<
>

An 'intriguing' class of QBs beyond Carson Wentz and Jared Goff

play
Gruden's QB camp: Jared Goff (3:07)

Jared Goff sits down with Jon Gruden to discuss playing as a true freshman at Cal, how he dealt with losing and his excitement to play in the NFL. (3:07)

We're seeing it again. The Philadelphia Eagles just committed $22 million over the next year to quarterback Sam Bradford. The Washington Redskins are content to pay Kirk Cousins $19.95 million this season. The Baltimore Ravens will pay Joe Flacco $44 million in 2016, including an NFL-record $40 million signing bonus.

Why are NFL teams dishing out seemingly disproportionate sums to retain their incumbent quarterbacks? The answer lies in part with what they know about the 2016 draft class.

Though deeper and more intriguing than last year's near-barren group, this edition might have only one member -- Cal's Jared Goff -- who could step in as an immediate starter. ESPN analyst Todd McShay included only Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz in the first round of his latest mock draft, and so it's time to turn to ESPN draft scout Steve Muench for our annual look at what lies beyond.

The good news is that if your team is not in position to draft Goff or Wentz, there are more Day 2 options available this season than in 2015 -- when not a single quarterback was drafted between Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall and Garrett Grayson in the third round (No. 75 overall). This class should surpass the sum of seven drafted quarterbacks from last season, the lowest total since 1955.

"It's not top-heavy," Muench said, "but this is a very interesting class. There are a lot of guys that you would talk about as backups early on in their careers, and maybe career backups, but then could develop into something for you down the line."

With the combine behind us and pro days ahead, let's take a closer look at the class. Many of these players will appear on ESPN's QB Camp series with Jon Gruden in the coming months.

Paxton Lynch

School: Memphis

Height: 6-6 1/2

Weight: 244

Key measurables: Lynch was the tallest and second-heaviest quarterback at the combine, but he is athletic enough to have tied for the best vertical jump (36 inches) at the position. His 10 1/4-inch hands thrilled the Hands Police.

ESPN round grade: 2

Muench: "Todd didn't have him going in the first round of his mock, and we have a second-round grade on him. But it would surprise me if he didn't go in the first round. We know what history tells us about the way teams get. It's a quarterback-starved league. He has all the raw tools, has big hands and moves well. You watch his tape and he makes plays. He has some things to work on -- the way he reads the field and his decision-making. But a guy built like that, and has done what he's done, is intriguing. He can be somebody's quarterback in the next few years."

Connor Cook

School: Michigan State

Height: 6-4

Weight: 217

Key measurables: At 217 pounds, Cook was lighter than all but three quarterbacks at the combine.

ESPN round grade: 2

Muench: "He will be a polarizing guy. The bottom line is that he was a proven winner in college and won a lot of big games. But there are two things that scare you about him. His accuracy is a real problem. His completion percentage in his career is under 60 percent, and last year it was 56.1. Sometimes those numbers aren't as relevant, but when you watch his tape, you can see why. His footwork can be sloppy and you see him step away from throws. The other thing is, 'What kind of leader is he?' I know that's been talked about a lot, with him not being a captain, but that's a concern for teams. Someone is going to decide they really like him. He's got good starting experience and success in a pro-style offense. He can move around in the pocket and make plays when it matters most, and that's really important. But to me, accuracy/footwork and leadership ability will be issues."

Christian Hackenberg

School: Penn State

Height: 6-4 3/8

Weight: 223

Key measurables: The Hands Police didn't like his 9-inch measurement, but his 4.78 time in the 40 -- tied for third-fastest among quarterbacks -- was better than expected.

ESPN round grade: 2

Muench: "This is a guy with all the tools who just doesn't have the college production you would want. He didn't have big games in the past two years and to be blunt, his tape is bad. It's going to scare some teams away. We have him in the second round because of that arm and his build and what he did in his first season there. He had awful offensive line play the past two years, and when you look at what he did when he had a receiver like Allen Robinson [in 2013], you feel better about what he can do. The question is how much damage has been done and if you can rebuild him. He would be a guy that you get into your building and spend time building back his confidence. But at that size and with that arm, someone will try it."

