2017 NFL QB Prospects

By John Laub
John Laub



      2017 NFL Quarterback Back Prospects







During the past three seasons, franchise quarterbacks adorned the top of the draft rankings: Blake Bortles (2014), Jameis Winston (2015), Marcus Mariota (2015), Jared Goff (2016) and Carson Wentz (2016). 


Unfortunately for teams in desperate need of a difference maker at the position, there is no clear-cut elite field general. Not since 2013 (Geno Smith, EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon and Matt Barkley) has there been less uber talent available. Nevertheless, demand for an offensive leader far exceeds supply, and clubs will likely pluck the top three prospects by the end of the first round in April. 


Who are the top competitors available this season? In order to assess the QB Class of 2017, both the objective (data and statistics) and subjective (eye-ball test) must be considered in order to rank the players. 


Since there are so many distinctive offensive systems, and the level of talent among programs in college football vary, touchdown passes and passing yards do not necessarily provide acumen into the player’s long-term NFL potential. Games Played, Passing Efficiency, Completion Percentage and Yards per Attempt provide enhanced insight in order to evaluate the signal callers. Of course, any assessment must include watching the player perform in games and on tape, and consider their measurables (height and weight).


After analyzing all of the available signal callers, it is a fascinating faction. A universal candidate like Andrew Luck and Cam Newtown does not stand atop the rankings; yet there are contenders at the position for teams to support. The top-five field generals in the Draft are examined below based on performance metrics and film analysis. 


Benchmark College Stats for Draft Consideration

Games Played: Over 30

Passing Efficiency: 150.0

Completion Percentage: 65%

Yards per Attempt: 8.0


1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson 

Orchestrated one of the prodigious collegiate careers: National Championship, back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances, and two-time Heisman finalist. Passed for over 10,000 yards, rushed for nearly 2,000, recorded a 90-32 TD:INT ratio and scored 26 rushing touchdowns. Poised and polished playmaker and proven winner. Led the Tigers to a 28-2 mark during the past two seasons. Effortless and fluid athlete who beats opponents with his arm and legs at all levels of the defense. Above average arm strength and makes all necessary NFL throws: Accurate on short and intermediate throws, identifies open man, radar-like ball placement, flings a very good deep ball and tosses a nice back-shoulder pass.  Throws well on the run and keeps eyes downfield, scanning for teammates. Excellent instincts and quick feet. Climbs pocket well to avoid rush. A natural open-field scrambler who threatens defenses with mobility. Uncanny ability to escape defenders with outstanding vision and quickness. At 6’2” and 221 lbs., NFL size despite a slender and lanky frame. Mechanically and fundamentally sound passer with quick release. Great release point and wastes very little motion. Throws well on rhythm and delivers pinpoint passes at times. Incredible intangibles: Confident leader, outstanding character, uber competitor, stupendous swagger and fearless decision maker. In 2016, delivered under pressure from media hype and fan expectations. Played in an up-tempo shotgun offense with lots of pre-snap and half-field reads. At times, can be tentative and accuracy and ball placement suffer. Rushes throws and can be disrupted under pressure. Struggled with turnovers, tossing 30 interceptions past two seasons. Intermittently, makes poor pre-snap reads and forces ball into traffic. A first-rounder who could become a star if encircled by a great coaching staff and playmakers on offense.

Key Career Stats

Games: 38

Passing Efficiency: 157.5

Completion Percentage: 67.4%

Yards per Attempt: 8.7

Best Performances: CFP National Championship Game vs. Alabama (2015 and 2016), vs. Louisville, @ Boston College, @Florida State, vs. South Carolina, @Virginia Tech

