Although the 2016 NFL Draft is still almost a full year away, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the upcoming class, especially when it comes to the quarterback position. The past few NFL drafts have lacked elite talent at quarterback; however, that is going to change in 2016, as their are a handful of players who will be selected early. Here are the top five signal callers to keep an eye on this coming season.
Connor Cook – Michigan State
Heading into his fourth season (third as the starter), Connor Cook is putting together a fine career at Michigan State, and is the top rated college quarterback headed into 2016. Cook possesses all the physical tools necessary to be a starting NFL quarterback, as he stands at 6’4” and weighs 220 pounds. The aspect of Cook’s game that impresses scouts the most is his arm strength and ability to make throws in the pocket. His mobility is also a strong asset as well, as he is able to escape the pocket and avoid pressure.
In 2014, Cook threw for 3214 yards, with 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. These are very impressive numbers, but one area that needs to improve is completion percentage, which was 58.1% on the season. If Cook can improve his accuracy throughout the 2015 season, he will solidify his spot as the top quarterback of the 2016 class.
Jared Goff – California
California quarterback Jared Goff enjoyed a breakout season in 2014, where he threw for 3973 yards with 35 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Standing at 6’4” and 215 pounds, Goff has ideal size that teams look for when drafting quarterbacks. Goff is very accurate, as his completion percentage was 62.1% in 2014, and his arm strength is also an asset that many NFL teams will covet.
The big thing that is holding Goff back from potentially being the top quarterback in the draft is the offense which California runs. Goff rarely takes snaps under centre, which may be a concern to some NFL teams, and his decision making at times can also be a bit questionable as he likes to take chances with the ball. Nonetheless, Goff is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2016 draft, and will be selected early on draft day.
Christian Hackenberg – Penn State
Entering his third season as the starter for Penn State, Christian Hackenberg is looking to rebound from a rather disappointing 2014 campaign. Despite an impressive rookie season, Hackenberg regressed in his second season, throwing for 2977 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His completion percentage also dipped from his rookie season, completing just 55.8% of his passes. Hackenberg stands at 6’4” and 236 pounds, which is ideal size to play quarterback at the NFL level.
Aside from his size, Hackenberg’s best asset is his strong arm and vision when looking down field. What he needs to improve on in 2016, is his accuracy and making better decisions with the ball. If he can limit his turnovers, and improve his completion percentage, Hackenberg could find himself selected pretty early come draft day.
Dak Prescott – Mississippi State
As he enters his third full season as the starter at Mississippi State, Dak Prescott will look to prove to scouts that he is worthy of a first round selection. In 2014, he threw for 3449 yards with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Prescott also made significant improvement with his accuracy, as his completion percentage was up over three percent from 2013.
Prescott has decent size at 6’2” and 230 pounds, and is able to make plays with his feet, as he rushed for 986 yards while scoring 14 touchdowns as well. Prescott has all the physical tools to be a legitimate starting NFL quarterback down the road but must improve his pocket passing if he wants to be drafted on day one. Look for the Mississippi State product to go anywhere from the first to the third round.
Cody Kessler – USC
To say the least, USC quarterback Cody Kessler has had two very impressive seasons as the teams starter. In 2014, Kessler threw for 3826 yards with 39 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His most impressive statistic however, was his completion percentage, which was a staggering 69.7%. Although he doesn’t have the strongest arm in the draft, his accuracy and consistency can make up for it.
The one issue scouts may have with Kessler, is his size as he is only 6’1” and 215 pounds, which is fairly undersized for a quarterback at the NFL level. But if Kessler can have yet another stellar season as the USC starter, scouts may be able to overlook his size, as he should be drafted anywhere from the mid second to third round.