Jacoby Brissett

School: NC State

Height: 6-4

Weight: 231

Key measurable: Although he moves pretty well outside of the pocket, Brissett won't beat many people in a footrace. His 4.94 in the 40 was the second-slowest at the combine.

ESPN round grade: 3

Muench: "This is a big, strong guy who can make plays with his feet. Sometimes he's too quick to do that when his first read isn't there, but he's able and willing to tuck and run. Even if he doesn't, at that size, he can make plays in the pocket with people attacking his feet. If you're rushing him, you better finish him off or he'll make you pay. The two issues with him are how well he can read defenses, based on how quickly he takes off to run sometimes, and if he can be more accurate. But the tools are there."

Dak Prescott

School: Mississippi State

Height: 6-2 1/2

Weight: 226

Key measurables: Prescott gets the Hands Police seal of approval: 10 7/8 inches.

ESPN round grade: 4

Muench: "He's like Brissett in that he really needs to learn to read defenses in a progression. The scheme he was in simplifies some of his reads and is built to inflate efficiency for quarterbacks. People look at him and see that he runs a 4.79 at 226 pounds and is explosive, and that's all good. He's not a Cam Newton-type athlete but is a very good one that can make you pay. He's also a great leader. It's just not enough to push him into a Day 2 mix."

Kevin Hogan

School: Stanford

Height: 6-3 1/4

Weight: 218

Key measurable: Hogan tied Hackenberg for the third-fastest 40 time among quarterbacks at the combine (4.78).

ESPN round grade: 5

Muench: "He gets an outstanding grade on mental makeup. He's tough, a good leader and knows how to make throws on the run and when buying time. You watch tape and see him keeping his eyes downfield. That's big for NFL teams, especially when it's in a pro-style offense. But he really doesn't have a strong arm and there's an elongated release that teams might not like. But the mental makeup is there."

Cody Kessler

School: USC

Height: 6-1 1/4

Weight: 220

Key measurable: He's on the small side and also among the slower runners (4.89) and least-explosive jumpers (29.5 inches).

ESPN round grade: 5

Muench: "Here's a guy that has had production in a pro-style offense. He's got good accuracy and that's something teams look for. But there is some concern about his frame. He's 6-1 and lost a few pounds between the Senior Bowl and the combine, so people will wonder if he can keep weight on. Then there's USC's record during his time as the starter and the fact that, frankly, the program has been a little bit of a mess. Those things have hurt him. He's got a small frame and not much success throwing the ball deep, but he does have that pro-style experience and is accurate on shorter throws."

Brandon Allen

School: Arkansas

Height: 6-1 3/8

Weight: 217

Key measurable: Allen's hand measurement of 8 7/8 set the combine on fire -- for all the wrong reasons.

ESPN round grade: 5

Muench: "He's a very steady player. He doesn't have big hands or a strong arm, but can be a Chase Daniel guy -- a guy who could develop into a backup that gives you piece of mind. He knows how to move the ball and take care of it."

Jeff Driskel

School: Louisiana Tech

Height: 6-4

Weight: 234

Key measurable: Even at 234 pounds, Driskel was by far the fastest quarterback at the combine, running a 4.54 in the 40.

ESPN round grade: 5

Muench: "You look at how big he is and how well he ran at the combine, and you take notice. If I'm an NFL quarterback coach, he's the kind of guy I want to bring in and say, 'He might not have great tape but there is a lot to work with.' It would be a situation like what Arizona did a few years ago with Logan Thomas: An above-average athletic guy whose tape isn't great but might be worth the time."

Cardale Jones

School: Ohio State

Height: 6-5

Weight: 253

Key measurables: Weight will be an issue for Jones, but his athleticism was undeniable after a 36-inch vertical leap.

ESPN round grade: 5

Muench: "In September of last year, we had him with a high second-round grade. He showed so much in the limited time he played in 2014, and then they won the national championship. There was a ton of buzz for him, but then when he got the opportunity last year, you didn't see it develop. There are definitely natural skills there, and he performed pretty well at the combine for a 250-pound guy. But he's more of a thrower than a passer at this point. He's like Driskel. He'll need to spend a lot of time working with a good coach to get better."