POSITION OVERVIEW: There’s no question that quarterbacks in the Class of 2012 are going to dominate early in the draft, with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III locked and loaded to be the first two picks of the draft, but the gleaning of QBs won’t stop there. Ryan Tannehill is likely going to go in the first half of the first round and a couple of QBs could come off the board consistently over the next several rounds. This may be the strongest QB class in the last five years, as several teams look to either find starters or backups to groom with starting potential.
VIKINGS’ QUARTERBACKS: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels, McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
VIKINGS’ NEEDS: In a word, none. The Vikings made their investment in Ponder last year, have committed to keep Webb at quarterback and re-signed Rosenfels in March. With Bethel-Thompson in as the fourth quarterback, with all the changes the Vikings might make in the coming months, quarterback may be the one position that goes largely untouched.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Andrew Luck, Stanford, 6-4, 234 – Fourth-year junior…Started all 38 games of his college career…In his final two seasons, he completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 6,855 yards with 69 touchdowns and 18 interceptions…In just three years, set the school record for touchdown passes (80), breaking the mark of 77 set by John Elway in four seasons…His father, Oliver Luck, played for the Houston Oilers…Very accurate passer and viewed by many as the most NFL-ready QB to come out of the college game since Elway in 1983…Very smart and reads/reacts well…A natural leader…Took almost every snap under center and won’t need modification…Doesn’t have elite arm strength, but can make all the throws…Has a long wind-up on deep passes and will need to speed up his release…Ran a 4.59 40 at the Combine with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: The Colts got rid of Peyton Manning because they knew Luck was coming, which could be as much praise any college QB has ever received.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor, 6-2, 223 – Fourth-year junior who was granted a medical redshirt in 2009 after tearing his right ACL three games into the season…Started 40 of 41 career games…Won the Heisman Trophy as a junior, completing 72.4 percent of his passes (291 of 402) for 4,293 yards and 37 TDs, while rushing for 699 yards and 10 more TDs…One of only three quarterbacks in FBS history with 10,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards…Was a high school sprinter who was named Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the year as a senior in Copperas Cove, Texas…Very intelligent, was a Second-Team All Academic All-American who earned his degree in 2010…Incredible speed that reminds some of Michael Vick and his ability to make something out of nothing…Has excellent arm strength and is accurate throwing the deep ball…Played many of his best games in the biggest situations…Almost effortless in his delivery and has good touch – can launch the bomb or flick short passes with equal skill…Will need to refine his game at the next level because he took most snaps out of the shotgun and didn’t have to read many progressions…Has a strange release point (a three-quarters sidearm delivery) that may have to be modified…Will bail out of the pocket too quickly if pressure comes…Ran an incredible 4.33 40 at the Combine with a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: If not for Luck, he would be the No. 1 pick in the draft. An extremely intelligent player who will adjust and adapt quickly, is locked in at the No. 2 pick to the Washington Redskins and could be the most exciting young QB to enter the league since Vick, who changed how the position was played with his run/pass big-play ability.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M, 6-4, 221 – Fifth-year senior…Didn’t become a full-time starter until midway through his junior season, spending most of his time prior to that playing wide receiver…As a senior, he completed 327 of 531 passes for 3,744 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions…A former walk-on who made the most of his ability…Very intelligent, if football doesn’t pan out, he plans to go to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon…Has great arm strength and delivers the ball with a lot of zip…A natural team-first type of leader who lets his play do his talking…Has quick feet to avoid pass rush, set back up quickly and deliver a strike…Played in an NFL-style offense…Is unpolished with just one year as a full-time starter…Doesn’t read defenses as well as a he could and forces too many passes…Has an inconsistent release and will throw ugly shot-put passes like Philip Rivers does too often…Will need some time to develop, which many teams aren’t interested in with first-round picks…Did not work out at the Combine due to a right foot injury. PROJECTION: A fast-rising prospect, in the QB-hungry NFL, he has gone from a borderline first-round prospect to someone being mentioned as a top-10 pick. He has a lot of the intangibles teams look for in a QB prospect, but will need some seasoning and may not be ready to start immediately. But that likely won’t keep someone from snapping him up early.
