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Zierlein: Is QB Jared Goff ready for what awaits him in NFL?

NFL evaluators have expected Jared Goff to announce his intentions to enter the 2016 draft, so it was no surprise that he confirmed he will indeed apply for early draft eligibility on Thursday.

So, what will NFL teams find when they take a closer look at Goff?

Size shouldn't be issue

Cal lists the QB at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but he has a slender build and lacks thickness in his legs. There could be concerns about his ability to stand up to NFL hits, but his frame also looks like more muscle can be added to it over time. In other words, he has NFL size.

Showed improvement each year

Over the last three years, Goff has shown steady improvement in every statistical category and in the technical aspects of the position. Last season, Goff was quick to dink and dunk when he felt uncomfortable in the pocket, but this season, he showed much more consistent pocket poise and awareness. Goff's yards per attempt increased from 7.8 to 8.9 thanks to his willingness to look down the field rather than opting for checkdowns.

With that all said, Goff has also shown a willingness to opt into off-balance throws when he has a chance to set his feet. This happens frequently with quarterbacks that are constantly pressured and have to learn to get rid of the ball from odd positions and angles. Learning the difference between when to make those challenging throws and when he has time to set his feet and deliver from a position of balance will be key. It should also go a long way toward helping his downfield accuracy.

Goff has the ability to lead receivers and throw them open when traffic is lurking. While Goff doesn't have a cannon, he does have the arm to make the long, field-side throws and he was better at stepping into and driving throws in the deep middle this season.

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Pocket poise will be essential

In terms of athleticism, Goff is able to scramble and handle roll-outs effectively, but he's not going to be much of a runner in the pros, which is why pocket poise is so very important for teams as they project his upside. Goff's decision making is OK, and his delivery and release are smooth, but I wouldn't categorize them as quick.

I would categorize Goff as a rhythm passer who can tear into a zone defense and work his way down the field with throws to all three levels. While his deep-ball accuracy can be improved, his deep-ball touch is outstanding.

In my estimation, declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft is a wise move by a quarterback who has shown improvement over the last three years and who has the size, arm and intelligence to be an early first-round selection. Goff will come into the league more game-ready than most of the quarterbacks in this draft, but if the team taking him isn't sure about its pass protection, it should probably sit him a year because his flaws will be glaring if he isn't protected early in his career.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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