2012 QB Rankings

Written by Ryan Lownes on November 18, 2011


The college season is winding down and the 2012 quarterback class is starting to take shape behind Andrew Luck.

 

After countless hours of film study, I’ve concluded the passing-driven NFL can expect one of the strongest crops seen in years when April’s draft rolls around. It appears as if up to six QBs could potentially come off the board in the first 50 picks or so. The class is deep as well with some middle- to late-round gems that could outplay their draft position.

 

Here are my top 10 quarterbacks likely to be part of April’s draft:

 

 

1. Andrew Luck — Stanford

 

Andrew Luck is a remarkably cerebral player, a rare leader, competitor, and winner. He is an excellent decision-maker who shows a great understanding of anticipation, timing, and ball placement. Few college quarterbacks control their team’s offensive responsibilities and play-calling to the extent that he has. His experience in a pro-style offense has been extremely beneficial and he is able to read defenses at an advanced level.

 

In addition to a sterling set of intangibles, Luck is an ideal physical specimen with great size and athleticism. His mobility is far beyond average; at 230 pounds he is very light on his feet and tough to bring to the ground. He showcases pocket elusiveness and the ability to improvise, keeping his eyes downfield on the move.

 

Though he does not always show the freakish arm strength past top picks have, Luck is capable of making big-time throws and will flash impressive velocity. He is

 
exceptional throwing on the move, showing the ability to roll both to the left and right, delivering accurate passes even across his body. 

 

Before you pencil in Andrew Luck as the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, it may be worth your time to consider his flaws. He is not the best deep-ball passer at this point; he has proven capable but is a bit inconsistent in that area. Like many signal-callers, accuracy and velocity suffer when there is pressure in his face. It is also worth noting that he played behind one of the best offensive lines in college football during his time at Stanford.

 

Projection: 1st Overall Pick

 

 

2. Matt Barkley — USC

 

In recent weeks, Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley has emerged as a top prospect in his own right. On film, he displays a very natural feel for the game, showing a great understanding of anticipation and timing in the passing game. He is a good decision-maker with a strong background in a pro style offense. His awareness stands out as he knows where his receivers are on the field, reads defenses, and gets rid of the ball quickly.

 

Barkley has also shown that he has fantastic “arm talent.” He displays excellent command, making difficult touch throws or driving the ball into tight windows. Arm strength is not elite, but is well above average. Turn on the USC-Stanford or USC-Colorado tape and you can expect to see a wide array of beautiful and impressive throws.

 

Earlier in his college career, I questioned Matt Barkley’s ability to lead his team and win games. Recently he has exuded great

 
confidence, poise, and natural leadership traits. An adequate athlete, Barkley has shown solid footwork and mobility, but must learn to use his feet better when escaping pressure. Occasionally he is guilty of overthrowing passes across the middle, though he is rarely guilty of under-throwing receivers. Finally, his height (6’2″) may be a concern for some NFL teams.

 

Projection: Top 5 Pick

 

 

3. Robert Griffin III — Baylor

 

First and foremost, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III is a remarkable athlete for the position. Throughout his collegiate career he has proven capable of improvising and really hurting defenses with his running ability. While he was once known almost exclusively for his rare athleticism, he has shown this season that he is a natural pocket passer with a good feel for the position.

 

One significant change from past years, Griffin has developed into an elite deep-ball thrower. We have always known he has a very strong arm, throwing with tremendous velocity and rpm’s. This year, he has shown improvement in terms of short to intermediate accuracy and ball placement. Even on the move, rolling to the right, he displays the ability to throw accurately down the field. His unique blend of speed and ability to throw the deep ball allows the Baylor offense to really stretch defenses.

 

 
In addition to physical ability, Robert Griffin is impressive in other aspects. He is a natural leader, very smart with strong intangibles. His footwork has improved greatly in the pocket, but he will need to adjust to playing under center in the NFL. Fearless under pressure, Griffin must learn to protect his body better. At just 6’2″ 220, height may be an issue for some and durability will be the major question down the road.

 

Projection: Top 20 Pick

 

 

4. Brandon Weeden — Oklahoma State

 

As much as you could say Stanford is a national championship contender due to the play of Andrew Luck, you could equally argue Oklahoma State would be out of the picture were it not for Brandon Weeden. In terms of value to his team, few players make the difference the 28 year-old has for the Cowboys. 

 

In projecting him to the NFL, it is not hard to realize Weeden possesses the arm strength to make any throw. He may be this class’ premier “arm talent.” Over the past two seasons, he has shown very impressive accuracy downfield and tremendous command over his offense. His throwing mechanics are good and he has a very quick release. The ball really jumps out of his hand and he has specialized firing the ball to the far hash with excellent velocity. Unlike many spread quarterbacks, he reads defenses well,

 
sees the field, and makes every throw in the book.

 

Weeden shows a strong understanding of anticipation and timing in the passing game. Though he is not especially fleet of foot, he displays good pocket presence, efficient footwork in the pocket, and can throw a bit on the move. Physically, he has good size at 6’4″, 220, but is not overly mobile (as I alluded to) and not particularly adept when he needs to improvise and use his feet. His age will definitely play a big part in where he is drafted, but he has the tools to be a starter in the NFL for a good stretch.

 

Projection: Late First-Second Round

 

 

5. Ryan Tannehill — Texas A&M

 

Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill possesses a particularly intriguing combination of size (6’4″, 225) and athletic ability. The former top receiver for the Aggies has settled in at quarterback and has showcased a skill-set that will have some NFL scouts drooling. 

 

Tannehill is a strong-armed passer with the ability to drive the ball outside the hash with velocity. Additionally, he has excellent mobility and can hurt defenses with his running ability. He has shown the ability to throw accurately on the move.

 

While he understands and utilizes timing in the passing game, Tannehill tends to lock onto his primary receiver. That said, he has shown flashes of effectively going through his progressions. Though he appears to possess impressive intangibles and

 
leadership qualities, he is part of an A&M team that has given up second-half leads continuously in 2011.

 

Experience is bound to be a concern for some teams looking for an immediate starter. As I noted before, Tannehill played exclusively WR for over two years. He is still a project, he will need time, and establishing consistency will be the biggest thing.

 

Projection: Late First-Mid Second

 

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Ryan Lownes

Ryan is currently an undergraduate student at Ohio University pursuing a degree in Sport Management. He has been attending the NFL Draft in New York City since 2005 and has aspirations of a career in scouting. He is currently a draft writer and analyst on the Draft Breakdown team, posting his latest rankings, mock drafts, scouting reports, and more. Be sure to follow Ryan on twitter for year-round NFL Draft analysis. See all posts by Ryan Lownes.