As a source of all your football information, I want to provide you with a “Draft Cheat Sheet” for each of the positions. This intended to supply you with a variety of sources and information, which will allow you to form your own opinions about the top NFL prospects. The links I provide are to other scouting reports (some are a little outdated), and the writing is my own interpretation of the players after watching some tape on them. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do know a lot about the game and have seen plenty of football games. With that said, if you disagree, agree, think I was dead on or missed something feel free to comment below or contact me individually as I would love to talk about these prospects more.
There are only the top 5 prospects available at this point as I try to not only handle life, but convert the original website to this new format. My plan is to start with the top 5, based on CBSSports.com’s prospect rankings (opens in new window), and then, as time allows, move beyond that.
Quarterbacks this year are all question marks. Back to back years of top young QB talent has spoiled us as this year even general consensus top QB, Geno Smith, is considered widely flawed, with some saying that he isn’t worth a first round pick. This year truly is a year where teams will have to judge these prospects on what can be fixed through teaching and what offense these players fit best in.
[pane title=”1. Geno Smith – Quarterback – West Virginia”]
Geno Smith – Quarterback – 6’3″ 218 lbs – West Virginia
Smith is the top quarterback in this 2013 draft class. He possesses a very strong arm with the ability to squeeze the ball into small windows. He is more than capable of throwing the deep ball accurately and consistently. He also has the athleticism to make teams pay with his feet, but is clearly a pocket passer first who moves to throw as opposed to run. He has nice size and seems to have a solid understanding of the game where he can understand and dissect defenses. Smith also shows poise in the pocket and the ability to stand in the pocket and make the throw even as pressure is bearing down on him. This is an invaluable skill and something that can’t really be taught (see Blaine Gabbert).
He is unpolished. Smith has great upside because of his arm strength, but needs to improve footwork with his throws. Sometimes he seems to throw off his back foot as opposed to stepping into his throws, which causes accuracy issues. As I said above, he is capable of throwing the deep ball accurately and consistently. When watching his games from last season, you would see moments where the deep throw was spot on and other moments where he completely missed the wide open receiver. These go back to his footwork. This could also be related to pressure given up by his offensive line at West Virginia because Smith does seem to step into throws with time, but it must be more consistent. Smith seems to rely heavily on his arm strength as opposed to incorporating his whole body into his throwing motion, which would make it more consistent (less variables). He comes from a spread offense with few snaps coming from directly under the center. There were times where he stared down receivers, which is something you would expect from any college quarterback outside of Andrew Luck or some of the other “can’t miss prospects”.
Smith, despite being the top QB prospect, is a project. He has tremendous natural ability, but it is unrefined and inconsistent. I feel that his success will depend on the situation he is put into. Sure, you can say that with anyone here, but with Smith I think it is key. Whoever drafts him will first need to cater to his strengths now, avoid exposing him too much (making the run game a focal point) and then working with him on the consistency of his footwork. If that happens and Smith commits himself to refining his game, he has tremendous upside and potential, but nothing is guaranteed with Geno Smith.
Geno Smith Scouting Reports (they open in new window/tab)
Geno Smith vs. Iowa State (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
Geno Smith vs. Oklahoma (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
[pane title=”2. Matt Barkley – Quarterback – USC”]
Matt Barkley – Quarterback – 6’2″ 227 lbs – USC
Barkley is an interesting player to try an access because it was only a year ago that many considered him a top prospect as he decided to return to USC for his senior year. Barkley also is interesting in that scouts, bloggers and fans can’t seem to agree on how good he really is. He is a guy who has played a lot of football at a high level. He knows the game and is a student of the game. By that I mean, he is a guy who was given a lot of freedom when it came to running the offense. He was in charge of checkdowns and was given a lot of responsibilities that NFL quarterbacks inevitably need to take on. He is accurate and moves around well in the pocket to avoid pressure. He also seems to throw pretty well on the move. He is used to taking snaps from under center.
