Ranking the 2016 Quarterback Class

Ranking the 2016 Quarterback Class

With the NFL Draft only a couple of weeks away, I wanted to compile my thoughts on the 2016 quarterback class as a whole before their landing spots are known. … After the draft, I will revisit this and make some changes to my rankings based on landing spot and opportunity, but this should be a good exercise to talk about the quality of these players. I’m hoping this will be your “one-stop shop” for rookie quarterback content!

Before we begin, I want to explain my process. The players are grouped into tiers as well as additional rankings. Tier names should give you an idea of the makeup of the group as a whole. I will also include a projected “arrival date”, which basically means when I think the signal caller will break into the league. You will also see a “portfolio price”. There I will give you a player whose current dynasty value I think reflects the potential for the quarterback at hand. This isn’t necessarily what I think the player is worth right now, but essentially, if he fully appreciates, what kind of player he will become. Putting a name to the value I think makes it easier to understand. Underneath all of this info will be my thoughts on the player, what I think he needs to succeed, and some other items of note.

Tier 1: Coming Soon to an NFL Team Near You

1. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Projected Arrival Date: 2016
Portfolio Price: Andy Dalton

When I originally profiled Wentz, I postured he could be the first quarterback off the board in the NFL Draft. That looks even more certain now, with most prognosticators penciling him in for the Browns at number two overall. Even with the signing of Robert Griffin III, I expect Wentz to make his debut at some point in 2016. None of the recent top quarterbacks have stayed on the bench for an entire season, so I would not expect that to happen to Wentz.

To really optimize his value, he needs to end up in Cleveland with Hue Jackson, and Josh Gordon needs to be reinstated. That would give him a top flight offensive coach and an elite receiving option to work with. However, much like Dalton, I don’t expect Wentz to ever be a true figurehead of an offense like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. His value is really going to be based more on the pieces around him, much like Dalton’s has been in Cincinnati. So, even if Wentz puts up a top-five fantasy season, he will probably still be valued like a low-end QB1 in dynasty.

2. Jared Goff, Cal
Projected Arrival Date: 2016
Portfolio Price: Matt Ryan

I’m not very high on Goff, but I do think he has a chance to be a starter in this league for a long time. That has value, especially in 2QB leagues. Right now it seems the top potential landing spots for Goff, assuming he goes after Wentz, are Dallas, San Francisco, and St. Louis. I think he makes his debut in 2016 for any of those teams, even Dallas, due to the age and injury risk that comes along with Tony Romo.

The best case scenario for Goff’s value would be to end up in San Francisco with Chip Kelly. Goff isn’t extremely mobile, but his accuracy would be an excellent fit for the Kelly system, and he could post big fantasy numbers in the Bay Area. I like Matt Ryan as his value comp because they should be similar in terms of reliability and security on the good side, and just average to below average play on the bad side. Goff’s ceiling simply isn’t that high.

Tier 2: If the System Fit, You Must Submit

3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Projected Arrival Date: 2017
Portfolio Price: Jameis Winston

Prescott is one of my favorite quarterback prospects in this draft, and he comes in ranked third at the position. He is probably someone we won’t get a chance to see much of in 2016, since he is expected to be a mid-round pick.  Dak would have to really wow in training camp and the preseason to earn starts as a rookie.

Two landing spots where he could really flourish are San Francisco and Denver. The former offers a dynamic offense for Prescott’s dual-threat capabilities, whereas the latter offers elite weapons and a coach in Gary Kubiak who could maximize the use of Prescott’s legs through zone-read and run fakes. I think very highly of his upside, but I’m also willing to note potential downsides in character after a DUI arrest in March. Those personality question marks lead me to the portfolio price of Winston.

4. Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Projected Arrival Date: 2016
Portfolio Price: Blake Bortles

Lynch probably gets a better shot at immediate playing time than Prescott, but I simply do not think he is as good. Right now, he is projected to go somewhere in the first or second round, and I could see him going as high as 19 to Buffalo.

His best landing spot, however, is Denver. As overrated as I think Lynch is, he could probably beat out Mark Sanchez, and the combination of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders would give him excellent weapons. I also think that because the team is so strong overall, they probably won’t have to lean on Lynch as much, making it more likely for him to succeed. If he can take advantage of the elite weapons, we could see him rise in fantasy circles much like Bortles did in 2015.

5. Vernon Adams, Oregon
Projected Arrival Date: 2017
Portfolio Price: Russell Wilson

The two signal callers in this draft who I feel have the most potential are not projected to be early picks, so we may have to wait a little bit for that upside to be realized. Adams is the prospect I look forward to watching the most, and I think he could end up being the best prospect in this class for fantasy. His incredible ability to be a high-efficiency passer as well as a runner makes him the ideal fantasy prospect if he can find himself on the field. To that point, while the previous options mentioned so far in this piece are certainly functional landing spots for Adams, I think that the Jets are a team increasingly more appetizing by the day. Whether or not they bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick is yet to be seen, but at this point I have to imagine it is not on a long-term commitment. Either way, it doesn’t hurt the Jets to add another arm to compete with the likes of Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is a wizard at getting startable fantasy production from quarterbacks, especially ones with mobility like Adams. They could be an ideal pairing, and one that skyrockets Adams’ dynasty value rather quickly.

Tier 3: The Last of the Mohicans

6. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Projected Arrival Date: 2018
Portfolio Price: Brock Osweiler

Hackenberg has name value, but I am lower on him now than I was during my initial writeup. His hand size came in extremely small, and the amount of quarterbacks to be successful with a career completion percentage less than or equal to 59 (since 2000) is basically a bunch of mobile guys and Matt Stafford. Hackenberg clearly doesn’t fall into the former group, and the only reason he sees a ranking this high is due to the natural skills he flashed while at Penn State. An investment in Hackenberg means a willingness to be patient and hope that whatever team drafts him is able to basically rebuild him.

