NFL Draft preview: Mid-round quarterback options
Included in measurables are height, weight, age this year (if available) and 40-yard-dash time. Grades and rankings are based on film study (at least six games’ worth, whenever possible) and proprietary reporting. Quotes are harvested from conference calls and individual interviews. Grades are intended to convey a general sense of each draftee’s value, and where he might be selected (The Star’s grading scale is explained at the bottom.)
1. MITCHELL TRUBISKY, North Carolina
Measurables: 6-2, 222, 22, 4.67
Bio: First-year starter who completed 304 of 446 passes for (68.2 percent) for 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2016, setting multiple single-season school passing marks. Rushed 93 times for 308 yards and five touchdowns. Was sacked 20 times. Lost three fumbles. Declared after redshirt junior season in which he led North Carolina to an 8-5 record and a loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Among top testers at his position in the 40 (4.67), three-cone drill (6.87) and 20-yard shuttle (4.25). Ball jumps out of his hand; throws a tight spiral with plenty of heat out of a quick, three-quarter delivery. Footwork was better than expected at the Combine when taking drops. Good athlete who can escape pressure and extend the play with improvisation and also pick up some yards in the open field. Is quick on play-action boots and gains yards with his feet. When his mechanics are on point, he flashes the ability to throw accurately short and intermediate, both on the run and in rhythm. Flashes deep-ball accuracy, especially down the seams, but needs to be more consistent outside the hashes. Generally makes good decisions and does not turn the ball over but can occasionally be fooled by coverage. Diligently follows through on play-action fakes. Showed some gumption by bouncing back in a road win against Miami after an ugly road loss to Virginia Tech. Showed significant improvement as the season went on. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said he put a second-round grade on him that was similar to what he had on New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo a few years ago. “He’s got quick release, a big arm, good feet,” Mayock said of Trubisky. “He moves around the pocket fairly well. So I was really impressed. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot when I put the first tape in.”
Weaknesses: Played in a spread, shotgun-heavy offense with lots of flares, screens and wide-open windows. Rarely took snaps under center. Doesn’t always sense pressure quick enough; will sometimes throw off his back foot and drop his eyes in the face of the rush (but made some real strides in this area by the end of the season). Footwork is inconsistent; did not always follow through on short touch throws. Scouts are concerned he couldn’t beat out Marquise Williams, who went undrafted in 2016, two years ago. Probably has the best combination of physical tools — arm strength, athleticism and polish — of any of the top-tier quarterbacks but will probably need some time to develop due to lack of overall lack of collegiate experience. “He made two or three throws in that bowl game against Stanford that were big-time NFL throws under pressure; I loved them,” Mayock said. “However, in the same half, in the second half of that game, he threw a pick-six that was an awful read and an awful throw. I just don’t think he’s ready yet.”
Games I watched before grading him: Georgia 2016, Florida State 2016, Virginia Tech 2016, Miami 2016, Duke 2016, Stanford 2016
2. DeSHAUN WATSON, Clemson
Measurables: 6-2, 221, 21, 4.66
Bio: Two-year starter who completed 388 of 579 passes for (67 percent) for 4,593 yards, 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2016. Rushed 165 times for 629 yards and nine touchdowns. Was sacked 17 times. Declared after a true junior season in which he led Clemson to a 14-1 record and an upset victory over Alabama in the national championship game. Two-time Heisman finalist. Has an injury history (broken hand, torn ACL in 2014). Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Young for a prospect. Team captain in 2016. Best athlete of the bunch, as he tested well in the 40, vertical (32 ½), broad (119 inches) and three-cone (6.95). Hands are big enough to spin it (9 ¾). Arm talent is good enough to make all of the throws. Generally delivers a tight spiral and throws a catchable ball. Is very comfortable throwing on the run. Has a quick delivery and flashes the potential to be sound in a rhythm, quick-strike passing attack. Footwork was smooth at the Combine. Adept at the back-shoulder throw. Courageous in the pocket; keeps his eyes downfield and has absorbed some big shots in his career. Willingly throws deep and intermediate. Tough kid who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder when running. Plus athlete who consistently senses the rush, escapes pressure and can turn the corner on defenders. Is elusive in space and could run zone-read concepts with ease — there’s some Donovan McNabb in him. Scouts love the poise he showed against a stud-laden Alabama defense the last two years, and he has a history of playing his best in big games (similar to 2015 No. 1 pick Jameis Winston). Makeup is apparently off-the-charts. “Unbelievable kid,” one scout said. “Tough, humble, spiritual. Everybody says he’s a winner.”
