With the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in full swing, I'll be unveiling my picks for the safest prospects at each position.
Defining a "safe pick" when it comes to highly rated quarterbacks is more difficult than for other positions. Only one quarterback can play at a time, so a high draft pick is either in the game helping his team win or he's watching, unlike receivers and other players who can lean on teammates while learning on the job.
There are high expectations put upon early-round quarterbacks, and there's often a lack of patience in their development. Plus, they often go to teams that lack a lot of top talent, putting them in a tough position to succeed. "Safe" is not a word I'd use to describe that situation.
However, it's also risky to pass on a top QB with the hope that your team can win without one. If one doesn't work out, good general managers keep trying to find that leader for the organization.
These three quarterbacks are my safe bets in the 2016 draft class. As with every position group in this series, there is a mix of top-rated prospects and others for whom I project a long NFL career without the early-round hype.
1. Jared Goff, California: Go ahead and scoff at Goff's slight build (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and hand size, he won't mind. He's taken his fair share of hits and bounced back. Goff's pocket presence and footwork, accurate ball placement, and still-growing frame make me think he's a good bet to be an above-average starter, even with 9-inch hands. Will he be an All-Pro? Maybe in the right situation. I won't bet against him.
2. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State: It doesn't matter that Wentz comes from the FCS ranks -- he showed the physical and mental characteristics that NFL teams want in a future starter. His combination of build, arm strength and ability to place the ball in spots makes him a probable solid starter. Plus, he is a threat to run for first downs against man coverage.
3. Brandon Allen, Arkansas: I'm not projecting Allen to be a top-five pro quarterback, but he's grown enough as a passer and leader during his time in Arkansas to make himself a solid bet to stick on an NFL roster for a long time. Allen can stand in the pocket to deliver passes downfield, as well as roll outside to test defenses with his arm and feet. Sounds like a very solid backup with starting potential to me. And his hands are growing!