2nd Tier (and beyond) QB Prospects
(originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)
Most people who follow football know that Tom Brady is one of the all time late round draft steals – selected in the 6th round of the 2000 draft sixteen selections after Spergon Wynn and three spots before Todd Husak. He’s outlasted 10 the 11 other QB’s taken in 2000; only Chris Redman (3rd round) is also still active. More knowledgeable fans might also know that there are a few high-quality NFL QB’s who didn’t get much hype on draft day: Tony Romo (undrafted), Matt Hasselbeck (6th round), Matt Schaub (3rd round) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (7th round). These guys are often used as examples of how great QB’s can be found anywhere in the draft. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Almost all successful NFL QB’s are found in the top 50 selections of the draft. However, that won’t stop NFL personnel men and general managers from trying to unearth the next Brady or Romo.
Is there a hidden gem to be found in 2012? Well, by now, most NFL draft watchers know the top QB prospects: Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Ryan Tannehill and Robert Griffin III. As we move into the Bowl season and pre-draft workouts, those five guys will get the bulk of the hype (assuming they declare for the draft) – and deservedly so. However, there are a few other guys that will go later on who could find success in the NFL as starters.
Before taking a look at some of the less known (or less hyped) QB prospects for 2012, it should be noted that the chances for success of any QB taken outside of the top 50 picks are remote. While Brady, Romo, Hasselbeck, Fitzpatrick and Schaub were great finds, they are the only non Top-50 QB’s in the top 20 for passer rating:
As you can see, 9 of the top QB’s by passer rating were top 10 picks with Cutler and Roethlisberger both going 11th overall. It should be noted that of the five aforementioned non-Top 50 QB’s, only Romo and Brady found success with the team that drafted them.
How unlikely is it to find a good QB once you get beyond the middle of the 2nd round? Check out these facts:
QB’s drafted after pick #50 since 1995: 148
# of those who have attempted 1000 or more passes: 15
# who have been/were full time starters for 5+ years: 9
# of undrafted QB’s since 1995 to throw 1000+ passes – 5
# of undrafted QB’s since 1995 to start for 5+ years – 4
It probably goes without saying, but if your favorite team needs a “QB Of The Future” come April, 2012, they should take one early. If they decide to try to get lucky later on, here are four guys who could beat the (daunting) odds and carve out a long-term starting spot in the pros:
Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) – Based on talent alone, Weeden could be a top 50 pick in the 2012 draft. Unfortunately, he’s already 28 years old (which makes him a month or so older than Aaron Rodgers). He’s the prototypical pocket passer with the size (6’4 220) that NFL scouts love. His accuracy on short and intermediate routes is excellent, although his deep ball is somewhat lacking compared to the top QB prospects. He plays in a shotgun offense in college, which can make for a tough adjustment for some QB’s. His awareness is above average and while he’s not athletic, he’s got good enough feet to escape the rush moving outside of the picket. In order for Weeden to succeed, he will need to go to a team which can quickly work him into their offense (probably a team that runs an offensive scheme similar to Oklahoma State’s). Over-aged QB prospects have not fared well in the pros (Chris Weinke, John Beck) but Weeden has the tools to overcome the odds if he lands in the right city. I expect Weeden to go somewhere in the Top 100 picks, as too many teams need a QB to let him drop too far. In the right environment, Weeden could be a 5-7 year starter.
Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) – As we run up to the draft, Cousins will get labeled with two of my least favorite (and over used) terms: “game manager” and “has intangibles”. Those types of labels are often applied to guys who get it done in college, but lack an elite attribute (e.g. arm strength, mobility, etc). When I watch Cousins I see a guy who has a well rounded, but definitely flawed, skill set: he’s got good arm strength, his accuracy at times is very good and his mobility – while not especially noteworthy – is good enough to allow him to make the occasional play. He comes from a run heavy team, which has allowed him to develop his playaction ability which is as good as any prospect in this draft. What I don’t like is that he sometimes (too often for a top prospect) seems confused by opposing defenses and has a tendency to lock onto his first read. His mechanics are sloppy and he will need a good QB coach to clean them up if he is to succeed in the pros. It’s tough to predict where Cousins will go – he needs a lot of work but he’s the type of guy which teams tend to fall in love with. I like him as a 3rd rounder but he could sneak into the middle of round, possibly even earlier.
Ryan Lindley (San Diego State) – Lindley will draw a lot of attention at the combine and in his Pro Day due to his excellent arm strength but he’s definitely a raw prospect. While he can get the ball deep, he often gets the ball too deep – overthrowing his targets far too often. His short range accuracy is a bit better although still lacking. His struggles could be partially a result of overcompensating for a bad receiving corps (even more so since Vincent Brown has graduated). In an effort to avoid interceptions, he tries to put the ball where only his receivers can make a play and he lacks the finesse to do so with regularity. His mechanics tend to fall apart completely under pressure and he will need a lot of coaching before getting into an NFL game. That said, he’s got an NFL caliber arm, has shown improvement every year in college and possesses a lot of untapped potential. His rawness will probably drop him down the board a bit and he’ll almost certainly have to wait til the 3rd or 4th round before he gets drafted.
Aaron Corp (Richmond) – A small school sleeper, Corp will probably have to wait until the 6th or 7th round to hear his name called (if he is drafted at all) but there is some reason to think Corp could find a home in the NFL. He does a pretty good job at reading opposing defenses and finding the open man. His arm strength isn’t great, but he’s got enough to succeed in the NFL (especially with the proliferation of the spread offense and short passing game). When he’s able to set his feet in the pocket, his accuracy is very good – he recently set the FCS all time record for single game completion percentage. Unfortunately for Corp, his O-Line is awful which has led to him getting knocked around and chased around a lot. As a result, his accuracy and decision making have been inconsistent at times. He’ll need a few years to develop, but he has some good tools with which to work.