Weaknesses: Has some work to do as a passer. Played in a spread, shotgun-heavy offense with some wide-open windows. Is not quite as big or thickly built as you’d like so he’ll need to protect himself when running. Needs to be more accurate on intermediate and downfield throws, in general. Velocity at the Combine was a subpar 49 mph; needs to tighten up his mechanics to generate more drive in his throws. Had too many interceptions due to accuracy issues or poor decision-making in which he did not spot the underneath defender. Could use a redshirt year in the pros to develop. “I love and I’m fascinated by him, but my concern, like all spread quarterbacks … is they all have a major adjustment when they get to the NFL,” Mayock said. “And Deshaun Watson, like those other guys, has to show he can win in the pocket. When he sits there and that first read is available, he’s really good. He can make throws at all three levels with great accuracy. When that first look isn’t there, it starts to break down a little bit.”
Games I watched before grading him: Alabama 2016, Auburn 2016, Georgia Tech 2016, Pittsburgh 2016, Ohio State 2016, Alabama 2017
3. DeSHONE KIZER, Notre Dame
Measurables: 6-4, 233, 21, 4.83
Bio: Two-year starter who completed 212 of 361 passes (58.7 percent) for 2,925 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016. Rushed 129 times for 472 yards and eight touchdowns. Was sacked 25 times. Committed five fumbles (lost three). Declared after redshirt sophomore season in which he was named Team MVP while the Irish finished a disappointing 4-8. Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Young for a prospect. Fits the physical profile for the position. Has all the tools, including good size, a strong arm and above average athleticism. Has good vision on designed runs, and his field-speed is a touch faster than his timed speed. Possesses the biggest hands of any of the top guys (9 ⅞). Quick, efficient overhand delivery. Arm talent is good; can drive the ball downfield and put some heat on it and make all the throws. Throws tight spirals and can fit the ball into some small windows. Willing downfield thrower who trusts his arm. Also flashes some touch at all levels and makes some “wow” throws, even on the move. Generally does not panic in the pocket; will stand tall in there and deliver it, though his accuracy can occasionally be affected by pressure. Is not easy to bring down; has some Ben Roethlisberger in him. Knows how to make the first rusher miss and is strong and is also fairly elusive outside the pocket. Possesses a fun wrinkle as a pooch punter. Sharp kid who had lot of responsibility in Notre Dame’s offense. “We put an inordinate amount of stuff on his plate and he was able to go out there and make a lot of plays with as much checking as he did at the line of scrimmage and maintaining protections and managing the run game,” said Western Kentucky coach Mike Sanford, who was Kizer’s quarterback coach at Notre Dame the last two years.
Weaknesses: Was not named a team captain in 2016 (though he was for 2017, at least until he declared for the Draft). Did not open the 2016 season as the starter, and Notre Dame’s poor record in 2016 (4-8) concerns some scouts, as a blue-blood program like that shouldn’t have been that bad with a potential first-round quarterback. His performance in losses to Stanford and NC State were also concerning. “He melted down in those games,” one scout said. “But he bounced back well.” Notre Dame’s offense is heavy on screens and run-pass options; he threw some easy, short passes into some wide-open windows. Sails more throws than he should; accuracy seemed off at the Combine due to inconsistent footwork. Notre Dame’s head coach, Brian Kelly, called on him to be mentally tougher at one point this season. Overall decision-making and consistency needs to improve, as well, as he occasionally stares down receivers. “I watched Notre Dame — I’m a big Notre Dame fan — and you see the struggles in terms of decision-making, late getting rid of the football at times,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., said. “Just didn’t have the year you would have thought.” Another guy who could use a redshirt year in the pros. “The reason I have him as the number one quarterback is I think he’s got the highest ceiling of any of the quarterbacks,” Mayock said. “But again, I don’t think he’s ready to play yet.”