Draft Potential: First round 



2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech  

Produced back-to-back phenomenal campaigns in Lubbock, Texas. Last year in the Red Raiders Air Raid attack, led the FBS in passing yards (5,052) and total touchdowns (53). Record-breaking afternoon vs. Oklahoma: Established new FBS single-game marks in passing yards (734) and total offense (819). Tough competitor: Played eight games with sprained AC joint in throwing shoulder and five contests with a sprained, non-throwing, wrist. Both required off-season surgery. Reads defenses better than expected just not asked to on a regular basis in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme. Owns a big-time arm and might be the best among all the prospects. Very easy, quick and compact throwing motion. Ball zips off finger tips with lots of “wow” moments on film. Robust long-distance passer. Innate ability for making plays outside of the pocket and structure of the play. At 6’2” and 225 lbs., has the size and frame clubs covet. Underrated athleticism and sturdy frame. When on the run, makes daring throws: Will drive some coaches crazy. Manipulates opponents with head, shoulder and pump fakes. Good touch and accuracy. Drops ball into tight windows. A confident and hardy leader. Played in a simple scheme and rarely lined up under center. Not asked to read safeties and linebackers or pre-snap reads—coaching staff made all calls from the sideline. At times, poor footwork and looks statuesque in the pocket. Many throws are attempted off balance possibly because of lazy feet. Tosses passes at a wide variety of arm angles. Tendency to throw across body and the field. Asked to make a ton of quick throws out of pistol and shotgun: Did not make a lot of five-step drops. Competes to the whistle and hates to lose. Only 21 on draft day. Scouts’ opinions on professional career are wildly different: Some look at upside and see a future franchise signal caller while others foresee a loose-cannon who can’t play in a structured offense. A good and patient coaching staff could bring out the best in the rookie gunslinger. A boom-or-bust draft pick; nevertheless, one team will certainly roll the dice on upside. 

Key Career Stats

Games: 32

Passing Efficiency: 152.0

Completion Percentage: 63.5%

Yards per Attempt: 8.8

Best Performances: @Arizona State, vs. Louisiana State, vs. Kansas, vs. Oklahoma, vs. Baylor

Draft Potential: First round


3. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame  

During second game of 2015 season, took the reigns of the offense as a redshirt freshman. Finished campaign with 31 total touchdowns and 2,844 passing yards. Entered training camp last summer in competition for starting position with Malik Zaire. Won job and set career highs in passing yards (2,925) and aerial strikes (26). Fighting Irish endured a disappointing campaign, and coach Brian Kelly criticized Kizer unfairly at times. Prototypical NFL size and frame at 6’4” and 233 pounds: Impressive arm strength, great athleticism and mental toughness. A calm and confident leader who is a natural pocket passer. Arm strength to make all the passes. High release point and delivers passes with touch. Keeps eyes downfield and illustrates poise of a veteran in a crowd. Self-assurance to throw football into tight windows. Attacks all three levels of the defense. Elevated football IQ and reads the entire field: Vertically and horizontally. Fine touch on deep passes. When chaos erupts, can make plays with his legs: Totaled 997 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns past two seasons. Mastered a detailed and complex playbook at Notre Dame: Responsible for pre-snap reads, pass protection and secondary coverage. Innate ability to read blitzers and calculate positive plan. Shuffles and slides in busy pocket to avoid tacklers. At times, holds football too long and does not pull the trigger. Can make questionable decisions when eyeballs prime target after pre-snap assessment. Must increase ball security: 13 career fumbles. Struggles with accuracy and overthrows receivers at times. On occasion, poor footwork and over strides, throwing motion suffers. Relies on arm strength instead of mechanics. Incredibly high ceiling and could develop into a franchise quarterback with terrific coaching.

