Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers drops back to pass against Ole Miss during a game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., on Nov. 10, 2012. / Stacy Revere/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 29: Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks at the scoreboard after a safety against the Syracuse Orange in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 29, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) / Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Rising star: Florida State’s E.J. Manuel isn’t getting much mention as a possible late first-rounder, but a few scouts think he could go that high.
Falling star: Some scouts like North Carolina State’s tall and big-armed Mike Glennon, but others seeing him falling because of concerns about his leadership and reaction speed.
Sleeper: Duke’s Sean Renfree is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle but has the size (6-31/8, 219) and competitiveness that give him a chance in the NFL.
Being Aaron Rodgers’ brother wasn’t enough to get Jordan Rodgers invited to the NFL scouting combine in February.
But combine or not, Jordan Rodgers will get a shot at the NFL, either as a late-round draft pick or undrafted rookie, after starting at quarterback for Vanderbilt the last 1 ½ seasons.
Jordan Rodgers doesn’t have the size and strength of his brother – he measured 6-feet-1 ¼ and weighed 212 pounds at age 24 at his Pro Day in March, whereas Aaron Rodgers was 6-2 and 223 at age 21 at the 2005 combine, two months before the Green Bay Packers drafted him. That difference in size and strength is the difference between Aaron Rodgers being a first-round draft pick and Jordan Rodgers being a likely seventh-rounder or free agent.
In a nutshell, some scouts think Jordan Rodgers has just enough arm strength to make it as NFL backup, but others don’t.
“He’s got his brother’s brain,” said an NFL scout who thinks Jordan Rodgers eventually could become a team’s No. 2. “He’s got some physical (tools) – he’s a good looking kid, but he just doesn’t have the arm strength Aaron has.”
Said another scout who thinks Rodgers will be only a short term No. 3: “No arm strength, none. But everything else you like on him. It’s just he doesn’t have any pop on it.”
Jordan Rodgers took a similar path to Division I college football as his brother, though he’s been less developed physically all along the way. Both attended Butte (Calif.) Junior College, where Jordan spent the 2007 season building up his body and then became a part-time starter in ’08 and full-timer in ’09; Aaron started in his first season at Butte and then transferred to California.
After Butte, Jordan Rodgers transferred to Vanderbilt, where he redshirted in the 2010 season after sustaining a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that required surgery. He became the starter for the second half of the 2011 season and all of last year, and led one of the perennially weakest BCS schools to an 11-8 record as a starter and back-to-back bowl games, only the fifth and sixth bowl appearances in school history.
As a junior Jordan Rodgers completed only 50 percent of his passes and had an NFL passer rating of only 67.8 (nine touchdown passes to 10 interceptions). He improved substantially as a senior and finished with a 94.3 rating, completed 59.9 percent of his passes and threw 15 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.
Jordan Rodgers reportedly had a solid position workout at his Pro Day but couldn’t run the 40-yard dash because of a groin injury. He told reporters that while training in January and February he ran in the upper 4.5-second to lower 4.6-second range, which would be a little faster than Aaron, who at the ’05 combine ran 4.71 seconds.
“Kind of a streaky player,” a third scout said of Jordan Rodgers. “Showed some moments (in games) where he made some throws just because he believed he could, then there were other times where you questioned his judgment. He flashed some good things.”
One scout Press-Gazette Media consulted had studied portions of all of Jordan Rodgers’ games last season and attended the Music City Bowl, where Vanderbilt played North Carolina State. He considers Rodgers a viable backup prospect and mentioned a key play in the Music City Bowl that helped illustrate why.
It came with Vanderbilt leading 31-17 in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-14 on North Carolina State’s 34-yard line. A 52-yard field goal was out of range going into the wind, so Vanderbilt lined up in the shotgun.
The scout talked to members of both coaching staffs this spring and said North Carolina State had called a blitz that had worked several times earlier in the game by forcing Rodgers to throw away the ball. What North Carolina State didn’t know was that Vanderbilt had called for Rodgers to quick kick.
