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    Richner: 2013 Top QBs

    by Matt Richner, NFL Draft Expert
    Last Updated: 10/14/2014 10:06 AM ET

    Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top five NFL Draft 2013 Quarterback prospects as well as two players to avoid and two players to watch.

    2013 Top 5 Quarterbacks

    The 2013 draft class does not measure up to the level set forth by last year’s draft class which set meteoric levels of accomplishments. In talking to scouts and NFL front office personnel, there is definitely a great deal of focus on selecting a quarterback in the draft who is capable of starting right away.  The players in this year’s draft class would be better suited to wait a season(s) and continue developing their craft and mastering their playbook. Some of the league’s top quarterbacks sat for a while behind a veteran before they were thrust into the starting role. The traditional model worked for Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning and, most recently, Colin Kaepernick.

    Below are my rankings for the top five quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. I incorporate a combination of both traditional scouting and objective statistical analysis to develop my rankings. One statistic that I incorporate is Net Points which calculates a quarterback’s point value based on total yards, touchdowns (passing and running), fumbles and interceptions.  

    1) Geno Smith (West Virginia): Scouts are looking at Smith as a top-five selection because of his size (6’3”, 220 lbs), arm strength, athletic ability and experience. He checks all the boxes you would like to see checked in terms of measurables for a franchise quarterback.

    Though he has the speed and athletic ability to make plays with his feet, Smith is a pocket quarterback. Smith threw from the pocket over 80 percent of the time this season. Displaying deadly accuracy, Smith finished his college career with a 67.4 completion percentage. What’s more, he completed over 66 percent of his passes that travelled between 0 and 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Not all of Smith’s throws were short passes though. His average pass traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage to its intended target this season.

    Showing quick decision making, Smith’s average time from snap to pass was an NFL-caliber 2.32 seconds. The offense he played in allowed him to get the ball out of his hands quickly and into the hands of a pair of the nation’s top college wideouts in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

    For his career, Smith has a Net Point total of 554.52. Broken down by career starts, Smith averaged roughly 13.96 points per start. From both a scouting and a statistical model, Smith compares most favorably to Sam Bradford. Both had better than a 4.5 TD/INT ratio while in college and similar accuracy numbers; their Net Point totals are also almost identical, Bradford having 551.91 Net Points while at Oklahoma.

    Smith does have some areas of his game he must improve on, just like Bradford did (and still does) when coming out of school. When pressured (having contact with a defender or unable to set his feet on throws), Smith’s accuracy drops to just below 55%. He will need time to learn an NFL offense, so a season or two behind a veteran starting quarterback would do him well. Given time and an opportunity to develop, Smith could be a quality starting quarterback in this league for a long time.

    2) Matt Barkley (USC): Though he doesn’t have the strongest arm or quickest release--and I’m pretty sure he won’t be in the same 40-yard dash time as RGIII--what is evident about Matt Barkley is that he has developed the impressive skill set of a successful quarterback. He does a great job at stepping up in the pocket when he feels pressure; he is very calm and collected and understands where he needs to go with the football.

    A four-year starter at USC, Barkley first stepped on stage as a freshman, where in his first road start, he led his team to victory over a top-10 Ohio State team. He finished his career with 116 TDs and 48 INT, a TD/INT ratio of 2.42. By comparison, Joe Flacco has a TD/INT ratio of 2.40.

    Barkley had a completion rate of over 62 percent while under pressure this season. Playing a pro-style offense, similar to the West Coast offense run by a number of NFL teams, Matt Barkley is the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft class.

    The ability to be an accurate precision passer separates the great quarterbacks from the average ones. Barkley completed over 65 percent of his passes that travelled between 0 and 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. He understands, and has excelled in the use of the short and intermediate passes that are a staple of the West Coast offense. With an average snap-to-pass time of 2.22 seconds, Barkley has one of the fastest times amongst all the draftable quarterbacks this season.

    Barkley’s career Net Point total is 491.78. His Net Points per start is 10.46. If using the same statistical model as the QB Report, Matt Barkley’s production in college mirrors that of Philip Rivers.

