Ranking the NFL draft prospects: Quarterbacks

Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes is the top-ranked quarterback in the draft.

The Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn assesses the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft April 27-29. Included is each player’s height, weight, 40-yard time and projected round.

1. PATRICK MAHOMES, Texas Tech (6-2, 225, 4.81, 1): Third-year junior with a 13-16 record. “I may be crazy but when I watch his tape, just as a scout, I get excited,” one personnel man said. “He’s a guilty pleasure. We all have biases. Going in, Texas Tech, dink, dunk, dink, dunk, this guy cannot translate. I left saying, ‘Love this guy. He’s so much fun.’ He pulls plays out of his (expletive) like you wouldn’t believe. It’s not dink and dunk. He believes in his arm so much that it’s a problem sometimes. He’s not ready right now. I’m not comparing him to Aaron (Rodgers), but that natural sense of making plays when they break down is unusual. Now can he make plays from structure? That’s why he’s not a top-10 pick.” Finished with 63.5% completion rate and NFL passer rating of 103.8. Also ran for 820 yards and 22 touchdowns. “He is a great kid and willing to do everything,” said another scout. “But he’s playing in this gunslinger spread offense (expletive) that no quarterback has ever succeeded from, really.” Father, Pat, compiled a 42-39 record as an MLB pitcher from 1992-'03. Scored 24 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. “He has the best arm of the group but he plays crazy,” a third scout said. “I don’t even think ‘gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless. … I remember seeing (Brett) Favre in his bowl game his senior year. In that game he had three or four plays you thought were a little off the wall. Mahomes might have 20 plays in a game where you go, ‘What are you doing?’” Drafted as a pitcher by the Tigers. From Whitehouse, Texas.

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2. DESHAUN WATSON, Clemson (6-2½, 218, 4.68, 1): Third in Heisman Trophy in 2015, second in ’16 as Tigers split a pair of national title games against Alabama. “He’s No. 1,” one scout said. “He’s played the best in the biggest stages. His best thing is leadership. He’s a winner. He has to develop into a pocket passer.” Compiled a completion mark of 67.4%, a rating of 107.2 and a 32-3 record. Also ran for 1,934 yards and 26 TDs. “He’s got to be a better progression reader,” a second scout said. “He’s got a good arm. He makes some throws you question, but in the end he wins, and you play to win.” Actually played a full game on a torn ACL late in 2014, underwent surgery and was ready for the next season. “You can say he’s better than Dak Prescott,” a third scout said. “Total winner. Highly poised. Top intangibles. Lot of predetermined throws. Going to need a lot of work, like all these guys from the spread.” Hails from Gainesville, Ga. Wonderlic of 20. “He’s No. 1 just because he’s a better leader,” said a fourth scout. “Like the kid a lot. His character is really, really good. His mechanics are below average. He threw 17 interceptions this year, which is terrible for a first-round quarterback, and a lot of them were really bad decisions. Just throwing the ball up for grabs.”

3. MITCHELL TRUBISKY, North Carolina (6-2, 219, 4.66, 1): Fourth-year junior backed up Marquise Williams, a free agent cut by Green Bay Sept. 3, for two years. All 13 starts (8-5) came last year. “You’ve got to try with him,” one scout said. “He’s the best of the bunch. You just wish he played more. The guy he played behind was terrible. Kind of a concern. As far as the physical gifts, he’s got everything. He’s got the poise, and he works hard.” Completed 67.5% and had a rating of 109.6. Ran for 439 and eight TDs. “Has a ceiling to be a solid starter like Alex Smith,” another scout said. “There’s a smaller variance between his floor and ceiling than Mahomes. He does some good things but doesn’t get me excited. If he hits he’s like from 10 to 20 among the quarterbacks. Him being a one-year wonder is problematic.” Named Mr. Football in Ohio (from Mentor). Wonderlic of 25. “Can sling the ball but his feet get a little bit happy under pressure,” a third scout said. “I don’t think he’s a quick mental processor. That’s going to take some time. I don’t know if guys will rally around him. He’s got great feet. Not as athletic as (Marcus) Mariota. Rhythm passer.”

4. DESHONE KIZER, Notre Dame (6-4½, 235, 4.86, 2): Third-year sophomore from Toledo, Ohio. “Really good arm strength,” said one scout. “Can crank the ball through the tight windows. He’ll stand tall in the pocket. When he’s under pressure he doesn’t move in the pocket as well as you would like. Big dude.” Started 23 of 25 games, competing 60.8% for a rating of 98.6. “He should be the top guy but for some reason he’s not,” said another scout. “The tape is just incongruent. He’s smart (Wonderlic of 28). I talked to the kid. He’s got size, a good arm, pretty good athlete. Everything lines up. It doesn’t connect. Is there a fatal flaw somewhere? Maybe the game doesn’t slow down for him.” Ran for 992 yards and 18 touchdowns. “He’s a pure millennial,” said a third scout. “He’s caught up in being more of a quarterback image than being a quarterback. If he goes to the right spot with the right coach, he’ll ascend. They’re going to have to get him to focus on football. I honestly think this guy would do better in a small market. If he goes to a big market he’ll enjoy everything else that comes with the position. The one position in the building you don’t want to worry about whether he’s going to be focused on football is quarterback.”

