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Move The Sticks notes: Rookie QBs' success could affect draft

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  • By Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks NFL.com
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Editor's note: NFL.com analysts and former NFL scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the Move The Sticks Podcast share some of their college-scouting notes heading into Week 9 of the college football season, including:

» A look at a stud defender who reminds Brooks of a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
» An NFL comp for J.J. Watt's brother, who's wreaking havoc on Big Ten offenses.
» A preview of the huge opportunity awaiting one of CFB's top QBs on Saturday.

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Brooks' take on how the impressive play of this year's rookie QBs could affect QB prospects.

The success of the 2016 rookie quarterback class could change the way scouts evaluate quarterbacks in the 2017 draft. After watching five rookie passers (Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Cody Kessler, Jacoby Brissett and Paxton Lynch) combine for a 65.5 completion rate, a 21:6 touchdown to interception ratio and a 95.5 passer rating (league average is 90.7) through Week 7, teams could look for more experienced passers in the draft.

With four of those first-year passers entering the league after four or more years of college experience, scouts could start to place more value on experience, IQ and intangibles at the position. This is something that Bill Parcells believed in when he created his own principles for drafting quarterbacks (senior quarterback, graduate with three years of starting experience and 23 career wins on the resume) and it continues to hold true when examining the recent history of successful quarterbacks in the NFL. Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins are examples of experienced college quarterbacks enjoying success in the league.

Now, I know we can pick apart each of their respective games, but there's no denying their ability to play winning football. With the exception of Carr, each has guided their teams into the postseason and their maturity has played a major role in their team's success.

"There's something to be said for getting reps," said an AFC personnel executive. "I haven't really thought about how much it has impacted this year's rookie (quarterback) class, but it's interesting that the experienced guys have had immediate success."

Looking ahead to the 2017 class, Cal's Davis Webb could benefit from the success of this year's class as an experienced player with the talent and reps to possibly make an impact as a young player. The former Texas Tech transfer will finish his collegiate career as a three-year starter. He'll have a wealth of experience directing two different offensive systems (albeit variations of Mike Leach's "Air Raid" scheme). Naturally, skeptics will dismiss Webb's success in a pass-happy offense that hasn't necessarily produced a pro, but the 6-foot-5, 230-pound passer exhibits the arm talent, anticipation, and timing to make NFL throws while guiding an offense. With few established options in the class, Webb could benefit from the success of his predecessors on draft day. -- Bucky Brooks

Wolverines star worthy of Woodson comp: I know that Michigan's Jabrill Peppers has been touted as one of the best players in college football, and this is a rare occasion where I believe the prospect's talent and potential exceeds the buzz that's circulating in the scouting community.

Now, I know it's too early to anoint an underclassman as the next great game changer at the position, but Peppers exhibits a rare combination of size, speed, athleticism and instincts that should make him a dynamic playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Measuring 6-foot-1, 205 pounds with explosive speed and acceleration (Peppers is a two-time New Jersey state champion sprinter in the 100 and 200 meters), Peppers is an electric athlete with a knack for finding the football. He slithers through traffic to snatch down ball carriers on runs while using those same traits to harass quarterbacks on blitzes.

In coverage, Peppers shows impressive agility and footwork shadowing tight ends and slot receivers. Although he appears most comfortable playing nose to nose with receivers at the line, he's athletic enough to mirror pass-catchers using "off" technique with a backpedal. Considering his athleticism, versatility and playmaking ability, Peppers is a perfect fit as a "monster" back (hybrid safety/rover/nickel) at the next level. Not to mention, he brings tremendous value as a return specialist and occasional offensive weapon (Peppers has played Wildcat QB for the Wolverines). When I look at Peppers' diverse skills, he reminds me of Charles Woodson during his prime years in Green Bay. The 2009 Defensive Player of the Year controlled the game as a hybrid safety/nickel back during that span, and I can envision Peppers thriving in a similar role.

