5 more just for the hell of it…
It’s never too early to think about next year’s NFL Draft. Signal callers are always in high demand and heavily scrutinized. Here are the Top 5 college quarterbacks (preseason) heading into the 2015-16 NCAA campaign. In less than a year one of these trigger men may be the face of your favorite pro franchise.
1. Connor Cook – Michigan State/ Senior: His numbers will not jump off of the page at you (24 td’s, 8 int’s, 3,214 yds, 58.1%), but Connor Cook is the most pro-ready college QB returning for the 2015-16 NCAA football season. He has both the desirable physical attributes, as well as four years of experience (three as a starter) in a pro-style offense when this season concludes. After flirting with entering the 2015 NFL draft, some believed that Cook would have been the gold standard at the position had he left school early.
2. Jared Goff – California/ Junior: What sophomore slump? Since stepping across the threshold of the University of California (Berkley) Jared Goff has been the epitome of impressive. Goff has been impressive in a less than ideal situation. Goff is on pace to break every major Golden Bear passing record. He has been one of the lone bright spots in a program desperately searching for a new identity and renewed success.
3. Cody Kessler – USC/ Senior: Kessler might be the most physically unimpressive quarterback on this list. However, don’t let that fool you. For what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in accuracy and efficiency. To watch a Cody Kessler lead offense is like watching the perfect synchronization of the many inner workings of a Hublot time piece. Kessler is another pro-style QB who excells in play-action situations. He is capable of throwing the football with great touch and very good accuracy, especially on the sidelines. By the way, did I forget to mention that Cody Kessler is a pre-season Heisman candidate?
4. *Deshaun Watson – Clemson/ Sophomore: Even though we’ve only seen Deshaun Watson in a limited capacity, what we have seen from him thus far has been nothing short of remarkable. He shows flashes of a young Jameis Winston with his accuracy and play-making ability from the pocket and under pressure. With another off-season of experience in this offense, and one of the most talented, and deepest returning receiving corps in the nation, expect Watson to post gaudy numbers this season.
5. Trevone Boykin – TCU/ Senior: It only makes sense that TCU re-emerging from the doldrums of mediocrity directly coincides with the ascending QB play of Trevone Boykin. He tops the lists of many analysts pre-season Heisman watch. Boykin is an electrifying playmaker who possesses a rare combination of NFL caliber arm talent along with the athleticism and open field vision of a running back. Expect Boykin to ride the momentum of last year’s success into 2015, and live up to the lofty expectations placed upon his shoulders.
6. *Brad Kaaya – Miami/ Sophomore: As a true freshman Brad Kaaya showed the poise of a mid-seasoned junior throughout his inaugural campaign in 2014-15 at the University of Miami. Brad Kaaya’s play all but saved the incumbent Al Golden from being fired. Under Golden’s regime at Miami, the Hurricanes have fallen even further into mediocrity. His overall consistency and accuracy needs to improve, but there is a lot here to like in Kaaya. He’s 6’4, 210 lbs, displays a live arm, and flashes the ability to precisely fit the football into small windows with receivers running in stride. He has experience operating from under center in a pro-style offense, and is an excellent play action QB. Kaaya is also a very efficient red zone QB where he shows his ability to change the ball speed, and throw the football with touch and precision. In his second full season entrenched as the Miami Hurricanes starting quarterback expect major improvements on what has already started out as a stellar career.
7. Christian Hackenberg – Penn State/ Junior: “The Tale of Two Tapes” could be the title of Christian Hackenberg’s auto-biographical summary of his college career at Penn State thus far. Prototypical size for an NFL signal caller? Check. A strong arm that can drive the ball to any area of the football field? Check. Possess the ability to play from under center and read through his progressions in passing situations? Check and check. With all that there is to be enamored about with Christian Hackenberg’s talent, 2014 proved to be more than arduous for both Penn State and Hackenberg’s development. A coaching change from Bill O’Brien to James Franklin, the move from a pro-style offense to a spread-based offense, and inexperience along the offensive line and throughout the receiving corps, all proved to be hindrances to Hackenberg’s progression and growth. Hackenberg must prove that he can shed the shackles of an offense that does not cater to his strengths, and improve upon the success that he had while he was a freshman at Penn State.