But when Rodgers saw cornerback David Amerson lined up 12 yards off receiver Jordan Matthews, rather than at the line in bump-and-run coverage as he was supposed to, the quarterback audibled to a pass. He hit Matthews on an out pattern for a 14-yard gain that converted the first down, and Vanderbilt went on to score the touchdown that put the game away at 38-17 with less than 10 minutes left.
“That tells you about the kid,” the scout said. “As I watched him on (videotape) and then saw him in person, he’s not the most talented guy, he doesn’t have the best arm, but he doesn’t beat (his own team). He doesn’t turn it over, he gets them in the right plays, he looks at what you’re in, and then he runs the play accordingly. He’s very bright. He’s not his brother, no. But he has a chance to go to camp, and he could make somebody’s team as a backup. He’s good enough that somebody will cut a big-name backup and let this kid be the third (quarterback), hold a clipboard and see if he can get better.”
Top quarterback prospects
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia, 6-23/8, 218, Rounds 1-2
Was 26-13 in three years as a starter with an NFL passer rating of 108.7. As a senior completed 71.2 percent of his passes with 42 touchdown passes and six interceptions. “He can really throw the ball and he’s really quick, so I love that about him,” one scout said. “But his pocket awareness is poor, he has too many fumbles, 12 fumbles (last) year, because he stands there in the pocket and doesn’t feel the rush and doesn’t get out and run. There are some instincts that don’t show up that need to show up or he’s going to get killed.” Had the best 40-yard dash of all quarterbacks at the scouting combine (4.59 seconds). “I know Joe Flacco and Eli Manning (have done well), but in this league the rush is so fierce you have to have mobility and buy yourself time,” a second scout said. “The good quarterbacks are able to move a little bit. This is an athletic guy and somebody’s going to work with him. He’s a hard worker, regardless of what people say. He studies the game. He has a lot of athletic ability. If (NFL coaches) can make Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb throw the football, they can sure make this kid throw the football.” Lost six of his final eight games last season. Never missed a game because of injury. “A raw talent who has some upside to him and athletic ability,” another scout said. “I question his ability to grasp the concept of a pro style offense. Later in the year you saw his deficiencies when it came to true passer ability.”
2. Matt Barkley, USC, 6-17/8, 230, Rounds 1-2
Four-year starter had a 34-13 record and 100.3 career passer rating. “Went through two systems, two different philosophies and terminologies, and he didn’t do anything but get better each year,” one scout said. “He didn’t have a good senior year (statistically) and then he got hurt, so everybody’s questioning. But you go back and study the games, he’s the best short to intermediate passer (in this draft). He’s not really a deep-ball guy because they didn’t challenge him to do that. I like Barkley, he’s my guy.” Had an excellent junior season (115.2 rating, 39 touchdown passes, seven interceptions), didn’t declare for the draft and dropped off in every statistical category, including throwing twice as many interceptions (15) for a talent-depleted team. Some scouts think he has only average NFL arm strength, other think it’s better. “I just watched him in person, it’s not that big a deal,” a second scout said. “But there is some down the field stuff that’s not going to be as good as you want it to be, the deep balls and things. He’s not quite as fast as (Cincinnati’s Andy) Dalton, neither are very mobile for being on the short end of the spectrum. The thing Barkley has is a great feel for the game and instincts, and he’s got different arm angles and different trajectories. Dalton throws the ball with more velocity, can get it farther down the field. I like Barkley. He can walk right in and you can operate an offense with him.” Sustained a sprained throwing shoulder late last season and missed the final two games. Ran the 40 in 4.89 seconds at his pro day. “I think he’s got a pretty good arm, and he has some smarts about him,” said a scout for a team that needs a starting quarterback. “He was inconsistent this year, but I do think he has a feel and with a good coaching staff he’ll progress pretty well at our level. I think (he can be a winning NFL quarterback). It has to line up for him pretty good, he has to get in with a solid program.”