Games I watched before grading him: Texas 2016, Michigan State 2016, Syracuse 2016, Stanford 2016, Miami (Fla.) 2016, Navy 2016
4. PATRICK MAHOMES II, Texas Tech
Measurables: 6-2, 225, 21, 4.8
Bio: Two-year starter who completed 388 of 591 passes (65.7 percent) for 5,052 yards, 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2016. Rushed 131 times for 285 yards and 12 touchdowns. Was sacked 27 times. Committed six fumbles. Declared after true junior season in which he led the Red Raiders to a 5-7 record. Son of ex-MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes, who played in the big leagues for 11 years. Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Young for a prospect. Team captain in 2016. Top tester at his position in the three-cone (6.88) and 20-yard shuttle (4.08). Possesses a thick, strong frame but is an above-average athlete who can slip oncoming defenders both in and out of the pocket; has a bit of the Tarkenton/Manziel gene. Occasionally reverts to a sidearm delivery but generally pairs a quick motion with a loose, live arm; has easy gas and can really drive it on difficult intermediate and deep throws. Gunslinger who throws tight spirals and consistently chucks it downfield and into tight spots. “You think about the arm talent, it’s rare to see a kid who can spin it,” Kiper said. “And the explosiveness in those throws … it’s a 98 mph fastball that gets there in a blink.” Field-stretcher who hates letting plays die; tries to make every play, even to his detriment. Flashes the ability to throw with touch, even on the run, and on downfield and sideline throws, as well. Would rather throw than run; wants to be a distributor and get teammates involved. “His eyes — he sees things, he sees the field,” Kiper said. Showed improvement in pocket poise and accuracy by the end of the season. Enthusiastic on-field demeanor. Has a likable personality and might display leadership potential. Has a nice combination of athleticism, character and arm talent, though he will need some time to acclimate to the pro game.
Weaknesses: Flashes the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver in the face of the rush but will also throw off his back foot, significantly affecting his command of the strike zone. Makes too many wild decisions under pressure (i.e. throwing across his body, late or into coverage). Needs to cut down on his questionable throws over the middle in general, and learn when to let a play die. “He’s got to have a better idea of when he can take chances and when he can’t,” Mayock said. “I saw him make some throws in the fourth quarter down a touchdown in the red zone that made no sense at all to me.” Needs to keep working on his inconsistent mechanics and accuracy, the latter of which must improve significantly at all levels if he’s ever going to reach his potential. “What happens is the consistency of his mechanics break down as he tries to throw home runs every snap, and he’ll throw off his back foot one snap, and it’s 50 yards down the field and you go: ‘Wow, what a great play.’ The next snap will do the same thing and throw an interception,” Mayock said. Comes from a pass-heavy, Air Raid spread passing attack that has failed to produce a big-time NFL passer. Never had to spit out the lengthy, double-digit play calls present in Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s playbook. “The only concern I have — and this is a major concern for some people — is (he’s) coming out of the Texas Tech Red Raider offense,” Kiper said. “There’s no issue physically. There’s no issue with the arm strength, mobility, character and attitude and approach.”
Games I watched before grading him: Kansas State 2016, Oklahoma 2016, Texas Christian 2016, Texas 2016, Oklahoma St. 2016, Baylor 2016
5. DAVIS WEBB, California
Measurables: 6-5, 229, 22, 4.79
Bio: Three-year starter (one at Cal) who completed 382 of 620 passes (61.6 percent) for 4,295 yards, 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2016. Rushed 33 times for negative-110 yards and six touchdowns. Was sacked 16 times. Led California to a 5-7 record in 2016. Transferred from Texas Tech after a 2015 season in which he lost his job to Pat Mahomes II. Senior Bowl Game MVP. Refused to comment on whether he had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Team captain in 2016. Among the top testers at his positions in multiple combine drills, including the 40, vertical (33 inches), broad (118 inches), three-cone (6.92) and 20-yard shuttle (4.21). Big, strong kid who looks the part on the hoof and fits the physical profile of an old-school pocket passer, even though he spent his entire career in the gun. Lowers his shoulder and battles when he sniffs the goal line. Possesses more than enough arm strength out of his three-quarterish delivery; generates heat on all throws and stretches the field vertically. Can make tough throws at every level. Generally accurate on short passes, and flashes the ability to throw accurately at other levels, as well. Comes off exceedingly confident. Intrigues many with his combination of raw physical skills. “He’s very much a spread guy,” Mayock said. “He’s not ready to play, but he’s a big guy. He’s got a live arm. He’s got good enough feet. He’s another guy I would really like to develop.”
