O'Hara's Draft Preview: Rating this year's quarterback class

Posted Apr 9, 2013

The first in a Detroitlions.com draft preview series from columnist Mike O'Hara, breaking down each position and how it affects the Lions' fifth overall selection

Geno SmithQB Geno Smith (AP Images)
Geno Smith's performance last year set a high standard for quarterbacks who follow him at West Virginia. His statistics were eye-popping: 48 touchdown passes, only six interceptions – and none in the first six games – and an eight-TD performance in a victory over Baylor.

But the standard that Smith steps up to meet as he awaits the NFL draft later this month is one that overshadows the 2013 draft class at every position, not just quarterbacks.

Quarterback is often a boom or bust position in the draft, and 2012 was a boom year. Four were drafted in the first round, and all four were opening-day starters.

Three of last year's rookies led their teams to the playoffs. Andrew Luck of the Colts and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins were the stars going into the draft, and they performed like stars after being drafted 1-2.

And Russell Wilson, a third-round pick who surprised everyone by winning the starting job in Seattle over high-priced free-agent Matt Flynn, led the Seahawks to the playoffs.

Ryan Tannehill of Miami and Brandon Weeden of Cleveland were also first-round picks who had lesser success.

The success of last year's quarterbacks – especially Luck, RG3 and Wilson – is the standard for this year's class.

"Those quarterbacks changed expectations for many quarterbacks, let alone rookies," Smith said at the NFL Combine workouts earlier this year. "Those guys stepped right in, including Russell, and were leaders, most of all, from day one.

"They set the bar very high. I want to be one of those guys that step in and do the same thing."

Most analysts rate Wilson as the No. 1 prospect in a 2013 class that lacks a franchise-caliber quarterback. One could develop over time. There are always surprises, good and bad.

Tom Brady, drafted 199th by the Patriots in 2000, is the classic example of a quarterback who exceeded his draft position. Brady is a three-time Super Bowl champion and a certain Hall of Famer.

At the other end of the draft spectrum is the 2007 class. JaMarcus Russell, drafted first overall by the Raiders, and Brady Quinn, taken lower in the first round by Cleveland, were flops.

Starting out, this year's class ranks somewhere between 2007 and 2012. That doesn't mean there won't be quarterbacks drafted in the first round. The search to upgrade the position and find the next star makes teams take chances on quarterbacks who don't have obvious first-round talent.

Despite Smith's stats, there are questions about his ability to perform at a high level in the pros, as there are for other prospects.

Matt Barkley has the pedigree from being a four-year starter at Southern Cal, but he appears to have journeyman ability. E.J. Manuel of Florida State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and a handful of others will enter the NFL as development projects who might perform well in the right system if surrounded by a strong supporting cast.

The fact that new Chiefs coach Andy Reid acquired veteran Alex Smith in a trade with the 49ers instead of waiting to use the first overall pick to draft a quarterback is an indication that the draft lacks a franchise quarterback.

When Reid became head coach of the Eagles in 1999, he used the second pick overall to draft quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb was his quarterback for 11 years, before being traded to Washington in 2010.

Reid was diplomatic in assessing the 2013 quarterback class when he spoke at the Combine in late February.

"You're coming off a phenomenal year of quarterbacks, one that doesn't come around very often," Reid said.

Following is my rating for the top quarterbacks in this year's draft, with comments on each player, other issues involving quarterbacks and where the Lions stand.

Each player's height, weight and time in the 40-yard dash is included:

Geno Smith, W. Virginia,  6-3/218,  4.56: Outstanding athlete, threw 42 TD passes against six picks in 2012 with a high of 656 yds. and 8 TDs in a win vs. Baylor; 26-13 won-lost record. Only certain first-round talent this year.

Matt Barkley, Southern Cal 6-3/227, 4.84: Small hands, lack of big arm are issues, and he never beat Stanford as a four-year starter. Shoulder injury senior year after electing to return in 2012; 34-13 won-lost record.

E.J. Manuel, Florida St., 6-5/237, 4.59: Dec. 2011 grad, returned in 2012. Played baseball and was a sprinter in high school; in 2012 threw 23 TD passes with 68-percent completion rate and 25-6 career won-lost record.

Ryan NassibQB Ryan Nassib (AP Images)

Ryan Nassib,  Syracuse, 6-2/227, 4.95: Muscular athlete and Intriguing prospect who might be reunited in Buffalo with college coach Doug Marrone. Double major – finance and accounting. Holds school career and single season records for yards and 21-17 won-lost record.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, 6-2/215, 4.93: Led his high school team to two state championships in Arkansas. Highlight in 2010 was relieving injured Ryan Mallett and throwing four TD passes in an upset win over Auburn; 15-9 won-lost record for an Arkansas team that was a wreck in 2012. Small hands are a drawback.

Mike Glennon, N. Carolina St., 6-7/225, 4.94: Russell Wilson's backup in 2010. Threw 31 TD passes his last two seasons to become the first QB in school history to throw for 30 or more in two seasons. Size is an asset, but did not test well in workouts, indicating lack of overall athletic ability.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma, 6-4/225, 5.03: High school star in New Mexico, throwing 89 TD passes in two seasons. Lions-related stat: went 15 quarters without a TD passes in 2011 after WR Ryan Broyles went out for the season with a knee injury. Posted a 39-11 career won-lost record with the Sooners.

Tyler Bray, Tennessee, 6-6/232, 5.04: Threw 34 TD passes in 2012 and had a 13-11 won-lost record. Another 6-6 QB from Tennessee did pretty well. That would be Peyton Manning.

Matt Scott, Arizona,  6-2-213, 4.63: In 2012, adapted well to the Rich Rodriquez offense, throwing 27 TD passes and running for 506 yards. Only 17 college starts, with 11-6 won-lost record.

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio), 6-3 231, 4.83: Ohio high school player of the year as a senior, even though he missed time at QB with a broken right thumb. Dysert played linebacker and receiver while the injury healed; 12 career rushing TDs for Ohio U, with a 15-28 record as a starter. Injuries hampered him often.

Others: Sean Renfree, Duke; Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt; Jeff Tuel, Washington St.; Ryan Griffin, Tulane; Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah; Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech.

Lions depth chart: Matthew Stafford, starter; Shaun Hill, backup; Kellen Moore, No. 3.

Lions QB draft probability: Remote. If they're looking to add another young quarterback for camp, it's more likely to be an undrafted free agent.

Draft impact: So many teams with high draft picks added QBs, that it likely will make prospects tumble down the board. Here are teams in the top 10 draft order, and how significant QB moves by many of them will impact draft strategy:

1. Chiefs: Acquired Alex Smith from 49ers.

2. Jaguars: They've done nothing, which means they're either set on Blaine Gabbert, intend to draft Geno Smith, or will trade down and take a QB later.

3. Raiders: Traded for Matt Flynn, dealt Carson Palmer to Cardinals.

4. Eagles: Their big move was holding firm with Nick Folkes and Michael Vick.

5. Lions: Zero chance of drafting a QB.

6. Browns: The previous regime drafted Brandon Weeden in 2012, and there are vibes that Geno Smith could be the pick. The Browns dumped Colt McCoy and signed Jason Campbell, a backup in Chicago last year.

7. Cardinals: Acquired Palmer from the Raiders, signed Drew Stanton.

8. Bills: Signed Kevin Kolb, formerly of the Cardinals and Eagles. Most likely won't look for a QB until the second round at the earliest.

9. Jets: Signed David Garrard, to compete with Mark Sanchez. The Jets are apt to do anything to hype the PR mill.

10. Titans: Signed former Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick as Jake Locker's backup.