In a new feature to our blog, Frank Coppola will provide scouting reports of the top prospects for the 2016 NFL draft each Monday. Today, we start with the top quarterbacks and offensive linemen.
- Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) – Projected Pick: Top 5
Wentz’s prototypical quarterback size of 6’5’’ and 237-pounds set him up for success at the next level. He dominated at the Senior Bowl in February and was a star at the NFL Combine, running a 4.77 40-yard dash time (3rd among QB’s) and showing great accuracy and footwork in the passing drills. Wentz has experience running a pro-style offense, operating out of the shotgun and under center during his time at NDSU. His mobility stood out as a key strength, as this is a coveted asset in the modern-day NFL. Wentz put up solid numbers during his first year as a starter at North Dakota State, throwing for 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2014. In 2015, he suffered a wrist injury, but came back and started the team’s final seven games, throwing for 17 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions as a senior. He also found success running the football, posting up 6 rushing touchdowns in each of his two years as a starter. The major weakness exhibited by Wentz is his inability to maintain velocity when he makes passes outside of the pocket. However, his strong decision-making and minimal turnovers prove that he has the potential to be the next NFL franchise quarterback. The accuracy, size, pocket poise, and mobility of Carson Wentz make him an elite prospect for any NFL team.
- Jared Goff (California) – Projected Pick: Top 10
Widely considered the most NFL-ready quarterback in the 2016 draft class, Jared Goff produced huge numbers during his time at California. Serving as a three-year starter, Goff’s stats constantly improved as his college career progressed. He upgraded his touchdown-interception ratio each season, posting ratios of 18-10, 35-7, and 43-13 in his three years respectively. He displayed his ability to produce in pressure-situations, throwing for 6 touchdown passes in California’s bowl game victory over Air Force in 2015. The major concern teams have with Goff is his size. Although he is 6’4’’, he weighs only 215 pounds and his hands are just 9’’, which are both less than ideal measurements for an NFL quarterback. Another major concern is his ball security, being that he fumbled the ball 24 times during his 3-year college career, an issue that has been linked to his small hand size. Despite these setbacks, Goff has shown off his elite accuracy and arm strength, and his ability to execute on tight window passes displays his potential to become a star in the NFL.
- Paxton Lynch (Memphis) – Projected Pick: Mid-Late 1st Round
Lynch exploded onto the national stage in 2015 as a redshirt junior, leading the Memphis Tigers to an 8-0 start to begin the season. A three-year starter, Paxton Lynch constantly improved his production, specifically in his ability to protect the football and not commit turnovers. In 2015, Lynch threw only 4 interceptions on 443 passing attempts, turning the ball over on just under 1% of his passes. He also posted solid scoring numbers in both the passing and the rushing attack, throwing 59 touchdown passes and rushing for an additional 17 over his three-year collegiate career. Lynch is also surprisingly mobile and quick on his feet despite his 6’7’’, 244-pound frame. His ability to scramble only added to his production throughout his college years and makes him a useful asset considering the demand for mobile quarterbacks in the modern-day NFL offensive systems. Lynch’s main weakness is his inexperience operating in an NFL system. He has never taken a snap from under center and showed difficulty setting his feet during 5-step drops at the Combine, signifying the need for time to develop his skills at the next level before becoming an effective starter. Although he exhibited inconsistent accuracy at times, Paxton Lynch is a prospect with the size and arm talent to develop into an effective and productive NFL starter.
- Connor Cook (Michigan State) – Projected Pick: Early-Mid 2nd Round
A four-year starter in the Big Ten Conference, Cook has gained more experience in big-game situations than any other quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class. He has operated in a pro-style system and has shown that he can anticipate passing windows and successfully time routes. His progressions on drop-backs display his discipline, footwork, and ability to allow plays to develop. The main concern regarding Connor Cook’s draft stock is his inconsistent accuracy. In his four years as a starter, Cook has never posted a completion percentage over 60%, with a collegiate career average of 57.5%. This sub-par percentage raises significant concerns about Cook’s accuracy and ability to read defenses and make tight-window passes. He also has trouble addressing pre-snap blitz packages and making reads when facing tight coverages. Connor Cook’s draft stock was significantly hurt by his poor performance in MSU’s 38-0 loss against Alabama in the 2015 College Football Playoff semi-final. His leadership has also been questioned after not being named captain in his senior year. Despite these concerns, Cook’s draft stock remains high due to his production and big-game experience. After spending a few years developing in an NFL-system, he looks to be a prospect that will find success as a game manager once he moves into a starting role.
