Quarterback class has plenty to prove before NFL draft
INDIANAPOLIS >> NFL teams looking for a franchise quarterback in this year's draft may have a long search.
Sure, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch could be the guy — in time.
But there are significant questions about all three, and this weekend's workouts at the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis failed to produce some of those answers.
"Most of these kids have never been under center, so when you talk about a five-step drop, most of them have never done it until they got with the (quarterback) guru," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said after watching Saturday's drills. "So what the coaches are looking for is their footwork."
Regardless, all three could find landing spots in the Top 10 picks. They always seem to.
The question this year is who is best positioned.
Goff can make every throw needed to excel in the NFL, though he played largely in a spread offense at California, a program that with the exception of Aaron Rodgers has struggled to produce NFL-ready quarterbacks.
Wentz won a national championship every year he attended North Dakota State, but there are big questions about the level of competition he faced in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Lynch looked rather fit at 6-foot-7, 244 pounds and displayed his athleticism during workouts. But it's also clear he's not a finished product yet.
"Paxton Lynch looks like, to me, that they're building him from the ground up," Mayock said. "When he gets his footwork the right way ... he's got good arm strength. But he's a little bit of a project. He's a couple years away."
Other first-round possibilities at quarterback could include Connor Cook from Michigan State and Christian Hackenberg from Penn State.
But the safest bet might be if a team with a solid starting quarterback decided to draft for the future
"If I'm Dallas at No. 4, I'm kind of licking my lips because I've got a 36-year-old quarterback (Tony Romo) who hasn't finished a season in three years," Mayock said in reference to Wentz. "I would much prefer drafting a guy for the future."
Here are some other observations from Indianapolis:
WHO'S NO. 1: With no clear-cut quarterback at No. 1, speculation has centered around defensive end Joey Bosa from Ohio State and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil from Mississippi. There's little doubt Tunsil looked the part this weekend, measuring in at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds and looking light on his feet. Bosa, however, ran a slower-than-expected 4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Don't be surprised to hear some other names join the conversation before April.
BUCKEYE BONANZA: Ohio State sent 14 players to the combine and linebacker Darron Lee might have been the most impressive. Among the players at his position, Lee ran the fastest 40 (4.47), had the best broad jump (11 feet, 1 inch), had top-10 times in the three-cone drill (7.12) and 20-yard shuttle (4.20) and a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump. Lee may have performed well enough to become the fifth or sixth Buckeyes player to earn a first-round grade.
INJURY QUESTIONS: Some of this year's top draft prospects must wait until their pro days to impress scouts. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Miles Jack and cornerback Kendall Fuller have not yet been cleared to participate in work on the field because of significant knee injuries. Jack and Fuller are hoping to work out before the draft. Smith may not get that chance because he had major knee surgery seven weeks ago.
SLOWER THAN...: The most surprising part of the workouts might have been the lack of speed demonstrated by this year's receivers. Notre Dame's Will Fuller (4.32) and TCU's Kolby Listenbee (4.39) were the only receivers to finish the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds. Only eight other receivers ran sub-4.5s. Compare that to the defensive backs, where six ran faster than 4.4 and another 14 who were faster than 4.5.
NEXT UP: Now that the combine has wrapped up, teams can focus squarely on the next part of the offseason process — figuring out what to do with the veterans. Over the next few days, players such as Peyton Manning and Marshawn Lynch could decide whether to retire, teams will announce franchise and transition tag designations and determine priorities about who to re-sign. And those decisions could be influenced by what scouts just witnessed in Indy.
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