Home > College Football, Div-I FBS, Draft, NFL > The 2012 NFL Draft Quarterback Class is Unreal*

The 2012 NFL Draft Quarterback Class is Unreal*

In this January 28th article, I addressed the difference between the relative strengths of the upcoming quarterback classes.  I thought the 2011 QB class was one of the strongest in memory, but that perhaps there were some stronger, less-risky classes on the horizon to reward teams that waited on quarterbacks in 2010 and 2011 such as the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks.  To quote myself from January:

2012 NFL Draft Quarterback Class

The names: Andrew Luck (Stanford), Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State), Ryan Lindley (SDSU), Nick Foles (Arizona), Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M), Dominique Davis (ECU), Kirk Cousins (MSU), Stephen Garcia (South Carolina), Jacory Harris (Miami), Mike Paulus (William & Mary), Dan Persa (Northwestern).

This has all the makings of the strong class.  What it’s missing is a second big name QB prospect that scouts love that could get in line right behind Andrew Luck as a franchise type player worthy of top five consideration.  It could get that still from the ranks of the underclass (remember, even in 2012, Luck would be considered an underclassmen by draft standards — though he’ll be a Stanford graduate).  But even without another player worthy of top five consideration, this QB class offers plenty of depth.

You can toss Pryor out of this discussion now.  Mike Paulus is not having much of a season for DI-FCS William & Mary, so he’s out.  Ryan Lindley is falling at SD State.  Stephen Garcia was having an awful year and has been kicked off of the team at South Carolina.  He won’t be drafted.  But Jacory Harris is enjoying his best season under Al Golden and could be back into mid-round discussion.  Now we need to add projected first round senior Robert Griffin III of Baylor, even though like Luck, Barkley, and Jones, he has a year of eligibility left.  Russell Wilson has been so unreal for Wisconsin this year that he needs to be in the discussion.  And my list pretty egregiously left off Boise State senior Kellen Moore, who is going to get a big boost in his draft prospects thanks to the early success of Andy Dalton.  Another guy who should be added to this list is G.J. Kinne of Tulsa.  And finally, despite his advanced age, some team is going to draft Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden in the second or third round to be their starting quarterback.

So from the January discussion, five more names are in draft consideration, and three are out, a positive net gain.  Now, we need to address the possibility that Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin, and Landry Jones all stay in school through the 2012 college football season.  With Luck, this would obviously just be a power play based on a certain team holding the first overall pick: the fact that the Dolphins and the Colts have the best chance of getting the first overall pick makes it moot.  But even if Barkley, Jones, and Griffin all decide to stay in school, Luck headlines a very impressive class.  The remarkable thing is that all three of those underclassman would likely be first rounders if they come out (but not necessarily if they all come out, thanks to supply and demand).

Here are some early projections on the 2012 NFL Draft QB Class:

First Overall Types: Andrew Luck, Stanford; Matt Barkley, USC

It has been a long time since any draft has had a first overall type: Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger being the last four quarterbacks worthy of justifying the first overall pick.  All of those guys came from the 2004 and 2005 drafts.   This draft could have two guys in it stronger as prospects than anyone taken in the last five drafts.

If we were to rank all quarterbacks drafted between 2006 and 2011 in terms of how they are perceived today nationally, we would probably get something like Cam Newton first, followed by Matt Ryan second, and then either Sam Bradford or Joe Flacco fourth, then Josh Freeman, then Matt Stafford or Colt McCoy or Jay Cutler, and then Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez, and Tim Tebow around guys such as Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder and Jake Locker (these aren’t my rankings, mind you).  On draft day, either Luck or Barkley would propel ahead of anyone except Newton and Ryan before they play a snap.  Which tells you that QB output over the last six drafts or so hasn’t been very good beyond the performance of first overall picks.  When we limit the sample to quarterbacks who aren’t the first guy taken in their draft after 2005, Matt Barkley is being compared to guys like Sanchez, Cutler, McCoy, Flacco, and Freeman.  You have to like those odds that if there’s a true “first-overall” type in that group, it’s Barkley.

Top 15 types: Landry Jones, Oklahoma; Nick Foles, Arizona

This is a class where, even after the first overall types, there are two “franchise” quarterback prospects out there to draft early with little chance of failure.  Foles has been a production machine ever since 2010, and although he’s a fifth year senior who will be a 23 year old rookie, he is physically as built for the position as for anyone in this class.  Jones is a top ten prospect in any year, whether he decides to come out in 2012 or 2013 will not change that.  He has already broken most of Sam Bradford’s records, and though he lacks the raw college efficiency of his predecessor, he has been running an offense that is specifically more rooted in pro style concepts than what Bradford was running three years ago.  He also comes to the NFL with a cleaner bill of health.

Mid to Late First Rounders: Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M; Robert Griffin III, Baylor; Kellen Moore, Boise State; Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

If you’ll count them up, that’s EIGHT guys I have a preliminary first round grade on.  There are not eight teams that would consider spending a first rounder on a quarterback, and it doesn’t consider another guy, Weeden, who performs like a first rounder at the college level, but is 28 years old. He’ll be in the NFL, but I don’t think he’ll be particularly successful there.  Tannehill has to be the most fascinating prospect in this draft, because he played receiver at Texas A&M for the first two years of his career.  That makes him really a four year player, but one who has only been playing the QB position for two seasons.  There are no comparables for that kind of career path, only in the other direction.  Griffin could stay in school or he could come out, either way, he’s one of an impressive class of quarterbacks the Big XII is producing at the current moment.

Second rounders: Jacory Harris, Miami (Fl.); Dominique Davis, ECU

I’m just helping to frame the depth of the class another way: with these two rising quarterbacks coming off of great seasons, the draft goes 10 players deep with potential starters.

Combined with the quality of the free agent class, any team that wants a quarterback will be able to get one cheaply.  This might be a year where the top names (non-Luck division) consider staying in school for promise of future riches.

  1. January 7, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I think Robert Griffin III is a top 5 type, possibly a 1st overall type. He has the right combination of character, athleticism, intelligence, and passing skills to do what Cam Newton did in 2011. I would put him ahead of Matt Barkley but still behind Luck.

    Jacoby Harris is probably a 4th or 5th round pick, but he could improve with a good combine.

    There are also a bunch of other good QBs in the 2011 draft making it even more ridiculous that could end up being huge mid to late round steals, such as Russell Wilson, Brandon Weeden, and Ryan Lindley.

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