Intriguing QB crop could deliver five potential starters

Posted April 23, 2012 @ 9:19 a.m.
Posted By Nolan Nawrocki

This is the first of a 12-part series that offers up scouting reports on PFW’s top five-ranked players at their respective positions in the 2012 NFL draft. Full scouting reports and the latest buzz on nearly 500 draft prospects, including results from roughly 200 pro days, can be found in PFW’s Draft Database.

The 2012 QB class features two legitimate quarterbacking prospects capable of immediately igniting NFL offenses — Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. Luck is mature beyond his years and has all the traits to be special. Griffin possesses very unusual speed, playmaking ability and deep-ball touch and could be dynamite in an offense featuring moving pockets. Several others possess eventual starter potential, including Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. Cousins could be the most masterful in a precision passing game. Tannehill has intriguing physical traits but is still very noticeably raw and will require time. Osweiler could also use more stripes, and Weeden may be dinged for having too many at 28 years old. Collectively, the class is solid overall and can deliver as many as four first-round picks given the premium on passers.

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford (Jr.)

Ht: 6-4, Wt: 234, Sp: 4.64, Arm: 32 5⁄8, Hand: 10

Notes: Started all 12 games in ’09, completing 162-of-288 pass attempts (56.2 percent) for 2,575 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. Added 61 carries for 354 yards (5.8-yard average) and two touchdowns and an 11-yard reception. In ’10, passed 263-372-3,338-32-8 (70.7) and rushed 55-453-3 (8.2) in 13 starts. Broke his own school records for touchdown passes and completion percentage (also a Pac-12 record) in ’11 after registering 288-404-3,517-37-10 (71.3) in 13 starts. Added 47-150-2 (3.2) rushing. Team captain.

Bottom line: A very advanced, calculated precision passer crafted in a pro-style quarterbacking incubator under the guidance of Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw, Luck possesses the intelligence, toughness, intangibles, accuracy and escapability to become an elite NFL quarterback. Can thrive in an up-tempo, matchup offense designed to offer great flexibility audibilizing at the line of scrimmage. A coach’s dream, Luck will assimilate the NFL game rapidly and has perennial All-Pro potential despite some arm-talent limitations that could make him most ideally suited for a warm-weather, West Coast climate or a dome team. Is one of the safer, more surefire QB selections in draft history.

NFL projection: First overall pick.

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Jr.)
Ht: 6-2 3⁄8, Wt: 223, Sp: 4.41, Arm: 32 1⁄4, Hand: 9 1⁄2

Notes: Engaged. In the fall of ’08, completed 160-of-267 passes for 2,091 yards (59.9 percent) with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed 173 times for 843 yards (4.9-yard average) and 13 scores in 12 games (11 starts). In ’09, had season cut short after three starts (torn right ACL), managing 45-69-481-4-0 (65.2) passing and 27-77-2 (2.9) rushing. Returned in ’10 and passed 304-454-3,501-22-8 (67.0) with 149-635-8 (4.3) rushing in 13 starts. Won the Heisman Trophy in ’11, totaling 291-406-4,293-37-6 (72.4) passing and 179-699-10 (3.9) rushing in 13 starts.  

Bottom line: A playmaking weapon capable of carving defenses with his live arm or legs, Griffin made an immediate splash and emerged as a lethal big-play, vertical passer as a junior. Still must continue to hone his passing instincts from the pocket and prove he can stay healthy outside it. However, he proved he could catapult a doormat program to new heights and has game-changing prowess in a downfield passing attack.

NFL projection: Top-five cinch.

3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Ht: 6-3 7⁄8, Wt: 221, Sp: 4.75e, Arm: 32 5⁄8, Hand: 9

Notes: Married. Redshirted in 2007. In ’08, grabbed 55 passes for 844 yards (15.3-yard average) and five touchdowns in 11 games (six starts). Led the team in catches with 46-609-4 (13.2) in ’09 when he saw action in three games at quarterback, completing 4-of-8 passes for 60 yards (50.0 percent) with no touchdowns or interceptions. Split the ’10 season between wide receiver and quarterback, playing in all 13 games and catching 11-143-1 (13.0). Started at QB the final six games and threw for 152-234-1,638-13-6 (65.0). In his first full season as a starter in ’11, passed 327-531-3,744-29-15 (61.6) and rushed for 58-306-4 (5.3) in 13 starts. Team captain.

Bottom line: Clearly possesses NFL starting-caliber physical talent but will need a few years of seasoning before he’s ready to handle live bullets. Struggled to find a rhythm in a timing passing game and could be best-suited for a vertical attack. Would be best entering a situation where he could be patiently groomed, yet is a strong candidate to be overdrafted and forced into action earlier than he should be.

NFL projection: First-round pick.

4. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
Ht: 6-2 5⁄8, Wt: 214, Sp: 4.91, Arm: 31 3⁄4, Hand: 9 7⁄8

Notes: Redshirted in 2007. Appeared in five games in ’08 as a backup, completing 32-of-43 pass attempts (62 percent) for 310 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Started 12-of-13 games in ’09 and passed 198-328-2,680-19-9 (60.4). Made all 13 starts in ’10, totaling 226-338-2,825-20-10 (66.9). In ’11, threw 267-419-3,316-25-10 (63.7) in 14 starts. Three-time captain.

Bottom line: Has the intangibles and intelligence to develop into a highly efficient dink-and-dunk, rhythm passer. Carries a resemblance to 49ers QB Alex Smith and must continue developing physically to survive the toll of an NFL season. Could thrive with crisp coaching and confidence-building play-calling in a precision passing game such as that of the Texans, Redskins, Patriots or 49ers.

NFL projection: Top-40 pick.

5. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Ht: 6-3
12, Wt: 221, Sp: 4.95e, Arm: 31 34, Hand: 9 58

Notes: Married. Played one year of high school football.  Was drafted in the second round of the 2002 MLB draft by the New York Yankees but never advanced beyond high-Class A level. Returned to football in ’07 and redshirted. Saw very limited action in one game in ’08. Backed up Zac Robinson in ’09 and completed 15-of-24 pass attempts (62.5 percent) for 248 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in three games. Took over in ’10 and produced 342-511-4,277-34-13 (66.9). Set numerous school records (yards, completions, attempts and touchdown passes) after posting 408-564-4,727-37-13 (72.4) in 13 starts.

Bottom line: After an extended minor-league baseball career, Weeden will embark upon an NFL career as a 28-year-old rookie, and the simplified offense in which he played could push his development into his 30s. Displayed the careful ballhandling and short-to-intermediate accuracy desired in a precision passing game, but passing instincts are still raw for a more sophisticated, layered, pro-style, rhythm passing game. Has the arm talent to function in a vertical offense with a strong protection scheme and supporting cast but is most ideally suited for a backup role.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

Click here to see scouting reports on late-rising, developmental QB prospects.