This article is part of our NFL Draft series.
Since draft placement generally predicts opportunity, the following quarterbacks are ranked according to their projected draft order. Look for a revised version of this article, as well as our other pre-Combine rankings, some time shortly after the Combine.
Look for the WR/TE articles to be posted in roughly one week. The running back article is up at this address ––> http://www.rotowire.com/football/showArticle.htm?id=26932
1. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State (6-5, 233)
It's not often you see an FCS quarterback that missed most of his final season ranked as the top signal caller in his draft class, but that's where we are with Wentz. In Wentz, you have the prototypical size at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds to go with a strong arm and a surprising bit of mobility. Wentz demonstrates an ability to use all of those gifts to his advantage, proving big enough to outmuscle pass rushers and elusive enough to throw on the run outside the pocket. He can be creative with his ability to change arm angles as a way of getting the ball to his intended target and around defenders. The delivery can look unorthodox at times, yet Wentz usually maintains its compactness and quickness. Between the strong arm and sound delivery, Wentz has the ability to zip the ball through small windows.
There will be questions about Wentz's level of competition and his relative lack of playing time (23 career starts), but in fairness, those are less concerning than the issues that can be raised about the other signal callers in this class. The skepticism with which some viewed Wentz entering Senior Bowl Week seems to be a distant memory as he checked all the boxes in Mobile, and he heads into the Combine with more momentum than any other quarterback in the class.
Birth date: 12/30/1992 (23)
Comparison: Joe Flacco
Projected Round: 1 (top 10)
2. Jared Goff, California* (6-4, 210)
Although Goff may have been overtaken for the top quarterback spot by Wentz, he's certainly no slouch and he demonstrated legitimate first-round ability during his time at California. Goff won the starting job at Cal as a true freshman and never relinquished the role. Rather than filling a game-manager type role as a first-year starter, Goff was tasked with handling the offense and did so with savvy and maturity, completing 318 of his 529 passes (60.1 percent) in 2013 for 3,488 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He only improved from there, bumping his completion percentage up to 62.1 in 2014 and 64.5 in 2015 while upping his touchdowns to 35 and then 43. In watching Goff's tape, you see a poised quarterback that can get the ball downfield with pinpoint accuracy; he drops the ball into spots where only his receivers are in position to make the play.
Goff doesn't enter this draft process without his share of question marks, however. Although he checks the box in terms of height at 6-foot-4, he is on the slimmer side at 210 and will likely need to add to his lanky frame to hold up against NFL defensive fronts. Also, although his arm is certainly above average and will play in the pros, it's not the same type of howitzer many prefer in a top-of-the-class quarterback. Still, Goff comes across as a polished, pro-ready prospect on tape that has a knack for the game that is uncommon for his age.
Birthdate: 10/14/1994 (21)
Comparison: Chad Pennington
Projected Round: 1 (top 10)
3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis* (6-7, 245)
Lynch is one of the more mercurial prospects in this year's class. He began the year as somewhat of an afterthought, but as the season progressed and he led Memphis to that signature win over Ole Miss, the noise surrounding him got louder. He completed 39 of his 54 passes against the Rebels (72.2 percent) for 384 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in that contest en route to the upset. His size and arm strength make him tough to ignore and his leadership helped make Memphis one of the Cinderella stories over the first few months of the season. However, the impressive stats against Ole Miss seemingly serve to cover up the fact that he threw some interceptable passes in that contest on which the Rebels failed to capitalize. There were instances where he trusted his arm too much and fell away from his throws, leading to some inaccurate passes.
And then there's the matter of Lynch's performance against Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl, where all of his negative tendencies were exposed at once by an average defense as he went 16-for-37 for 108 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. Granted, one game does not make or break a prospect. However, it wasn't exactly a great impression to leave in his final collegiate game. He enters the combine as our third-ranked quarterback, but there is a chance for him to get overtaken by another signal caller.
Birth date: 2/12/1994 (22)
Comparison: Josh Freeman
Projected Round: 1-2
4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State* (6-4, 228)
Once projected as an eventual first overall pick, Hackenberg's fall has been a head-scratching ride that left many, including myself, to wonder whether another year at Penn State would have helped his stock. Like the other quarterbacks listed ahead of him, Hackenberg has the size and arm strength you'd look for in a future NFL quarterback, but his production at the college level lagged far behind that of his competition.
