In our first installment of the 2012 Big Board we’re going to take a look at the signal callers. Quarterback is not a position that the Buccaneers need to address in April. Just like last year the Buccaneers enter the draft with their starter in place and, after the Dan Orlovsky signing, a back-up to boot. The odds of the Bucs spending a meaningful pick on a QB are minimal, but let’s take a look anyway.
This year’s crop of quarterbacks was far weaker than it was initially expected to be. That’s not to say it’s a weak class by any stretch of the imagination, but had Landry Jones and Matt Barkley elected to go pro there would potentially be five quarterbacks picked in the first as opposed to the three we are likely to see.
That had an adverse effect on the Bucs too, even despite their lack of need at the position. Sitting fifth, Tampa could have auctioned off its pick to a QB-hungry team and added to their stock of picks. But with two of the top four underclassmen not declaring, St. Louis ultimately made out and Tampa will have a much harder time moving back.
Here are the top QB’s in this year’s draft.
1.) Andrew Luck, Stanford, Jr.
The craziest thing about Andrew Luck is he still isn’t a senior. He could have come out last year as a red-shirt sophomore and challenged to be the top pick, but he returned to Stanford for his junior year where he also earned his degree. I don’t typically buy into the can’t-miss talk, but Luck is as close as it gets. He’s probably the best QB prospect to come out since Peyton Manning did in terms of living up to billing. Luck is smart, talented, surprisingly athletic and comes with a great pedigree having NFL bloodlines and working under Jim Harbaugh for his first three years. He can make all the throws, he thinks at an NFL level already, he is fundamentally sound and if you watch his combine tape and compare it to last year’s top pick, Cam Newton, they’re surprisingly similar. Andrew Luck is potentially the most underrated athlete in the draft because he’s cast into a mold as a traditional drop-back passer, but he could fit into almost any offense with his athleticism.
2.) Robert Griffin III, Baylor, Jr.
RGIII was the revelation of 2011. A true dual-threat quarterback with a high football IQ and off-the-charts athleticism. The Redskins have already made a bold move up the draft board to pick up the second pick, so it’s all but decided that Griffin will be playing in DC next year. This may sound crazy, but I think that was a good move by Washington. RGIII reminds me of what Tim Tebow would be like if Tebow had good mechanics and a better arm. Really, aside from mobility there’s not a lot of similarity between the two. Griffin is a solid passer with a lot of elusiveness while Tebow is a serviceable (that’s generous) passer who runs like a bull in a china shop. But between the ears, same kind of guy. Both are men of devout faith that value hard work and dedication, stay out of trouble and feel compelled to help others in their free time. They’re both wired to be winners. RGIII has all the tools and skills, and he has a fantastic mental makeup to be successful in the league.
3.) Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, Sr.
If Brandon Weeden were 22, he would be a no-brainer at 3, maybe even a little higher. The guy can really chuck it, he’s in a pretty pass-happy offense but he’s an accurate passer who can make all the throws and has a good head on his shoulders. Unfortunately he’s 28. He’ll turn 29 during the season. Weeden pitched in the minors for five years before going to college and deciding to play quarterback a la Chris Weinke. Here’s the deal, right now, in terms of being NFL ready he’s the third best quarterback in the draft. He doesn’t necessarily have a higher ceiling than some of the quarterbacks behind him, but age aside he’s a damn good quarterback right now and he has played on some good teams. He tended towards being a bit of a gunslinger in college, occasionally trusting his arm too much, and he could use a little help with his touch along the sidelines, particularly on his deep ball. But, right now Weeden is the third best quarterback available.
4.) Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M, Sr.
I really do like Ryan Tannehill, I just don’t think he’s completely ready to be an NFL quarterback just yet. He was recruited as a quarterback but moved to receiver in order to get on the field. He actually lead the Aggies in receptions both years he played receiver before he was moved back to quarterback. Tannehill is an exceptional athlete and he has a very high ceiling, but he hasn’t completely realized that talent yet. He’s a developmental guy and those are always gambles. Tannehill is rising up draft boards for three reasons, he’s got massive potential, there is a demand for QB’s and he’s not 28. Those are all valid points, but he also has a long way to come before he is as competent a quarterback as Weeden. Tannehill has good accuracy, but makes mistakes in interception prone areas (sailing passes over the middle, under-throwing deep passes). He has a tendency to get his receivers lit up and he struggles to read defenses that can hide their schemes at the line (which is bad in the NFL). Tannehill may very well be the best QB in the class some day based on potential, but like I said, potential doesn’t always pan out.
5.) Kirk Cousins, Michigan State, Sr.
Cousins and Russell Wilson are neck and neck for me, I’m not sure either necessarily has high-end potential in the NFL but both could make good back-ups or potentially even decent game manager quarterbacks. With Cousins, his size gives him a little bit of an edge as much as I hate that. Cousins is a smart quarterback who throws for a deceptively high completion percentage thanks largely to screens and check-downs. He’s got a decent arm, but it’s nothing to write home about and in the NFL there will be questions about whether he can stretch the field. That being said, he does have a high football IQ and in the right offense he could have decent success a la Chad Pennington, but don’t count on it.
The Best of the Rest:
6.) Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (by way of NC State), Sr.
I was surprised Wilson didn’t go play baseball as I assume he would do, but I guess concerns about his hitting made him intent on pigskin. As a quarterback I really like Wilson, he’s a winner, he’s smart and he can create when his team needs him to. But he’s only 5’11, and Drew Brees aside, the NFL is not typically kind to quarterbacks under 6-foot. Wilson could still surprise you though if put in the right situation.
7.) Kellen Moore, Boise State, Sr.
Moore reminds me of Andy Dalton last year. Not the best at anything, but he’s just a winner. People question Moore’s arm strength and his schedule but you can’t deny he won a lot on the smurf turf and he didn’t play badly when the top competition did come calling. I put a lot of stock in results, and wouldn’t be shocked at all if Moore amounts to something in the NFL.
8.) Brock Osweiler, Arizona State, Jr.
Osweiler is like another version of Ryan Tannehill, great athleticism and potential but still a very raw prospect who needs time to develop. That’s why it was probably silly of him to leave school early, another year would have been beneficial and helped him move up the draft list. As it stands, he’ll need time to learn to be a quarterback before it would be responsible to turn him loose on the NFL.
9.) Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, Sr.
Lindley has a cannon, one that he’s extremely confident in, but his accuracy is a huge question and that’s what hurts him. He’s got the prototype size and the football IQ to be a very good pocket passer, but many believe you can’t teach accuracy beyond a certain point so it may just be that he’s not the kind of player that will ever be a high percentage passer. Obviously that’s not exactly conducive to being a top NFL pick.
10.) Nick Foles, Arizona, Sr.
If Foles could get in the classroom a little bit more and work on the mental side of the game and his technique was shored up he could be a much more highly touted prospect. Unfortunately, those are major issues. With development Foles could potentially be something though.