A sense of uncertainty always looms around the NFL Draft. Its very nature is an untamed, unpredictable beast that even months of diligent research cannot master.
When April finally rolls around, teams will have spent endless hours in their respective war rooms analyzing prospects from top to bottom. Their personal lives honed with severe scrutiny and their cumulative collegiate efforts amalgamated into highlight and lowlight clips that have been watched over and over again.
In that respect, I expect the Denver Broncos to put in copious amounts of study in regard to the 2016 quarterback class that has a handful of interesting and promising prospects with the ability to lead an NFL franchise.
Everyone knows that Peyton Manning is the quarterback for the 2015 season. They are also well aware that he is under contract for one more year — at the hefty sum of $21.5 million dollars. But will he be a part of the team's plans in 2016? It’s doubtful. The organization will have a handful of quality players such as Von Miller, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe and Danny Trevathan (to just name a few) that are scheduled to hit the free agent market.
John Elway and Co. will have to ask themselves, "Is one more year of Peyton Manning worth mortgaging the ability to retain young players with potential and the future efficacy of the franchise?"
No matter how much you love Manning, in your deepest heart of hearts, you have likely already realized that this is indeed his last ride across the Mile High gridiron.
But that’s not the only quarterback storyline that will rear its head when the off-season comes underway. Brock Osweiler, who was drafted in the same year the Broncos signed Manning will also be a free agent. Has the team seen enough positive development from him over the past four years to be confident enough in giving him a contract that symbolizes their faith that he can be the teams future at quarterback? Only the Broncos Brass in Dove Valley will know the answer to that question.
That leaves Trevor Siemian, who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft as the only sure-fire bet at the quarterback position to be on the roster next season. He looked promising in the preseason, but whether or not he can be "the guy" to lead the Broncos into battle on any given Sunday remains to be seen.
The amalgamation of the aforementioned will undoubtedly process itself into a significant endeavor on behalf of the teams scouting and player personnel departments to be on the lookout for their next signal caller of the franchise. That being said, lets take a look at some of the prospects available in the 2016 NFL Draft at the quarterback position.
The Usual Suspects
Paxton Lynch, QB, Redshirt Junior — Memphis
Perhaps no other prospect in the class has seen a meteoric rise in draft rankings than Memphis’ Paxton Lynch. The Tigers' quarterback is having an unbelievable season. To date he has thrown for over 3,000 yards and has 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions and boasts an astonishing 164.5 QBR. He has shown steady improvement in his three years with Memphis and at 6'7, 245 pounds has the size teams covet.
Lynch has demonstrated mastery of the Tigers' spread offense and although he is completing 1/4 of his passes near the line of scrimmage, he also has attacked opposing defenses in the same amount on mid-range throws downfield. His supreme pocket poise, accuracy and leadership skills will be heavily sought after, but criticism regarding the level of competition he plays and his inconsistent arm strength will continue to be scrutinized.
Nevertheless, Lynch looks to be a sure fire first round selection and could see himself catapult into #1 overall consideration if he keeps dominating the college football scene for the remainder of the season.
Jared Goff, QB, Junior — California
University of California quarterback Jared Goff is widely considered to be the best quarterback in the nation and his game tape shows why. Through almost three full years of play with the Golden Bears, Goff has completed nearly 62% of his passes, eclipsed the 10,000 yard mark and sports 77 touchdowns to just 29 interceptions.
Goff might not be the most physically impressive specimen at the quarterback position, but his ability to read defense and filter through his progressions are off the charts. Mentally, he is the complete package and teams are undoubtedly searching for quarterbacks who have the ability to handle the mental rigors of the NFL.
Like Lynch, Goff's arm strength isn't in the caliber of say Cam Newton, Jay Cutler or John Elway, but it is good enough to make the tough NFL thows. When observing his play throughout the course of this season, I have been incredibly impressed with his pocket poise under pressure and his ability to make throws on the run. His decisiveness and play-making ability is what separates him from all the others in this class and in my eyes, is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of this years quarterback crop.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Broncos will have the ability to move up into the Top 5 in this draft to select him, but he would be a perfect fit for Gary Kubiak's offense and would give the Broncos a franchise caliber quarterback. Eerily similar to former Boston College and current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Connor Cook, QB, Redshirt Senior — Michigan State
Several weeks ago I discussed Michigan State's Connor Cook. As the weeks have rolled by, my analysis and opinion haven't changed on him a bit. He has the ability to be a franchise signal caller, but still has bouts of inconsistency, especially with accuracy that are troubling. His completion percentage still is below 60%, a number that will definitely give cause to a long pause in draft rooms that are thinking about his ability to improve upon that in the pros.