    3) Landry Jones (Oklahoma): Taking over for Sam Bradford, Jones has set every career and single season passing record at the University of Oklahoma. With 50 career starts, a record of 38-12 and over 2,100 pass attempts, Jones comes into the NFL with a tremendous amount of experience.

    Measuring in at 6’3” and over 230 lbs, Jones has proven his ability to stand in the pocket and make all the throws necessary for a starting NFL quarterback. He has amassed over 16,000 passing yards for his career to go along with 123 career TDs, 52 INT and a TD/INT ratio of 2.37.

    However,when breaking down Jones’ tape, it is evident that he lacks functional pocket mobility. Because he hasn’t yet learned how to effectively slide around the pocket to escape pressure, he gets a little wide-eyed and stops going through his progressions. When the pocket collapses and he has to throw under pressure, Jones loses his precision accuracy, dropping his completion rate to under 60 percent.

    When Jones misses his intended target, his passes are typically thrown too high. This is a problem on some of his throws over the middle of the field. You can get away with that in college, but in the NFL a ball thrown high and over the middle will more than likely be picked off.

    Jones was able to post an average time of 2.44 seconds from snap to release through the season. His arm strength is evident, but he rarely shows it, relying mostly on short passes.

    Jones career Net Point total is 675.13, tops amongst all quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. His per-game Net Point total amounted to 13.50. From a scouting perspective, Jones reminds me of Jay Cutler, but statistically speaking, he compares to Chad Henne.

    4) EJ Manuel (Florida State) Having a cannon for an arm, prototypical size and above-average athleticism, EJ Manuel seems to be the perfect package for today’s NFL game. Unfortunately, he isn’t Cam Newton nor can he play like Cam Newton. When given time to stand in the pocket, Manuel can be productive—he completed 66.9 percent of his passes throughout his career at FSU.

    Unlike Geno Smith and Matt Barkley, Manuel takes a while to complete his throws. For the season, his average time from snap to pass was 2.61. He will need to work on becoming more decisive with the football, understanding his coverages and shortening his delivery to be more compact. Right now, he has an elongated delivery motion.

    With his record of 25-6 as a starter, Manuel has proven he can be a leader; this year, he even led his team to a BCS bowl victory over Northern Illinois.

    Manuel’s critical areas for development are his decision making and the ability to understand his progressions. He routinely stares down his intended target instead of looking the safety off. He gets rattled by pressure. A review of his game tapes show his completion rate hovered around 50 percent when under pressure. His TD/INT ratio was a paltry 1.68.

    Manuel will need a lot of time to grow and develop as a pocket passer. He is careless with the football when he escapes the pocket and he needs to learn how to tuck the ball in and not carry it away from his body. He is a developmental quarterback at the next level and someone who I see being a quality backup in the NFL.

    For his career Manuel’s Net Points were 358.89, a per-game Net Point average of 11.58. Manuel is an intriguing prospect and someone scouts continue to go back and forth on because he has the potential but doesn’t display it on a consistent basis. Statistically speaking, he compares to Jason Campbell.

    5) Tyler Wilson (Arkansas): Wilson was expected to take the next step and become an elite signal caller for the Razorbacks this season. He did rack up 3,387 yards and 21 TDs, but he also more than doubled his career total of interceptions, with 13 thrown this season. For his career, Wilson only tallied 14 wins in 23 starts. This is well below the bar of 18 career wins as a starter we found as a rule for projecting NFL success in our QB Report .

    Wilson is blessed with an outstanding arm and above-average mobility both inside and outside the pocket. He had a unique situation this past year, however. His head coach was fired shortly before the season began, and replacement John L. Smith was ill-prepared to handle the duties of an SEC head football coach. Wilson also lost a number of talented wideouts, three to be exact, to the NFL last season. With a depleted running game, a lot of the pressure fell on Wilson to consistently make plays that weren’t there to be made.

    For his career at Arkansas, Wilson threw for 7,765 passing yards, 52 TD and 26 INT, a TD/INT ratio of 2.0. With a shaky offensive line, Wilson proved he was capable of getting the ball off in a hurry. His average time from snap to pass this season was roughly 2.49 seconds. Wilson’s Net Point total for his career was just 325.3 points. He has the second highest point-per-start average of 14.14 points per game amongst all draft eligible quarterbacks.

