By now, we all know how the first round of the NFL draft went, at least from a QB standpoint: Goff, Wentz, Lynch. Now, with the draft in the rearview mirror, football fans around the nation have since occupied their time reading articles upon articles analyzing, debating and picking apart the QB situations of teams around the league. The ideas behind these articles are, at this point, far from varied.
The Wentz vs Bradford debate shrouding the Eagles locker room has been run into the ground. Did the Rams and/or Eagles give up too much to move up in the draft? Ask one of the many, many, many articles on the subject.
Lost amidst all the talk of the big three NFL prospects at quarterback–Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch– is the discussion about the Brandon Doughtys, Jeff Driskels and Brandon Allens of the draft. The quarterbacks taken outside of the first round and, therefore, outside of the public eye.
Quarterbacks like Dak Prescott, Connor Cook and Cardale Jones were later-round picks who, before long, could have an impact on his team.
Dak Prescott–Cowboys–Round 4, Pick 37
With pass and run blocking studs not hard to come by on the Cowboys offensive line, quarterback protection would seem like a non-issue to whoever is suiting up under center in Dallas. Just don’t tell that to Tony Romo. With the exception of 2012, Romo has missed time in each season dating back to 2010. When the pocket does collapse around Prescott, however, injuries may not be an issue.
Prescott has the prototypical injury-proof QB body, a thick muscular frame that helped him withstand repeated poundings at Mississippi State. Graded at a 5.46 by NFL.com, putting him in the “eventual starter” range, Prescott could be forced back into action if Romo’s collarbone doesn’t hold up this season.
Prescott has been praised for his mental and physical toughness and effortless throwing style which has been effective at both bullet passes and lofty deep lobs. Though he used his legs plenty in college, Prescott seems to be more of a goal-line option in terms of rushing yards thanks to his size and strength.
Connor Cook–Raiders–Round 4, Pick 2
Cook, a senior out of Michigan State was perhaps the quarterback steal of the draft for Oakland, and his future, albeit blocked by David Carr right now, could be bright. He features one of the quickest releases in the draft and a solid ability to throw on the run, but his best asset might be his confidence. He has a fantastic ability to recognize and read his receivers’ routes, allowing him to make passes into tighter windows than other QBs might not be confident enough to attempt. On top of this, Cook rarely forces the ball into coverage or gets skittish in the pocket as so many of his collegiate draftees have been shown to do.
His 5.85 pre-draft ranking puts him in the range of consideration of being an early starter, though that path is likely blocked for the time being. With quarterback values constantly on the rise, the Raiders recognized the potential value in trading up to take Cook, using him as potential trade-bait in the event of an injury outside of Oakland, and a formidable (and cheap) backup to Carr.
Cardale Jones–Bills–Round 4, Pick 41
An interesting prospect through and through, Jones, who was taken late in the 4th round, could have an impact on his team faster than some quarterbacks taken before him, surprisingly. Jones’ raw, physical attributes will help him along, but he lacks the experience and accuracy to be a superstar. He is largely unproven, having not started for most of his college career, giving him a high potential to fall into the “bust” territory. But as a late fourth round pick, the Bills didn’t take too high a risk on the Ohio product. With just Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel standing between him and a starting position, Jones could wind up seeing the field for a portion of the 2016 season.
It’s a fact of the matter that not every player taken out of college in any given draft is going to see the field, let alone make a positive impact. And while players like Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch have been put into positions to succeed, there are other quarterbacks throughout the league to keep an eye on this season. Whether Prescott, Cook or Jones do receive any snaps this season remains to be seen, but they certainly do command attention.