Nevertheless, he is a battle-tested leader who plays in a major conference and has endured a lot of success. Whatever team drafts him next April will get a player who can come in and compete for a starting job right away. That in itself will likely make him a Top 15 draft selection.
The Most Overrated
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Junior — Penn State
No prospect has garnered more praise and criticism than Penn State's Christian Hackenberg. The 6'4, 235 pound prospect plays in a pro-style offense and has the arms strength to make any throw asked of him. On the surface, there is no doubting his physical prowess that signifies a first round selection, yet Hackenberg's play on the field certain brings a handful of questions that would suggest he might not be as great of a prospect as he has been hyped up to be.
In 2014, Hackenberg was just one of 15 FBS quarterbacks to toss more than 15 interceptions and his pass rating of 109.4 didn't even register him among the top 100 efficient signal callers in college football. He played all of last year with a gunslinger mentality, forcing throw after throw in order to try and make a play for his team. Unfortunately, it was the defense that ended up being the beneficiaries of his poor throws more often than now.
While his interceptions are a lot fewer in 2015, he still is an erratic passer with a poor completion percentage that ends up falling short on too many throws. Unquestionably, he never lived up to the hype he received coming out of prep school, but there will certainly be a team out there who believes they can squeeze all the God given potential out of him. In my opinion, Hackenberg has slipped out of the status of a first round signal caller and if he declares, is more likely to be selected in the second or third round by a franchise who will have him sit for a year or two as a reclamation project.
The X-Factor Signal Caller
Carson Wentz, Senior — North Dakota State
My dark horse prospect at the quarterback position this season is North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Wentz is currently sidelined due to suffering a broken wrist several weeks ago against the University of South Dakota, but has already earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Wentz is rough around the edges and only has 1.5 years of starting experience, but has been extraordinarily efficient and is a dual threat quarterback who can beat you through the air or on the ground. In 22 games as a starter, he has thrown for 4,600 yards, 41 touchdowns and has only tossed 12 interceptions. Additionally, he has carried the ball over 200 times for almost 1,000 yards and 10 scores.
Teams will certainly question the FCS level of competition he played against, but when the games were the biggest, he played at a very high level. Most franchises will have an incomplete grade on him as of now due to his injury status, but he certainly has the ability to forge his own positive image and cement himself as a draft riser if he performs well during Senior Bowl week activities.
The Man on the Brink
Jacoby Brissett, Redshirt Senior — NC State
Brissett has been a very efficient and productive player for the Wolfpack this season and last season when he was a full-time starter. In 2015, he has completed 64% of his passes for nearly 1800 yards and sports a 14-to-2 TD to INT ratio. Moreover, his passer rating of 141.29 is one of the best for FBS quarterbacks. He has the size (6'4 and 230 pounds) to play the position and has tremendous leadership skills on the field. From the several games I watched I kept telling myself, "This kid never quits and always looks for the big play opportunity."
I like that sort of mentality in a quarterback, but my concern with Brissett is that while he starts most games off hot, he seems to fade away in the second half. This year there is a 18% difference in his completion percentage from first to second halves. As the game goes on, his play seems to wither. He tends to lock on to his first and second reads and doesn't seem to move through his progressions as well as he should.
Typically, you want guys who have the ability to overcome adversity on the scoreboard in the games last minutes. Sadly, that isn't something I have seen enough out of Brissett this year to lead me to believe he is going to be a long-term starter in the NFL. He won't be a first round pick, but he could impress teams enough to merit a second or third round selection.
Prospects of Honorable Mention
Nate Sudfeld, Senior — Indiana
Cardale Jones, Redshirt Junior — Ohio State
Cody Kessler, Redshirt Senior -— USC
Dak Prescott, Redshirt Senior — Mississippi State,
Tevone Boykin, Redshirt Senior — TCU
Which one of these prospects interests you most as future Broncos draft selection? Sound off in the comments!