by Russ Bliss (4/18/12)

This draft class is top heavy sporting 2 outstanding prospects with a couple more potential starters if developed correctly. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are going to be the first two players selected in the draft and the difference between them and their pro prospects isn't as great as some think. The big wildcard here is Ryan Tannehill. He oozes potential but isn't quite ready to step right in and be successful right away. There are 12 quarterbacks selected in the NFL Draft on average and there are some potential sleepers not listed here, but they are much less likely to develop into quality NFL QB's.

1) Andrew Luck, Stanford: Widely considered the best quarterback prospect to come out in the last 10 years, Luck brings smarts, accuracy, pocket presence, and more athleticism than many think. He's got good speed for a QB and is able to take off when necessary and scramble for yards. He's willing to take a hit and rarely gets flustered. He also has an uncanny knack for avoiding the sack. Reads defenses quickly and makes smart decisions with the football. The only knock on Luck is that while he has good arm strength, he doesn't possess a cannon. But he's fully capable of making every throw, knows when to put velocity on his passes and when to use more touch, and should be a high quality NFL quarterback. Will be the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. For fantasy purposes he probably won't put up starting caliber numbers as a rookie, but once the Colts surround him with quality weapons, Luck has all the makeup to become a franchise fantasy football quarterback in a couple of years.

2) Robert Griffin III, Baylor: After an amazing 2011 season in college, RG3 stands in as a very close second to Luck in this year's draft. He's got smarts, is accurate, has a big time arm, makes good decisions, and while freakishly athletic, he is also very willing to stand in the pocket in the face of pressure. Has rare speed for a QB and is a legitimate home run threat running with the ball. Griffin is a much better QB prospect than either of the two guys he gets compared to most often (Cam Newton and Michael Vick) as he is a better passer than either. Well spoken; you simply want to see him succeed. The only reason he won't go ahead of Luck is Luck's better college career numbers. Locked in as the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to Washington, RG3 is likely a future star in the NFL and even as a rookie he may warrant some consideration as a potential strong backup QB in fantasy football due to a better supporting cast, an offensive system that plays to his strengths, and his ability to score fantasy points with his legs.   

3) Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: Very athletic and a former wide receiver, Tannehill's stock has risen more than any other player since the end of the college season. Originally slated to be a late first/early second round pick, it's now expected that Tannehill will be drafted in the top 10 picks. He possesses a good arm, and is elusive in the pocket, but he needs to get stronger and develop better timing and accuracy. Would benefit from a year of learning behind a veteran quarterback than being immediately thrown into the fire. Played in a pro style offense under Mike Sherman (now offensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins; a team Tannehill has been linked to with the 8th pick in many circles) and has lots of upside to get better after only starting 19 games in college at quarterback. Will be drafted higher than he should be, but has the upside to become a good starting NFL quarterback with patience and the right system.

4) Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Early on it appeared that Weeden would battle with Tannehill to be the third quarterback drafted, but great workouts by Tannehill and concerns by many about Weeden's age (he'll be 29 in October) have combined to drop him clearly as the 4th quarterback to be selected this year. Weeden spent several years in baseball's minor league system as a pitcher and returned to school when injuries made that career path unlikely to lead to the majors. Weeden is big and strong and has maturity befitting an older rookie. His arm is plenty strong and while he needs to get better reading defenses, he isn't afraid to stand in the pocket and take the hit. His advanced age makes it harder for teams to envision sitting him a year to get up to speed on the NFL game but it would serve him best if they did as he isn't quite ready to start right away. His passes aren't always pretty, and he isn't as mobile as the 3 QB's listed here before him, but he is a winner and has been very successful putting up big numbers in a spread offense. Likely to be drafted in the second round and while not a sure thing, could become a competent NFL QB for several years.

5) Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: At nearly 6'7", Osweiler is a towering quarterback with a very strong arm. What he lacks though is experience, having started only 15 games in college. Osweiler is a good leader and is more athletic than you'd expect from a quarterback his size. Strengths are his ability to see the entire field, stand tall in the pocket, and wing it practically anywhere on the field. Weaknesses are reading defenses, and he lacks the presence to feel the rush. He has many of the qualities teams covet in a QB prospect but he needs to sit and develop before he's ready to start in the NFL. A boom or bust prospect that should be drafted in round 2.

6) Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: Opinions on Cousins vary. He has been very successful and has played in a pro style offense for 3 years. Is a excellent game manager and throws shorter passes with accuracy and discipline. Good leadership abilities and smart, Cousins reads defenses well and is poised in the pocket. But he lacks a strong arm and is limited athletically. He would do best in a west coast style of offense to mask the lack of arm strength. Reminds me a bit of Andy Dalton. Cousins should go either at the end of round 2 or early in round 3.