1. Jared Goff – 1st Round
Jared Goff first came on the scene in 2013, when as a still 18-year old true freshman, light up an Ohio State defense for 374 Yards and 3 TD in the Horseshoe, in just his third collegiate start. That loaded Ohio State defense featured current and future NFL players: Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, Noah Spence, Tyvis Powell and Philly Brown (Yes, the Panthers WR played DB his Senior season at OSU). Since that breakout performance Goff hasn’t slowed down as he rewrote the Cal record books setting 26 school records.
If there is such a thing as being "NFL Ready" Jared Goff checks off the most boxes in this class. Goff is comfortable maneuvering a crowded pocket and has excellent touch and timing in the passing game. Goff displays the ability to patiently work through progressions and throw with anticipation in the passing game. One of the most impressive traits that Goff possesses as a passer is his ability to drop the ball in a bucket 40-yards downfield.
Goff's feet can get jittery in the pocket at times, causing poor accuracy and ball placement on throws. Ball security is another area that needs improvement and will be a major concern for some teams. Goff had 23 fumbles over his 3 years at Cal (10 in 2013, 9 in 2014 and 4 in 2015). While there has been improvement over the years teams will still critique Goff's hand size (9 1/8" at his Pro Day) as they try to determine if this a correctable issue or something that holds Goff back his whole career. Recent QB's to enter the NFL with 9 1/8" hand include Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr.
Did You Know?: Goff's father (Jeff) was an All-American baseball catcher at Cal and played seven season in the MLB (1990-96). Played for the Expos, Pirates and Astros hitting 7 career home runs.
2. Cardale Jones – 2nd Round
Admittedly this ranking does require a leap of faith. How can a guy who only started 11 games in college and was benched midway through his final year be the 2nd best QB in this class?
Let me tell you why Jones will have a better professional career than collegiate one. Traits and system. Cardale Jones is one of the more physically gifted pocket passers to come into the league in a handful of years. He's got the nickname "12 Gauge" for a reason. Jones' is most comfortable maneuvering a pocket and taking a strike downfield showing off his cannon of an arm. Cardale is not the same runner that Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III are. He's not a home run threat but he's certainly a hammer with the ability to pick up 1st downs and punch it in along the goal line.
In 2015 Cardale was miscast in an Ohio State offense that was more catered to QB JT Barrett's skill-set. Even when Cardale was replaced by Barrett, Ohio State still struggled to get things rolling. After the Michigan State loss, future 1st Round Pick RB Ezekiel Elliott, vented about the play calling. Now, Jones' play was neither great nor poor this year but I'm willing to throw it out the window per se because he was stuck in an offense that he will not be in at the next level. A better representation of Cardale's immense skill-set was displayed during Ohio State's historic National Championship run; where Jones' came cold off the bench to lead the Buckeye's to wins in the Conference Championship, Semi-Final and National Title games. Former Ohio State OC Tom Herman did a great job attacking all levels of the field in the passing game and using Cardale as a hammer in the run game when needed.
Now Jones isn't a prefect prospect. He lacks consistent touch and his decision making in the passing game lacks at times. Too often it seems as if he's gong for the big splash play rather than reining it in a bit.
Ideally Cardale is brought into a situation that uses the vertical passing game and where he can sit for a year. He's the perfect replacement for Big Ben in Pittsburgh or even behind Carson Palmer in Bruce Arians offense.
Did You Know?: Cardale's High School coach was Ted Ginn Sr, father of Panthers WR Tedd Ginn Jr, and received offers from Michigan, Michigan St and Penn State before settling on OSU.
3. Paxton Lynch- 2nd Round
When watching Paxton Lynch two things initially stand out to you: His lanky 6'7" frame and incredible arm.
Lynch's impressive arm and quick feet were on display at Memphis where he ran a read-option based offense. Lynch had great success but much like Cardale Jones, this isn't a system that he should run in the NFL. As a runner Lynch is just a functional one, if anything. He's able to manage a pocket and able to pick up yards quite well if there is green grass in front of him but he is not moving piles or breaking 30 yard runs. Lynch's arm and functional mobility allow him to move and make any throw on the field.