Hackenberg's freshman season was easily his finest as he earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors by completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. However, after Allen Robinson split for the draft and a new coaching staff came to Happy Valley, Hackenberg never reached that same level of productivity. To be fair, the offensive line play his last two years was poor, leading to Hackenberg getting sacked 44 and 38 times in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Still, some of those sacks can be attributed to Hackenberg holding the ball too long and having shaky pocket awareness on occasion. His completion percentages dropped each season, from 58.9 percent in 2013 to 55.8 percent in 2014 and then bottoming out at 53.5 this season – a disturbing trend. Hackenberg does have some favorable traits and he still shows the occasional flash of his potential by standing in the pocket and fitting the ball into tight windows, but the regression he showed in college implies he'll be a project.
Birth date: 2/14/1995 (21)
Comparison: Chad Hutchinson
Projected Round: 2-3
5. Cardale Jones, Ohio State (6-5, 250)
Jones' rise to prominence that culminated in Ohio State taking home the title in the first ever College Football Playoff had many wondering whether he should declare for the 2015 draft despite having just three starts under his belt. With the type of impact he had on those three games, against some of the best teams in the nation, he very well could have cashed in on a reasonably high selection at the draft. However, he opted to stay one last year in Columbus, and the results were mixed.
Jones opened 2015 as starter but ultimately lost his starting gig to 2014 regular season hero J.T Barrett. With that said, the quarterback situation at Ohio State this season was difficult for the coaching staff to properly manage given there were two highly qualified candidates for the job. It truly felt like the old adage "if you have two quarterbacks, you have none," could have been based on the 2015 Buckeyes. Having to look over your shoulder any time you go three and out does not help a quarterback's confidence.
With the limited game film there is on Jones, there are still almost as many questions as there are answers with him. What we do know is that he has an unbelievable arm that lives up to the "12 Gauge" moniker, but he can also put touch on the ball and throws one of the best deep balls of any signal caller in this class. We do know that he is massive and will be a load to bring down, but he's mobile and strong enough to pick up a first down with his legs if need be. But beyond that, it's all a guess.
In the end, Jones is as intriguing as any prospect given his immense natural talent that will garner attention from scouts. It's about connecting the dots and finding out the answers to the other questions: can he succeed in a pro-style system? Is he accurate enough? Can he read an NFL defense? Despite the various uncertainties around him, Jones should be worth a selection from a team that can be patient with him and develop him before rushing him onto the field.
Birth date: 9/29/1993 (22)
Comparison: Daunte Culpepper
Projected Round: 2-3
6. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (6-2, 230)
It was once widely presumed that Prescott would need to make a switch to another position to play in the NFL, but a strong senior season has evaluators revisiting Prescott's tape. Prescott dug in and showed some serious quarterbacking chops, standing in the pocket to make throws and relying less on his legs. After averaging 1.89 pass attempts for each rush attempt in 2014, Prescott's 2015 ratio of passes to carries elevated to 2.98-to-1, all while bumping up his completion percentage from 61.6 to 66.2 over those two years.
Plenty was asked of Prescott this season, especially without a truly reliable running game behind him (he was the team's leading rusher), and he delivered by finishing third in the SEC in touchdown passes (29), third in YPA (8.0), second in yards per game (291), and second in completion percentage, all while throwing just five interceptions. He built off that in-season success with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl as well, earning Most Outstanding Player honors. His size is good, he possesses a strong arm to go with excellent mobility, and he has the leadership, awareness, and poise one looks for in a quarterback. There will be knocks on the system he ran and his occasional inaccuracy when pushing the ball down field, but Prescott figures to win over many coaches with his character, and he should interest teams in the third-round range.
Birth Date: 7/29/1993 (23)
Comparison: Tim Tebow
Projected Round: 3
7. Connor Cook, Michigan State (6-4, 220)
Cook is one of the more well-known quarterbacks in this year's crop after accruing a 34-5 record in three seasons as a starter that included trips to the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and the College Football Playoff. He was consistent throughout his career, throwing 22, 24, and 24 touchdowns in his three seasons as the starter, never throwing more than eight interceptions in any of those campaigns. Running a pro-style system at Michigan State, he may have less of a learning curve in adjusting to learning the playbook at the next level than some of the other members of this class.