Weaknesses: Lost his job to Mahomes in 2015. Isn’t a natural runner, despite his Combine test results; won’t make people miss in space. Another guy who spent his entire college career in shotgun playing lots of pitch and catch on quick tunnel and bubble screens. Looked mechanical when taking drops at the combine and will need to continue to work on his mechanics out of that. Needs to do a better job sensing pressure; is not elusive in the pocket and can be corralled when bodies swarm. Won’t ever be a guy who can make oncoming rushers miss. Flashed the ability to throw on the move but didn’t do it as much as other quarterbacks. Sometimes trusts his arm too much and turns the ball over while trying to fit the ball into super-tight windows, especially downfield. Threw some questionable passes that could have been picks by staring down his target. Accuracy fluctuates on intermediate throws, deep balls and passes near the sideline. Footwork can also become unhinged when defenders close in and his accuracy sometimes struggles as a result.
Games I watched before grading him: Hawaii 2016, Utah 2016, Oregon 2016, Washington 2016, Stanford 2016, UCLA 2016
6. NATHAN PETERMAN, Pittsburgh
Measurables: 6-2, 226, 22, 4.82
Bio: Two -year starter who completed 185 of 306 passes (60.5 percent) for 2,855 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2016. Rushed 72 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Was sacked 10 times. Fumbled seven times, lost one. Led Pitt to a 8-5 record and a loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2016. Transferred from Tennessee in 2015 after getting beaten out by Josh Dobbs. Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Big enough hands to spin it (9 ⅞). Has a sturdy, thick frame. The more you watch, the more you appreciate. Rhythm thrower who has executed NFL concepts with lots of playaction, especially as a senior. Patient pocket-passer with poise who works his way through his progressions and generally protects the football. Takes quick drops with good footwork. Does not get skittish in the pocket and will stand tall and deliver the football. Improved his arm strength between 2015 and 2016. Shows touch on short passes (end zone fade, etc.) and throws with anticipation. Accuracy is solid, particularly short and intermediate. Above-average athlete who can move to escape pressure and throw accurately on the move, both long and short. Receivers didn’t help him out much but still proved he could win a big game by beating eventual national champion Clemson (and star quarterback Deshaun Watson) on the road, courtesy of a game-winning drive at the end of regulation. Has experience calling lengthy plays and could have the highest floor of any draft prospect. Draws comparisons to Washington’s Kirk Cousins. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me that is who he is,” Mayock said. “He’s similar, focused, dedicated. Doesn’t have a big arm, but has enough arm that he throws with anticipation and timing. He’s the kind of guy that might be a lower-level starter.”He’s got, at worst, second-round talent.
Weaknesses: Threw an abundance of short passes as a senior and rarely tested teams vertically. Arm talent is above-average but needs to prove he can consistently throw the deep ball. Has a longish, extended overhand delivery. Made a few questionable throws that should have resulted in interceptions but didn’t. Fumbles too often, needs to do a better job securing the football (especially when running past the line of scrimmage). Couldn’t beat out Dobbs at Tennessee. Was not named a team captain in 2016.
