Ranking the 17 QBs Invited to the NFL Combine

I’ve always been more invested in the NFL draft than the normal fan. As a kid, I’d have to be persuaded to watch days 2 and 3 of the draft somewhere other than my living room so that the rest of my family could get on with their lives. This year, I’ve finally decided to do some scouting before the actual draft, starting with the quarterbacks. Thanks to the guys at The Draft Network for their evaluations that gave me an idea of how to scout quarterbacks and to my roommates Luke and Nick for watching tape with me and providing some great insights.

1. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

Haskins is without a doubt the most polished QB in this class. You can see him call protections at the line, something that is rare among college QBs (most have their line point out their own protections), and that same feel for the game made itself apparent in his reportedly great whiteboard skills at this year’s combine. Haskins is an accurate QB with a decent arm, but his mechanics are improvable. He dips the ball just a bit as he throws, and doesn’t follow through on deep throws as well as other prospects in the class, which may have contributed to his issues with deep ball placement. I think that these are relatively minor issues as far as mechanics go, and it’s not enough to knock him out of the top spot. He’s also a statue in the pocket, and if he doesn’t set a solid base, his accuracy suffers. We’ll have to see how he handles pressure in the NFL, because his offensive line at Ohio State was good enough that he didn’t see much pressure at the college level. Grade: Top 15

2. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

Kyler is certainly the most exciting prospect in this year’s draft, a bona fide playmaker who can get it done with his arms or legs. He rarely makes poor throws due to solid arm mechanics and strength, and his deep ball is one of the best in the class. Obviously, there’s his ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet. There’s clear concerns over his build, but I think those concerns are overblown given the success of shorter QBs we’ve seen in recent times, that said, it did seem like the Oklahoma offensive line would split apart to open throwing lanes for him at times. Additionally, Murray often throws from a bad base and his foot mechanics are generally pretty sloppy, and he has a tendency to play hero ball instead of taking a checkdown or throwing the ball away. Then there’s his questionable decision making throughout the pre-draft process (not testing at the combine, then saying he’d test and get re-measured at his pro day, then doing neither of those things) along with some just weird interviews and the report that his whiteboard skills are “beyond not good”. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles blitzes and reads defenses in the NFL, because much like Haskins, the talent around him meant Murray often didn’t see much pressure and had receivers wide open down the field. Unlike Haskins, Murray didn’t show the ability (or wasn’t asked to) recognize blitzes pre-snap, as you can see the line point out protections instead. Grade: Top 20

3. Drew Lock, Missouri

Drew Lock is a lot like Josh Allen last year: a guy with an absolute cannon for an arm, which means he can make some splashy throws downfield, who will (in my opinion) probably get over-drafted. Lock has extremely high potential, and he’s known as a high character guy that should be able to step in and be a leader from day 1 if that’s what’s asked of him. He sells plays well, especially screens. His mechanics, however, just make me sad. He throws off his back foot way too often, crosses his feet on the drop on almost every play, and overall “is like watching Blaine Gabbert” according to Luke (my Jags superfan roommate). Lock stares down his first read a lot and throws to the sideline look like they don’t have a lot of zip despite his great arm strength. Under pressure, he kinda just throws it up and hopes somebody (usually either Emanuel Hall or Albert Okwuegbunam) makes a play, which will result in a lot of ugly picks in the NFL unless fixed. But just like Josh Allen last year, I think a team will fall in love with his arm strength, and Lock will probably end up in the first or early second round. I, however, can’t give a first round grade to such a boom-or-bust prospect. Grade: Round 2–3

4. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

We’re into the hot take part of the rankings, and look: I know Daniel Jones will probably get drafted before Stidham, but I can’t get past some of the things I saw on tape side-by-side. Stidham makes accurate throws when he’s protected well and shows good pocket presence, although sometimes this breaks down when pressure is in his face immediately. He’s got good mechanics and a quick arm motion that should translate well to the NFL, and he produced decent numbers in the SEC with receivers who had rocks for hands. However, despite his mechanics the ball takes a long time to reach its target, and given that he stares down receivers rather often, he might throw a few ugly interceptions as he learns to read NFL defenses. Ultimately, Stidham’s tape against Alabama looks a lot better than Jones’ tape against Clemson, and I think Stidham has a much higher ceiling than Jones. Grade: Round 3–4

