When I went to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis a month ago, I thought I had an idea of which quarterback prospects could be Day 1 starters in this league. But when I left, it seemed like I had more questions than before.
Having gone through the process myself in 2002 -- as the eventual No. 1 overall pick for the then-expansion Houston Texans -- I know how much goes into being "pro ready" by August. These prospects will hit OTAs and minicamp in just over a month. They must be prepared to lead a team and show veteran teammates that they are 100 percent ready to play and understand the most difficult position in sports.
Here's how I see some of the quarterback prospects stacking up heading into the 2017 NFL Draft:
DAY 1 STARTER
Although limited in college reps, Trubisky has the best chance to start immediately. On film, I've seen him go through read progressions consistently. He looks from his main target to the next guy and sometimes even his third and fourth options. He also has the ability to tuck the ball and run, making a positive play. I think a lot of people are sleeping on Trubisky's athleticism. His build (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) reminds me of my brother, Derek, and Aaron Rodgers. People don't generally look at those two and see great athletes, but they can take off and run and are really good at it. I see Trubisky being this type of player.
Trubisky, who throws the ball from different arm angles, had a solid pro day, showing off his arm strength and accuracy. He has all the tools needed to be a Day 1 starter, and I have fewer questions surrounding him heading into this month's draft, which begins at 8 p.m. ET on April 27 in Philadelphia.
HIT OR MISS
Right now, Watson is wowing everybody with what he does on the board -- but what I'm seeing on film is a guy who hasn't done any of that in a game. It's one thing to learn Cover 2, draw it up and explain how to read it. It's another thing to go and physically do what you're drawing in a game atmosphere. Trubisky is the only one I've seen do this, whereas in a game, Watson stares at his first target -- and continues to stare -- while two others are open. Whether that's because of the scheme Clemson ran or because he's not able to do better, Watson is locked in on one guy. Once that doesn't work, he beats everyone on his feet and makes plays, because he's that great an athlete. I'm not guaranteeing he won't be able to start on Day 1. I just don't know if he'll be ready to do it.
The week before the combine, I was in a flag football tournament with Kurt Warner, and we played against Dak Prescott. We all know the success he enjoyed in Year 1 with Dallas. I see many similarities between Prescott and Watson, in terms of athleticism and the systems they played in during college. Prescott is a perfect example of how a system can make or break you. He rolled into a great system with great resources -- with Tony Romo, Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett all in the QB room -- and he was able to learn and apply his knowledge to the field extremely quickly. Like Prescott, I think Watson has the ability to succeed early, but he must have a perfect fit.
I'm most interested in Mahomes. He has the most arm talent of anybody in this draft class, but his success is going to depend a lot on where he ends up. Mahomes was never under center in college. A pro-style offense is a completely different animal. He has the pocket presence, and I could watch him throw all day, but he's just never been asked to do the things he'll have to do at the next level. Do I think he can pick it up? Yes. How long will it take for him to execute it? That I'm not sure about.
Going into the combine, I really liked what I saw on film from Kizer. He can get through progressions and stays poised in the pocket for a mobile QB. However, the coaches and coordinators I've talked to say Kizer is too robotic and programmed on the board. It's like he memorized the answers for a test, but does he truly understand the information? At times, he can move and play this way, too. I feel like everything is a little forced with Kizer and I don't see the fluidity with him like I do with the three guys listed above him here.
There are elements of the spread offense everywhere in college football, but four particular guys -- Miami's Brad Kaaya, Iowa's C.J. Beathard, Texas A&M's Trevor Knight and Baylor's Seth Russell -- flashed some pro-style skills that could translate at the next level. I haven't seen enough from these guys and don't think they could take the reins on Day 1. But I wouldn't be shocked if one of them were to go into camp, impress and come out a starter.
Take the top two quarterbacks from last year's draft class. Carson Wentz had a ton of experience running a pro-style offense at North Dakota State, and he came into Philadelphia and played pretty well as a result. Jared Goff didn't have experience with pro-style schemes prior to joining the Rams. Consequently, it took him a while to get on the field, and he didn't play great in his rookie season.
The four signal callers listed in this section have the knowledge and experience to run a pro-style offense, but they don't measure up, ability-wise, to the top prospects.