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Published: Sept. 30, 2016 at 02:50 p.m.
Updated: Sept. 30, 2016 at 02:56 p.m.

Top 10 sleeper QB prospects

Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has taken the league by storm, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 start in his first NFL rodeo.

Wentz was a two-year starter at FCS North Dakota State and missed a large share of his senior year due to injury before rising from obscurity leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft.

While a Wentz-like rise for a QB is not an annual occurrence, there are some experienced senior quarterbacks without great hype surrounding them at this point in the process, but with good enough physical skills and the mental capacity to succeed in the NFL. Here are 10 to watch through the rest of the college football season.

10 Photos Total

  • 10. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss 10

    David Stephenson/Associated Pres

    10. Nick Mullens, Southern Miss

    No one is going to mistake Mullens' arm for that of former Southern Miss passer Brett Favre. However, he's had a lot of success delivering balls from the pocket over the past couple of seasons. Mullens will read through his progressions, starting downfield and going to the check-downs if necessary. You can't teach that sort of patience and willingness to find receivers at all levels of the field. Some scouts will bemoan his average throwing velocity, but others might take his ability to play under fire as a sign of intriguing potential.

  • 9. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan 9

    Bradley Leeb/Associated Press

    9. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

    With all of the hype in scouting circles about WMU receivers Daniel Braverman (now a Chicago Bear) and Corey Davis, it's easy to forget who is delivering the ball to those talented targets. Terrell won't scare anyone coming off the bus at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. Against better competition, he will feel the heat a bit and look to run instead of keeping his eyes downfield. But if he doesn't make the right decisions (9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions this year), guys like Braverman and Davis don't get noticed. Terrell might not get drafted because of his physical limitations, but he should get a chance to show he can efficiently move an offense, as he's done for the past three-plus seasons.

  • 8. Dane Evans, Tulsa 8

    Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

    8. Dane Evans, Tulsa

    This Texas native lists Drew Brees as his favorite player, and it's not difficult to see that he's patterned his game after the Saints star. He has a similar build (6-1, 218) and can deliver darts from the pocket. As a junior, he found star receivers Keyarris Garrett and Josh Atkinson down the sideline with regularity for big plays. Now Keevan Lucas is becoming his go-to target, with Atkinson also still in the fold and Garrett with the Carolina Panthers. Evans' feet aren't quite as quick as Brees', but Evans can move within the pocket to make room to throw downfield. A strong, confident player who has started since his redshirt freshman year, Evans might surprise if he's in the right system in a training camp next summer.

  • 7. Sefo Liufau, Colorado 7

    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    7. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

    Liufau has had issues with injuries during his career, and missed the Buffaloes' upset win over Oregon with a sprained ankle that sidelined him against Michigan a week earlier. But when he's healthy, the nephew of former NFL quarterback Jack Thompson presents the physical skills and mental makeup required by NFL teams. Liufau is a battler who can lead his team with accurate deep throws, and has the mobility to test defenses focusing on man coverage. However, his accuracy and decision-making after plays break down will have to improve if he's going to play at the next level.

  • 6. Wes Lunt, Illinois 6

    Bradley Leeb/Associated Press

    6. Wes Lunt, Illinois

    NFL scouts like seeing a 6-5, 220-pound frame on their quarterbacks. Lunt has serious arm talent, which will endear him to scouts. The Oklahoma State transfer played as a true freshman, and has started over the past couple of years for the Illini; that experience shows on the field. He's able to move within the pocket to survey the landscape, and scouts will want to see if he's quick enough to do so with NFL-caliber defenders surrounding him.

  • 5. Taysom Hill, BYU 5

    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    5. Taysom Hill, BYU

    Hill would be higher on this list if not for injuries (he's played 10 games since the start of the 2014 season). He's as decisive a quarterback as there is in the game right now, because he reads the defense and finds the best available option. Though Hill might not measure more than 6-1 at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, there's no issue with his ability to get the ball downfield. And while he might not have great height, he's capable of delivering when under duress.

  • 4. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh 4

    Patrick Semansky/Associated Pres

    4. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh

    While he's not an imposing physical specimen, Peterman operates Pitt's pro-style offense efficiently and without many mental errors. The former Tennessee Volunteer can work from the shotgun or under center, gets the ball out in a hurry and does all of the little things that make an offense run -- including completing ball fakes as well as any coach could ask. He has more than enough arm strength to make the necessary throws in an NFL offense.

  • 3. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota 3

    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    3. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

    Leidner is what some coaches would call a "gamer." When you need him, he'll make the play. He looks the part of a pocket passer, but effectively handles run-pass options for the Gophers out of the pistol formation. Unlike many college quarterbacks, he's able to see multiple options and check down when necessary. The ball doesn't come out of his hand well sometimes, leading to a lack of velocity, and his delivery is longer than scouts prefer. But he's coachable, and I expect he'll tighten up his throws and become more consistent with his weight transfer to take full advantage of his physical gifts.

  • 2. Brady Gustafson, Montana 2

    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    2. Brady Gustafson, Montana

    Gustafson will get some Wentz comparisons because he's a tall (6-7), strong pocket passer from a successful FCS program. He's more limited in his movement within and outside of the pocket, and has a longer delivery, so scouts won't put him in the same class as Wentz. But there's no doubt he has the presence and natural throwing ability to get a shot in the NFL, and maybe he'll jump up boards this spring if he can show the same preparation and knowledge of the game that Wentz did in interviews with scouts.

  • 1. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan 1

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    1. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan

    I agree with Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck that Rush will be coveted by NFL teams during the draft process. He's a bright, mature player who hangs in the pocket to make throws, has very good accuracy to all levels of the field, and can make first downs with his feet. Does he have a plus arm? No. But if you were to put him in an NFL offense right now, I suspect the moment wouldn't be too big for him. Expect him to climb up boards as the draft season progresses.

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