Games I watched before grading him: Georgia Tech 2015, Penn State 2016, North Carolina 2016, Virginia Tech 2016, Miami 2016, Clemson 2016
7. BRAD KAAYA, Miami
Measurables: 6-4, 215, 21, N/A
Bio: Three-year starter who completed 261 of 421 passes (62 percent) for 3,532 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2016. Rushed 37 times for negative-136 yards and one touchdown. Was sacked 25 times. Declared after true junior season in which he led Miami to a 9-4 record and a win in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Did not run a 40 at his pro day or the Combine due to turf toe. Son of Angela Means, who starred in the pop-culture classic “Friday.” Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Young for a prospect. Team captain in 2015 (as a true sophomore) and 2016. Runs a pro-style offense from under center with lots of traditional NFL-style concepts, which is rare these days, but actually seems more effective throwing out of the gun. Efficient, quick overhand delivery. Good decision-maker who throws with anticipation and protects the football. Generally throws a catchable ball and is most accurate — and generates the most heat — on passes between the hashes. Can also generate adequate heat on intermediate throws to the sideline. Is at his best throwing in a rhythm-based timing offense designed to deliver the ball at the final step of his drop. Diligently sells play action fakes. Is willing to take a lick in the pocket. Is adept at throwing fade balls and touch throws in the back of the end zone. Has spit out lengthy play calls under Mark Richt, who also coached the Chiefs’ 2014 fifth-rounder Aaron Murray. Has a good presence off the field. Positive, upbeat leader who looks like he can be the face of the franchise at the podium. “He makes three to five throws per game that are awesome, that you sit back and go, ‘Yep, that’s it — that’s NFL,’” Mayock said.
Weaknesses: Will occasionally throw of his back foot to avoid an oncoming rush. Not a great athlete — struggles to elude defenders and doesn’t always sense pressure well. “I think he starts to panic a little bit when he sees a flash of color from the other team,” Mayock said. “He starts to hurry his throws and ends up with poor locations and poor decisions. When he has clear vision and clean feet, he’s really good. But it’s the pocket mechanics. I think it’s going to take him a little bit of time.” Does not have great arm strength; ball floats some downfield. Deep-ball accuracy also needs to improve; struggles with the strike zone on throws downfield, as he often needs to put more air under the ball, especially on throws to the right side of the field. Does not consistently push the ball downfield or regularly throw people open and would be at his best with a strong supporting cast. Some scouts feel he could have used another year in school to work on his resume. “He’s a pocket passer, and that’s good, but he’s never won a big game,” one scout said. “It’s a red flag.”
Games I watched before grading him: Georgia Tech 2016, North Carolina 2016, Notre Dame 2016, Pittsburgh 2016, Virginia 2016, West Virginia 2016
8. CHAD KELLY, Mississippi
Measurables: 6-2, 224, 23, N/A
Bio: Completed 205 of 328 passes (62.5 percent) for 2,758 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games in 2016. Rushed 81 times for 332 yards and five touchdowns. Was sacked 16 times. Committed five fumbles (lost three). Led his team to a 4-5 record in games he started in 2016 (missed three games due to a torn ACL and meniscus). Nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Dismissed from Clemson after two seasons due to conduct detrimental to the team. Won a national title at a juco in 2014 before landing at Ole Miss, where he broke out in 2015. Had a few minor incidents at Ole Miss that will cause teams to dig into his character. Was disinvited from the NFL Combine due to past discretions. Did not run the 40-yard dash at his pro day, where he re-aggravated an injury to his throwing wrist.
Strengths: Good athlete who can scramble away from pressure effectively, sprint away from some defenders and run playaction concepts. Tough, competitive runner who sticks his nose in there, puts his body on the line and will even run through some tackles. Plus arm talent; has a gun and can fire it in there at every level. Doesn’t like to give up on plays. Will consistently test defenses deep and intermediate and shows the ability to make tough seam throws and throws that require touch. Shows the ability to throw on the run. Footwork has improved since his junior year, when it was occasionally sluggish. Has some starter traits and could be an intriguing developmental candidate if his background and medical check out. “He’s got two ACLs, one in 2013, one in 2016, and he’s got multiple off-the-field issues,” Mayock said. “So they’ve got to vet him medically and from a character perspective. I think worst-case scenario, he’s got second-round talent. But when you throw the medical and off-the-field in there, I don’t think he’s going in the first two rounds.”
Weaknesses: Operated solely out of the shotgun with plenty of short passes and dump-offs. Has a long-ish delivery. Occasionally makes dangerous, questionable decisions (i.e. throwing it up under pressure). Has the arm strength to get it deep but the ball occasionally sails and his accuracy needs to improve at all levels to consistently make NFL defenses pay. Needs to continue to refine his footwork, as he doesn’t always step into his throws. Shows a tendency to sometimes throw off his back foot under pressure.
