INDIANAPOLIS -- From the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, a group of quarterbacks maligned as perhaps no other draft class has been tried to shift the narrative. It's not the fault of these guys that there doesn't appear to be an Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, or Russell Wilson in his group -- talent does what talent does. However, the new group of draftable quarterbacks did their level best to take that sad song and make it better. What I found, having gone in for both quarterback workouts and doing pool reports on two players (Landry Jones and E.J. Manuel) is that we're about where we were before the throwing drills -- left with a group of signal-callers in which every guy has some interesting upside, and at least one potentially fatal flaw.
North Carolina State's Mike Glennon showed about what he did at the Senior Bowl -- in the practices, at least. He's a natural to look good in practice conditions, because he's got a rocket arm and an easy delivery with a quick release. Because of those attributes, he could sail the ball comfortably and with accuracy (most of the time) on the deeper routes. He didn't struggle on the vertical routes and post corner as some other quarterbacks did. Glennon always helps himself when he's firing blanks, so to speak. When he's got pressure in his face and is asked to re-set and adjust to a muddy pocket, that's where things get a little rougher, and that's a question he'll have to overcome if he ever wants to be a starter in the NFL.
West Virginia's Geno Smith showed off a beautiful throwing motion for the most part -- he has been impressive in this regard before, but he's clearly been working on this part of his game in the pre-draft process. He was off on a few throws, but overall, pretty accurate, and he proved that he can make all the throws. I don't know, however, whether he always has the kind of velocity you'd want on certain throws, and I sometimes wonder if Smith's ceiling isn't a bit lower than some might think. He's a guy I need to watch more tape on, because I keep feeling that I should be more impressed than I actually am.
Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is a player who impresses others more than he does me. At the Senior Bowl, I saw inaccuracy from him in situations where that should never happen -- simple intermediate and longer throws in practice situations. At the combine, I thought he was decent with the intermediate stuff, but questionable with longer throws, which lines up with my overall thoughts about his skill set -- I think that he will struggle to make those longer stick throws at the NFL level at times. He may wind up being a fringe starter or career backup. I really question whether Nassib will be a top-of-the-line starter. He will max out in most aspects of the game, especially the mental aspects of the position, but I wonder about the complete skill set. His ultimate upside might be somewhere between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton.
Oklahoma's Landry Jones looked pretty good on the shorter stuff, but it was clear in this workout that he needs help on longer throws. On the five-yard quick ins, he showed a good overhead delivery -- a bit labored at times, but generally accurate. I would like to see a quicker release. On the 10-yard outs, he was late and low on throws to Chris Harper and DeAndre Hopkins. The throw to Mark Harrison was the only accurate one. He was high on the square in to Tyrone Goard, and a little late on the same throw to Marquise Goodwin. The throw to Cobi Hamilton was better.
On longer throws, Jones seemed to have timing issues with unfamiliar receivers, and this affected his accuracy at times. On the deep vertical throws to the left side (WR check at 15), it was clear that he was struggling with velocity. His receivers had to slow down to catch those balls, though he was generally accurate. He has to put a lot of air under the ball, and NFL defenders may find those deep passes easy to catch up to.
On the 10-yard outs to the right side, he overthrew Stedman Bailey and was more accurate to Tavon Austin and Alan Bonner. He will occasionally open his shoulder too much to his throwing side, again affecting accuracy ,but knows how to rein it in with his delivery. On the 12-yard curl to the right side, he struggled a bit to time up with his receivers. However, he continued to adjust his delivery and became more compact and consistent to the right side as his drills went along.
The deep post-corner was more of an adventure. Jones seems to have real issues with timing on deeper stuff, and this was apparent here. He had good timing with Justin Hunter, but was off on his throw to Darius Johnson and underthrew Brandon Kaufman.
Overall, Jones is a better than average passer on short and intermediate routes, but today's drills added to the perception that he will struggle at times to make deep throws into tight windows.
E.J. Manuel was great and frustrating. Kind of like his game tape. (USAT Sports Images)Florida State's E.J. Manuel is a guy I've been pounding the table for a bit since his Senior Bowl week, where he appeared to be the one guy who could take practice concepts and make them work in the game. His 20-yard touchdown pass to Alabama tight end Michael Williams was the same catch-and-throw I saw on Wednesday practice -- a great seam throw that showed Manuel's arm strength, accuracy, and field vision when he's on. Of course, he will show up with inconsistencies at times, and that was evident in his combine drills.
Manuel overthrew his first quick slant and re-calibrated for the second one. The same was true on the 10-yard out. One thing I've noticed with Manuel is that he will get too high with his throwing motion and ball delivery at times, and will sail passes that should be on point. (Ryan Nassib has a similar issue). He had a timing issue with Oklahoma's Kelly Stills on his first 15-yard dig, and the second one was a good throw on time that was dropped by Ryan Swope. Manuel's vertical throws were decent, but he has an issue throwing across his body, and that was evident. He had the same problem that a lot of young quarterbacks do when they're asked to make the 10-yard out to their throwing side -- he opened his shoulder too much and struggled with accuracy as a result.
Overall, I thought Manuel's throwing session mirrored his college career -- some impressive moments interspersed with bouts of frustrating inconsistency. However, I believe that Manuel has the physical tools and mental makeup to be a starter in the league someday, if he's put in the right program (a vertical system optimized for a running quarterback) and given time and the right kind of coaching and technique work.
Arizona's Matt Scott is someone I hear a bit about as a developmental prospect, living in Pac-12 country as I do. He didn't do anything to hurt himself during Sunday afternoon's drills, showing off a good arm and nice velocity on longer throws. Where I think people will struggle with him is in his in-game delivery -- he's a lanky kid with a lot of running speed, but everything doesn't always line up mechanically. Tennessee's Tyler Bray, to me, is basically Mike Glennon Lite -- he will impress in throwing drills, but he will also display some howling inaccuracies on his game tape. If he's an NFL quarterback at all, and I'm really not sure if he is, it will be as a developmental guy with a coach who's patient enough to smooth out all the wrinkles. He's got a cannon for an arm, so he was expected to impress in his situation. Southern Utah's Brad Sorensen helped himself as much as anyone in this environment by matching some of the more well-known quarterbacks with his own performance. He was generally accurate and showed a really nice touch on some of the passes in which he was asked to sail the ball deep. Similarly, I thought that Minnesota's MarQueis Gray surprised some people who thought he should switch to receiver at the NFL level. He was more accurate on his intermediate and deep throws than some of the more "elite" prospects.