INDIANAPOLIS – Quarterbacks will take center stage at the Combine on Friday with reporters and Saturday on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium.
In the meantime, we're assessing the ones who are most often ranked in the top four and listing the biggest question each will have to answer from the many teams they'll meet with over the course of the week.
1. DeShone Kizer – Notre Dame
a. Current QB rank among draft analysts: Avg. - 1.7 (Tied for 1st)
i. Mike Mayock – 1st
ii. Mel Kiper Jr. – 3rd
iii. Todd McShay – 3rd
iv. Daniel Jeremiah – 1st
v. Dane Brugler – 2nd
vi. Bucky Brooks – 1st
vii. Benjamin Allbright – 1st
b. Biggest questions facing Kizer: Kizer leads the way with four first-place rankings among the experts, yet he is not even projected to be drafted in the first round of multiple, popular mock drafts. Many scouts believe Kizer has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft and that his 2015 tape is the best of this class, but the inconsistency that plagued him in 2016 certainly seems to be having a major impact on his draft buzz at the moment. Kizer will have to answer questions about his accuracy (58.7 percent last year) and explain exactly what went wrong throughout a disappointing 2016 season in South Bend.
c. Projected Combine Impact: Kizer should stand out among his peers for his size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), arm and ability to wow in shorts. Kizer is also said to be highly intelligent and charismatic, so I expect him to do very well in the meeting rooms and on the white board. Kizer has a chance to shoot up the draft boards and solidify himself as the top QB in this class at the Combine, and I expect him to do just that.
2. Mitch Trubisky – North Carolina
a. Current QB Rank: Avg. - 1.7 (Tied for 1st)
i. Mike Mayock – 3rd
ii. Mel Kiper Jr. – 1st
iii. Todd McShay – 1st
iv. Daniel Jeremiah – 2nd
v. Dane Brugler – 1st
vi. Bucky Brooks – 2nd
vii. Benjamin Allbright – 2nd
b. Biggest questions facing Trubisky: Trubisky is tied with Kizer for the top overall rank with three first-place rankings and three second-place rankings among the seven experts polled. The one exception is Mayock, who has Trubisky third at the position, and said he heard Trubisky might measure just over 6-foot-1 at the Combine. Since Mayock made that comment, the Tar Heel's stature has become a big topic of debate. This is not a question he can answer with his mouth, but it is one that will be definitely answered this week. If he's 6-foot-2 and above, Trubisky is free and clear on the height issue, but anything less might raise some red flags. After all, only two quarterbacks (Rex Grossman and Johnny Manziel) measuring 6-foot-1 or less have been drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Trubisky will also have to answer questions about his limited experience in college and why he couldn't beat out Marquise Williams for two years. Trubisky will also have to quiet critics about his footwork and overall lower-body mechanics, particularly on vertical throws and throws to the left side of the field.
c. Projected Combine impact: The height will be answered definitively. The mechanical questions can be answered to only a slight degree, as there is no defensive pressure, so I expect this question mark to persist, but he can show improvement. Finally, Trubisky is said to be very smart and articulate and many predict he will wow in the meeting rooms, so as long as the height checks out, I expect Trubisky to remain in position to be one of the first two quarterbacks off the board.
3. Patrick Mahomes – Texas Tech
a. Current QB Rank: Avg. - 4.3 (4th)
i. Mike Mayock – 4th
ii. Mel Kiper Jr. – 4th
iii. Todd McShay – 6th
iv. Daniel Jeremiah – 4th
v. Dane Brugler – 4th
vi. Bucky Brooks – 5th
vii. Benjamin Allbright – 3rd
b. Biggest questions facing Mahomes: Mahomes is a total wild card with undeniable physical gifts and an ability to freelance like gunslingers of years past. At his best, he looks like a cross between Matt Stafford and Brett Favre. At his worst, he looks like a quarterback who lacks the fundamental mechanics or understanding of the position to play at a high level in the NFL. Mahomes will be questioned repeatedly about his mechanics and ability to transition to the NFL. On the field, that will mean all eyes will be on his throwing motion and whether or not he can prove to have a tight, consistent delivery. Mahomes is coming from a pure spread, "Air Raid" offense at Texas Tech, and that one-read, wide-open style has not produced many successful NFL quarterbacks. He will have to ace the tests in the brief meetings and white board sessions to show NFL teams he can handle the information, terminology and reads demanded of an NFL quarterback. From a practical standpoint, Mahomes will also have to demonstrate he is comfortable with the footwork, timing and rhythm of taking drops and making throws from under center rather than the shotgun. If he checks those boxes, the real questions will be how much coaching and how much time does Mahomes need to become an NFL starter?
c. Projected Combine impact: Mahomes wows on the field with his athletic ability and does enough in the meetings to stay the sleeper project darling of the draft community. If he hits a home run in Indy, he could hear his name called in the first round and some even believe he could be the first quarterback taken. If he bombs in the meeting rooms, he will still be a second-round pick based on raw talent, alone.
4. DeShaun Watson – Clemson
a. Current QB Rank: Avg. - 2.7 (3rd)
i. Mike Mayock – 2nd
ii. Mel Kiper Jr. – 2nd
iii. Todd McShay – 2nd
iv. Daniel Jeremiah – 3rd
v. Dane Brugler – 3rd
vi. Bucky Brooks – 3rd
vii. Benjamin Allbright – 4th
b. Biggest questions facing Watson: The obvious top question for Watson is why aren't you the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft when you clearly have the best college resume and big-game performances of any quarterback -- or any player for that matter -- in this class? The answer lies in the tape, which shows a quarterback who did not display the best vision, decision-making or accuracy from the pocket. Watson will be questioned about his high interception totals (17), his low throwing platform that led to 25 passes being batted at the line the last two years -- most in all of college football -- and his vision/decision-making from the pocket. I expect his intangibles and leadership to be the top of this class, so his meetings in Indy will focus on going through some of his questionable plays on tape and explaining what happened to coaches and scouts. Can he answer those questions convincingly and display better accuracy on the deep ball? Those will be the key for Watson to prove he should be the top QB taken in 2017.
c. Projected Combine impact: Watson will check all of the off-the-field and leadership boxes, but questions will persist about his ability to continually win from structure as an accurate pocket passer. Evaluations on Watson will remain very mixed as some will be enamored with his big performances and leadership abilities, while others will remain concerned about the obvious flaws in his game from the pocket. He will remain the draft's biggest quarterback wildcard, as he could end up as the first quarterback taken or fall out of the first round entirely.