Games I watched before grading him: Alabama 2015, LSU 2015, Florida State 2016, Georgia 2016, Memphis 2016, Auburn 2016
9. JOSH DOBBS, Tennessee
Measurables: 6-3, 216, 22, 4.64
Bio: Three-year starter who completed 225 of 357 passes (63 percent) for 2,946 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2016. Rushed 150 times for 831 yards and 12 touchdowns. Led the Vols to a 9-4 record and a win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl. Was sacked 25 times. Committed 10 fumbles (lost five).
Strengths: Team captain in 2016. Beat out Nathan Peterman for the starting job at Tennessee in 2015. Good athlete who possesses a quick, fluid overhand delivery. Ball looks good coming out of his hand; has a very strong arm and showcases a nice spiral. Can get the ball where he needs to on an NFL field. Fairly elusive in the pocket; can make something happen with his legs under pressure but is more dangerous outside the pocket. Has more than enough athleticism to be a good playaction threat. Can run away from people when he’s got a head of steam and make defenders miss in the open field. Runs with some power, too. Smart kid; aerospace engineering major. Completion percentage rose down the stretch in 2016, when he started to play his best football. “He’s an incredibly intelligent (kid), great leadership,” Kiper said. “He has the physical traits you want as well. So if you feel like supporting staff could have helped him (more) at Tennessee, then you could have him in second or third round.”
Weaknesses: Has a lean, athletic build. Needs to do a better job protecting the football; fumbled too much in a variety of ways. Operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun. Half-field reader who sometimes stares down his target and/or makes questionable throws into coverage or over the middle. Needs to learn when to give up on a play. Has struggled with the deep ball in the past but his ball placement at all levels has to improve as well. Needs to do a better job consistently sensing pressure and getting the ball out. Has some legit developmental tools (arm strength, athleticism) but will need to come a long way in terms of accuracy, mechanics and decision-making to put it all together.
Games I watched before grading him: Florida 2015, Alabama 2015, Appalachian State 2016, South Carolina 2016, Vanderbilt 2016, Nebraska 2016
10. C.J. BEATHARD, Iowa
Measurables: 6-2, 219, 23, N/A
Bio: Two-year starter who completed 170 of 301 passes for 1,929 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Rushed 83 times for negative-13 yards and two touchdowns. Led Iowa to an 8-5 record and a 30-3 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl in 2016, one year after leading the Hawkeyes to a 12-2 record and a Rose Bowl appearance in 2015. Was sacked 30 times. Committed three fumbles (lost zero). Is the grandson of four-time Super Bowl-winning general manager Bobby Beathard. Did not run the 40 at the combine after re-aggravating a hamstring injury during the Senior Bowl.
Strengths: Team captain in 2015 and 2016. Operated a traditional pro-style offense under center, unlike most quarterbacks these days. Isn’t a great runner but is athletic and accurate enough to effectively run playaction concepts and scramble a little bit outside the pocket. Possesses above-average arm strength. Footwork is solid; steps into his throws and delivers the ball in rhythm. Confident and tough; has a good feel for the position and generally puts the ball on the money on short and intermediate routes. Has a high floor as a developmental backup and potential game-manager.
Weaknesses: Does not have ideal bulk or athleticism. Needs to do a much better job sensing pressure; if the pocket closes on him from any direction, it’s over. Took too many sacks, compared to his attempts. Can be late with the ball at times, leading to interceptions and deflections. Doesn’t hit the deep ball all that often, despite his plus arm strength. Didn’t rack up big stats and was generally more steady than spectacular. Barely played in the Senior Bowl, when he attempted only two passes compared to 23 for Nathan Peterman on the North squad.
