Jon Dove’s Early 2015 QB Thoughts
The month following the NFL draft is a great time to jump right into next year’s draft class. By that point, I’m usually so tired of watching & discussing the previous year’s prospects that I can’t wait for the palate cleanser of a new draft crop.
Thankfully, this upcoming group of draft-eligible prospects features several intriguing players and storylines already developing. As was the case this past year, the quarterback situation will be one of the more talked about topics.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota are the two names getting the most attention at this point. After spending some time looking at both prospects, I’ve come away giving Winston the edge.
This opinion is based on the play on the field and not factoring in Winston’s off-field concerns. Winston’s play on the field is strong enough to warrant early first-round consideration.
There is already plenty of talk about Winston’s long throwing motion; however, Winston overcomes that issue with the velocity he’s able to generate on his ball. He also recognizes a tight throwing window and is able to shorten his motion.
I absolutely love Winston’s balance in the pocket and the way he drives off his back foot. Watch here as he squeezes the ball between two defenders.
Winston is committed to going through his progressions and doesn’t typically allow the rush to impact his play. In the face of pressure, he keeps his eyes downfield looking to make a play with his arm rather than his legs.
It’s important to note that last year was Winston’s first season of college football, and it’s reasonable to expect some improvement moving forward. One area that will get better with experience is Winston’s anticipation. He needs to do a better job trusting his reads and getting the ball out quickly.
As for Marcus Mariota, the Duck signal caller is a terrific athlete who plays with tremendous poise. However, the Oregon offense asks him to heavily rely on his legs. I always feel uncomfortable with quarterbacks who need their legs in order to maintain drives.
I also have question marks surrounding Mariota accuracy, especially on his deep ball. The majority of his throws come on a line, but those bucket passes need to have more loft. Oregon’s offense is so dependent on the quick passing game that Mariota doesn’t get a ton of opportunities to attack deep down the field.
At this point, I have Mariota rated as a late-first round prospect with room to move up the board with some improvement.
Another quarterback who has caught my eye is Connor Cook. The Spartan QB quietly had a very strong season last year and should take another step forward in his development. He possesses a very live arm capable of generating a ton of zip to all levels of the field.
Cook is someone who routinely makes sound decisions and could even be criticized for checking down a little too often. However, it’s important to note that Michigan State is looking for their quarterback to play it safe and allow the defense to win the ball game.
Additionally, Cook is a very good athlete capable of extending plays and even picking up some yards with his legs. However, he’s very much a pocket passer who looks to make plays with his arm.
He throws a very pretty deep ball with plenty of loft and good overall placement. His accuracy as a whole is solid thanks to his commitment to squaring to his target.
Below is an example of Cook’s excellent deep ball.
One area where Cook needs to improve is his balance in the pocket. He tends to bounce and hop while scanning the field. At times, this even carries over to his throwing motion, which impacts his delivery. Hopefully, the redshirt Junior will take a step forward in that area this fall.
UCLA’s Brett Hundley is a name on everyone’s radar, but he’s very low on my rankings. He’s an athlete playing the quarterback position who lacks a great feel for the game. His overall decision making and accuracy is a real concern.
Hundley only reads one side of the field and still tends to lock onto his No. 1 target. It was a very good idea for him to return to school for another year to refine his game. His natural talents are obvious, which makes him a candidate to shoot up my board — however, he needs to show better “quarterback” skills to work his way into the first or second round range.
Obviously, there’s a ton of work yet to be done in evaluating these prospects. The quarterbacks I plan on spending more time on in the near future include: Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and Florida’s Jeff Driskel. I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on those signal callers in the coming months.