keys to the offense until recently trading for the number 1 pick to select their true potential franchise quarterback. Enough said!!

Petty might be the answer to my question above on who will be the next guy to get the opportunity to start from the 2015 class. He is a strong armed, big body gun slinger who tore it up at Baylor leading the team to back to back Big 12 titles and Petty also has the most favorable path to the starting position due to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract situation and Geno Smith not being the new regime’s guy. Petty still has a lot of work to accomplish coming from an Art Briles, one read offense which generally doesn’t produce quality quarterbacks at the next level.

As for Hundley, my Twitter nemesis boldly referred to him as the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers and stated that Hundley will be a solid QB of the future. Hundley was heralded and became the chosen one early in his collegiate career at UCLA as the NFL wave of dual threat quarterbacks was taking the league by storm. Those expectations tapered off as the spotlight on him brightened and Hundley failed to improve as a pocket quarterback for the Bruins, often times hidden within the offense with play action and shorter passing attempts. I admit playing for Mike McCarthy behind an Aaron Rodgers led offense will help Hundley progress considerably and I did see the preseason last year where he completed 69.2% of his passes for 7 TDs and 1 interception but he is still a developmental player who needs at least 2 more seasons on the bench before he can possibly make any impact.

Draft

The 2016 Class:

Jared Goff
Carson Wentz
Paxton Lynch
Connor Cook
Dak Prescott
Cardale Jones
Christian Hackenberg
Jacoby Brissett
Kevin Hogan
Brandon Allen
Nate Sudfeld
Cody Kessler
Jeff Driskel
Vernon Adams

Looking at the list of the 2016 quarterback draft prospects you can already see the sheer volume of players I believe will be selected come draft day which reflects how much deeper the 2016 class is compared to the 2015 class. When it’s all said and done there will be approximately two times as many rookie quarterbacks in the league compared to last season. Of course there will be several more reaches at quarterback in the upcoming draft as well. Obviously the sheer number of guys drafted doesn’t equate to a better draft class, so let’s break it down even further.

The two guys that are being debated for the top spot in the class are Goff and Wentz. Half of draft evaluators favor Wentz’s prototypical size and pro style acumen as he was asked to read the entire field and go through 2nd and 3rd progressions at North Dakota State. While the other collection of evaluators prefer Goff’s quick release, poise, and experience. Goff resurrected a Cal organization who won only 1 game in his freshman season to a 8 win, bowl winning, junior campaign (first bowl win since 2008) in which he threw for 43 TDs. In my opinion Goff will be the better of the two mainly because of his readiness to step in right away and be a difference maker for an organization while Wentz will need more time to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL. While both QBs are not as NFL ready or talented as Winston, they both are better NFL prospects than Mariota was last year due to their ability to read defenses and go through progressions from the pocket.

Lynch is the biggest wildcard of all the prospects from both classes. He is a boom or bust guy who has all the physical traits to become a top tier quarterback at the next level if groomed correctly in the right system and if he can quickly acclimate to the NFL game similarly to Mariota’s first year adjustment. Lynch comes from a one read “pick and stick” college type offense like Mariota with a glut of short passes at the line of scrimmage within the offense. A team like the Denver Broncos under Gary Kubiak’s play action, run based offense, can be a perfect fit for Lynch until he can develop into the cool operating gun slinger I envision him to be later in his career.

Another glaring point to make on the difference between the two classes is the amount of pro ready system quarterbacks that are in the 2016 class compared to the 2015 class. Guys like Cook, Brissett, Hackenberg, Hogan, Allen, and Kessler played from under center where they were responsible for reading the entire field utilizing three, five, or seven step drop backs which is a breath of fresh air to guys like myself who believe you need that skill to help you succeed at the next level. The biggest difference other than the speed of the game for a college quarterback who wants to turn pro is being able to assimilate to the complexity of an NFL offense which uses different verbiage and requires the ability to make full-field reads from the pocket with timing and precision. Therefore, they have an advantage over spread type quarterbacks in the NFL but potential and talent can make that a moot point if they simply don’t have the chops to play at the game’s highest level.

Finally here is my composite ranking of both classes combined:

  1. Jameis Winston
  2. Jared Goff
  3. Carson Wentz
  4. Marcus Mariota
  5. Paxton Lynch
  6. Connor Cook
  7. Christian Hackenberg
  8. Garrett Grayson
  9. Brandon Allen
  10. Kevin Hogan
  11. Jacoby Brissett
  12. Bryce Petty
  13. Brett Hundley
  14. Cody Kessler
  15. Sean Mannion
  16. Dak Prescott
  17. Vernon Adams
  18. Nate Sudfeld
  19. Jeff Driskel
  20. Cardale Jones
  21. Trevor Siemian

In conclusion, my opinion is that it’s not even close on which quarterback class is the better group. Yes Jameis is a generational quarterback with immense ability but the rest of the 2015 class other than Mariota is either lacking in talent and potential (Grayson & Mannion) or has limited pro style experience (Petty and Hundley). The 2016 class however has the much better depth with a great number of signal callers already having an advantage running pro style concepts in their collegiate careers. The jury is still out on all these prospects as you never know who will get their opportunity and run with it, becoming the next NFL star QB.

 

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