NFL

2016 NFL Draft Top Quarterback Prospects- Goff Still On Top

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To win in the NFL one thing above all else is needed, a franchise quarterback.

Without one, expect mediocrity and years of failed expectations, and with one the sky is the limit on the amount of long-term success a NFL team can achieve.

Every draft evaluation is predicated on prediction accumulated by past practice and eyeing the future potential of each prospect. Obviously, everyone knows that know matter how good or bad a prospect is judged, no one really knows the ultimate value until they hit the field on the next level.

Below are some of the top quarterback prospects that will be fighting for draft position and the right to be the top quarterback (possibly top pick) taken in the 2016 NFL Draft.

 

Top Quarterback Prospects

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Class – Redshirt Senior

 

Five Previous Michigan State Quarterbacks Drafted

2012 – Kirk Cousins, Round 4

2007 – Drew Stanton, Round 2

2004 – Jeff Smoker, Round 6

1996 – Tony Banks, Round 2

1994 – Jim Miller, Round 6

Offensive Scheme – Pro-Style 

Height – 6-4

Weight – 220

Cook aims to be the 13th quarterback drafted in the history of the school and first since 2012 when Kirk Cousins was drafted in the fourth round. Cook draws a lot of similarities to Cousins, but that shouldn’t be an indictment on Michigan State’s current quarterback.

He possesses the desired size NFL scouts crave with a much underappreciated ability to run the football. Playing in the Spartans’ offense, he is required to make all the throws. Cook has above average arm strength, picks up quickly on his second option and demonstrates very good pocket awareness.

Cook plays for one of the top programs in the country and has had his fair share of both success and pitfalls in his career at Michigan State. He has all the tools to become a quality NFL quarterback and he is known as a winner, which can not be disregarded.

 

Jared Goff, QB, California

Class – Junior

Five Previous California Quarterbacks Drafted

2005 – Aaron Rodgers, Round 1

2003 – Kyle Boller, Round 2

1997 – Pat Barnes, Round 4

1995 – Dave Barr, Round 4

1990 – Troy Taylor, Round 4

Offensive Scheme – Spread Offense (Bear Raid) 

Height – 6-4

Weight – 210

Typically, Goff is playing out of the shotgun in a pass heavy offensive system at California. He is considered one of the top quarterback prospects with the ability to be the top-overall selection if a quarterback hungry team is vying for the top spot in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Plenty of generations of quarterbacks have played at Cal with a very impressive resume of success.  Aaron Rodgers, Craig Morton, Joe Kapp and Steve Bartkowski, the first-overall pick in 1975, all were Golden Bears. Goff would end up being a very productive commodity if he could resemble any of the aforementioned Bears.

Goff plays in a pass heavy oriented offense which immediately draws gets your attention based on the immense statistics he produces. That is the fine line in determining the foundation of Goff as a prospect at the quarterback position.

Eyeing his mechanics and adaptability to operate under center are critical criteria NFL scouts will focus on considering his potential long-term.

He possesses masterful skills picking apart defenses and may have the best touch and accuracy of any top quarterback available next season. Built in the mold of Tennessee Titans Marcus Mariota with a long thin frame, Goff has shown great toughness and durability.

Playing behind an offensive line that has allowed their quarterback to face adverse conditions has helped Goff learn to react quickly and show he can play under duress.

 

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

Class – Junior

Five Previous Penn State Quarterbacks Drafted

1997 – Wally Richardson, Round 7

1995 – Kerry Collins, Round 1

1992 – Tony Sacca, Round 2

1983 – Todd Blackledge, Round 1

1979 – Chuck Fusina, Round 5 

Offensive Scheme – Pro Style

Height – 6-4

Weight – 236

No other college quarterback is criticized more than Hackenberg and barring something catastrophic, he’ll be the first quarterback drafted from Penn State since 1997.

Predicted to be standing atop the NFL Draft pedestal upon his arrival at Happy Valley may have played some role in the harsh over-analyzed criticism he endures.

He does have his faults and position flaws that hamper his ability. He holds on to the football longer than he should and can go stretches during games with inaccurate throws.

Hackenberg above all has stopped turning the football over, which is a quarterback trait that can not exist. He has thrown only three interceptions (2015) after 10 games. Compared to his previous two seasons in which he threw 25 picks in 25 games.

Last year, he attempted 484 passes and finished the season with 12 touchdown passes. With three games remaining (including a bowl game), Hackenberg has 275 pass attempts and 13 touchdown passes.

A coaching change and lousy pass protection are a couple things that have hindered his potential at the collegiate level. It should also serve as an indicator of how good he could be if he has a better offense around him.

He reminds me of Atlanta Falcons signal caller Matt Ryan when he was leaving Boston College. Ryan was taken with the third-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

 

Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Class – Redshirt Junior 

Five Previous Memphis Quarterbacks Drafted

1994 – Steve Matthews, Round 7

Offensive Scheme – Air Raid

Height – 6-6

Weight – 230

Lynch may end up being the top quarterback selected (2016) with him battling Goff for NFL Draft honors.

Memphis head coach Justin Fuente was the former offensive coordinator at TCU and helped Andy Dalton emerge as a second-round pick and the current the starting quarterback of the 8-1 Cincinnati Bengals.

Fuente implements an offensive scheme that allows Lynch to spread the ball around. It also helps that the team’s offensive coordinator, Darrell Dickey, played quarterback in the NFL and both have had a big impact on the Lynch’s development.

Lynch will eventually inherit the role currently occupied by Hackenberg as the most studied and dissected quarterback prospect possibly available in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Size- he has it. Arm strength- not a question. He can extend plays with his feet showing a natural feel in the pocket when it is beginning to break down.

Concerns will be single-reads and his ability to identify and follow through his progressions and deliver the football. His mechanics and accuracy can improve, but that is the case with every prospect – None are perfect.

Lynch will be a very hot commodity moving forward and his upside could land him at the very top of the NFL Draft food chain next year.

 

Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Class – Senior

Five Previous North Dakota State Quarterbacks Drafted

None

Offensive Scheme – Pro Style

Height – 6-5

Weight – 232

Currently, Wentz is recovering from a broken wrist suffered in October. He should be ready to go if he plans on attending and throwing at the Senior Bowl.

He stands to be the highest drafted Bison player in school history if he possibly surpasses Steve Nelson, who was drafted in the second round by the New England Patriots in 1974.

The Bison are a run-first offense and use their dedication and dominance running the football to open up the passing attack.

Wentz has terrific size and surprising agility running the football. Taking over as the starting quarterback in 2014, he has rushed for 857 yards and passed for 4,565 yards. He will finish his career at North Dakota State with a 19-3 overall record.

A couple of other big assets are his legs and pocket presence. He is square with the receiver releasing the ball and steps into this throws and drives the football.

He’ll need to convince NFL scouts that his FCS background won’t limit him at the next level. That is why the Senior Bowl will be a terrific opportunity for him to display his skills in front of NFL owners, coaches and scouts.

 

Other Notable Prospects

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford

Liam Nadler, QB, Gannon

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State

 


About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates College2Pro.com. He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.