3. E.J. Manuel, Florida State, 6-43/8, 237 Rounds 1-2
Started six games in his first two seasons for injured Christian Ponder then full time his last seasons. Finished with a 25-6 record overall, in his final two seasons had an NFL passer rating of 102.8 (41 touchdown passes, 18 interceptions). “Absolutely loved him,” one scout said. “I think he has the most upside of the (top) three. I don’t think Barkley has a lot of upside unless he’s just such a charismatic Drew Brees-ish leader that he makes up for his shortcomings with intangibles. But Manuel, he can really throw the ball. He’s a legit 6-4 and change, 230 pounds, runs 4.6-flat and is just a wonderful kid, has his head on straight. I really like him, thought he has a real upside.” Sustained a broken left fibula against Notre Dame in the Champs Bowl Game of his junior season but finished the game. Graduated in 2011 and started working on his master’s degree in international affairs last year. “I like his throwing,” another scout said. “He reminds me of David Garrard. He can throw the ball all over the place, it’s just going to be about picking up the offense and not relying on his running ability. It’s going to be learning about working the pocket and finding the passing lanes, and then delivering a good ball.” His 4.65-second 40 was second-fastest of the quarterbacks at the combine. Rushed for 838 yards on 298 carries (2.8-yard average) in his career. “Much like (Andrew) Luck, everybody was saying what a great athlete RGIII was (last year), they didn’t realize Luck was a pretty good athlete himself, not just a quarterback, his measurables were better than think,” a second scout said. “That’s what E.J. Manuel is like. He runs better than you think, he’s a little more athletic than you think, has a little more arm talent than you think. I think he’ll be a pretty good pick for somebody.”
4. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse, 6-21/8, 227, Rounds 1-2
Three-year starter had 21-17 record and 90.9 passer rating in his career. Ran an offense similar to Buffalo’s old K-gun no-huddle scheme as a senior and had his best year (96.8 rating, 26 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions). One scout ticked off the reasons he likes Nassib: “Pro style offense, thick (build), throwing motion, stands in there under pressure, he can run but he’d rather stand in there and throw it. He’s got great command of the offense, you can see a lot of things in him that you see in the quarterbacks in the league today. He’s football ready right now. If I had to say two guys are ready it would be Barkley and him.” Didn’t show much athleticism for a shorter quarterback at the combine (5.06-second 40, 28½-inch vertical). “I hate the guy from Syracuse,” a second scout said. “He’s a strong-armed guy but there’s not a lot of (arm) talent. You watch (Aaron) Rodgers, he may zip one, he may float one, he may side arm it, he may be completely over the top. This guy is one throw: hard, flat, on a line, with no other possibilities. He’ll throw it as hard to a check-down as he will to a comeback. He’s tough and he’s very regimented and disciplined in his approach, has a great mind for the game. Studies his (expletive) off. Coming from a pro-style offense already, the (adjustment) isn’t going to be as much, that’s the impressive part of that kid. I just don’t think he has enough arm angles and different trajectories and things like that, and he’s 6-2 even and he doesn’t move very well.” Had 24 fumbles (12 lost) in his career. Graduated in four years with degrees in accounting and finance. “I think he’s untested and unpressured,” a third scout said. “To me he shouldn’t go until the back end of the second round and should sit and develop. He could be a Matt Schaub or he could wind up a Scott Mitchell, where he has a lot of talent and some productivity but can never win the big game.”