8. Gunner Kiel – Cincinnati/ Junior: What we have here is another big-armed, large bodied quarterback with deceptive athleticism, and a ceiling as high as your naked eye can see. Kiel was a five star QB prospect coming out of high school. He started his collegiate career at Notre Dame, but transferred to the University of Cincinnati in 2013. Aptly named “Gunner” at birth, Kiel flaunts a BAZOOKA for an arm. He regularly pushes the ball down field, and shows exceptional accuracy on his deep balls. Kiel is another one of those advocates of a collegiate “pro-style” offensive system that we love so much here at CPGM. Given a clean pocket we see Gunner Kiel regularly work through his progressions to locate the open receiver. With as strong as Gunner’s arm is, he also shows the ability to throttle down some of his throws. He is capable of high level precision and touch, especially on throws over the shoulder on a short field and in the red-zone. With 7 of his top pass catchers returning, and another year at the helm as the Bearcats signal caller, we should look for a monster year from Kiel. He is a dark horse Heisman candidate and his draft stock should sky rocket.
9. J.T. Barrett/ (So.) & Cardale Jones/ (Jr.) – Ohio State: Holy dueling dual-threat quarterbacks Batman! What we have here is a tie. Both Barrett and Jones got their opportunities due to injuries. The Braxton Miller injury made way for J.T. Barrett and when Barrett went down late in the season, Cardale Jones got his shot. Barrett put up gaudy numbers for most of the 2014-15 season until he got hurt during the second half of the Michigan game. All Cardale Jones did from that point on was step in and orchestrate Ohio State to the first national championship of the college football playoff era. The reason that both of these QB’s are tied at the 9th spot on this list is quite simple. Both prospects are very accurate, strong armed, and mobile athletes who are proficient in Urban Meyer’s spread scheme. The only issue is that no one yet knows who will be starting at quarterback for the Buckeyes during the upcoming season. They are both extremely talented, and more than capable signal callers. Cardale Jones seems to be the trendy pick to start. What he did in the final three games for Ohio State and Urban Meyer cannot simply be overlooked. He also possesses the combination of top-flight height, bulk, and arm strength that scouts hunger for when evaluating NFL talent (6’5, 250 lbs.). While J.T. Barrett isn’t as physically imposing as his teammate Jones (6’2, 225 lbs.), he himself possesses adequate height and weight for the position. And while Cardale Jones might have a higher ceiling than Barrett does, I firmly believe that Barrett is currently the better football player. Whoever the victor is, we expect them to post ostentatious numbers in what has historically been a very QB friendly offense. Heisman anyone?
10. Dak Prescott – Mississippi State/ Senior: Even though Dak Prescott was never a highly touted prospect coming out of high school he has a real chance to capitalize on his exceptional play, and raise his draft stock headed into this years’ NFL harvest. At the collegiate level he’s just as good as any other quarterback that’s on this list. Prescott set twelve single season records, and already holds or is on pace to break most of the rest of the Bulldogs’ major passing records. He is arguably the greatest player to ever don a pair of pads in Starkville, Mississippi. The scariest part of it all is that he is still in the midst of what already amounts to a star studded legacy. He accounted for 43 total touchdowns (27 passing td’s, 14 rushing td’s), and 4,435 total yards from scrimmage (3,449 passing yards, 986 rushing yards) by himself. Prescott is an offensive juggernaut. He is very Tim Tebow like in both his stature, and the way that he plays the game. That’s a very lofty comparison considering that Tim Tebow is among college football royalty, but I believe that it is a fair one. Especially since Dak is a better passer right now than Tebow ever was (and still improving), and he has all-SEC wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson on the edges catching passes for him. If the leap in progression that Prescott took from his sophomore to junior year is an indication of the improvement he will make heading into his Senior season, then Heisman, and ultimately the NFL, should both be attainable goals. All arrows are pointing up for Dak Prescott in 2015.
*Not eligible for 2016 NFL Draft