RELATED: Kizer another Notre Dame bust at QB?

5. DAVIS WEBB, California (6-4½, 226, 4.80, 2): Beat out Baker Mayfield at Texas Tech in ’14, and Mayfield left for Oklahoma. Started that season but was surpassed by Mahomes in ’15 and departed for Cal as a graduate transfer in ’16. “I think everyone is a little bit scared watching (Cal’s Jared) Goff last year,” said one scout. “That puts the fear of God in you. But he has the potential to be a starter. Looks like an NFL quarterback.” Named MVP of the Senior Bowl. “He’s got a lot of things you want,” another scout said. “He’s big, he can throw it, he moves around good enough, he’s competitive. But nobody really has been successful playing in that offense.” Completed 61.5% for a rating of 93.3. Not a running threat. “He melted as the season went on,” a third scout said. “Better athlete than people realize. Plays in a junk offense. He could get in the top 50.” Wonderlic of 25. From Prosper, Texas.

6. NATHAN PETERMAN, Pittsburgh (6-2½, 225, 4.81, 3): Redshirted in 2012 and backed up in 2013-'14 at Tennessee before heading to Pitt as a grad transfer in ’15. Was 14-10 for the Panthers, 0-2 for the Vols. “The guy just has really good command,” one scout said. “Got a lot of poise, lot of moxie. Not the most gifted physically but the guy moves around well.” Completed a master’s in business degree. Wonderlic of 33. “Like him,” said another scout. “He’s a Brian Hoyer. Good, tough, mid-round guy that if he gets in the right system maybe he becomes a starter.” Completion mark of 60% and rating of 98 (111.2 in ’16). Marginal runner. “Played really well at the Senior Bowl,” a third scout said. “That’s obviously a big deal for a quarterback. Go down there and work in somebody else’s system with a bunch of guys you haven’t worked with. Then you go back and start watching his film and you say, ‘You know what? This guy is pretty good.’ Not a top-tier starter, but I think he is a starter.” Only QB to defeat Clemson (43-42) last season. From Jacksonville, Fla.

7. C.J. BEATHARD, Iowa (6-2½, 219, no 40, 4): Completed 58.1% for a rating of 87.0 and 21-7 record. Much more effective as a junior (95.7) than as a senior (80.8). “It wasn’t even close,” one scout said. “He’ll end up being one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. As a starter, he doesn’t do a lot of things by himself. But he’s got a good arm, he’s accurate and has intangibles. Athletically, you want a little bit better.” From Franklin, Tenn. Wonderlic of 26. “He’ll play 10 years as a second- or third-team quarterback,” said a second scout. “He’s smart as (expletive) and a great kid. His grandfather should be in the Hall of Fame.” Grandson of Bobby Beathard, the legendary GM-scout for the Chiefs, Dolphins, Redskins and Chargers who helped seven teams reach the Super Bowl. “In the games where they put pressure on him he just starts putting the ball up for grabs,” said a third scout. “He did play hurt. In the bowl game they beat the crap out of him and he kept coming back.”

8. JOSH DOBBS, Tennessee (6-3½, 217, 4.64, 4-5): Overtook Peterman in mid-2014 and held job for 2½ years (23-12). “Right now he’s not a good enough thrower (or) decision-maker but he is very smart,” one scout said. “He’s big, athletic, can run and he’s got a pretty good arm. They didn’t run a very complicated offense (so) it will take time for him to make reads and throw to the right guy.” Nicknamed “Astro.” Aerospace Engineering student with a Wonderlic of 29. “Just a great person,” a second scout said. “Natural leader. Not a good passer. He beats you with his feet, not his arm. Runs well.” Rushed for 1,502 yards and 23 TDs. Completed 61.5% for a rating of 88.7. “He had one of the most impressive pro-day showings I’ve seen in a while,” a third scout said. “He’s not without talent.” From Alpharetta, Ga.