5. Daniel Jones, Duke

Jones isn’t a lot worse than Stidham, which is why the tape against Clemson ultimately convinced me to slot him at 5 rather than 4. Jones is pretty much a finished product in my eyes: he’s got decent mechanics, is decently accurate, and doesn’t underthrow the deep ball even though his arm strength is subpar. He has a somewhat loopy throwing motion that could be improved, but I’m not sure how much that would add to his game. He played in a one read system at Duke so his ability to read a defense is questionable and possibly improvable, but I’m again not sure how much that adds. Other than against Clemson, he didn’t face much pressure, unless you count those resulting from him holding the ball for a century. Jones is a statue in the pocket even though he can make the occasional play with his feet, and overall seems like a prototypical Dolphins QB (tall, white, statue, game manager). So, if you want the Ryan Tannehill experience, feel free to get it with Jones. Grade: Round 4

6. Brett Rypien, Boise State

Hot take #2 is here! I love Brett Rypien, probably a little too much. Luke called him “Dak Prescott reincarnated”, which I think is a good comparison, if you take away the running ability of Dak. Rypien has great mechanics, with a quick motion that gets him accurate throws with good velocity. He progresses through reads well and leads receivers with his throws, although on occasion he will hold the ball a little too long waiting for a primary read to get open. Under pressure, Rypien mostly keeps his poise, but his throws lose some of their velocity when he doesn’t have time to set a solid base. Overall, Rypien feels like a guy that can succeed as a starter in a West Coast system where some of the concerns about his arm strength are masked. Grade: Round 4–5

7. Will Grier, West Virginia

Grier is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the class, and given the opportunity, he’ll cycle through his reads in a timely fashion. However, his mediocre arm strength is worsened by his slow arm motion, which is loopy enough that he’s usually throwing the ball down rather than on a line. Grier is one of the worst QBs in this class regarding hero ball, as he will take some bad sacks and make bad decisions trying to make a play instead of cutting his losses. He’ll sometimes abandon a clean pocket because he feels a phantom rush, resulting in him running directly into the actual rush and trying to force a play. Grier, much like Rypien, projects best as a system QB in a quick passing offense, as long as you can coach the hero plays out of him. In general, though, I don’t think arm mechanics are as fixable as NFL GMs seem to think they are, which is what slots Grier under Rypien here. Grade: Round 5

8. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss

Tyree Jackson is coming, I promise. Just wait. Jordan Ta’amu is another guy I love more than the general public seem to, and him and Rypien are definitely my two favorite sleeper QBs this year. Ta’amu is a confusing prospect: how does a guy with 4 receiving options that will get drafted this year (WRs DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and DaMarkus Lodge, and TE Dawson Knox) only throw for 19 touchdowns this season? Just looking at that may turn you off from Ta’amu, and I understand that, but on tape, it’s apparent than the blame lies more with Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s system: there’s like 3 route concepts in the whole offense (for more on this, you can watch Brett Kollman’s recent video on DK Metcalf, where he details how limited of a route tree Metcalf ran this year) and Ta’amu wasn’t asked to make any reads at all. If you’re still listening, Ta’amu has a pretty good ability to throw the deep ball, albeit with some placement issues (similarly detailed in Kollman’s video) and makes throws to the opposite side of the field well. He has solid mechanics and is pretty accurate in the short and medium passing game. Ta’amu is also an effective runner out of the RPO or while scrambling, and everyone knows the new NFL loves the RPO. Ta’amu shows a good awareness of when to slide or step out of bounds, which means running should be a sustainable aspect of his game in the NFL. In fact, his ability as a playmaker with his legs makes me wish he just escaped the pocket every time pressure comes at him, because his passing game under pressure is bad. If you watch the tape against Alabama or LSU, you’ll see what I mean. Ta’amu is a high character guy (Phil Longo is quoted as saying that if his kids end up as high character as Ta’amu, he’ll have done a good job as a father) and is the only quarterback who drew the defense offside with the hard count at least once in every game I watched of them. I think he has a chance to be a starter in the NFL. Grade: Round 5–6

9. Tyree Jackson, Buffalo

If you like throwing the ball over them mountains, you’ll love Tyree Jackson. If you like accuracy or good decision making, you’ll hate Tyree Jackson. I personally think he’s a fun watch, mostly because of the cannon attached to his right shoulder. Steve Smith had to tell him to stop throwing it so hard at the combine, and on tape it becomes apparent why this was an issue: Jackson has one speed when he throws the ball. He’s absolutely giant at 6'7 and 245, which helps him stand in the pocket under pressure, and he’s got the same boom or bust potential as Drew Lock that will get him drafted well above some of the guys I’ve already talked about. His arm motion is inconsistent to say the least, as it looks different almost every time he throws, and usually he just chucks it downfield instead of looking for a checkdown or even a running lane if the play starts to break down. He’s the most raw QB in this year’s draft by far, and you should probably only draft him if you have the time to let him develop behind a starter for 2–3 years. Grade: Round 6–7