    Though he was unable to reach the 20-win threshold usually reserved for my top-5 list, Wilson does show the ability to take care of the football, with a TD/INT ratio of 2.0.

    Ryan Tannehill is the player with whom Tyler Wilson compares statistically.

    Buyer Beware:

    1) Tyler Bray (University of Tennessee): Bray was surrounded by a tremendous supporting cast with the dynamic wideouts of Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, and last year with Da’Rick Rodgers. Yet with all the talent around him, Bray failed to consistently lead his team to victory, with a dismal record of 13-11 as a starter. Bray completed only 58.8% of his passes far short of the 60% benchmark. J.P. Losman, the former first round pick of the Buffalo Bills is the player with whom Tyler Bray compares statistically. Bray’s Net Point total for his career was just 296.96, which ranks him 20th amongst this year’s draft class.

                    Year

    Player

    School

    Wins

    TD

    INT

    TD/INT Ratio

    Comp: %

    2004

    J.P. Losman

    Tulane

    13

    60

    27

    2.2

    57.70%

    2013

    Tyler Bray

    Tennessee

    13

    68

    28

    2.4

    58.79%

    2) Mike Glennon (N.C. State): It seems like every couple of years we get a big , tall quarterback with a cannon for an arm that everyone falls head over heels for. We are looking at you JaMarcus Russell, Kyle Boller, and Ryan Mallett. Glennon had only 15 wins a starter, through two seasons in a sub-par conference. He trusts his arm more than he trust his eyes, continually throwing off his back foot on deep passes. His career Net Points total was 237.81, ranking him 27th amongst all draft eligible quarterbacks.

    Long Term Projects:  Below are two players who I believe if given the right environment to develop over the span of three or four season could develop into quality NFL starters or at the very least capable NFL backups.

    1) Ryan Nassib (Syracuse): A three-year starter for Syracuse, Nassib is perfectly suited to run a West Coast offense. On passes where the target is 20+ yards down the field, Nassib’s completion percentage was under 55%. Nassib does an excellent job in the screen game, holding onto the ball until just the right moment and getting it into the hands of his playmakers. His career Net Point total was 346.7, an average of 9.42 Net points per game rank him 22nd amongst his draft class. He will need time to grow and develop. Statistically speaking he compares to Tony Romo, who also sat for a few years before taking over the starting spot in Dallas.

    2) Colby Cameron (La. Tech): This past season Cameron set the NCAA record for most consecutive pass attempts in a season without an interception, breaking the mark of Russell Wilson.  Cameron has 22 wins as a starter, a TD/INT ratio of 3.46, and Net Point per Game average of 12.14. He is an effective passer who progressed remarkably each season. Cameron has the makeup of a possible steal in the later rounds.

    2013 NFL Draft Content Schedule:

    Initial First Round Mock Draft 

    February 5

    Statistical and Biographical Info on all Prospects

    February 19

    Update Positional Reports (through 2012)

    February 19

    2013 QB Rankings/Top 5/Projections

    March 5

    2013 RB Rankings/Top 5/Projections

    March 7

    2013 WR/TE Rankings/Top 5/Projections

    March 12

    2013 OT Rankings/Top 5

    March 14

    2013 Guard Rankings/Top 5

    March 19

    2013 Center Rankings/Top 5

    March 21

    2013 Defensive Tackle Rankings/Top 5/Projections

    March 26

    2013 Pass Rusher Rankings/Top 5/Projections

    March 28

    2013 ILB Rankings/Top 5/Projections

    April 2

    2013 Cornerbacks/Top 5/Projections

    April 4

    2013 Safeties/Top 5/Projections

    April 9

    Update Mock Draft (and/or top 100 list)

    April 11

    Pre-Draft Thoughts and Observations Blog

    April 16

    Pre-Draft Thoughts and Observations Blog

    April 23

    Rookie and Class Rankings

    May 2

    Team Evaluations

    May 2

     

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