Key Career Stats

Games: 25

Passing Efficiency: 147.7

Completion Percentage: 60.7%

Yards per Attempt: 8.4

Best Performances: @Texas, vs. Duke, @Syracuse, @Navy, vs. Army

Draft Potential: First round


4. Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina 

Redshirted first year on campus and sat behind Marquise Williams for two seasons. Finally, ascended to the top of the depth chart last year. Started all 13 games and completed 68% of passes for 3,749 yards and 30 touchdowns. Also, rushed for 308 yards—averaging only 3.3 yards per carry—and scored eight times. Led Tar Heels to a 8-5 record but two victories came against FCS programs (James Madison and the Citadel). Single-season school records: passing yards (3,748) completions (304) and touchdowns (30). Smart and poised decision maker. Worthy mental acuteness: Makes good pre-snap reads and understands how to attack defenses. A progression reader of coverage and scans the entire field. Physical size and build (6’2” and 222 lbs.) to play at next level. Admirable mobility: Buys time with small and subtle moves. Good athlete who eludes pocket pressure and scrambles to keep play moving. Climbs pocket and remains focused with traffic at his feet. Rapidly resets feet and fires a nice pass. When chased by defenders, head remains erect and searches for receivers downfield. Manipulates defenders with eyes. Prospered in pressure situations: Over 45% of third-down completions moved chains. Tossed 24 touchdowns in the red zone during career. Good decision passer who makes anticipatory throws. Accurate pitcher on short and intermediate passes. Took majority of snaps from pistol and shotgun in Tar Heels’ up-tempo, zone read scheme. Inexperience reading defenses. Must improve post-snap mental processes: Struggles to recognize coverage. Like many young prospects, stares down primary target and locks into pre-snap read. Does not throw well on the run: Accuracy dips. Deep passing must improve despite NFL arm. Not a polished product and needs good coaching and time to blossom.

Key Career Stats

Games: 13 starts

Passing Efficiency: 157.6 

Completion Percentage: 67.5%

Yards per Attempt: 8.3

Best Performances: vs. Pittsburgh, @Florida State, @Duke, vs. NC State

Draft Potential: Second round 


5. Chad Kelly, Mississippi

Nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and two-year starter in Mississippi’s spread scheme. Dual-threat signal caller: Scrambles to extends drives and throws well on the run. Accumulates chunks of yards with his feet: Totaled 958 career rushing yards and scored 16 rushing touchdowns. A junior college transfer in 2015, guided Rebels to most wins (10) by a first-year quarterback in school history and defeated SEC dynamos Alabama, Auburn and LSU as well as five Top 25 teams. Earned All-SEC Second Team and named Sugar Bowl MVP. Last year, suffered season-ending ACL tear and injured lateral meniscus on November 5. Only played in nine games, tossing 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Leaves campus as the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage (63.9%) and third in yards (6,800) and touchdowns (50). Can make all throws required of a NFL starter: Strong arm and drives football deep. At 6’2” and 224 lbs., prototypical size and toughness. Sturdy pocket passer and courage with traffic bearing down. Intense risk-taker with aggressive nature. Impressive anticipatory passer who reads the defense well. Coaches chat about high football IQ and given responsibility for audibles at the line of scrimmage. Athleticism to make plays outside of play structure and recorded many “wow” moments. Designed runs to take advantage of running ability. Wants to make the big play down the field. Physical tools to be a starter in the league. Unfortunately, baggage and red flags decorate resume: Dismissed from Clemson, an arrest in Buffalo on disorderly conduct and maturity suspicions. Inconsistant performer and decision maker with poor mechanics and footwork. Eyeballs receivers and over confident in arm strength, forcing balls into tight windows. Despite off-the-field concerns, one team likely to grab the former Rebel in the final round of the Draft or sign as a priority free agent.

Key Career Stats (Mississippi)

Games: 22                                                 

Passing Efficiency: 152.3

Completion Percentage: 64                     

Yards per Attempt: 8.7

Best Performances: @Alabama ('15), vs. LSU ('15), Oklahoma State (Sugar Bowl), vs. Alabama ('16), vs, Auburn ('16)

Draft Potential: Third round 


Best of the Rest

6. Brad Kaaya, Miami

7. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh

8. Davis Webb, California

9. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

10. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech


2014 Pre-Draft Rankings

1. Blake Bortles, UCF 

2. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A and M

4. Derek Carr, Fresno State

5. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois


2015 Pre-Draft Rankings

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

3. Brett Hundley, UCLA

4. Garrett Grayson, Colorado State

5. Bryce Petty, Baylor


2016 Pre-Draft Rankings

1. Jared Goff, California

2. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis

4. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

5. Connor Cook, Michigan State

With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. Laub has played fantasy football for a quarter century and provided FootballDiehards.com with weekly player rankings for nearly two decades. He won $10,000 in 1993, defeating nearly 15,000 owners, and published Audibles: Winning is Everything in the 1990s. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar. 

Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: Audibles@aol.com