Whether it’s building or rebuilding, the foundation for every franchise begins with quarterbacks.
This year’s draft will be particularly interesting as there is high demand for the position. The Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and the Houston Texans are all in need for a young signal caller. While other teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, and the Arizona Cardinals are looking to invest in an arm for the future.
The 2017 NFL Draft is full of skilled young quarterbacks, especially when it comes to African-American talent. Here are five players who are waiting to hear their names called between April 27 and April 29.
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson
Aside from his athletic ability (12,102 total yards, 116 total touchdowns, 157.5 career quarterback rating) all Watson has done in a Tiger uniform is win.
Dethroning Alabama in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game was the icing on the cake for the 21-year-old. He’s also led Clemson to back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference titles (2015, 2016), he’s a two-time winner of both the Manning Award and the Davey O’Brien Award (2015, 2016), he won both the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Offensive Player of the Year in the same season (2015), he’s also an All-American (2015) and a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist (2015, 2016).
Many expect Watson to be the first quarterback selected. “If a team values a guy who has accomplished a lot in college and has good experience, and are willing to overlook that he might not have (all) the physical tools… then perhaps Watson is the pick,” says Frank Schwab who covers the NFL for Yahoo Sports.
Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes
The son of a former Major League Baseball player, Mahomes has the biggest hill to climb.
Many Texas Tech quarterbacks over the years have tried to succeed in the NFL and have failed. The inability to shake the “Air Raid Offense” that the Red Raiders have employed since the 90’s can hinder a quarterback’s development due to the limited passing tree and the lack of other fundamentals such as taking snaps from under center, reading a defense and adjusting to coverages.
But some consider Mahomes to be different. He’s shown that he can make the throws required at the next level and he knows how to react to coverages. He threw for 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns in Lubbock, Texas, and this weekend will affirm how he’s been able to appeal to NFL scouts.
“His skill set is far beyond any other Texas Tech quarterback,” says Schawb. “He has a phenomenal arm and the ability to run. He'll still need to learn the NFL game and develop as a pocket passer, but the tools are what separates him.”
Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer
Whether or not Kizer should have stayed for his senior year will always be debated. What isn’t debated however are the solid numbers (5,805 passing yards, 47 touchdowns, 997 rushing yards, 18 rushing touchdowns) that the Ohio native put up in just 24 games.
The 21st Century hasn’t exactly been kind to Notre Dame quarterbacks, and currently there is no Fighting Irish passer on an active NFL roster. But considering the need for quarterbacks, Kizer might be the one to end that cycle. He could be a diamond in the rough in the late rounds.
“He should have stayed in school one more year but his exposure to somewhat of a pro-style offense can help. His decision making will ultimately decide if he becomes a good player at the next level,” says Shawn Sierra who’s a football analyst for The Rewind Sports:60
Miami’s (FL) Brad Kaaya
Kaaya is the only quarterback among this group to play in a pure pro-style system. But despite that, and despite playing for one of the biggest programs in the country, Kaaya doesn’t have the exposure as the other players do. But considering he posted a 23-16 record as a starter, threw for 9,968 yards and 69 touchdowns, and led the Hurricanes to their first bowl game victory in 10 years, perhaps the time is right for the 21-year-old to turn pro.
“He has the tools to be successful so it'll be interesting to see if he can flourish. If he can get to a team with a good support system (running game, good offensive line, wide receivers etc.) he could be very productive,” said Sierra about Kaaya’s prospects.
Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans
The confidence factor is high in this young man as he’s going pro after just one year in Blacksburg.
Evans was a junior college transfer who accumulated 4,398 total yards and 41 combined touchdowns in a Hokies uniform. From Michael Vick, to Logan Thomas, to the Buffalo Bills current starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Evans believes he can be the next Va. Tech alum to succeed in the NFL.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned with those guys,” Evans tells NBC News. “They’ve made a name not only for Virginia Tech but they’ve made a name for themselves. It’s been a great experience.”
Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs
Finally we have a player who some are considering a sleeper in this year’s draft. Joshua Dobbs finished his Tennessee career with some eye popping numbers. With 7,138 career passing yards, while running for an additional 2,160 (not bad for a spread offense), there’s a small contingent that believes Dobbs could be the next Dak Prescott. But maybe we’re getting ahead ourselves on that one.
“Prescott was really a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon,” Schawb cautions. “He ended up on a team that has one of the best offensive lines ever, a true No. 1 receiver, a coaching staff that understood his limitations, and a situation in which he was a secondary player while a great running game was the foundation of the offense. Dobbs could be a solid player, but I don't know that we'll see another Prescott for a long, long time,” he added.
After this weekend we’ll get a better idea of what the future holds for these players.