To that end, Hackenberg would be best off landing with a team like the Chiefs, who have an established quarterback in Alex Smith, and an established “quarterback whisperer” in Andy Reid. With time to develop and learn, I could see him harnessing those skills to become an NFL starter. However, since the quarterback position is absurdly deep, Hackenberg’s lack of mobility probably keeps him from ever establishing anything better than QB2 value, much like Brock Osweiler.

7. Cardale Jones, Ohio State
Projected Arrival Date: 2017
Portfolio Price: Tyrod Taylor

I’m extremely down on Jones, but it looks as though he is going to get his shot with an NFL team sooner rather than later. The Bills apparently love him, and could select him to be there eventual starter even though they already have a terrific quarterback in Taylor. Still, if Jones is to be successful, it is probably more due to his mobility than his arm, and that mitigates some of his flaws.

The Buffalo landing spot would be ideal because it indicates the team is looking to groom him into a starter. The Greg Roman system has helped to make Colin Kaepernick successful, as well as Taylor, and appears to have a knack for working with mobile quarterbacks. It is possible that in two years we are having the same conversations about Jones that we are having now about Taylor.

8. Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech
Projected Arrival Date: 2017
Portfolio Price: Ryan Tannehill

If Prescott is the arbitrage Lynch, then Driskel is the arbitrage Prescott. He will not be drafted as high as a Hackenberg or a Jones, but has perhaps even higher upside. A small school signal-caller with an SEC pedigree, Driskel crushed in his final season, recording a 9.41 adjusted yards per attempt. He also looked the part at the NFL Combine, weighing in at 234 pounds and recording a 4.56 forty-yard dash.

Due to his impressive size and mobility, we have to like him in any of the locations mentioned for Prescott and Lynch. San Francisco and Denver remain the best landing spots for such quarterbacks, and we could definitely see him on the field in some capacity within two seasons.

9. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Projected Arrival Date: 2018
Portfolio Price: Matthew Stafford

Sudfeld has a lot of tools, and he used them at Indiana to post a 9.18 final season AYA. However, he was rather inconsistent in college, and could take some time to develop into a player worthy of seeing the field. There is upside here, but the odds of him hitting are fairly low.

To maximize his odds, the best landing would be a spot like San Diego or Detroit, who have viable starters right now, but could be looking to groom their quarterback of the future. I don’t know if Sudfeld would be able to take advantage of early career starts, so if you draft him you want him holding the clipboard early on.

10. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Projected Arrival Date: 2017
Portfolio Price: Teddy Bridgewater

Hogan is fairly pro-ready after completing 68 percent of his passes his final year at Stanford, and we could see him fairly early on as an NFL backup who makes some starts. However, I’m not totally positive he possesses the upside needed to establish long-term startable value. His weight is a primary concern, as he is just 218 pounds.

If Dallas ends up not going with someone like Goff at pick four, Hogan could be an ideal fit as someone who could serve as the backup should Romo go down with another injury. While I mentioned his issues in upside, I have no doubt Hogan could find Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and the rest of the Dallas pass targets better than the slop the Cowboys threw under center last year.

 

11. Connor Cook, Michigan State
Projected Arrival Date: 2017
Portfolio Price: Alex Smith

Cook is the last quarterback I’d be willing to select in 2QB formats, but I’m much lower on him than the public. He is underweight, and only posted a final year AYA of 8.1 at Michigan State. However, he will probably be a third or fourth round selection, and should get a shot to start early on in his career. If I’m wrong about him, he could end up being a great pick on that alone.

The best shot Cook will have to be a long-term starter is probably with the Rams, mostly because they don’t know what they’re doing, but also because their quarterbacks are terrible. Cook may actually be the best signal caller in L.A. if drafted by the Rams, and Jeff Fisher would probably admire his mediocrity.

Tier 4: I’d Bet On a Browns’ Super Bowl Win First

*Note that due to the long shot odds of these prospects, I will give brief statements on each rather than the long-form analysis above.

12. Trevone Boykin, TCU

Boykin boasts impressive mobility and was very efficient at TCU, but a ton of red flags and a possible position change push him down to this range.

13. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

Hyper-efficient, but has zero mobility, and I question if he can make the transition to the pros from the pass-happy system at WKU.

14. Brandon Allen, Arkansas

A slightly less mobile Hogan, Allen faced stiff competition in the SEC. That said, he feels like a long-term backup.

15. Vad Lee, James Madison

You may remember him from his days at Georgia Tech. He showed he could be an efficient dual-threat as a transfer student, but it is hard to translate that 1-AA play to the pros. At least we know he’s mobile.

16. Cody Kessler, USC

A favorite of scouts entering 2015, Kessler did nothing but disappoint his final year at USC. He’s a poor man’s Hackenberg.

17. Marquise Williams, UNC

Undersized, and may change positions, but was extremely mobile and a leader while at UNC.

18. Jacoby Brissett, N.C. State

Really only worth selecting due to his mobility. Never even cracked an AYA of 7.7 while a member of the Wolfpack.

Anthony Amico

Anthony is a former football coach and possesses two different mathematics degrees. He uses his combined knowledge in those two fields to dominate the fantasy landscape across a variety of formats, including daily fantasy, dynasty, and 2QB. Anthony is currently a contributor for RotoViz, Fantasy Insiders, and TwoQBs, and has a pure passion for the game, both in real life and fantasy. 


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