Ranking the top 10 QB prospects in 2015 NFL draft

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With the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine upon us, it is time to rank the top 10 QB prospects in the 2015 NFL draft class. It is truly a down year at the position.

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Ranking the top 10 QB prospects in 2015 NFL draft

10. Nick Marshall, Auburn

Here’s how bad the 2015 quarterback class is: a guy who moved to corner for the Senior Bowl is still by far one of the best prospects on the list. As already mentioned, if he hadn’t made that move he would have landed in the top-five in these rankings.

Though he is likely to stay at corner, it makes some sense to rank him here as it’s possible he could pull a 180 and move back to quarterback (though honestly, it is highly unlikely).

Marshall is a great athlete for the position, though he can be a bit quick to pull the ball down and run. Playing in Gus Malzahn’s run-heavy offense, he was quite effective as a runner and as a deep-ball passer.

Obviously not a Cam Newton-type prospect, Marshall still could have success at the NFL level should he give it another try. Even if he does not, he’s still a better prospect at the position than guys like Shane Carden (just no arm) and Taylor Kelly (same reason).

(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

9. Brandon Bridge, South Alabama

Brandon Bridge is reminiscent in a few ways of Colin Kaepernick. Both are very tall, wiry bodies. The throwing motions, too, are equally awkward, though very different mechanically.

Bridge, however, is not the same level of athlete that Kaepernick was coming out of Nevada, nor is he equal in his ability to throw the football. South Alabama relied on a lot of short quick throws and deep bombs. Rarely does Bridge have to read a defense.

The arm strength is unquestionable, and Bridge shows a proclivity to be able to throw the ball from different arm angles and different trajectories—a hugely underrated quality in evaluating quarterbacks.

He will stand in and throw against pressure, when it comes, but tends to throw off his back foot in such instances. That, combined with his shaky accuracy overall, makes him an early third day project. He is worth investing in, but should not be considered a teams’ future at the preeminent position in modern sport.

(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

8. Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion

One game is difficult to assess a quarterback, but sometimes it is all that avails itself. In Heinicke’s game against Vanderbilt, he displayed some traits which translate to the next level.

For one, he is unafraid to throw down the middle of the field. Two, he often makes his best throws in clutch situations (third or fourth down, two-minute drill). Third, he shows fine instincts as he often waits for a receiver to clear a linebacker before making a throw.

Most of those are basic things any quarterback should do. Not all do, though.

Heinicke lacks ideal arm strength, though he has enough to make accurate sideline throws on-time. His size, 6-foot-1, further calls into question his NFL traits tool belt. But there is definitely enough in the tool belt to potentially earn a spot on an NFL practice squad.

If Kellen Moore can stick on an NFL roster, Heinicke can as well.

(Mark Gail/MCT via Getty Images)

7. Bryce Petty, Baylor

When Robert Griffin III came out of Baylor, I honestly thought he, and not Andrew Luck, was the best quarterback prospect I had ever seen (in approximately 10 years of evaluating draft prospects at the position). Griffin was NFL-ready for a passing offense—not the stupid pistol, run-first offense the Shanahans ran with him. But I digress.

Petty is not nearly as NFL-ready as Griffin was when leaving Waco. Petty is really just another guy. He has a good arm, but not the type that turns heads. He is smart, rarely makes bad decisions with the football and seems to have all the leadership and character traits teams look for in a signal-caller.

But again, he’s just another guy. He doesn’t stand out in any one category. Could he develop? Sure.

Will he? Who knows, but there’s little reason to expect him to become a great NFL quarterback. There’s just as much evidence to suggest he’s a career backup, if that.

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

6. Brett Hundley, UCLA

I want to like Hundley. Heck, I want to love the UCLA quarterback. I lucked into being present for Hundley’s first collegiate start at Rice in 2012, when I was chased to Houston during Hurricane Isaac less than two weeks after moving to New Orleans.

I grew up attending UCLA home football games until I went to San Diego State, so there are few people who would like more than I to see a UCLA quarterback make it in the pro ranks. It just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for this one.

Hundley has the requisite size and athleticism. His arm strength is more than adequate. The problem is that Hundley was accurate mostly because of an offense which never really took the training wheels off in his development.

Much has been said about Hundley taking too many sacks because he drops his eye level at the first sign of pressure. It is true. He was also maddeningly inconsistent.

As a project, any team would be wise to use a day three pick on him. But anytime before that, when selected players are supposed to be Week 1 starters, would be a reach. That said, Hundley could be a gem with good NFL teaching.

Or he could be another quarterback who never reaches his full potential.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

5. Blake Sims, Alabama

Admittedly I am higher on Blake Sims than most. I compared him to Russell Wilson in January. I stick by that comparison now, though I also recognize I will likely end up wrong.

That said, the passing chart project above eases my fears somewhat. Those numbers are mostly fact, but of course do not tell the entire story of a prospect. The personal story should also be considered, and Sims seems like the kind of person who will continue to beat the odds.

Sims could have gone anywhere from three to five in these unofficial (but official for where I will land) 2015 NFL QB prospects rankings.

I promise that I won’t say, “I told you so”, if I end up projecting these things correctly, as long as you don’t rub it in my face should I end up being incorrect.

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

4. Sean Mannion, Oregon State

Sean Mannion is a tricky quarterback prospect to rank for a couple of reasons. First, he struggled in his final season at Oregon State, which is often a major red flag for a prospect. Secondly, the bad tape is nearly equal to the quantity of good tape.