5. Landry Jones, Oklahoma, 6-35/8, 221, Rounds 3-4
Started every game in his four-year career after Sam Bradford sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in Landry’s redshirt freshman year of ’09. Had a 39-11 record and 96.0 rating. Former Colts general manager Bill Polian rated him the top quarterback in this year’s draft, but appears to be much lower on most boards. “I’m telling you, I don’t know what (teams) are being hard headed about,” said a scout who likes Landry. “The guy threw for 16,000 yards, where most quarterbacks threw for 10,000. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, these guys were all 10,000-yard passers. This guy was 16,000 yards. His accuracy is good. He had some (bad) moments, I believe it was coverage recognition, and he made some mistakes, threw way too many interceptions (52 in four seasons), no question. But you know what? So did Matt Ryan (at Boston College), he had a high amount of interceptions his last year in college, and everybody was worried about it. (Landry) takes chances, tries to squeeze it in a window, (but) he doesn’t make blind, idiot interceptions. He’s trying to compete. That might be the wild card of all the quarterbacks. This guy can play the game, he’s going to play at a high level next year.” Is the Big 12’s all-time leader in passing yards (16,646) while working in the spread no-huddle Air Raid offense. Ran the 40 in only 5.11 seconds. “He doesn’t have a whole lot of long-range arm talent,” a second scout said. “Doesn’t have much movement skills. He’s an extremely laid back, easy going guy, and you wonder how he’s going to be leadership-wise. Outside of that, he throws the ball real well mid to short range, he’s probably the best processor of coverage and routes and reads and everything that there is coming out. He and Barkley go through the progressions very, very well. But because of the skill set I think he ends up being a backup his whole career. I have him much lower than (third or fourth round), but I see him going in the fourth or fifth.”
6. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, 6-21/8, 218, Rounds 3-4
Had 15-9 record and 97.7 passer rating as a two-year starter. “Love him,” one scout said. “He’s got great feet. A little inconsistent overall production, but I like what he brings to the table. He played in the SEC. He got hurt, dinged up, and I wish he would have had more consistent play over the course of the season. It didn’t happen.” Took a medical redshirt as a freshman after contracting mononucleosis. Thrived under former coach Bobby Petrino as a junior (24 touchdowns, six interceptions, 102.0 rating) but wasn’t as good last year playing for a new coach and undermanned team. “Very inconsistent, technique is terrible,” a second scout said. “But the guy has great instincts, he feels the rush and slides and moves. You look at his 40 time and he’s 5-flat or something, but he’s extending the play just enough to make a play. He doesn’t have a lot of arm strength, there’s not a lot of zip on it and it comes out wobbly all the time, but the guy feels it, and that’s hard to come guy. He can extend a play, which is hard to come by.” Ran the 40 in 4.95 seconds. “Similar to Barkley, if he’d come out as a junior he would have been thought of as an elite quarterback,” a third scout said. “His problem mostly was a lack of protection (last year), he got beat up. I thought he was talented and a pretty good player, and I think he’ll be a good solid quarterback in this league.”
7. Mike Glennon, N.C. State, 6-63/4, 220, Rounds 3-4
Two-year starter succeeded Russell Wilson, who transferred to Wisconsin after former coach Tom O’Brien insisted Wilson participate in spring football rather than play minor-league baseball. O’Brien took the hard stance because Glennon had a big-time arm and was ready to play. “I think the kid is tremendously talented,” one scout said. “He can make all the throws, but he’s almost 6-7 and he can’t get out of his own way, and that’s going to be a problem in the NFL. No. 2, he’s not a natural-born leader. He’s a great kid, has his master’s degree. He’s the kind of kid you want your daughter to marry, ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir,’ I love the kid. But he’s not a guy that’s going to step in the huddle and say, ‘Listen to me you (expletives), we’re getting our (expletives) kicked, let’s get this (expletive) together.’ In 5½ years, he never raised his voice. He’s a very meticulous, very organized, brilliant guy. But he’s not a natural-born leader.” Received his Master of Arts degree in liberal Studies in December. “I don’t like Glennon, he can’t move to save his life,” said a second scout. “If you say how many guys over 6-6 actually play, none of them do. You can be like that, like I did (last year) with Wilson (for being too short) and be wrong. But the percentages, if you didn’t know anything about it, you’d cross him off the list. Not a commanding presence, just a Mr. Nice Guy like Opie Taylor. He’s not a driving force for anything, and he’s a long-levered guy that takes a long time (for the ball) to come out. Can’t move to save his life, so he’s making decisions late in the pocket with pressure because he can’t extend the play, so you’re going to forced into bad decisions.” As a starter Glennon had a 15-11record and 89.8 passer rating. “The thing I worry most about him in addition to being slow footed is he’s not quick with decisions,” a third scout said. “If you’re going to be a fairly stationary quarterback in the pocket you’ve got to be able to decipher pretty quickly what’s going on downfield, make decisions rapidly. He didn’t show that. I also worried a little bit about his performance in big games.”