The biggest flaw that stood out to me was the highs and lows of Lynch's accuracy at times. It reminded me of a Starting Pitcher in baseball with A+ stuff and C- control. Take Former MLB Pitcher AJ Burnett for example. Burnett, who made an All-Star team and led the AL in strikeouts one year, once threw a no-hitter in which he let 10 batters reach base (9 walks, 1 hit batsman). The lack of consistency is what separates a talent like Burnett from being an ace of pitching staff and maybe what separates Lynch from being quality starter to an all-pro. If you box score scout you'll notice that Lynch completed 67% of his passes in 2015. Many of passes simple WR screens or designed roll-outs.
Lynch possesses many of the traits that make NFL talent evaluators drool. When you package up that height, size, arm and mobility together he has as much upside as anyone in the draft but I think it would be wise to ease him into a starting role over a year or so.
Did You Know? In 2015, Lynch tied and FBS record with 7 touchdown passes in a half. Memphis ended up crushing SMU 63-0. Lynch threw 14 passes on the day.
4. Carson Wentz – 3rd Round
Do I see the potential with Wentz? Of course, you can’t miss it. Perfect size, mobility and a very good arm but I have to be completely honest and say that I have no clue how anyone can see a #1 pick. There are some great things with Wentz's game and since the media will shove that drown your throats in the coming days I'll take a different angle.
As a passer Wentz has some potential fatal flaws and with the success rates of QB's in the NFL it's not safe to just assume they'll automatically improve at the next level. Too often you get the sense that Wentz isn't processing what the defense is throwing at him at a fast enough pace to succeed in the NFL. It's as if he's still on a dial-up internet connection, which is totally possible seeing as he's from North Dakota, instead of the highest quality broadband speed that is out there.
At times Wentz can get locked onto his 1st read for too long. Doing this throws off the timing of the passing game. By the time Wentz gets to his 2nd and 3rd reads the receivers can be covered downfield. Wentz also has this weird video game like glitch where he stops his feet in the pocket and stands there flat-footed. To succeed in the NFL you need to be able to comfortably maneuver a pocket while keeping your eyes downfield while working through progressions. I didn't see this enough with Wentz.
Per Pro Football Focus, Carson Wentz's completed 56% of his passes under pressure in 2015 (Jones was at 60%, Goff 64.7%, Adams 64.7%, Lynch 70.3%).
Wentz completed 37.5% on deep passes. (Jones 46.9%, Goff 50%, Lynch 51.8%, Adams 56.5%). So while Wentz is rightfully praised for his arm, it's not actually that effective at this moment.
It’s not often someone who will turn 24 during their rookie season would be considered inexperienced but that’s what Carson Wentz is. I love his tools but there are plenty of things that need to be ironed out in his game before he fills the role of a starter in the NFL. It's a gamble I wouldn't be willing to take as a GM or Head Coach in the 1st Round. A perfect situation for Wentz would be to land in San Diego, Dallas, Chicago, or New York (Giants) where he could sit for a year or two and learn the ropes behind proven starter.
I want Wentz to succeed but his rawness as a passer might sink him before he's even able to attempt to swim in the NFL.
Did You Know?: Moved to QB his senior year of high school. Played LB an WR prior to the position switch. Won 5 National Championship rings while at North Dakota State.
5. Vernon Adams – 3rd Round
Adams is one of the most fun evaluations throughout the whole draft class this year because of his unique style of play. Adams plays within the structure of the offensive while at the same time showing comfort with living on the edge without falling off the cliff. His play is more Russell WIlson than Johnny Manziel because there is purpose to his movement rather than running around figure it out on the fly.
As a passer Vernon Adams excelled versus pressure picking up chunks of yards through the air as well with his feet. Although Adams doesn't posses a cannon for an arm he has one of the best deep balls in the class.
Surprisingly enough Adams did have spotty accuracy in the short passing game on screens and timing routes.
Adams likely will not get a legit shot at a starting position in the NFL because of the NFL biases. They'll see his height (5'11") and give the lame physical limitations excuse. My hope is that he's able to hang around like Tyrod Taylor and eventually get the chance to start on his second contract.
Did You Know?: As a Sophomore at Eastern Washington University he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 55 Touchdowns. Was a no-star recruit coming out of high school.