While it is possible to win a championship without a top tier-franchise QB, it is apparent that everything else needs to be almost perfect. Out of the past 16 NFL seasons, to make this point painfully obvious, this will be the 14th time that the starting QB representing the AFC in the Super Bowl will be named either Tom, Peyton, or Ben. There isn’t a more polarizing stat in modern sports than this.
About this time two years ago it was being debated if either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston deserved to be top ten picks. They were, of course, drafted one and two. Again, this time last year we were asking the same questions of QBs Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Again, they went one and two.
Fast forward to this year and we seem to find ourselves in the same spot.
Here is an early preview of the 2017 QB class that currently have a third round grade or better. Some of these guys will certainly move up the board while others will slide as the evaluation process takes place. Please note that these early grades are indications on how they rate on my big board and not necessarily where I think that they will be selected. QB is a premium position so it is usually a safe bet that they will very often be drafted ahead of where they might rank.
- Deshaun Watson Clemson 6’3” 215 lbs
Watson may have had a down year but only by the height of the high standard he set his sophomore year. When the chips are down and the stakes are high no QB has gotten the job done better in college football over the past two seasons. Poise, character, and charisma are 3 essential elements when grading a QB and Watson seems like he can check all 3 of those boxes. Watson seems to have the arm talent and capability to make all the throws needed in the NFL. Watson will drive defenses nuts with his ability to use his legs to move the chains.
I have given Watson a much higher grade than most others. Like an prospect there are some areas of concern. Watson has NFL caliber options all over the field including sure top 10 pick WR Mike Williams at his disposal so it is easy to wonder if some of his access can be attributed to taking advantage of mismatches that he might not necessarily have at the next level. Watson also played in a relatively QB friendly system at Clemson where he wasn’t asked to make multiple complex reads on passing plays. Deshaun struggled through some consistency issues this year and made way too many costly mistakes and turnovers. It will also be worth watching to see where Watson’s height comes in at the combine.
Grade: First Round
NFL Comparable: Russell Wilson
- Mitch Trubisky UNC 6’3” 220 lbs
There is so much to love about Trubisky’s game. He is very efficient with the football. Up until the bowl game Trubisky had only thrown 6 interceptions to compare with his 30 TDs. There are no concerns that Trubisky can make any of the throws in an NFL paybook as he has a strong arm and proved to be extremely accurate this season. At one point during the season he recorded 3 straight 400 yard games. Mitch is extremely athletic in the pocket and is very effective extending plays and picking up chunks of yards as a runner.
There seems to be a lot of criticism of Deshaun Watson not quite being able to match the success he had in 2015 this year. There was a lot of pressure on Watson to perform at a high level going into his junior year. By declaring for the draft a year early we won’t know how Trubisky would have handled that same attention and expectations. By starting so few games we have not seen him as often as we would like to in certain situations.
Grade: First Round
NFL Comparable: Alex Smith
- DeShone Kizer Notre Dame 6’4” 229 lbs
There is 2016 film showing Kizer being absolutely everything you look for in a franchise QB. He is big, tall, physical and has a live arm. He probably has the best upside of any of his peers in this draft class. Kizer has showed the ability, at times at least, to read defenses and pick the right pass out of a pro-style offense. Kizer has the ability to pick up yards on the run when needed.
In two words accuracy and consistency. I expect to get some feedback for comparing Kizer to EJ Manuel but before I hear it from Notre Dame fans let us not forget who EJ was coming out of Florida State. Manuel was a QB with all the physical tools teams look for that struggled with accuracy and consistency. He was a QB that would have benefited, like Kizer, to sit behind a veteran QB for a year to work through some of his weaknesses. Unfortunately for Manuel we never got to see that as he was pressed into action his rookie year.
Grade: Late First Round-Early Second Round
NFL Comparable: EJ Manuel
- Pat Mahomes Texas Tech 6’3” 230 lbs
Grades for Mahomes are all over the map. To say that he has been a productive college QB would be a massive understatement. He lead he FBS in passing yards and in total touchdowns. Oh, and by the way, he did so playing with an injury for most of the season. He probably has the best arm talent of any QB in this class as there isn’t a pass on the route tree he can’t deliver on. There have been a lot of extremely successful college QBs that put up ridiculous stats, similar to Mahomes, that did not pan out into a starting NFL QB. He is going to have skeptics that will be afraid to use a top 50 pick on a QB that has only played in a QB friendly offense.
Grade: Second Round
- Brad Kaaya Miami 6’4” 215 lbs
Kaaya came into this season with a lot of expectations that he would push to the front of the draft class. Kaaya is a true pocket QB that has the height required for the part to see over NFL lineman. He has a strong arm and can make NFL caliber throws but does not have the elite arm of a day one pick. Kaaya takes a lot of sacks. He does not have the ability to consistently extend plays with his legs and has questionable pocket presence when facing pressure. For the amount of hits that he takes expect Brad to make an effort to add an extra 10-20 pounds of bulk going into the draft.
Grade: Third Round
- Davis Webb California 6’5” 230 lbs
Talk about having tough shoes to fill, Davis Webb had to replace Jarred Goff who was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft at QB for Cal. Webb didn’t disappoint as he put up over 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns. Webb was efficient with the football and shows good pocket awareness. Whether it is fair or not I think Webb’s stock is affected by Goff’s rookie year. A huge concern for Goff, like Webb, going into the draft is not having the experience, while running Cal’s offense, to lead the huddle, take snaps from center, and to dissect the defense.
Grade: Third Round