Quarterback is obviously the most important position in the NFL, and it is not even close. Teams lacking a franchise player at the position will go to great lengths to find that player, even in a weak draft class. The nature of the position and the scarcity of elite players at it demands teams to do whatever is possible to acquire a top talent. Which brings us to this draft class, where you could see Geno Smith as a top-five selection and Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley as first-round picks, only because they are the best available. By Thursday night, at least one team will have talked themselves into Smith, Nassib or Barkley as their franchise quarterback.
Here’s a look at the best quarterback prospects in the draft:
THE TOP PROSPECTS
Geno Smith, West Virginia (6-2, 218 lbs.)
Smith is the top quarterback in the class, partly by default and partly by merit. After leading West Virginia to a great start in 2012, Smith regressed in the second half of the season, but still finished with 42 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He ran better than expected at the combine, though he skipped the Senior Bowl. At this point, he could go anywhere in the first round, but expect him to be the first passer off the board.
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (6-2, 227 lbs.)
A strong senior season for Nassib has teams looking at him as a potential first-round pick. Though no one doubted his arm strength, it took three years for him to finally look comfortable in Syracuse’s offense, which he appeared to be in his final season with the Orange. With his college head coach Doug Marrone now the leading man in Buffalo, Nassib could potentially find himself a Bill if the college-connection was positive.
Matt Barkley, USC (6-2, 227 lbs.)
Barkley’s best season at USC certainly wasn’t his last. Injuries knocked him out for the end of the season, including the Trojans’ Sun Bowl loss, and forced him to sit out the combine. Though he was projected to be the No. 1 pick in this coming draft at the beginning of the 2012 season, many now question where he sits amongst a mediocre quarterback class. If he can regain the form he displayed in his junior season, he could end up having the best career.
EJ Manuel, Florida State (6-5, 237 lbs.)
Manuel is a player many teams are intrigued by after impressive combine and pro day performances. He has the size and mobility to be a real threat in the NFL, but questions remain about his effectiveness as a passer. A second- or third-round selection is warranted on his talent alone.
Mike Glennon, North Carolina State (6-7, 225 lbs.)
Any team that is drafting Glennon is drafting his arm at this point. No one doubts his ability to throw the football - it’s everything else that comes with being a quarterback that is in question. Glennon was the guy N.C. State chose over Russell Wilson, who transferred to Wisconsin for his final collegiate season. Teams always feel they can mold a player with an arm like Glennon’s though, so don’t be surprised when he is drafted higher than Wilson.
Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Collin Klein, Kansas State
Matt Scott, Arizona
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals released Kevin Kolb, and it was not because they have better options behind center.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills signed Kolb, but that will not prevent them from spending a first- or second-rounder on a quarterback.
Cleveland Browns: The new front office in Cleveland is not married to Brandon Weeden in any way.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert has not shown much as a starter in his two seasons. The new regime in Jacksonville could look to find their own guy.
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith is nothing more than a stopgap for the Chiefs, and Andy Reid loves his project quarterbacks.
New York Jets: See: Mark Sanchez.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders traded Carson Palmer and acquired Matt Flynn, who is not a long-term solution.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Michael Vick and Nick Foles are back, but probably just for this season. Can Chip Kelly find his franchise quarterback?
Tennessee Titans: Like Gabbert, Jake Locker has not shown much in his two seasons. The Titans likely will give him more time, but could take a flyer on a project.