- Christian Hackenberg (Penn State) – Projected Pick: Late 2nd-Early 3rd Round
Over his three-year collegiate career as a starter, Hackenberg has demonstrated signs of greatness and signs of struggle. He has elite size for a franchise quarterback and has the arm talent to develop into a productive NFL player. His biggest strength at Penn State has been his leadership. He was voted to become a captain of his team in both of his last two seasons and showed great perseverance in the locker room. His mechanics are fundamentally solid and he has the ability to drive the ball anywhere down the field. The main weakness in Hackenberg’s game is his inconsistency. While under the helm of Coach Bill O’Brien, he thrived as a freshman, throwing for 25 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards. However, after O’ Brian’s departure from the university, Hackenberg struggled to find a rhythm in the offense. His production decreased to 12 and 16 touchdown passes in his next two years respectively, and his completion percentage fell to an average of 54.7% during that time. He also struggled to handle pass rush, completing less than 50% of his passes when blitzed by 5 or more rushers. Despite his recent struggles, Hackenberg has the foundation to develop into a productive quarterback in the NFL; he will just need time to advance his skill as a passer and his ability to read and handle the various defensive packages that will be thrown his way throughout his career.
- Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) – Projected Pick: Top 5
Tunsil has the technique and footwork to make him not only the top offensive line prospect in this year’s draft, but also arguably the top prospect in the whole draft class. He is fundamentally sound and his hand use and footwork will make him a potential all-pro in the NFL. He has shown the ability to read blitzes well and was able to protect against prolific SEC pass rushers, allowing just 2 sacks in his 28 career games at Ole Miss. His main weakness is his lack of pure power. In the run game, Tunsil blocks with a finesse style rather than driving defensive linemen back. Overall, he is a disciplined lineman whose elite form and quickness will allow him to become a superstar at the next level.
- Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) – Projected Pick: Top 15
Stanley is a long, athletic offensive line prospect with the quickness to stay with speed edge rushers on both sides of the line. His footwork and length allow him to keep defenders in front of him at all times and protect against counter moves. Like Tunsil, however, Stanley’s biggest weakness is that he often fails to generate power on his initial push, but is able to work around it using his quickness and athleticism to recover. Stanley’s talents put him at the top of this year’s class and make him a potential all-pro in the NFL.
- Jack Conklin (Michigan State) – Projected Pick: Mid 1st Round
A tough-minded and thick-framed beast of a lineman, Conklin was named to an All-Big Ten team in each of his final two seasons at MSU. Able to play both tackle positions, he is a physically gifted player who beats defenders with his pure strength and power. He engages pass rushers and locks in blocks with his hands, hips, and core and makes it difficult to escape once he is set. Conklin’s main weaknesses are his lack of quickness and his inability to set his feet after his first contact, making it difficult to maintain blocks when rushers pull counter moves on him. Altogether, Conklin is a solid prospect who possesses the strength and leverage to handle NFL pass rushers, but will have to prove that he can overcome his lack of quickness in order to stay with rushers off the edge.
- Jason Spriggs (Indiana) – Projected Pick: Late 1st-Early 2nd Round
Spriggs gained the attention of NFL scouts during his senior year at IU, starting all 13 games at left tackle and earning an All-Big Ten second-team selection. He only increased his draft stock while being a standout at the combine, running the fastest 40-yard dash time of all offensive linemen this year with a 4.94 and performing well in the workouts. He has great lateral movement and is able to actively utilize his hands to engage while blocking. His biggest weakness is that he is often not properly set and can be beaten when having to change direction and shift his weight. This has led some scouts to believe that he would be better suited playing inside as a guard or even a center. Spriggs is a solid offensive line prospect who was a four-year starter for the Hoosiers and could make an immediate impact for any team.
- Taylor Decker (Ohio State) – Projected Pick: Late 1st-Early 2nd Round
Decker was named the 2015 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in his senior season. The undisputed leader of the Buckeye’s line, he helped lead the team to a national championship title as a junior. He has great body control and has strong drive when engaging pass rushers. The biggest flaw in his game is that he blocks with his upper body instead of his legs too often. This leads to a lack of balance when changing direction and keeping up with defenders who get around the edge. He will need to work on staying low and establishing position in order to handle the elite NFL pass rushers, but altogether Decker is a proven leader with great strength and power and, after some time, could develop into a franchise tackle at the next level.