All of that said, Cook is not without his flaws. His arm strength is not quite on par with the other quarterbacks ranked ahead of him. He didn't take many noticeable steps forward in any of his years as a starter; his production never went to the next level despite increased comfort level in the offense and chemistry/comfort level with his supporting cast. In each of the past two seasons, Cook seemed prone to fixating on one of his receivers and ignoring the rest of his options. In 2014, Tony Lippett led the way with 65 receptions while the second-leading receiver, Aaron Burbridge, caught 29. In 2015, Burbridge was Cook's top target, catching 85 of his 138 targets while the second most targeted wideout was Macgarrett Kings with 38 catches on 79 targets. That tendency to focus on just one receiver will be something that he needs to work on at the next level. It's also concerning that Cook finished his career with a completion percentage of just 57.5 – for some perspective on that, consider how prior starting Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins posted a completion percentage of 64.1.
In all, Cook may be more pro-ready in some areas than other members of this class, but his ceiling is not as high and he'll need to put on a show at the combine to reverse the direction of his draft stock, which has been on a downward trend.
Birth date: 1/29/1993 (23)
Comparison: Kyle Orton
Projected Round: 3-4
8. Kevin Hogan, Stanford (6-4, 218)
Taking over the reins as the starting quarterback in the shadow of an all-time quarterback like Andrew Luck is no small task, but Hogan proved to be up to the challenge as he seized control of the starting job against Colorado in 2012 and never relinquished the role at Stanford. His collegiate accolades are impressive. Hogan's 36-10 record set the all-time mark in wins in Stanford history, and he led the Cardinal to three Rose Bowls in four years while earning All-Pac-12 second team honors as a redshirt senior.
However, the knock on Hogan entering the year was that he was more of a game-manager type who would lack the accuracy to project as an NFL starter. Hogan changed that narrative this season by setting personal-bests for touchdowns (28), completion percentage (67.8, ranking 5th in FBS), and passer rating (171.03). While Hogan has a strong build to go with a strong arm and solid athleticism, he also has a lengthy delivery that will likely drop him down draft boards. His delivery involves an elongated wind-up starting almost at the waist that drums up memories of Byron Leftwich, and that will leave him vulnerable to strip sacks at the next level.
Birth date: 10/20/1992 (23)
Comparison: Dan LeFevour
Projected Round: 4-5
9. Jacob Coker, Alabama (6-5, 232)
Coker's path to leading the Crimson Tide to the National Title this year was an interesting one. After serving as the backup to Jameis Winston in 2013 at Florida State, Coker transferred to his native Alabama to compete for the starting job for the Tide in '14. His pedigree and fit for a Lane Kiffin offense made him a likely candidate to win the job, but he was ultimately beaten out by Blake Sims. Persistence paid off for Coker, however, as he was able to lock down the starting job out of fall camp and started all-but one game, going undefeated as the starter and winning a championship.
Whether he was necessary for Alabama's national championship run is certainly debatable considering the presence of record-setting Heisman winner Derrick Henry and the unbelievable play of Alabama's defense and special teams units. While those are fair questions to ask, Coker stepped up on the biggest stage, playing his best game in the Playoff semifinal against Michigan State. The Spartans spent all of their defensive energy slowing down Henry (and held him to 3.75 YPC) and daring Coker to beat them, which he did. He was adept in evading pressure and hit Calvin Ridley on scoring plays of six and 50 yards to help ice the game.
The bottom line is that Coker was a serviceable quarterback at the college level that has the frame and arm that are NFL caliber, but he doesn't have any one trait that really distinguishes him, and it's concerning that he couldn't win a starting role until barely doing so in his final collegiate season.