Games I watched before grading him: Minnesota 2015, Purdue 2015, Michigan State 2015, Stanford 2016, Miami (OH) 2016, North Dakota State 2016
JEROD EVANS, Virginia Tech
Measurables: 6-3, 232, 23, 4.8
Bio: First-year starter at Virginia Tech who completed 268 of 422 passes (63.5 percent) for 3,552 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2016. Rushed 204 times for 846 yards and 12 touchdowns. Was sacked 32 times. Committed 10 fumbles (lost an NCAA-high seven). Juco transfer who only spent one year in Division 1. Declared after junior season in which he led Virginia Tech to a 10-4 record and a win over Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. Did not have a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Big, strong athlete whose speed on tape looks better than his timed 40. Is very elusive in space; makes defenders with ease and can also run through them. Is patient with the ball in his hands and has good vision as a runner; sees creases and is difficult to bring down when he has a head of steam. Ran some zone-read in college and is comfortable with it. Took a lot of hits this year but showed plenty of toughness along the way. Has a very strong arm; can really drive it downfield and likes to try it, too. Throws a tight spiral and also shows the ability to throw with touch, specifically on fade-ball, end-zone bucket throws. Comfortable throwing on the run and can throw with accuracy. Flashes the ability to make NFL throws, in general. Has some juice; possesses an excitable, enthusiastic on-field demeanor and has been a winner at all levels. Nice developmental prospect for a team that can afford to be patient. Would be an excellent apprentice in Carolina’s run-based scheme under Cam Newton, for instance. Showed some moxie while leading his team to a 17-point come-from-behind win over Notre Dame.
Weaknesses: Only played one year of Division 1 ball. Iffy pocket presence; took a bunch of sacks this year. Needs to do a much better job of protecting the ball; fumbled far too much in 2016, though some came on bobbled mesh exchanges. Another guy who played in a shotgun-heavy offense and threw lots of short, easy passes; will need some time to adjust to a pro-style system with a lot of verbiage. Accuracy at all levels needs to improve significantly; ball placement, especially on short balls, is spottier than you’d like.
Games I watched before grading him: Boston College 2016, Notre Dame 2016, highlight tape 2016
COOPER RUSH, Central Michigan
Measurables: 6-3, 228, N/A, 4.93
Bio: Four-year starter who completed 278 of 465 passes (59.8 percent) for 3,540 yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2016. Rushed 68 times for negative-21 yards and one touchdown. Took 37 sacks. Led Central Michigan to a 6-7 record and a 55-10 loss to Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl in 2016.
Strengths: Two-year team captain. Four-year starter with lots of experience. Led his team to a big win on the road at Oklahoma State in 2016. Big kid. Took lots of snaps from under center and is familiar with traditional pro-style concepts, including playaction. Shows the ability to throw with some touch on the run. Book- and field-smart; throws with anticipation. Tough kid who took a beating behind an iffy line in 2016 and will lower his shoulder near the goal line.
Weaknesses: Arm strength is marginal at best; ball floats. Limited athlete who needs to speed up his footwork to make it in the NFL. Game-manager type who threw more interceptions (16) than you’d like as a senior, when he posted his lowest completion percentage (59.8) since he was a freshman. Plus intangibles might not make up for lack of overall arm talent.
Games I watched before grading him: Oklahoma State 2015, Oklahoma State 2016
OTHERS TO WATCH
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota; Seth Russell, Baylor; Zach Terrell, Western Michigan; Alek Torgersen, Penn.
7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick
7.0: picks 11-20
6.8: Top half of the second round
6.7: Bottom half of the second
6.6: Top half of the third
6.5: Bottom half of the third
6.4: Fourth round pick
6.3: Fifth-round pick
6.2: Sixth-round pick
6.1: Seventh-round pick
6.0: Priority free agent
2017 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: QUARTERBACKS
Chiefs’ need at this position: Very high. They have only three quarterbacks on the roster after the free-agent departure of last year’s No. 2, Nick Foles, and traditionally keep four during offseason workouts. Add that to the fact Alex Smith has just two more years remaining on his contract (while Tyler Bray is scheduled to be a free agent in 2018), and the Chiefs desperately need to add another young, talented, cost-controlled player to the mix, perhaps as early as the first round, in next month’s draft. The Chiefs interviewed several quarterbacks at the recent Scouting Combine and have had many in town for precious pre-draft visits. All signs point to the Chiefs being willing to invest a top pick in the game’s most valuable position.
WR: Story | rankings, to come
OL: Story | rankings, to come
DL: Story | rankings, to come
EDGE: Story | rankings, to come
ILB: Story | rankings, to come
CB: Story | rankings, to come
S: Story | rankings, to come