(A series looking at the top players at various positions leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, set for April 30-May 2.)
There are three types of questions hovering around this group in the final days before the 2015 NFL Draft.
Questions about Jameis Winston's character. Questions about Marcus Mariota transitioning from a spread offense in college to the pro style he'll be asked to execute everywhere except maybe Philadelphia. And questions about the pecking order after those two come off the board.
Regarded as the likely No. 1 overall pick in this draft, Winston arrived at Florida State as a highly-recruited athlete and his production matched the hype. After redshirting in 2012, Winston started and led the Seminoles to an undefeated season that culminated in a national championship. He completed 66.9 percent for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and most significantly he led his team on an 80-yard drive in the final 1:11 of the BCS Championship Game and capped it all with a touchdown pass. His 2014 wasn't as impressive statistically – he threw 25 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions – but the Seminoles again went undefeated and played for the national title again. Off-the-field, however, there were issues, and those issues lead to questions. He was involved in a pellet gun fight with roommates; got caught stealing crab legs from a supermarket; and jumped on a table in a college dining hall and shouted a profanity. Signs of a lack of character, or youthful indiscretions?
He made 41 career starts at Oregon and during those he produced some ridiculous statistics. He was 35-6 as a starter, he threw for 105 touchdowns in three seasons, he once went 353 pass attempts without an interception, and he graduated in less than four years with a degree in general science. But NFL scouts want to see prospects do NFL things, and Mariota didn't do a lot of NFL things during his time as a college quarterback. He gets caught looking at the pass rush and tucks the ball to run; he didn't have to throw into tight windows, because his receivers mostly were wide open; his arm strength isn't great; he's not a good reader of defenses even at a college level, and he fumbled 27 times in 41 games at Oregon.
View some of the top 2015 NFL draft prospects at the quarterback position.
Amazed the media at the NFL Scouting Combine when he revealed that the first time he ever had called a play in a huddle was during the Senior Bowl. Petty is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, and in college he completed 530-of-845 (62.7 percent) for 8,195 yards, 62 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Had those statistics been compiled in the NFL, Petty would have had a passer rating of 114.3. In 2014, nobody in the NFL had a rating of 114.3. But Petty was prone to mistakes when he had to come off his first read, and his 2014 statistics were the worst of his college career. He's going to have to learn to read defenses and get through his progressions when he joins the NFL.
He is 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, and has the arm strength to make all the NFL throws. He understands the back-shoulder throw, and he's a good enough athlete to make plays with his feet when things break down, but he isn't one of those college quarterbacks who looks to only one receiver down the field before tucking and running. But Hundley also does some head-scratching things that will drive NFL coaches crazy, such as the game vs. Utah when he held the ball too long time and again and ended up being sacked 10 times. He is compared to Jason Campbell, and Hundley figures to be drafted maybe earlier than he deserves, but he's going to need some hard coaching before he's ready to succeed in the NFL.
Derek Anderson. Mike Glennon. Kent Graham, if you wanna go old school. Big and immobile like all of those guys, and yet Mannion was highly productive in Coach Mike Riley's pro-style offense. Mannion has a lot of what the NFL is looking for in a quarterback. A classic pocket passer, he's a film junkie, who works hard and earns the respect of his teammates; he's very intelligent, and in college showed he was willing to do the work to improve himself. In the NFL, he's going to have to learn to get rid of the ball more quickly, because he doesn't have the athletic ability to escape the rush, and he's going to have to quit forcing the ball down the field because the 36 interceptions he threw in three college seasons will be even higher against professional defensive backs.
THE 2014 NFL DRAFT, QB STATISTICS
Number drafted: 14
Picks by round: 3 in the first; 2 in the second; 0 in the third; 2 in the fourth; 2 in the fifth; 5 in the sixth; 0 in the seventh
Highest pick: Blake Bortles, Central Florida, Round 1, 3rd overall, by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Biggest impact: Derek Carr, even though Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles also started as rookies. Carr started all 16 games for the Raiders, he completed a very respectable 58.1 percent of his passes, with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.