10. Easton Stick, North Dakota State

I really wish Easton Stick was better, because his name is one of the best in the class (along with defensive backs BJ Blunt, Hamp Cheevers, and Rock Ya-Sin). Unfortunately, he has some of the worst arm mechanics in the draft, with a catapult-like motion that results in him throwing the ball down (much like Grier) and having throws to the other side of the field skip to the receiver. Stick also takes a lot of bad sacks after not feeling the rush or holds the ball too long trying to stare a receiver open against FCS competition. I found myself extra frustrated by these issues because I think he has a strong enough arm to make throws anywhere on the field (he has a pretty decent deep ball) and he’s adept at escaping the pocket and making plays on the run, so he shouldn’t have to hold on to the ball for so long. Stick does show flashes: every once in a while he makes a great touch throw or shows the ability to read a defense and make a play away from his primary read; however, forcing throws into tight windows and locking onto reads are much more common. I think that 5 years ago, and certainly 10 years ago, Stick was undraftable, but his skills and agility numbers at the combine lend him towards the hot trends in the NFL, so I think someone will take a chance on him with a day 3 pick. Grade: Round 7

11. Ryan Finley, North Carolina State

I hate Ryan Finley as a prospect. Yes, he’s an experienced starter, and yes, he’s got good mechanics and is accurate. However, he’s also got a noodle arm, and he stares a hole into his first read, forcing his receivers to make great plays against tight coverage. If that first read isn’t open, or Finley is under pressure, then he makes a poor decision and his mechanics break down. He has a hard time putting deep balls on his receivers, which is especially sad because he had Kelvin Harmon running routes deep. Oh yeah, also, Ryan Finley is 24. His ceiling is as a career backup, and if you’re a better prospect than Ryan Finley, you’re a draftable QB. Finley himself is not, at least in my eyes. The most positive thing that resulted from me watching his tape is opening my eyes to Jakobi Meyers. Grade: UDFA

12. Trace McSorley, Penn State

I hate Trace McSorley, too, but not necessarily for any reason that shows up on tape. See, I grew up a Michigan fan (both my parents are alums), and so I hate anybody from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, or Penn State instinctively. Then McSorley got a bunch of hype for being a good-not-great quarterback for a Penn State team that surrounded him with NFL talent (DaeSean Hamilton, Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and Chris Godwin have been drafted in the last 2 years, plus Miles Sanders and linemen Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates who will probably all be drafted this year). Then he puts up great numbers at the combine and people think he can be Taysom Hill-lite. Then people raved about how cerebral of a player he is, having been a three-year starter for a Big Ten team. You can see how I might have had Trace McSorley fatigue by the time I watched his tape, and to be honest, I think it confirmed some of my concerns. He throws 50–50 balls when the first read isn’t open hoping that one of his stud receivers will make a play, and while he’s effective in read option plays, maybe that’s because teams have to stay at home on Sanders and Barkley even more so the year before. He’ll also eat a bad sack if he doesn’t see a running lane, and doesn’t read the defense unless he has a clean pocket for a long time. This is most evident against Michigan this past season, where his offensive line got destroyed and McSorley struggled mightily. The Taysom Hill comp has legs, though: McSorley has a pretty good arm and has the athleticism to be that type of player. The problem is that McSorley has trouble with ball placement and accuracy on deep throws, and he doesn’t have the frame that guys like Taysom Hill or even Easton Stick have to run the punt protector-tight end-gadget QB package. Remember teams asked him to work out at defensive back, not tight end or a offensive skill position. His arm mechanics are decent but his feet aren’t, and I think that his strong commitment to playing quarterback at the next level instead of leaning into his potential as a gadget player will hurt his stock. Grade: UDFA

13. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

I like Thorson, because I have a soft spot for Northwestern since they’ve always been so bad, but I can’t in good faith put him above Finley or McSorley. Another experienced starter, Thorson is a mechanically sound and mobile quarterback that will make reads given enough time. The problem is that “enough time” is usually a few years; it’s much more common that he locks onto a read. His accuracy is suspect, I think because he throws flat-footed often, and he’s not great under pressure. On the whole, he’s inconsistent, and I’d be a bit concerned about his injury history (a torn ACL in 2017 and an unspecified ankle injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl). It’s hard to project where Thorson will be in a few years because of those factors, but I think the best case scenario is probably a long-term backup with a season or two of starts if he can iron out the inconsistencies. Grade: UDFA

14. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt still hasn’t had a good QB since Jay Cutler, and that makes me sad because I like Vanderbilt, mostly for the same reasons I like Northwestern. Shurmur has been the starter for 3 and a half years, and in that time he’s been fine: a game manager QB in college who projects best as a game manager backup QB in the NFL. He cycles through reads quickly, and the zip on short and medium throws is there. He’ll point out a protection every now and then, and his accuracy when he’s not under pressure is pretty solid, as he’s shown ability to fit the ball into some tight windows. He also runs the bootleg well, and the bootleg is an underrated play in the NFL. Unfortunately, his arm motion takes roughly a year to complete, and so throws beyond 15 yards similarly take about a year to arrive. He doesn’t recognize pressure well, and panics once it comes at him, which causes him to make some bad decisions. Despite the fact that he’s at best an average athlete, he’ll try to escape to the outside rather than step up in the pocket, and his ball security while he does so is suspect. That said, he is also the son of Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, so he’ll probably at least get a look in the NFL before landing in the AAF a la Matt Simms. Grade: UDFA

15. Jake Browning, Washington

Listen, I love Jake Browning. I’m a UW student right now, and I’ve met Jake a couple times. He’s a really nice guy and seems like it’s easy to get along with him in the locker room (his friendship with Myles Gaskin is the best, and Dante Pettis still stans for him on Twitter). I thought when UW benched him against Cal this year for fellow Jake Jake Haener that it was a dumb move to pander to fans that got tired of the winningest QB in Pac-12 history. That said, Jake Browning has also made me want to die on more than one occasion. My roommates and I had a running joke about building a robot that would pour a shot for us every time Browning threw a bad pick, and the fact that idea ever existed should tell you something about Browning’s decision making. He plays a lot of hero ball, even though he’s not particularly elusive, mostly because he doesn’t have a great feel for pressure off the edge. He has good feet entering his drop, and he reads defenses well when he’s not running for his life. Occasionally, he’ll make a great touch throw, but more often than not throws beyond ten yards require good or great catches from the receiver to be completed. His accuracy in the short game is a lot better, but the ball takes a long time to leave his hand, which compound his lack of arm strength. Teams were reportedly impressed by the way he threw at the combine, and I hope that’s enough to get him a shot in the NFL, because I love Jake Browning, and I’ll buy the jersey of whatever team he ends up on. Even if it’s the Raiders. Grade: UDFA

16. Gardner Minshew, Washington State

Some people might see that Minshew is under Jake Browning and say, “Hey! You’re just a homer and don’t want to admit that the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year is a better prospect than a guy that got benched this year!”, and maybe that’s true. They’re of a pretty similar caliber in my mind, though. Minshew has solid mechanics: his arm motion is better than Browning’s, and his feet are good except for a weird hop step he sometimes takes as he drops back. He gets the ball to the other side of the field pretty well, even though there’s some questions about his arm strength. He’s wildly popular, both among fans and his teammates (and even I will admit his mustache is glorious). Here’s the thing, though: he’s exceptionally inaccurate. He sprays throws all over the place, and sometimes it looks like he’s putting his whole body into deep throws, which might indicate his arm is subpar. He takes checkdowns super quickly at times, but to be fair, that might be because James Williams was one of the best receiving backs in all of college football last year. Under pressure and outside the pocket, his accuracy issues get worse as his mechanics get iffier, and even though he’s not a great athlete I found myself wishing he’d take a few yards on a scramble instead of throwing it. His decision making is downright abysmal at times, resulting in a lot of bad interceptions, and he has the same tendency as Browning to try to play hero ball instead of throwing the ball away or cutting their losses and taking a shallow sack (the UW game is the best indicator of this, as Minshew throws a bad interception or two even before the snow starts really falling). I wonder, though, if somebody will take a chance on Minshew because the NFL doesn’t look down on the Air Raid as much as they used to (thank Patrick Mahomes for that); plus, I think he’s probably better than Luke Falk, and Luke Falk got drafted last year. Should he have been? Probably not, and neither should Minshew. Grade: UDFA

17. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

Have you ever wished Tim Tebow was right handed? If you have, you’ll love Nick Fitzgerald. Like Tebow, Fitzgerald is more of a runner than a passer, having tied the school record for rushing touchdowns at Mississippi State during his 3 years as a starter. He also has a long throwing motion and makes terrible decisions under pressure, just like Tebow. To his credit, Fitzgerald sells the play action and RPOs well (probably because defenses had to stay at home on Fitzgerald due to his running ability), and he’s got a fairly strong arm that’s accurate in the short game. He also locks onto his first read almost as soon as the ball is snapped, which in the SEC led to 30 interceptions in his time as a starter. That will only worsen in the NFL, and so Fitzgerald to me projects as a guy who might need to switch positions to get a chance in the NFL. Grade: UDFA

Amateur writer, mostly about football and the NFL draft. UW psychology grad. Asian-American.