Breaking down the top four QBs — flaws and all — in NFL draft

This isn’t, of course, the Quarterback Class of 1983 — which gave us three Hall of Famers. It isn’t the Class of 2004 — which could give us three more Hall of Famers. It isn’t the Class of 2018, which gave us five rookie starters. And it isn’t what the Class of 2020 appears to be — with Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jake Fromm awaiting.

But if you need yourself a quarterback, and you decide you can’t afford to wait, the Class of 2019 has a chance to provide four starters — just one for today, and three others for tomorrow.

As always, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder when the draft arrives Thursday night.

“I would say that there’s questions on all of ’em,” said Chris Simms, an NFL analyst for NBC and co-host of the podcasts “ProFootballTalk Live” and “Chris Simms Unbuttoned.” “There’s no slam-dunk prospects like there was last year or maybe some of the years before. The four names you keep hearing circulated in the first round conversation, I think all have at least one major question about them this year.”

Tony Pauline of “Last year you had a lot of guys that were basically NFL-ready, that could step in from the first day and start for a team. None of these guys in this year’s class really are NFL-ready from Day 1.”

The marquee attraction is the diminutive Kyler Murray — who is the apple of new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s eye, who grew in most everyone’s eyes when he measured in at 5-foot-10¹/₈, guaranteeing he could virtually look Russell Wilson in the eye. The football world expects Murray to be the first to walk across the Nashville stage to embrace commissioner Roger Goodell.

“I think he’s better than Michael Vick in the respect that he’s a lot more accurate than Michael Vick was,” Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt said of Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma. “He is a pass-first quarterback, not a run-first quarterback. This guy’s a winner. I just think that the guy has the ability to be a special player. Is he going to be Russell Wilson? Probably not. But he’s going to be pretty good.”

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Simms agreed: “Other than Michael Vick, I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody that can pull the ball down and run like this kid,” he said.
“He’s like Darren Sproles or a third-down running back with a great arm. It’s different to where he can beat you with speed and he can break your ankles out in space.”

But …

“I do worry about the size,” Simms said. “Size is a skill at the quarterback position. The physicality of the game is another level in the NFL, but I worry about his wearing out as the season goes along, not only with just his body but his feet and all those things.”

Pauline also has a concern about Murray’s size: “He’s an athlete, he’s got a good arm, he’s incredibly elusive to the point where a creative offensive coordinator will be able to design plays around his elusiveness, but Vick was more run first where I think Kyler Murray was much more patient in the pocket,” he said. “Since September of last year, it’s all been unicorns and rainbows for his football career. He really hasn’t had much adversity.”

The drama and intrigue involves who will be next.

Daniel Jones — coached by Duke’s David Cutcliffe, who coached the Manning brothers — has been labeled by some as a more athletic Eli Manning.

“He is Peyton Manning coming out of Tennessee,” Brandt said. “Now, Peyton didn’t have a great arm, and people were concerned about that coming out. This guy has got an adequate arm, not a great arm. He’s a guy that’s really very smart. He’s a risk-taker in this manner — he had a scholarship to Princeton, and nobody else had recruited him, and he felt he could do better, and he walked on at Duke. If this guy has the work habits that compare to Manning, I think a year from now, he has a chance to be pretty good.”

Simms isn’t so sure. He rates Jones as his sixth quarterback behind Jarrett Stidham (Baylor) and Ryan Finley (N.C. State).

“He’s smart, he’s a good decision-maker,” Simms said, “but there’s no top-end talent for me to ever say, ‘Whoa, that was special,’ or, ‘Whoa, that is good.’ Daniel Jones is a fine player, but in no way, shape or form do I think he’s a first-round talent at quarterback.”

Pauline: “He’s got a good upside, he just has to be properly coached. He gets it between the ears compared to the other three guys.”

Drew Lock seems to be a John Elway-type quarterback.

“He’s a big, strong guy. … [Elway] likes that type of body that this kid has,” Brandt said.

Opinions are all over the map on Lock. He has struggled against stiffer competition. His accuracy has been called into question.

“He has lazy footwork,” Brandt said.

Lock — 6-foot-4, 228 pounds — played for three different offensive coordinators at Missouri.

“Lock is your prototypical boom-or-busy type of prospect at quarterback,” Pauline said. “Physically, he’s the most gifted of any of the signal-callers in this year’s draft. But he’s very streaky. Accuracy can be all over the place.”

Simms likens Lock’s arm talent to Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford.

“I see the big-time throws and a good athlete and all that, and then there are some moments where I just want to go, ‘What was he thinking with these two or three decisions this game?’ or ‘What the hell is that?’ That scares me that that happened,” Simms said.

Brandt is not as big of a fan of Dwayne Haskins.

“My main reservation about him is he’s slow-footed and doesn’t have good lower-body strength,” Brandt said.

Pauline has Haskins as his top quarterback.

“He’s got the size, he’s got the arm strength, he had a terrific season at Ohio State with very few bumps in the road. … I like his sturdiness,” Pauline said. “He’s got to polish his game, he’s got to improve his downfield accuracy, but I think he’s a very good quarterback now, and he’s got terrific upside.”

Simms rates Haskins as his third quarterback, slightly behind Lock.

“The lack of experience scares me,” he said. “The offense was made easy for him about times. I didn’t see him have to handle blitz pressure, do things at the line of scrimmage, throw the ball hot sometimes, necessarily go through NFL reads. … That’s not to say he can’t do it, but it was his first year starting, and he got better as the year went on and they made the game simple for him and Ohio State’s talented, so they didn’t need to put too much on his shoulders to make the game confusing for him.

“They kind of just used a simple formula, and said, ‘We’re good, and Dwayne, you just stand in there and be a big soldier like Ben Roethlisberger and throw some laser down the field, and we’ll find a way to win the game.’ ”

It isn’t a fearsome foursome. But beggars can’t be choosers, and four franchises will come begging.

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