The Combine is fast approaching, with Day 1 starting on February 28th. With that, it’s time to start breaking down this year’s top prospects. I’ll be starting off with what might be the weakest position of this year’s class, quarterback. Lacking an Andrew Luck or Cam Newton-type prospect, most of these players are long term projects. They project in a similar way to last year’s class.
5. Chad Kelly (Swag), Ole Miss: Chad Kelly is one of my favorite college quarterbacks. He’s nonstop entertainment on and off the field, but that off the field part has landed him at the no. 5 spot. Kelly is a great athlete who can escape the pocket, roll out to both sides successfully and complete throws on the run. His accuracy isn’t the greatest but he’s flashed the talent to have a successful deep ball game and he already works the middle of the field well. What he struggles the most with is decision making. He often throws into double coverage and has a hard time keeping safeties honest with eyes and body language. He also can’t stay out of fights or snapchats of him rolling up some pineapple. If he can stay out of trouble off the field and land somewhere that allows him to develop, then he has a real chance to become a starting QB. He will most likely be fall to 5th or 6th round and spend his career as a solid backup.
4. Nathan Peterman, Pitt: Peterman isn’t a big name, and his numbers aren’t on par with other top prospects, but he has experience and solid success in a pro style offense. While playing his lone year at Pitt, Peterman played second fiddle to James Conner and the running game. He was asked to take care of the ball and make important plays late, which he did with success. He is a limited talent and is more comfortable playing out of the pocket, but he projects as an elite backup QB. He has a chance to develop into a starter, but that will take a lot of development. He could get taken as early as the second because of the lack of talent in this class, but expect him to be taken closer to the fourth.
3. Mitch Trubisky, UNC: Trubisky has great size and speed as well as a powerful arm. What he doesn’t have is experience, which makes me worry about him. In a class that lacks elite talent at the QB position, intangibles become that much more important. Trubisky put up big numbers and he looked solid on tape, but there’s only one year of said tape. Teams don’t have a lot of exposure to how he handles different blitzes, coverage packages, or even 2 minute drills. Having only one year of starting experience at the D1 level, he will also be further behind than his peers in the developmental process. He could be a mid-level starter during his career, but I don’t ever see him becoming a top tier talent. Expect him to go anywhere from first overall to some point in the second round.
2. Deshone Kizer, Notre Dame: Kizer has great measurables, numbers, and the experience of being ‘the guy’ for one of the biggest programs in America. He is coming off a rough season for the team that exposed his one real flaw – he is one of the worst decision makers at the QB position. He has a great arm, solid accuracy and he’s one of the better athletes at the position, but he would often hold onto the ball too long or make untimely turnovers. I think he has more talent than everyone’s favorite rookie, QB Dak Prescott (overrated), and in the right situation he could develop into the draft’s top QB. He’s a great fit for Cleveland, where Hue Jackson would keep the offense simple for him while he continues to develop. Kizer could become a player capable of taking his teams to the playoffs, but whoever takes him will have their work cut out for them.
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson: Most people put Watson as their number 2 or 3 QB and have him pegged as a second rounder. His arm isn’t the strongest, his deep ball accuracy is spotty at times, and like Kizer, he can be prone to bad decisions. All the problems raise question marks about how good of a pro he can be, but when watching the tape, his running ability is a major boost and helps mask them, and these problems exist for only 3 quarters. The further into a game, he gets the better he gets. He may not always come away with win, but he makes huge plays in the run and pass, and no situation takes away his confidence. He absolutely destroyed the greatest defense in college football 2 years in a row, and when Watson faces top talent, he elevates his game. I’m not dismissing games against lesser opponents where his flaws were most prevalent, but if you watch his play against top 25 teams, you see an elite talent who remains poised and excels when the games is on the line. If I was a QB-needy team, he would be number 1 on my board and I would make it a priority to get him. His clutch factor is something that can’t be taught and it’s what makes him the only elite QB prospect in this draft for me.