9. BRAD KAAYA, Miami (6-4, 216, no 40, 4-5): Third-year junior started all 38 games (22-16). “He’s OK,” said one scout. “It sets me back when the coaches are excited he’s leavin’.” Finished as the Hurricanes’ all-time leading passer. Completed 60.6% for a rating of 98.5. “He’s a mystery guy,” another scout said. “Extremely talented but it looks like he’s got dead eyes. He’s like Carson Palmer. I see a guy who holds the ball. Against Virginia Tech he got sacked eight times. Their offensive line wasn’t that bad.” Two-time team MVP with a QB-leading Wonderlic of 34. “Hasn’t run the 40,” said a third scout. “Said he had a turf toe at pro day. I get the creeps about that kid. He doesn’t extend a lot of plays and he’s not going to hurt you with creativity.” From Los Angeles.

10. JEROD EVANS, Virginia Tech (6-2½, 233, 4.82, 5): Blew out an ACL at Air Force in 2013. Opted out of the military, played two years of junior college and went 10-4 for the Hokies last season. “He’s raw but I love his presence,” said one scout. “Off the field he has a long, long ways to go as far as the football learning and background. He really should have stayed in school. He’s big and strong and athletic. You like that he went there and took over the job and had a damn good year.” Completed 63.5% for a rating of 105.1. “A real project,” a second scout said. “Probably the same type of arm strength and same type of athlete as DeShone Kizer, but Kizer is more advanced. He’s got a strong arm but he has no idea where he’s throwing the ball.” Wonderlic of 21. From Mansfield, Texas.

11. TREVOR KNIGHT, Texas A&M (6-1½, 220, 4.58, 5): Started off and on at Oklahoma from 2013-'15 before departing as a grad transfer in ’16 after Baker Mayfield passed him by. Claim to fame is MVP performance in Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama as a freshman. “Knight is a bigger Johnny Manziel,” said one scout. “Speed’s about the same. Really good runner. His stuff is all on the move. If he goes to Canada he’d be excellent up there.” Went to College Station and started 11 games, ending career with an 18-8 record. Completed 55.6% for a rating of 81.5. Also ran for 1,467 and 18 TDs. “(Tim) Tebow kind of guy,” a second scout said. “An athlete who struggles to throw from the pocket.” Wonderlic of 30 and QB-highs in the 40, vertical jump (35½) and broad jump (10-5). From San Antonio.

12. CHAD KELLY, Mississippi (6-1½, 228, 4.85, 6): Grew up in Buffalo. Jim Kelly’s nephew. “He’s got talent,” one scout said. “If you only picked the last two games against Alabama you’d think the guy was a first-rounder. He had fantastic games against them.” Beat five top-25 teams in 2015. Started nine games in ’16 before blowing out his right ACL Nov. 5. “He’s dirty tough,” said a second scout. “Does have some physical skills. He’s also got some off-the-field issues that need to be worked through.” Thrown off the team at Clemson for conduct detrimental to the team and played 2014 at a junior college. Pleaded guilty to non-criminal disorderly conduct after a bar fight in Buffalo, then charged onto the field during his brother’s prep game and entered a melee. “Obviously, I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole character-wise,” said a third scout. “There’s a lot. I question some of his decision-making but he can throw the ball.” Completed 63.9% for a rating of 100.8. Also ran for 949 and 16 TDs. Blew out left ACL in ’13. Wonderlic of 22.

OTHERS: Cooper Rush, Central Michigan; Wes Lunt, Illinois; Alek Torgenson, Penn; Sefo Liufau, Colorado; Seth Russell, Baylor; Mitch Leidner, Minnesota; Brady Gustafson, Montana.


Unsung Hero

Wes Lunt, Illinois: Started five games at Oklahoma State in 2012 before transferring to Champaign, where he played for three different coaching staffs in three years. Started when healthy for Illini, but that wasn’t often enough. Compiled 83.1 passer rating amid the onslaught of injuries. Big pocket passer showed well at pro day.

Scouts' Nightmare

Alek Torgenson, Penn: Became Quakers’ all-time passing leader in 29 starts (16-13). Stepped up a notch from Ivy League competition with impressive showing all week at the NFLPA all-star game. Served as a heady game manager for three seasons in a lower level of football. Does he have the arm and athletic ability to do it in the NFL?

Packers' Pick to Remember

Don Majkowski, Virginia: Tenth-round pick in 1987. Nicknamed “Majik Man,” his one shining moment was Pro Bowl season of ’89 when the Packers finished 10-6 under his gutty, crowd-pleasing direction. Suffered rotator-cuff damage on a sideline hit by the Cardinals’ Freddie Joe Nunn in November 1990 and was never the same. Also played for Colts and Lions. Finished with 26-30-1 record and rating of 72.9.

Quote to Note

AFC personnel man: “You’ve got a lot of players that are either first-year starters in college football or upside-type players. Nothing that is just guaranteed. I see some guys going first round that will be back-end-of-the-league starters. But, if you don’t have one, they’re better than what you’ve got.”

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