Even though we are still a few months away from the 2012 NFL Draft, I'd like to get an early jump on the top prospects who have either graduated or have forgone the rest of their college career to take the leap to the pros.
Following in the foot steps of Ray's first 2012 NFL Mock Draft of the year, here is a more in-depth analysis of the top 5 quarterbacks who are expected to make a splash in the NFL next year. Once the playoffs are over and a new Super Bowl champion is crowned, make sure to check back at this list every week as we get more information regarding Combine results, etc. Make sure to check back next week as I cover Running Backs, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
1. Andrew Luck - Stanford
Age/Date of Birth: (22)/9/12/1989
Ray's Projected Draft Spot: Indianapolis Colts (No. 1 Overall)
I have yet to see any mock draft that DOESN'T have Luck as either the No. 1 quarterback drafted or as the No. 1 overall option for the Colts. Peyton Manning is not only coming off a major neck injury, but he is due a huge $28 million option bonus due 3/8. Rumors have been swirling regarding the Colts trading Manning or keeping him for the rest of his career while Luck sits behind him and learns. Unless the Colts trade down, which is doubtful, there is no way Indy is going to pass up on such a talented player like Luck. Even without Jim Harbaugh, Luck still completed 71% of his passes for 3,517 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2011.
Fantasy Outlook: Even if Manning does stay, Luck is still too good of a dynasty option to pass up. If Luck winds up the starter, plenty of owners will take the chance on him as a QB2. There are rumors that the Colts may look at current Eagles OC Marty Mornhinweg to be their next head coach. While I worry about Mornhinweg getting yet another head coaching gig (He flopped in Detroit), his knack for getting the most out of his quarterbacks (Jeff Garcia, Michael Vick) will be too tempting for a team that may want to get Luck under center as soon as 2012. Especially if a team offers a boatload of picks and/or players for Manning's services.
2. Robert Griffin III - Baylor
Age/Date of Birth: (21)/2/12/1990
Ray's Projected Draft Spot: Cleveland Browns (No. 4 Overall)
A Heisman trophy winner in 2011, Griffin was a weapon through the air and on the ground, completing 72% of his passes for 4,293 yards with 37 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He has also rushed for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns. Griffin lacks size compared to other prospects, but he makes up for it with a strong arm and mobility.
Fantasy Outlook: Unlike Luck, Griffin should start right away as Cleveland's new franchise quarterback. I was bashed when evaluating Colt McCoy, stating he doesn't have the arm strength and isn't built for the NFL. After 2 years, it's clear that McCoy isn't the answer under center. Unfortunately, mediocre weapons are what will hold Griffin back, unless the team also adds a couple receiving weapons in the offseason. As for his dynasty value, Griffin will go in the first round.
3. Ryan Tannehill - Texas A&M
Age/Date of Birth: (23)/7/27/1988
Ray's Projected Draft Spot: Miami Dolphins (No. 8 Overall)
In his senior year, Tannehill had some ups (415YDS/6TDs/1INT vs Baylor) and downs (224YDS/2TDs/3INT vs Texas). During his 2011 season, Tannehill completed 62% of his passes for 3,744 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. And like Griffin, he was also a duel threat on the ground, rushing 58 times and 4 scores. He also has the rare skills as a receiver, catching 112 passes for 1596 yards and 10 touchdowns from 2008-2012.
Fantasy Outlook: Ray and I both don't see Matt Moore being anything special in 2012. Yeah he had his moments last season. But if Tannehill falls into their laps, there is no way they can pass up such talent in the passing, rushing and in the receiving department. Not to mention a new head coach, possibly Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, will want to implement HIS guy, not some retread. Tannehill's fantasy value really comes down to what happens in training camp. Because he is a bit more raw as a quarterback, he may sit behind a possible free agent veteran in 2012. But because he is a unique triple threat, I'd take a chance on him at the end of the first round in dynasty leagues. Redrafters may want to pass on him for now.
4. Nick Foles - Arizona
Age/Date of Birth: (22)/1/20/1989
Ray's Projected Draft Spot: Seattle Seahawks (No. 8 Overall)
Foles started off the 2011 season on fire, throwing 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. But once the October 5th game against USC rolled around, Foles turned into an interception machine, throwing multiple interceptions in 5 out of the last 8 games. Foles 2011 season ended with 4334 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Foles' numbers are somewhat impressive playing behind an awful offensive line that gave up 23 sacks.
Fantasy Outlook: If the Seahawks want any chance of competing in the NFC West, they have to look at an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson, even though Pete Carroll says Jackson is the "the leader at the spot" next year. Ray points out that the Seahawks could decide to sign a veteran instead, ala Matt Flynn, who will be a starter somewhere in 2012. But if the two sides can't get something done, Foles could be the guy. Foles' size and his 65.6% accuracy over his college career will be too intriguing to pass up. Like the Browns, I don't like what Seattle has going on in their passing game. Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate are not true threats, so Foles' fantasy value could be diminished if the team doesn't at least make an attempt at bringing someone new in. Foles isn't anything more than a future fantasy prospect who needs to work on his field vision. He locked onto one receiver too many times, which resulted in all those interceptions.
5. Brandon Weeden - Oklahoma State
Age/Date of Birth: (28)/10/14/1983
Greg's Projected Draft Spot: Kansas City Chiefs (No. 75 Overall)
Weeden had a huge 2011 season, completing 72.3% of his passes for 4727, 37 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Against Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Weeden went 29 of 42 passing for 399 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and he also ran in a score in a 41-38 victory. Between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Weeden amassed a total of 9,004 passing yards, 71 touchdown passes to 26 interceptions. Weeden has good pocket skills and also displays a strong arm. Throwing to Justin Blackmon, a top 10 receiver this year, didn't hurt.
Fantasy Outlook: A former minor league baseball player, Weeden's age (28) is going to cause his stock to drop. He has good rhythm and usually gets better as the completions pile up. It'd be hard to see anyone taking him within the first 2 rounds, however, meaning he will likely fall in dynasty leagues. But if a team with the right system picks him up and helps him improve (He needs to get his throwing motion sorted out), he could be a nice sleeper. He definitely has the college numbers and the accuracy to make a name for himself at the pro level. If he has a strong Senior Bowl and Combine, a team like the Chiefs could draft him and have him push Matt Cassell for playing time.