8. Tyler Bray, Tennessee, 6-5, 215, Rounds 4-5
Junior entry became a starter halfway through his true freshman season. Had a career 96.8 rating, and as a starter a 13-11 record. “The best thrower in the whole draft,” one scout said. “He’s like Joe Flacco, effortless, absolutely effortless, would not tire in an hour’s worth of throwing. He’s a wonderful thrower. In six out of 12 games he threw four touchdown passes or more, I mean he’s a touchdown machine. He can change speeds, too. I like him that way. But he’s extremely immature. He’s only been there for three years, he’s a spoiled brat and doesn’t apply himself. He’s a below-average football IQ because he didn’t work at it. He’s a 2.1 (grade point) student because he just wants to be eligible. That’s kind of what he is. If he gets some urgency he could be outstanding, but he’s not and there isn’t really a whole lot of reason to (think he will).” Last summer was evicted from his apartment for allegedly throwing beer bottles and golf balls at a vehicle, then later was charged with reckless operation of a jet ski.” Missed five games in ’11 because of a fractured thumb on his throwing hand. “Tyler Bray, (the ball) comes out of there,” a second scout said. “And sometimes he throws it too hard on underneath routes because he had no touch. He had some off-field issues, but the guy has some physical ability. Talking to SEC coaches, he drank too much, he was a college student. He made some bad choices. He’s an immature kid.”
9. Matt Scott, Arizona, 6-13/4, 202, Rounds 4-5
Lost the starting job to Nick Foles after three games in his true sophomore season, became full-time starter only last year after Foles was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Missed most of his junior season because of a broken wrist, last year had an 88.9 passer rating. “He moves around, but it’s not like he’s running for yards,” one scout said. “He’s a passer first, which I like about those guys. You want to find out are they passers or are they just whatever. But he’s an inexperienced quarterback who has talent, he can throw the ball. He’s quick with the ball, snaps that ball out of there, and he can zip it. He’s only started for one year. He’s a legit 6-2 (but 202 pounds) is not starter weight, that’s why I think he’s a backup.’’ Averaged 5.4 yards on 212 carries in his career. Had the best short shuttle (3.99 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.69 seconds) among quarterbacks at the scouting combine, and ran the 40 in 4.69 seconds. “They’re trying to compare him to Russell Wilson,” one scout said. “While I think (Scott) is a great athlete and he has some skills — is he draftable? Yeah, probably late-round guy, hold the clipboard, develop. Is he better than Tarvaris Jackson? Yes. Is he better than a lot of No. 3s in the league? Yes. Is he better than some of the no. 2s? Could be. But it’s hard to say. He’s got skills and he’s very athletic.”
10. Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio), 6-27/8, 224, Rounds 4-5
Redshirted in ’08, then started 43 games his final four years. Had a 15-28 record and 87.0 career passer rating. Didn’t do physical tests for scouts this offseason because of a hamstring injury. Rushed for 12 touchdowns in his career. “Has more arm talent and he has better movement skills (than Landry Jones),” one scout said. “But Dysert doesn’t process as fast, he’s not as crisp. Dysert’s kind of by the seat of his pants, sandlot, run around. Dysert’s better on the move than he is in the progression, whereas Landry knows he can’t extend the play very much, so he’s really developed his mental from one to two to three read type stuff. But Dysert is strong, big body.”
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.