Brock Osweiler, Arizona State, 6-7, 242 – Third-year junior…One-year starter who completed 326 of 516 passes for 4,036 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions…Set school records for attempts, completions, completion percentage and yardage in 2011…Started one game as a true freshman, the first ASU QB to do that since Jake Plummer…Is enormous and was pursued by both top football programs and basketball coaches during his recruitment…Was the unquestioned team leader of the offense…Is as big or bigger than Ben Roethlisberger and can see over defenses, rarely getting passes batted down…Has good movement in the pocket to find throwing lanes and keep his eyes focused downfield…Has good touch on short-to-intermediate routes and sells screen passes very well…Has good arm strength and can whistle the deep pass on target…Is very raw, with just one year of starting experience…Some may view him as being too tall and may struggle to fire into his drop off the snap…Didn’t have to make many pre-snap reads in the ASU offensive scheme…At times, appears to panic and force passes when pressured…Took almost all of his snaps out of the shotgun and will need refinement…Did not work out at the Combine due to a left foot injury. PROJECTION: He is as intriguing a prospect as there is in this year’s class. Ideally, he goes to a team that has an established starter because he is a long way from being NFL-ready. But his intangibles are so good, he will go higher than he should, perhaps as early as the second round.
Nick Foles, Arizona, 6-5, 243 – Fifth-year senior who spent 2007 at Michigan State before transferring to Arizona and sitting out the 2008 season…A three-year starter who threw for a school-record 10,010 yards with 67 TDs and 33 interceptions…Set a school record with 4,334 yards and 28 TDs as a senior…No Arizona QB has started in the NFL in the last 40 years…Has prototype size and a strong arm…Has good technique in his set-up and delivery…Can make all the throws needed for an NFL QB…An intelligent player who spent a lot of time in film study…Works through his progressions (eight Arizona receivers had 20 or more catches last year)…Is not consistent in his passes – some will sail on him or one-hop receivers…Ran an offense that was designed to get the ball quickly to a primary receiver and he didn’t have to make many pre-snap diagnosis reads…Doesn’t have good moves to avoid defenders who come clean and goes down too easily…Although he didn’t miss time due to injury, always seemed to be dinged up and rarely played at 100 percent…Ran a 5.03 40 at the Combine with 30½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: He is a prospect that will draw some attention from scouts, but his negatives will outweigh many of his positives in the eyes of some scouts. He has the ability to eventual become a starter, but will likely be on the board well into the second, if not the third round.
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State, 6-3, 214 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who threw for 8,821 yards with 64 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in that span…Left MSU as the career leader in passing touchdowns, yards and completions…In his final two years as a starter, posted a record of 22-5…Only the second player in school history to be a three-time captain…Intelligent player who absorbs film study and is very coachable…Has good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws…Has good escapability when protection breaks down…Uses his eyes extremely well to look off safeties…Does a lot of things well, but is far from an elite athlete…Is a little on the thin side and some believe he may not be able to withstand the pounding NFL QBs absorb…Doesn’t have elite arm strength and needs to put a lot of air under the deep pass, which is a death-knell in the NFL…Checks down too often and doesn’t take many chances…Needs to improve his footwork…Ran a 4.80 40 at the Combine with a 28½-inch vertical jump and a 9-1 broad jump. PROJECTION: If they measured heart and work ethic at the Combine, Cousins would be a first-rounder, but his skills are set more for the short passing game of a West Coast Offense, which could drop him into the third-round range on draft weekend.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, 6-4, 221 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who completed 750 of 1,074 passes for 9,004 yards with 71 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in that span…Was OSU’s first all-conference QB in more than 70 years in 2010…Is 28 years old – a month-and-a-half older than Packers veteran Aaron Rodgers – after spending five years as a pitcher in the Yankees farm system…Plays with a lot of confidence and delivers a tight spiral…Throws darts into coverage and rarely gets burned…Toughness is off the charts…Can throw all the passes NFL QBs need to throw…Is too old and some teams won’t even rank him as a result…Gave up on baseball because of shoulder injuries and some believe that may eventually follow him to the NFL…Deep sideline passes sail on him too often and are uncatchable…Played almost exclusively out of the shotgun, but may not have time to refine his game at the NFL level…Doesn’t read and react to blitzes as quickly as coaches/scouts may want…Didn’t work out at the Combine due to a hamstring injury. PROJECTION: An interesting prospect, but his late arrival on the football scene in college will likely drop his draft stock lower than we have him ranked. He may be a priority on Day 3 of the draft, but probably not before then.
