NFL Combine 2017: Quarterbacks to Watch

Feb 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Dakota State Bisons quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Combine is not all that helpful when evaluating quarterbacks, but which of the top players invited at the position should you be watching?

The NFL Combine is not always the best measure for quarterbacks, but does provide valuable insight for teams on the top prospects. The biggest value comes in the interview room, but that is obviously not seen by the general public.

For what can be seen, the on-field drills obviously deliver the best look at a quarterback’s skills. Pairing the quarterback with unfamiliar receivers shows their ability to adjust as well as showing their ability to work with different types of receivers.

The traditional drills often bring little value when evaluating quarterbacks, but can help show what athletic tools the quarterback is working with. The 40-yard dash is all but a moot point for quarterbacks, even athletic quarterbacks.

The remainder of the drills show the explosive aspects of the quarterbacks, and the short area quickness. This can help show pocket mobility and escapability, something teams covet in their quarterbacks. This class of quarterbacks has a lot of questions surrounding it, but most of them are in-game question marks that will not be answered at the combine.

Which quarterbacks are worth keeping an eye on during the week of the 2017 NFL Combine?

Dec 30, 2016; El Paso, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) scans the Stanford Cardinal defense at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mitch Trubisky – North Carolina

Many have Mitch Trubisky as the top quarterback on the board, and the first quarterback to be selected (including in Matt LaPan’s latest mock draft). Trubisky will likely measure the best of any quarterback in this class—standing closer to a prototypical height, length and size.

The 6-3, 220-pound signal caller was just a one-year starter at North Carolina and still has a lot of questions surrounding his ability to lead a team. That is where interviews will be critical for Trubisky. Once he gets on the field, it should be a very good showing.

He shows a strong arm, but will be able to answer some questions about deep ball accuracy with the fade route drills. He can show off his accuracy in the short passing drills, emphasizing the strength of his game. Watching his feet in both the short shuttle and the three-cone drill will be interesting, as he has good but not polished footwork.

Something else to watch will be his arm angle on delivery. He can drop his arm when under pressure, but will need to show that he can stand strong and deliver correctly when presented a free delivery. If his arm drops, it could be a bad sign to teams looking to take him atop the 2017 NFL Draft.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) calls a play against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2. Deshaun Watson – Clemson

If you were to ask 10 evaluators about Deshaun Watson, you would likely get 10 different opinions. The NFL Combine is a chance for Watson to impress all of these evaluators at one time.

Watson is an athletic, long quarterback who should test quite well. He will run a good 40-yard dash time, likely show good explosion in both the vertical and broad jump and should perform well in the shuttle and the three-cone drill.

The real test comes on the throwing drills. Footwork is going to be the biggest question mark, and Watson will have a chance to show it with no pressure. If it is off, that is clearly a bad sign for evaluators. This will also be true for his delivery. Watson often drops the ball too low, causing him to overthrow passes and lose accuracy. His arm slot will be something to keep an eye on.

Watson is also known for elevating his game in pressure situations, but will have to show consistent traits of a starting quarterbacks. He needs to interview well, showing he can be a true leader. He has enormous pressure on his with high expectations, so keeping poised under this pressure will also be a big factor at the combine.

Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws a pass against the Southern California Trojans during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3. DeShone Kizer – Notre Dame

On film, DeShone Kizer has all the physical traits to be a franchise quarterback. He also shows a high level of inconsistency that has many questioning his ability to be a true game-changing NFL quarterback. The NFL Combine might be more important for him than nearly any other player in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Kizer is a better athlete than some give him credit for. He will measure extremely well at 6-4 and close to 230 pounds, but his testing will open some eyes. He should run well (again, this doesn’t really matter for a quarterback, but will show that he is a better athlete than expected), and will move well in the shuttles and three-cone. His movements will be monitored closely, as he can be a little stiff in the pocket at times.

The biggest keep to watch will be on his delivery. Kizer can often overstep on his delivery, sending his throws long and high. He needs to show that in a controlled environment he can have a tight, compact delivery. He also needs to show that his deep ball accuracy is there—it was very spotty at Notre Dame.

Nov 5, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) throws a pass against the University of Texas Longhorns in the second half at Jones AT&T Stadium. UT defeated Texas Tech 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

4. Patrick Mahomes – Texas Tech

Some believe there are only three quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft—those people would be wrong. And former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes is out to show them that at the NFL Combine.

He moves quite well, meaning he should post good times in the short shuttle and the three-cone drill. He has good athleticism, and should open some eyes with good times and measurements. He does not have the ideal quarterback body, but he will not measure small.

Mahomes needs to show that he can stand tall and deliver accurately. He has shown throughout his college career that he can deliver on the run and escape pressure, but has not shown consistently that he can deliver an accurate pass from the pocket. His arm strength is not in question, but he needs to show he can put touch on a ball when he needs to.

For those who tend to overreact to the NFL Combine, though, Mahomes could really turn heads during the event. In terms of physical tools desired from a quarterback, he checks most boxes. In addition to the questions above, the biggest questions are about his effectiveness in a pro-style offense.

Dec 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) warms up before the start of the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Russell Athletic Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

5. Brad Kaaya – Miami

There was a time before the 2016 college football season that some had Brad Kaaya as their top quarterback prospect. Ever since his arrival at Coral Gables, he’s been marked as a future NFL starter, but never fully lived up to the hype. He has the size, length and experience to become a starter at the next level, but there are questions surrounding his overall game that he needs to try to answer at the NFL Combine.

Kaaya is a smooth athlete who should test well. He has good footwork and solid movements, meaning he should run the more important drills well. The important part to watch is how he plays with unfamiliar receivers. Kaaya is very much a routine passer, taking the same movements and finding similar routes against similar defenses. Teams will be watching if he can adjust his routine and sling it to multiple receivers in a short amount of time. Breaking his routine will help, showing his raw skills and not his system passing.

There are plenty of other names that will be working out at the combine. However the group of five that are listed are the tops of the class and should be watched closely. They’ll have the best chance to improve, or ruin, their stock at the 2017 NFL Combine.

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