Today, former Eagles quarterback and current NFL analyst Ron Jaworski ranked his top eight quarterback prospects in the upcoming NFL draft. Without a clear cut superstar in this group, there has been a lot of debate and disagreement over where quarterbacks should be drafted.
The Eagles’ quarterback board will look very different from most rankings from draft experts because Chip Kelly will likely run a unique system and value traits like athleticism more than usual. Not only will I discuss how well his favorite quarterbacks will fare in the NFL, but will also project them into Chip Kelly’s system, which is tricky considering nobody really knows what Kelly will do.
- Geno Smith, West Virginia. I was never a big fan of Smith’s, mainly because he goes through his progressions very slowly and appears lost when his first read and checkdown are taken away. He also has poor pocket awareness, still must develop an internal clock, and has chronic fumbling issues. With that being said, he has an NFL arm and great accuracy. He’s athletic, can make all the throws, and by all accounts, is a respected leader and student of the game. While I don’t think those positives will ultimately make up for his deficiencies, Philadelphia is probably the best place for Smith. Chip Kelly loves when quarterbacks make quick decisions and get the ball out to playmakers with quickness and accuracy. Smith was an excellent facilitator for players like Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey at West Virginia, and could also enjoy success as an Eagle. I view him as a second day prospect.
- Ryan Nassib, Syracuse. Nassib is my favorite quarterback in this class. He’s the best decision maker of the bunch and appears to have all the intangibles and toughness teams look for in a franchise quarterback. He has good short and intermediate accuracy, although he tends to put too much mustard on easy underneath throws. His accuracy falls apart past 15 or 20 yards down the field, but he has a good enough arm to be a starting quarterback. Unlike Smith, Nassib’s strength is not arm talent. He wins with poise, decisiveness, and command of the offense. He’s not fast, but has run the zone read with respectable effectiveness at Syracuse, and could be athletic enough for the Eagles depending on what Chip Kelly wants. He can get a bit jumpy in the pocket and doesn’t make the tough throws consistently, but I like him as a mid-to-late first round pick.
- E.J. Manuel, Florida State. Perhaps the most commonly linked quarterback with the Eagles, Manuel has prototype size and athleticism. Chip Kelly recruited him out of high school, and Manuel has expressed a desire to play for him in the NFL. He can make all the throws and ran the option with success at Florida State. He generally makes good, quick decisions, but when the play breaks down, he’s prone to the catastrophic mistake. He takes too many sacks and needs to learn how to feel the rush better and get rid of the ball when nothing’s there. Coaches speak highly of him as a leader, and he would be a great fit in Kelly’s offense. His decisiveness and athleticism make him a superior prospect to Geno Smith, but his lapses in judgment keep him a notch below Nassib. He fits in the early second round range.
- Landry Jones, Oklahoma. With a clean pocket, Landry Jones can pick apart a defense. He did so often at Oklahoma. However, he has a tendency to completely break down in the face of pressure. No NFL team will be able to hide that weakness, and unless Jones can make huge strides in his first few years as a pro, I don’t think he’s anything more than a career backup. He has good size and arm talent, making him a solid developmental prospect, but I wouldn’t take him before the fourth or fifth round. He’s also a pure pocket passer, making him a poor fit in Philadelphia.
- Mike Glennon, North Carolina State. Glennon is a tall, skinny passer with a rocket of an arm. He has drawn comparisons to Joe Flacco, but was responsible for a staggering number of turnovers last year and did not show up in big games. He’s a statue in the pocket, which should essentially wipe him off the Eagles’ draft board, and is not as highly regarded in the leadership department as the other names on this list. He’s a fourth or fifth round pick.
- Matt Barkley, USC. Barkley has been knocked a lot for a lack of arm strength, but I think it’s good enough for the NFL. He probably doesn’t have the athleticism to play for Chip Kelly, but he’s a good bet to challenge for a starting job down the line. He was asked to throw a lot of screens at USC, and sometimes struggled to make decisions and timely throws on intermediate routes. He has all the intangibles, but his upside is limited and he should be a second or third round selection.
- Tyler Wilson, Arkansas. I’m a big fan of Tyler Wilson’s gunslinger mentality. He moves his offense up and down the field against some of the toughest defenses in the country, and NFL quarterbacks have to be able to lead drives and put points on the board. This mentality is also Wilson’s worst enemy. His aggressiveness down the field can border on carelessness with the ball, leading to far too many turnovers or near-turnovers (the Ole Miss game was especially bad). He’s not a statue in the pocket, but isn’t especially mobile, either. I don’t think Chip Kelly will see him as a fit in Philly, but Wilson is probably the most underrated prospect in this class and reminds me of Tony Romo. He should be drafted in the 25-50 range.
- Tyler Bray, Tennessee. Bray has great size and perhaps the most arm talent of any passer in this class. If you’re playing pick-up 7-on-7, he’s my guy. However, he tends to struggle when the pocket breaks down, and all NFL quarterbacks must be able to deal with pressure. He does not have the foot speed to be a running threat. He is also reportedly quite immature, and franchise quarterbacks must be avid students of the game and ambassadors of the organization. Bray is definitely worth a roll of the dice, but not until the later rounds of the draft.