I hate to compare a young player to one of the greatest defenders in NFL history, as it seems premature, but I haven't seen many defenders with diverse skills that are eerily similar to those of Woodson, a former teammate of mine. I'm excited to see if Peppers can continue to live up to the hype down the stretch this season. -- Bucky Brooks

Throwback comp for J.J. Watt's brother: The Wisconsin defense has been outstanding this season. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox deserves credit, and they have a nice collection of players on that side of the ball. One of their leaders is T.J. Watt, who's the younger brother of J.J. Watt.

T.J. Watt isn't as uniquely talented as his older brother, but he's a very productive outside linebacker. After studying his tape, I came away very impressed with his strength at the point of attack as well as his overall football instincts. Against the run, he uses his hands to stack and shed blockers on the front side and his combination of effort and speed leads to big plays from the back side. He's more of a blitzer than a pure pass rusher. He uses his power and hand quickness to defeat RBs and TEs but he will get swallowed up by quality OTs.

I struggled to come up with a comparison and then it hit me. He reminds me of an old-school dude -- Bill Romanowski. They both rely on strength, instincts and toughness to make plays. However, Watt doesn't engage in dirty plays, which is something Romanowski had a reputation for. T.J. Watt isn't the same player that his brother is, but he's a very good prospect. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Seeing Green in UNC QB: This hasn't been the most impressive season for college quarterbacks, excluding Lamar Jackson at Louisville. One player who has generated a lot of buzz recently is UNC junior signal-caller Mitch Trubisky. I've watched a couple of his games live on TV, and I finally found some time recently to study his tape. I came away impressed with him. He has ideal size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds, per school measurements) and is very athletic. He can avoid/escape when necessary and he has enough arm strength to make all of the throws. It's always tough to gauge arm strength without live exposure to a quarterback, but he appears to have above-average arm strength. His accuracy is a little spotty. His deep ball hangs up in the air and his placement underneath is inconsistent.

I went to the way-back machine for my comparison. He reminds me of former Chiefs QB Trent Green. They have similar size, mobility and arm talent. Green had a very productive NFL career and Trubisky has that type of potential. He still has plenty to refine in his game, but I like his raw tools. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Renaissance man? When Clemson QB DeShaun Watson faces Florida State on Saturday in the marquee game of Week 9, he has a chance to revive his chances of being viewed as the top quarterback in college football. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder entered the season viewed as a dynamic dual-threat with impressive athleticism, arm talent and confidence to lead a team as a franchise player. However, he hasn't played up to expectations and scouts are waiting to see if Watson can find his groove against a defense that features NFL-caliber athletes at every position. If the Tigers' QB1 can put on a spectacular show against the Seminoles, he can revive his chances of earning a top grade at the end of the season. -- Bucky Brooks

Matchup to watch on Saturday: Utah RB Joe Williams vs. Washington LBs: Williams has been on a tear since he rejoined the football program earlier this month. Due to several injuries at the running back position, Williams, who had retired in September, decided to rejoin the team in mid-October and provide some much-needed assistance to a depleted group. All he's done since returning is pound out 179 yards against Oregon State and a ridiculous 332 yards at UCLA last week. It will be fascinating to follow his draft stock. Scouts that went through the program early in the fall gave him late-round or free-agent grades. He was officially measured at 5-foot-10 3/4 and weighed 201 pounds last spring. He wasn't timed in the 40-yard dash, but scouts estimate his speed in the mid 4.4s. Does he have a passion for the sport? That will be the issue he must address if he wishes to pursue an NFL career.

In the meantime, he'll need to have another big game for the Utes to knock off the No. 4 Huskies on Saturday. Washington has a stellar defense and its linebackers excel at stopping the run. LBs Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria both possess excellent instincts and they completely shut down the Stanford rushing attack earlier this month. One thing that might surprise some college football fans -- the Utah offensive line is far superior to the Stanford line. This should be an outstanding matchup. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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