B.J. Coleman, Tennessee-Chattanooga, 6-3, 233 – Fifth-year senior who spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to run a pro-style offense…A three-year starter who started all 29 games he played at UT-C, throwing for 6,871 yards with 52 touchdowns and 31 interceptions…Missed four games as a senior with a right shoulder injury…Looks like an NFL quarterback and has a solid combination of size and strength…Works hard in practice and film study…Throws with surprisingly good velocity…Has a quick release and gets rid of the ball in a hurry when he identifies the open receiver…Doesn’t have good mobility in the pocket…Never played against top competition…Doesn’t have consistent touch on passes and will misfire too often…Won’t take a lot of chances and throws uncatchable passes too often when facing a pass rush…Didn’t work out at the Combine due to a right hand injury. PROJECTION: The best small-school prospect in the draft, he has a passion for the game and will earn every dollar he makes, but he isn’t an elite athlete in any discipline and may never be more than a capable NFL backup. A mid-round Day 3 prospect.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, 5-11, 204 – Fifth-year senior…Spent four years at North Carolina State, where he was a three-year starter who threw 76 touchdowns and set a national record for throwing 379 passes without an interception…Transferred to Wisconsin last year and, because he had already earned his college degree, didn’t have to sit out a year…In his one year with the Badgers, he completed 225 of 309 passes (73 percent) for 3,175 yards with 33 TDs and just four picks…Can launch bombs accurately…Was incredibly efficient with the Badgers, setting a national record for season passer rating with an incredible 191.8 rating…Very experienced, he made 50 career starts…Has very good feet to avoid pass rushers, keep plays alive and make plays with his feet…Is way too short for NFL quarterbacks and some teams will devalue him dramatically because of it…Is too quick to take off and run instead of letting plays develop and buying time while staying in the passing pocket…Needs to move to find throwing lanes and gets too many passes tipped or batted down…Hasn’t committed fully to football and has dabbled in minor league baseball the last couple of years…Ran a 4.53 40 at the Combine with a 34-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: Any time a sub-6-foot QB enters the draft, he is compared to Drew Brees. Unfortunately, very few have lived up to that standard. He appears to be best suited as a Wildcat option QB, but his incredible production in two systems might make him worth a long look for teams with an established starter.
Kellen Moore, Boise State, 6-0, 197 – Fifth-year senior…Started 52 of 53 career games, completing 1,157 of 1,658 passes (70 percent) for 14,667 yards with 142 touchdowns and just 28 interceptions…Only college QB in history to post 50 wins as a starter…Is a textbook passer who has good timing, feel and some zip on his passes…Very accurate when he has time to set and throw…Doesn’t get rattled and has a short memory…A top-notch college QB who gained a wealth of experience as a four-year starter…Is shorter than coaches want their QBs to be and doesn’t look the part – at the Senior Bowl, some scouts questioned whether he had ever seen a weight room…Doesn’t have good arm strength and looks like a high school player in a college huddle…Doesn’t have quick feet and has trouble avoiding pass rushers with a bead on him…Not mechanically sound and throws too many passes from awkward angles or off his back foot…Didn’t consistently play against top competition…Ran a 4.82 40 at the Combine with 27-inch vertical jump and a 8-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: There’s no arguing his success as a college QB, but he has enormous red flags that will have many questioning his ability to transition into the pros. He will likely get drafted, but it may not be until the final stages of the draft and he will struggle to find a spot in the NFL beyond being a No. 2 or 3 backup QB.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Austin Davis, Southern Mississippi, 6-2, 219
Dominique Davis, East Carolina, 6-3, 220
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois, 6-2, 219
Case Keenum, Houston, 6-0, 208
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, 6-4, 229
Darron Thomas, Oregon, 6-3, 220
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.