I spent part of this past week watching tape of some of the best offensive players in the 2012 NFL Draft. I made a few notes along the way. What follows is my list of the top five quarterbacks available in April:
1. Andrew Luck, Stanford. The number one thing I am impressed with is his field vision. He has the ability to go from one side of the field to the other sideline to find the open receiver. I have seen him get to his fourth option, which is rare in a college QB. I have no issue with his arm strength. He can make all the throws with accuracy and touch. He also moves very well. He can slide in the pocket, reset his feet and then make the throw. He also can avoid the rush and make plays outside the pocket. He is the best QB prospect I have seen since John Elway in 1982.
2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor. He runs a spread offense but did take 25 percent of his snaps this year from under center, according to Baylor coach Art Briles. I like his physical skills to throw the ball. He has a tight, quick release which is well coordinated with his footwork. He has a strong arm. He is very accurate on the deep ball with a nice touch. He is a very good runner and will look to throw when he gets outside the pocket. His offense has very few reads in it, but I have no reason to doubt he could learn to progression read. He shows good poise in the pocket. I have seen him stand in there against the rush and take a hit and not flinch. At times I felt he did not throw ball into tight spots. I would rate him ahead of Michael Vick at the same point in his career because he is ahead of him as a passer.
Note: Both of these QBs are smart and exceptional workers and leaders. Luck is ahead because he played in a pro-style offense in college and mastered it.
3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M. He has only been the starting QB for the past year and half. I like him. He is very athletic. He can make plays running and passing the ball outside the pocket. He has a strong enough arm to throw the deep out, which is a measuring stick for me. He has played in a pro-style offense and operated behind center quite a bit, which puts him ahead of many college QBs. Despite his inexperience at the QB position he has shown me the ability to go through a progression of reading a defense. I have seen him on a number of occasions get to his second or third option. His accuracy is above average. I like his ability to throw deep. He needs some work on his ball placement with receivers even though I like his accuracy. At times, he pats the ball before he throws it. This telegraphs his throws. I did not see him make many "wow" throws, but it is possible I might not have seen the right games. Joe Flacco went No. 18 and Josh Freeman went No. 17 in the first round. I liked both of those QBs coming out, but I would rate Tannehill ahead of them.
NFL.com's Mock Draft Central
With the combine now in the rearview, NFL.com analysts unveil their attempts at projecting how Round 1 will go on April 26. More ...
4. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State. It has been well chronicled that his age, 28, is a negative. This would influence my draft thinking and probably move him to the third round. When I watched tape of him, he played like a first-rounder. He plays in a spread offense. He has a smooth and fairly quick release. He has a strong enough arm and throws a very good deep ball with a nice touch. He also is very good at throwing the fade in the red zone. His accuracy is good, but he can be streaky. He shows good field vision and an ability to find the second receiver. I liked his poise. He is not very mobile and is not a threat as a runner. Should be a solid backup in the NFL.
5. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State. He looks very good throwing the ball. He has a quick release and a strong arm. His foot mechanics are not always sound and this will cause him to be inaccurate at times. He has good movement skills and can make plays throwing the ball on the move. He will make some special throws at times. Unfortunately, his accuracy and decision-making is inconsistent. He has better raw talent than he does consistent execution. This is the type of guy you take in the middle rounds in the hopes he will improve. Don't reach on him.