Third, the guy is uniquely gifted in the arm strength category but doesn’t always use it fully to his advantage. But he shows an ability to make all the throws, from most if not all of the necessary arm angles and trajectories.

He is not a great athlete, but understands how to manipulate the pocket to get a throw off under pressure. Another thing which may scare some off is his propensity to throw into traffic. But with his arm it should be seen as a positive quality.

Few quarterbacks in this class will be able to make a back shoulder throw or throw between two defenders with the deft touch of Mannion. Playing in a pro-style offense in Corvallis, Mannion broke many a school record.

If he gets in the right situation in the NFL, he could develop into a solid NFL quarterback. Ultimately, that is all that we can count on with any “prospect.”

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

3. Chris Bonner, CSU-Pueblo

In a quarterback class as devoid of potential franchise signal-callers, every stone must be turned over. When coming to Chris Bonner, a potential gem is uncovered. Bonner is a big-bodied quarterback with a strong arm and experience in something of a pro-style offense.

Bonner has experience dropping back from center, rolling out on bootlegs and making multiple reads. He does those things well, while also exhibiting an ability to step in against pressure to make a strong throw down the field. He does well that which all NFL passers must do—steps up in the pocket, while resetting his feet to make accurate throws down the field, or checking down when necessary.

Yes he played at one of the lowest levels of college football, but there’s little doubt he’d be a well-known commodity had he played at a bigger school.

Bonner likely will not hear his name called in the first three rounds of the draft, but he should be a hot commodity come day three. The skill is clearly there.

(Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

It is difficult to find faults in Marcus Mariota’s game. To some, he is the obvious No. 1 overall pick. But there are others who say his game compares to Alex Smith—once taken No. 1 overall over Aaron Rodgers.

In that equation, Jameis Winston would be Rodgers. If you’re San Francisco, in hindsight, you’d likely take Rodgers. The comparison seems an apt one, at least with Mariota filling the role of Smith.

Mariota is a great athlete with ideal size for the NFL. He has more than enough arm, but really does project, like Smith, as a game-managing quarterback. He is undoubtedly best throwing short, allowing his receivers to make plays with the football.

Unfortunately, most teams at the top of the draft are there because they need a quarterback who can win games for them. Mariota could become that kind of quarterback, but a smart projection says he is more Smith than Rodgers.

For that reason he could fall to the middle or bottom of the draft’s first round, and ultimately everyone wins—Mariota, the team who drafts him and the teams picking potentially impact players at other positions while stacking their rosters more fully to complement a rookie signal-caller in 2016.

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State

Make no mistake, there are character concerns involving Jameis Winston—the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. But, most of those—with one obvious exception—can probably be adequately chalked up to youth and immaturity, which hopefully will be outgrown.

At the same time, if I were the general manager and/or coach in charge of the draft, selecting Winston would be a scary proposition. Yet, one thing must be remembered: when all is said and done, talent wins out in the NFL.

And there is not a player more talented at the position. There is not a quarterback more NFL-ready than Winston. Sure the throwing motion can look a bit awkward. The interception totals this season are also a cause for concern.

But Winston was asked to carry the Florida State offense this season, and for the most part did a wonderful job. He can make all the throws, from any platform with any trajectory. He makes smart decisions and is not afraid to throw into coverage, which is ultimately requisite for effective NFL quarterback play.

As long as Winston isn’t Todd Marinovich or Ryan Leaf from a character standpoint, whichever team drafts Winston—be it Tampa Bay or someone a few picks later—is getting a franchise quarterback.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Had any of the following quarterbacks left school a year early, they'd be legitimately battling for the third spot: Connor Cook, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott and Trevone Boykin, not to mention the three-game wonder kid Cardale Jones -- who amazingly led Ohio State to the national championship in just his third career start.

Those passers should allow us to get excited about the 2016 quarterback class. It unfortunately leaves us quite disappointed with the 2015 class.

It is two-deep, and then a whole bunch of question marks.

The aim of every scout is to wade through all the question marks and unfurl a gem, should one be found.

One potential gem was Nick Marshall -- the Auburn quarterback, who is a tremendous athlete and underrated passer, but decided to switch to cornerback at the 2015 Senior Bowl. Had Cam Newton's successor at Auburn maintained his spot in this draft as a passer, he would have been one of the top-five prospects at the position.

That fact probably says everything about this class. After the two Heisman Trophy winners -- Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota -- it brings a ton of unknowns.

Still, there are 10 quarterbacks worthy of being ranked, if not drafted. These 10, at least, deserve a spot in an NFL training camp this upcoming summer.

Though I did my own charting of game film, for sake of clarity I used this accuracy chart from Darren Page. Obviously his charts only take into consideration accuracy so they are not the sole factor in these rankings. Hence, why some of the quarterbacks are ranked differently than they fall in his charting.

Accuracy is one of the main tools I use to evaluate quarterbacks, but it does not stand alone. Poise, moxie, pocket mobility, ability to throw from different platforms and with different trajectories are also keys I look for when evaluating quarterbacks to the NFL level.

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Related links:
Roy Williams calls out North Carolina fans
Scouts: Winston's football IQ on par with Peyton Manning
Cleveland Browns new logo leaked at combine?

For more sports coverage, please visit FanSided.com and follow W. Osgood on Twitter: @willosgood116

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