Barkley’s biggest drawback according to most scouts is his arm strength. He doesn’t have a rocket arm and probably doesn’t even have the arm that Geno Smith does. While I certainly see that lack of elite arm strength, it isn’t the drawback that many think it is, at least in my opinion. When I watched Barkley play, I saw a lot of short and intermediate throws because of the offense they ran at USC, but when he was asked to throw deep, I thought he threw it well. Accuracy on deep throws may be a concern, but I’m not too concerned about his arm strength. Another concern is how this past season he struggled in the bigger games against better opponents like Stanford and Oregon. The issue was decision-making. Barkley has tremendous knowledge of the game, yet still made throws, which make you shake your head at why he ever thought it was a good idea to go there. I think it is because he is trying to do too much and make something out of a tough situation, but again, that’s my opinion. His strength is his accuracy, timing and precision on throws, but he still sometimes doesn’t throw with the proper footwork and his accuracy suffers. Last season he as under a lot of pressure as USC struggled to protect him and I think that played a role as far as those throws are concerned.
I like Barkley as a prospect. He is a poised, tough quarterback with all the necessary leadership qualities. He is a student of the game that can dissect defenses now and is very coachable so expect that to only improve. Many believe that he doesn’t have the upside as other prospects, which I tend to agree with, but when I look at Barkley I see Cincinnati Bengal’s QB Andy Dalton. A proven winner, a proven leader who find most success by anticipating throws and throwing with precision. While Dalton was widely considered an “average arm strength” type of player, like Barkley, both players have the ability to get the ball deep, it just isn’t an effortless throw and isn’t terribly consistent or accurate (at least in Dalton’s young career). I think teams can win with Barkley now. He obviously fits very well in a West Coast offense, but I don’t think he is as limited as many think.
Matt Barkley Scouting Reports (they open in new window/tab)
Matt Barkley vs. Stanford (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
Matt Barkley vs. Oregon (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
[pane title=”3. Ryan Nassib – Quarterback – Syracuse”]
Ryan Nassib – Quarterback – 6’2″ 227 lbs – Syracuse
Nassib has been called the best QB prospect by NFL Films’ Greg Cosell and there is a lot to like about the former Syracuse signal-caller. Nassib has a rocket arm first and foremost. Now, to clarify, I’m not talking about throwing the deep ball, at which he is above average arm strength by my assessment, but rather the velocity he puts on his throws. He has the ability to zip throws into tight windows and put the ball were it needs to be quickly. He also does a great job of looking off defenders and then putting touch on the throws that need something more than a fastball throw. Many scouting outlets refer to Nassib as a “gamer”, which I equate with a natural understanding of what it takes to win and doing everything in his power to achieve the win. Nassib has “that”. He doesn’t have great mobility, but is athletic enough to move in the pocket and keep plays alive.
Nassib does struggle with accuracy. He has some inconsistent footwork and a slightly awkward throwing motion, which are factors that play a role in his accuracy issues. Watching him play, there are moments where he simply misses receivers and that is something that needs to be fixed for long-term NFL success. His throwing motion isn’t awful, but it does have a bit of a hitch. He seems to be throwing a dart with his throws. Those “darts” coupled with his powerful arm actually led to quite a few drops by his receivers as the throws were too hot to handle. Nassib also, at times, seemed to do too much and force throws, which is common among quarterbacks who have strong arms (the gunslinger mentality). He is also a little short for the ideal quarterback prospect, but 6’2″ certainly isn’t too short.
Nassib was compared by NFL.com to Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker and I think that is a fair comparison. Nassib is a leader and possesses a very powerful arm, which can be used to throw darts all over the field. His biggest weakness, like Locker, is his accuracy. Nassib needs to clean up his footwork and maybe refine his throwing motion to improve in that area, but if he does, Nassib has the arm to be able to fit throws into tight, NFL windows.
Ryan Nassib Scouting Reports (they open in new window/tab)
Ryan Nassib vs. Louisville (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
Ryan Nassib vs. USC (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
[pane title=”4. E.J. Manuel – Quarterback – Florida State”]
E.J. Manuel – Quarterback – 6’5″ 237 lbs – Florida State
Manuel is incredibly gifted. He has the size of a NFL quarterback, the arm to make every throw and the mobility that teams in today’s NFL covet. He can make the deep throw, throws with good accuracy and can put solid touch on his throws allowing him to drop the ball in between defenders. His arm strength allows him to fit the ball in between defenders with more velocity as well. His running ability is impressive. He doesn’t have dynamic speed or elusiveness, but is fast enough to run this new spread/pro style hybrid offense that has recently taken over the league. He seems like a standup guy who has all the necessary leadership qualities.
