The annual NFL scouting combine is a smorgasbord of the league power brokers coming together to pick, prod, fall into and out of love with a whole new class of prospective job seekers. This installment covers the quarterbacks who participated in the combine, highlighting those that surprised and/or disappointed from my perspective.
I’m publishing these notes right after the combine, so analysis is subject to change based on draft selection, performance in mini-camps and pre-season games. In short, the combine is one small but important step in the evaluation process.
The quarterback position has evolved as a result of the open offensive approach sweeping the league, resulting in production spikes in the passing game. For fantasy that means more overall numbers as well as greater quantity of high performers. A more subtle but no less important component though is that quarterbacks now score a higher percentage of points, while running backs, the former fantasy hero position, are scoring less. Majority of leagues only start 1 so there’s always going to be a supply & demand issue (most leagues are between 8 & 12 teams) but the fantasy trend is QB’s are slowly becoming more valuable, they just have a long way to go before they match the real NFL value.
Quarterback is also subject to a win now mentality, so even above average production can result in loss of job if it doesn’t translate into wins on the field. Versus a RB or WR who produces above average will be rewarded with a long term contract and job security (at least up and until they aren’t productive anymore).
Surprises & Studs
Carson Wentz - NFL fans will get to know him in short order as he’s a lock for a top 15 selection and will be the face of the future for some NFL franchise. The measurables and talent are there, and the scouts/coaches rave about the intangibles. If this guy was graduating from a top school with his college production and measurables, he’d be the top overall selection. My eyes see an under rated athlete with Joe Flacco like stature and arm strength. If he lands in a strong developmental situation (strong coaching staff with above average talent around him), he can develop into a top 15 starting NFL QB for the next decade.
Paxton Lynch - The “Joe Flacco” clone as Mike Mayock (NFL Network) called him, is huge (6’7” and 240 lbs) with tremendous arm strength and on-field production to bare. He will be an early day 2 (potential late round 1) selection but he needs time to develop his footwork and assimilate to the speed of the next level. If he ends up with a team that plays him extensively as a rookie it could destroy his long-term opportunity.
Jared Goff - The scouts are mixed on Goff, a Cal product. The presumptive top pick in the draft when the ’15 season kicked off, a somewhat disappointing season has left his stock in need of some repair. That said Goff showed pro footwork, all pro arm strength, release and touch, and he’s arguably the most pro ready to play prospect at QB this year. He’s started a ton of games and can make all the throws. Expect him to be selected in the top 10 to a team in need of an immediate solution at the position.
Kevin Hogan - One of the quiet surprises at the combine was Stanford’s Hogan. The all-time winningest QB at his school (which has produced 3 #1 overall QB selections in Jim Plunkett, John Elway and Andrew Luck), Hogan has been plagued with an elongated throwing motion and mediocre arm strength that most assumed meant he was at best a camp arm. However Hogan unveiled a sharper, quick release at the combine with good touch, accuracy and adequate arm strength. He’s day 3 destined but has likely gone from undrafted free agent to late round, and at best a backup to potentially the “next Kirk Cousins” designation. It helps that scouts are calling him a “first round brain”.
Unlike the other positions where it’s hard to say somebody disappointed in shorts and general drills, the quarterback position can demonstrate little nuances that foreshadow bigger issues around footwork, touch and body language.
Christian Hackenberg - The media anointed next great quarterback four years ago, he's regressed since his freshman year at Penn State. He needed to demonstrate improved footwork, fundamentals and/or impress with athletic/physical abilities. He didn’t succeed on any front at the combine and at times showed a terrible timing in the passing drills. Hackenberg will be selected because of name recognition and promise but the potential is beginning to look more like perennially unrealized than real.
Conner Cook - Sparty desperately wants Cook to take the next step above his predecessor (Kirk Cousins; who in his own right did the same from his predecessor, Brian Hoyer) but this combine performance was lackluster at best. Cook didn’t demonstrate anything special and even some of the insiders relayed stories that he lacks the intangibles to be a team leader. Cook will be drafted late on day 2 or day 3 but the potential to walk into a “QB of the future” situation appears to be waning.
Vernon Adams - This will be the another litmus test of the value of the combine. The senior bowl mvp was a major disappointment on the athletic testing, failing to break 4.8 40 or shine in any key athletic ability drill. Adams also measured smaller than anticipated. So in summary, he’s not as fast or quick as expected, although he did throw a nice ball but it doesn’t look like he has enough touch or accuracy to make it as a developmental player at the next level. He’ll be in a camp this summer but he looks like CFL material.