Birth date: 9/22/1992 (23)
Comparison: John Navarre
Projected round: 5
10. Vernon Adams, Oregon (5-11, 195)
Due to some eligibility hiccups that prevented Adams from getting a full offseason with the Ducks as a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington, the former FCS quarterback had limited time to win the starting job when he arrived on campus in August. Despite the time constraints, Adams beat out Jeff Lockie and earned the starting job for Week 1. Unfortunately, he broke his index finger on his throwing hand against his alma mater that week, and he was noticeably limited for much of the first half of the season as a result.
The Vernon Adams that Oregon fans were expecting officially arrived when the Ducks beat Arizona State on the road in triple overtime on Oct. 29, when he threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns. From there, he dialed it in and was one of the scariest quarterbacks in the nation the rest of the way. In that six game stretch beginning with the Arizona State thriller, Adams completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 2,062 yards, 20 touchdowns, and three interceptions. At the peak of his powers, he shredded USC for a record six touchdown passes in a 48-28 win that wasn't as close as the score may suggest.
He finished off the year at the East-West Shrine Game by throwing for 191 yards and three scores on only nine attempts. While Adams' command of the game and excellent production down the stretch warrant recognition, his stature will bring scrutiny at the combine. Those drawing the all-too-convenient Russell Wilson comparison based on height and running ability alone are ignoring the fact that Wilson's 10 ¼ in. hands made his height less of an issue for scouts. Adams is 5-11 with a slight build, smaller hands, and an arm that isn't quite up to par with the likes of Wilson.
Birth Date:1/3/1993 (23)
Comparison: Aaron Murray
Projected Round: 5-6
11. Brandon Allen, Arkansas (6-1, 212)
Allen was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the SEC this season, completing 65.9 percent of his passes for 3,440 yards, 30 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. His strong senior campaign earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he looked good on the field, but his measurements will likely raise red flags from scouts. His hand measurement at 8.5 inches is below average for a quarterback as it raises questions about his ability to hold onto the ball when taking hits and about his ability to drive the ball downfield in less-than-ideal weather conditions.
Another critique on Allen is that his strong supporting cast and run-heavy scheme hides some of his flaws, and that is fair to a degree. Allen played behind an NFL-sized line and had not only two draft-ready running backs in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins at his disposal, but also one of the best security blankets in the country in tight end Hunter Henry. However, in watching Allen's tape, there are plenty of things to like. He keeps his eyes downfield and has good pocket awareness/mobility and he delivers a catchable ball to his receivers. In all, Allen operates with poise and polish and it's clear that he has a strong football IQ, but his physical limitations will likely make him a later round candidate.
Birth date: 9/5/1992 (23)
Comparison: Colt McCoy
Projected Round: 5-6
12. Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State (6-4, 236)
Brissett began his collegiate career at Florida in the same recruiting class as Jeff Driskel, but neither finished their eligibility in Gainesville. After Driskel beat him out for the starting job as sophomores in 2012, Brissett transferred to NC State and sat out a year. Brissett made waves his first year as a starter, throwing for 2,606 yards, 23 touchdowns, and five picks while adding 529 yards and three scores on the ground. He didn't really take a next step forward in his final season with the Wolfpack, however, posting nearly identical numbers (2,662 yards, 20:6 TD:INT) through the air but rushing for considerably less yardage (370) on more carries. Brissett's raw physical talent is intriguing, but he's liable to rely on his athleticism to get out of tough situations rather than keeping his eyes down field and hanging in to deliver a pass. However, for as great as his athleticism was in college, I'm not sold that he'll be as big a difference maker at the next level on that alone. Brissett will need time to develop as a passer, making him a definite project in the upcoming draft.
Birth date: 12/11/1992 (23)
Comparison: Kevin O'Connell
Projected Round: 6
13. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky (6-3, 220)
No quarterback in this class put up the type of numbers Doughty did over the past two seasons, in which he led the FBS in passing yardage in both 2014 (4,830) and 2015 (5,055). Doughty's Western Kentucky offenses ranked fifth in total yardage in each of his two seasons as a starter. Between his level of competition and QB-friendly system, however, Doughty faces quite a bit of skepticism.
If you critique Doughty in the sense that he's purely a product of the system like past NCAA passing yardage leaders like Case Keenum, Bryant Moniz, Graham Harrell, etc., or that all of his numbers can be attributed to the level of competition he faced, odds are you'll mostly be correct about his NFL projection. But Doughty did perform admirably in two games against SEC teams in 2015.