He struggles with decision making first and foremost. For a player with his natural ability, he hasn’t had the college career you would expect and much of that can be traced to forced throws and bad decision making in general. Like most quarterbacks in this class, there are accuracy issues that need to be worked out. Manuel is perplexing because he has all the physical tools, but hasn’t put it all together yet. He can run and throws well, but needs to be protected by whatever offense he runs, at least initially. Problems with accuracy and decision making will be huge if they don’t.
I personally see a little of Carolina Panthers Cam Newton in Manuel. Manuel certainly isn’t where Newton was when he was drafted and I can’t even guarantee Manuel will reach star status like Newton already has, but Manuel does play like Newton. Manuel is just a step down from Newton in nearly all aspects of his game. They are both big, mobile guys who have the physical skills to be great, but need to work on the decision making/accuracy issues. If Manuel goes to a team that makes his job easier (Philadelphia has been tossed around as an option), like Carolina did with Newton, Manuel should find some success. If he is put into a situation where he is asked to adapt to a full NFL offense, I expect Manuel to have trouble because he needs to be slowly integrated into a full NFL offense or his weaknesses will be a major problem.
E.J. Manuel Scouting Reports (they open in new window/tab)
E.J. Manuel vs. Clemson (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
E.J. Manuel vs. Wake Forest (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
[pane title=”5. Tyler Wilson – Quarterback – Arkansas”]
Tyler Wilson – Quarterback – 6’2″ 215 lbs – Arkansas
Wilson has a NFL caliber arm, which allows him to make all the throws he needs to make. It isn’t a “Brett Favre” type of arm, but he has a strong enough arm to make all the throws. He does a good job of standing up in the pocket to oncoming pressure. He wasn’t perfect, but there is more on that below. He can place the ball accurately in a tight window, he has underrated mobility, which allows him to get outside the pocket and take advantage of open space. He isn’t a burner or anything, but has that added element.
One of the issues I see with Wilson, continuing on the standing up to pressure thing, is that film from this past season shows uneasiness in the pocket. He was constantly under pressure last season and that constant pressure has led to some poor footwork and an iffy throwing motion when pressure is bearing down. By “iffy” I mean that he seems to throw off his back foot. He also seems to leave the pocket from time to time before he even needs too. Pressure also causes him to force throws into trouble. As I said, I feel these issues are tied in with Arkansas’ struggles as a team last season, but it is still something that will need to be retaught or at least altered. Other sources have mentioned Wilson’s hands as a weakness. He doesn’t have the biggest hands and many believe that leads to “lame duck” throws that float and allow defenders back into the play. I also noticed that Wilson seems to lead receivers into trouble a lot, at least in the games I watched. Again, this isn’t necessarily his fault and they actually demonstrate his ability to fit the ball into tight windows, but it is something to pay attention to.
Arkansas’ NFL talent took a major hit in terms of draft stock following the firing of former head coach Bobby Petrino. Wilson was possibly hurt the most. He looked very good as a junior and underperformed those expectations last season as a senior. He isn’t an overwhelming athletic and doesn’t possess overwhelming physical traits, but he has talent. If he was a little taller and had bigger hands, he would be arguably the top QB in this class. You just have to be concerned about if you get the player who was a top QB as a junior or the one that dropped off last season and can he overcome the lack of physical tools that are so heralded in the NFL? Bucky Brooks on NFL.com compared Wilson to current Colts backup QB Matt Hasselbeck and I would agree with that assessment. Hasselbeck has never had the overwhelming physical traits or ability, but he has been very effective during his career. I see Wilson having a similar career as he should be successful if given the opportunity to wait a year and learn.
Tyler Wilson Scouting Reports (they open in new window/tab)
Tyler Wilson vs. Rutgers (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com
Tyler Wilson vs. South Carolina (2012) – Courtesy of draftbreakdown.com