After going through a hearty amount of games since the NFL season ended, it's time to reveal my thoughts on some of the best the 2013 NFL Draft has to offer.
The quarterback position is truly an enigma with this year's group. With no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III available this time around, all the prospects have a wart or two on their resumés. That's not to say that this group isn't talented, though, because there is some solid talent.
The buzz word that you'll hear so many times until late April is 'potential.' That's exactly what some of this year's group possesses. There are a solid nine players that are likely to be the first nine quarterbacks off the board, and my rankings don't diverge from that path.
However, some of the rankings may surprise you.
Let's get to it, shall we? Here are how I rank the top 9 quarterbacks in this year's draft class.
1) Matt Barkley, USC
- Surprised yet? Those that have been listening to me over the course of the past two years knows that I have been thoroughly impressed with Barkley over that span of time. To go from what he did -- a true freshman starting at one of the nation's biggest programs -- and to even exceed expectations is a spectacular feat. You won't see many players that have thrived after having to deal with the type of adversity Barkley did in four seasons. With NCAA sanctions hitting hard, Barkley and the Trojans kept strong until they were bowl eligible again in 2012. Besides the obvious leadership characteristics, Barkley has a far better arm than most give him credit for. In the coming weeks as my NFL Draft Blog takes shape, I'll get more in to detail. But Barkley brings it, and he should be a first round pick in my opinion.
2) Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
- If Tyler Wilson had declared for the 2012 NFL Draft, I'm fairly convinced he would have been the third quarterback off the board. The arm strength he exuded in his junior season made him a legitimate quarterback prospect for the NFL level, and his statistics backed him up. However, with Bobby Petrino's dismissal at Arkansas and the offensive line proving to be one of the worst in the SEC, Wilson's game in 2012 really suffered. To his credit, he stood tough and delivered throw after throw while taking crushing shots from defenders. As the season wore on, his technique and footwork suffered a bit causing his ball to flutter. He wasn't stepping in to all his throws. Is that something he can shake with a better offensive line or is the damage already done? NFL teams have to decide that for themselves.
3) Geno Smith, West Virginia
- Ranked as the top quarterback by most, I will agree to one thing with them: Geno Smith has an impressive skill-set that is intriguing, especially with the type of quarterback that has become popular around the NFL. Smith, however, is not as polished as a Barkley or Wilson at this point. Going through all his reads appears to be an issue from watching his footage from 2012. He'll also get lazy with his footwork. It may be a product of the offense he comes from, but Smith still has some learning to do. When you talk about his skills, though, he has the potential to wow you with some of this throws. He possesses the mobility that teams crave in today's NFL as well.
4) Mike Glennon, NC State
- Possessing maybe the biggest arm in the 2013 NFL Draft, Mike Glennon is hoping to profit from examples of taller quarterbacks either excelling (Joe Flacco) or being drafted early (Brock Osweiler, 2012 second-round pick). There's no doubting Glennon's natural arm talent. When he has the time to throw, he can make all of them. However, when Glannon feels the pressure in the pocket, he does not do well with it. He doesn't step in to a lot of his throws when under duress, and doesn't possess the Flacco-like athleticism to at least escape the pocket and get out on the run towards the sidelines while keeping his eyes down the field. Like all the quarterbacks in this group, it's a fixable problem with coaching. With the type of pressure he'll have to deal with every week in the aggressive NFL, he's got quite the learning curve if he's forced in to duty early.
5) Tyler Bray, Tennessee
- If you're looking for the most naturally gifted player in this group, look no farther than Tyler Bray. His natural arm talent is disgustingly beautiful. That, perhaps, is why he is the most infuriating player the quarterback position has to offer. His ceiling is sky high for whatever team drafts him. However, he's that stereotypical boom-or-bust type that will either help or crush your franchise. With that being said, he is so talented that even if a quarterback hungry team takes one in the first round, I would still select him in the third round if he's there. If Tyler Bray hits, boy oh boy will he ever hit. He needs to learn how to become a leader first, however.
6) Landry Jones, Oklahoma
- The decision for Landry Jones to go back to Oklahoma for one last season didn't hurt him in the long-run. He didn't get the national title that they so desired, but his draft stock is about the same. Jones' arm strength improved his senior season in my opinion, but the criticism from his entire career held true in 2012. When there's some pressure put on Jones, his accuracy dwindles down at an alarming rate. He'll prove that theory wrong every once in a while, but it's his biggest weakness that he has to improve upon.
7) Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
- With all due respect to those that rate Ryan Nassib as the top prospect in the entire 2013 NFL Draft, all I can say is that I just don't see it. Nassib improved along with the Syracuse team and helped them to two bowl victories in his time there. He's got solid mobility, has experience running the read-option and is very accurate over the middle of the field and on throws up to 12 yards along the sidelines. However, when he has to throw a deep ball to his receiver, his touch is a bit off. I've seen times where he steps in to a throw to a receiver that is open by two-to-three yards, and the receiver has to slow down and be forced in to a jump-ball scenario. This happens consistently with Nassib. He's still a solid prospect that should be taken on Day Two of the draft, but I don't see the appeal that some do.
8) E.J. Manuel, Florida State
- Tyler Bray got top honors for being the most infuriating prospect for quarterbacks in 2013. Well, E.J. Manuel gets second place for that distinction. Possessing the raw size, mobility and arm strength that teams covet, Manuel never put it together at Florida State. His stats are misleading due to many quick throws (slants, screens, etc.). However, when he has to find his target down the field it looks as though he aims the football. Furthermore, the only time he stepped up in a big game for the Seminoles was against a struggling Clemson defense in 2012. All other times when Florida State needed a big play while still in the championship hunt, Manuel wasn't able to deliver. He's a project for the NFL.
9) Zac Dysert, Miami (OH)
- Possessing the prototypical size you look for in a quarterback, Zac Dysert seems to have some of the intangibles teams like as well. Dysert is a four-year starter at Miami (OH) where his production improved every season. However, there are a few questions when it comes to him as a prospect. He can hit a big throw down the sideline from time-to-time, but it just seems like he misses high far more than you would like. He's not particularly mobile, and comes from a smaller program. I have little doubt that Dysert could be a good backup in the NFL. When it comes to being a starter, though, I'm hesitant to see what others do.
There you have it. The rest of the quarterback rankings will open up on the NFL Draft Blog next week. Be on the lookout for scouting reports on all the players will be looking at come April right here on WGR550.com!