Doughty led the Hilltoppers to a win over Vanderbilt in Week 1, and fell 48-20 to LSU in Death Valley on Oct. 24. His numbers against the Tigers, on the surface, were more impressive that his numbers against Vanderbilt as he threw for 325 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick against a defense loaded with NFL talent. He was only able to average 5.3 YPA against the Tigers, on the other hand.
As it stands, Doughty is an unfinished product that has some tools that should enable him to be drafted, including: accuracy, delivery, football acumen, and experience. However, he is on the older side as this was his sixth season in college after being granted an extra year of eligibility due to an ACL tear early in his WKU career. He's not quite a Brandon Weeden-style 28-year-old rookie, but the clock is ticking.
Birth date: N/A
Comparison: Jason White
Projected round: 6
14. Cody Kessler, Southern California (6-1, 224)
As a three-year starter for the Trojans, Kessler put up serious numbers that place him in the conversation as a top-five quarterback in program history. His 2014 season was especially impressive, completing 69.7 percent of his passes for 3,826 yards, 39 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
He regressed a bit last season, however, and some of his weaknesses became more visible. His touchdowns dropped to 29 and his completion percentage dipped to 66.8, and though those are still solid numbers at face value, he was certainly bailed out by the playmaking abilities of his supporting cast. Kessler can deliver the ball with zip and accuracy on intermediate throws, but he struggles to push the ball downfield and he appears to lose composure when his first read isn't open and the pressure bears down on him. Kessler's pedigree and experience as a three-year starter in a pro style offense should not be ignored, but his physical limitations will make him a late-round consideration for the most part.
Comparison: David Fales
Projected round: 6
15. Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech (6-4, 230)
Driskel, like Brissett, began his collegiate career at Florida as a highly touted recruit. And like Brissett, Driskel transferred out of the program, but his departure was far more publicized. After enduring some major struggles early in the 2014 season, Driskel lost his hold on the starting role and was replaced by Treon Harris. Driskel's run as a relevant quarterback appeared to be coming to an end, and his confidence was noticeably shaken.
Once he got on campus at Louisiana Tech with a clean slate, however, Driskel thrived and led the Bulldogs to a bowl victory, putting up career-best numbers in the process. He threw for 4,033 yards, 27 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes with nine yards per attempt in his lone season at Louisiana Tech, thus resurrecting his draft stock. Still, one year of success at a Conference-USA school does not absolve him entirely of his past at Florida. Driskel has some tools (size, solid arm, good athleticism), and his confidence is back, but he'll still face a steep learning curve at the next level in all likelihood, whether it's as a late-round pick or as an undrafted free agent.
Birth date: 4/23/1993 (23)
Comparison: EJ Manuel
Projected Round: 6-UDFA
16. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana (6-7, 236)
Sudfeld had a decorated career at Indiana, setting school records for career passing yards (7,879) single season passing yards (3,573 in 2015) and career touchdown passes with 61. What's more impressive is that he only had one full season as the starter at IU after injuries or time-sharing scenarios with other quarterbacks. He has a sturdy build and large frame, but he has struggled with accuracy for stretches and he does not move particularly well. Sudfeld sports a solid arm, but it's not quite to the level one might expect from a quarterback his size. His size and production should be enough to get teams to take a mid to late round chance on him, but Sudfeld is by no means a finished product or sure thing at the next level.
Birth Date: 10/7/1993 (22)
Comparison: Nathan Enderle
Projected Round: 6-UDFA
17. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green (6-0, 219)
Birth date: 9/9/1992 (23)
Comparison: Connor Shaw
Projected round: 6-UDFA
18. Jake Rudock, Michigan (6-3, 205)
Birth date: 1/21/1993 (23)
Comparison: Riley Skinner
Projected round: 7-UDFA
19. Marquise Williams, North Carolina (6-2, 225)
Birth date: 10/5/1992 (23)
Comparison: D.J. Shockley
Projected round: 7-UDFA
20. Everett Golson, Florida State (6-0, 199)
Birth Date: 1/2/1993 (23)
Comparison: Diondre Borel
Projected round: 7-UDFA