2016 NFL Draft: Top 5 Quarterback Prospects: Paxton Lynch Separating From Pack & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We are still months away from the NFL Draft, but we are starting to get some clarity as to who the premier players are.  When it comes to quarterback there’s a clear divide between the top options and everyone else, and things could separate even further as we get closer to the draft.  Who’s the top option?  How are things shaping up?  Let’s take a look at our current Top 5 options:

Tier 1
1. Paxton Lynch – Memphis

November 7 (vs. Navy) – 26-42 (61.9%), 305 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
2015 Season – 226-327 (69.1%), 3,014, 19 TD, 2 INT

There may not be a prospect who has seen a bigger rise than Lynch thus far this season.  While he’s coming off his first loss of the season, it’s hard to find fault as he’s now thrown for 300+ yards in eight consecutive games and continues to take care of the football.  The hype has certainly been building in recent days, as evidenced by this quote:

Talked to 2 personnel directors and 2 scouts. Hands down their top QB is Paxton Lynch. Agree that Goff is talented but not physically ready – Greg Gabriel (via Twitter), for scouting director of Chicago Bears

“His tools are unbelievable,” Fuente says. “He’s been blessed, and to his credit, he’s been through tough times and he has worked hard to play well. He was not ready-made when he came out of high school. He had a lot of work to do and he’s done it.” – quote courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans & Pete Thamel (click here for the full article)

At 6’7” and 245 lbs. he certainly has the size to play QB in the NFL.  He’s also displayed some mobility, with 53 carries for 168 yards and 2 TD (he rushed for 321 yards and 13 TD in 2014).  Expect the hype to continue to build, with it beginning to look like Lynch has a realistic chance to be the first quarterback off the board.

2. Jared Goff – California
November 7 (at Oregon) – 18-41 (43.9%), 319 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
2015 Season – 223-350 (63.7%), 2,866, 24 TD, 12 INT

Obviously he’s coming off a rather poor performance and a few weeks back he posted 5 INT in a game against Utah.  His team is now on a four game losing streak and while it looked like he was the clear top QB at one point, things have quicklychanged.  Over these four games he’s completed just 57.0% of his passes with 9 TD vs. 8 INT.

In their analysis of Goff, Walter Football said the following (showing that he’s a divisive prospect at this point):

“As one scout told me, “They’re giving him the Teddy Bridgewater treatment,” i.e. overhyping. One scouting director told WalterFootball.com that he would go see Goff in November. He said that Goff was a good player, but he didn’t feel he was top-of-the-draft worthy right now. Another scout said they were lukewarm on Goff as a pro quarterback.   In speaking to another general manager from a team that is among the best at evaluating and developing quarterbacks, he felt that Goff was the best of the draft-eligible signal-callers.”

If he doesn’t turn things back around he could quickly find himself dropping even further, joining the rest of the “other” draft options.

Tier 2
3. Connor Cook – Michigan State

November 7 (at Nebraska) – 23-37 (62.2%), 335 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
2015 Season – 169-291 (58.1%), 2,405, 21 TD, 3 INT

There are obviously concerns about his accuracy, as he’s had some miserable games this season.  However he’s also thrown for 8 TD over his past two games and also shown capable of avoiding throwing interceptions.  He’s seen his attempts increase over the past two weeks (89 total), which is something to watch.  The next few games are definitely going to be interesting to see if he’s been able to take a step forward in his development or not.

4. Carson Wentz – North Dakota St.
2015 Season – 114-179 (63.7%), 1,454 yards, 16 TD, 2 INT

Wentz is currently out with a broken wrist, which could send him dropping down draft boards.  That said it’s hard to argue with the numbers and with the lack of certainty at the position he still has the potential to be among the first few quarterbacks off the board.  Over the past two seasons he’s thrown 41 TD vs. 12 INT, showing his ability to protect the football, and he’s added 10 rushing TD as well.  Listed at 6’6” and 235 lbs. he adds the size that teams look for and he’s a player that we need to monitor.

5. Christian Hackenberg – Penn State
November 7 (at Northwestern) – 21-40 (52.5%), 205 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
2015 Season – 149-275 (54.2%), 1,992, 13 TD, 3 INT

At least he hasn’t thrown a slew of INT, right?  Once considered a shoe-in to be the top quarterback coming off the board, the struggles of Hackenberg have continued.  It’s not entirely his fault, though, as Walter Football notes:

“Hackenberg still is playing in a bad situation with a weak offensive line and receivers. He also is a pro-style quarterback forced to play in a college spread offense that doesn’t fit him well at all. Over the last two seasons, Hackenberg has routinely made some beautiful throws that are dropped by his receivers.”

We’ve previously profiled Hackenberg, which you can read by clicking here.

Also in Tier 2 – Cardale Jones – Ohio State

Keep An Eye On – Jacoby Brissett – N.C. State

Sources – ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, Walter Football

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