We have finally arrived at the end. Proclamations of doom and terror first uttered back in the summer have brought us to this moment, the cusp of the 2018 NFL draft and perhaps the most pivotal quarterback class in recent memory. As with years past, the battles have raged on endlessly over some of the guys at the top. But it’s time to put pen to paper and outline the final rankings on my top 20 quarterbacks in this class.
As always, these are my rankings based on extensive film analysis. We’ll know in a few years how these turn out.
Some passers that I wanted to mention before diving into the rankings that could also creep into the draft, or at the very least into rookie camps this spring, include Jeremiah Briscoe, DeVante Kincade, Kyle Allen, Kenny Hill, Matt Linehan and Nick Stevens.
20. Chad Kanoff, Princeton
We start in the Ivy League of all places. Multi-year starter Chad Kanoff leaves school as one of the most decorated passers in Tigers history. He set a school record for career passing yardage in 2017, and he broke both the school and the Ivy League mark for completion percentage, completing a whopping 73.2% of his passing attempts. Kanoff earned the Asa S. Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts. More recently, his tape and his traits have drawn interest from a number of teams including the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and New England Patriots.
Strengths: Kanoff is a very experienced passer, and it shows in the pre-snap phase when he is very involved in directing traffic, making adjustments and even protection calls. He shows the ability to click and climb in the pocket, and can move around in the pocket as well to create space for making throws. Kanoff also displays pocket toughness when pressure starts to come closer to him, while not resorting to pulling the football down and escaping. He has a pretty quick release mechanically, with a whip-like throwing motion. He shows good anticipation on many throws, and the ability to read the field and make full-field progression reads. He is a very aggressive decision-maker, and will challenger smaller throwing windows. Princeton used the Sail Concept a lot with him, and he was very adept at throwing the deeper out pattern with timing and anticipation. His game film is filled with him making that throw on time and with touch and placement. A functional athlete, Kanoff can give an offense something in the run/pass option game and as a runner, and Kanoff also shows pretty good processing speed on those plays. He can give you schemed shot plays down the field, and shows good decision making on those plays with the ability to drop the ball in with touch.
Weaknesses: Kanoff lacks a power arm, and velocity is a question mark with him that might limit him schematically. Despite his ability to make anticipation throws, and his willingness to make them, his accuracy does tend to dip when attempting those plays. He does bird dog routes, and when pressured his accuracy and placement dip considerably. He has the ability to make bucket throws downfield but that general ball placement can dip in the vertical passing game. Shows low ball carriage in the pocket, which could lead to strip sacks in the professional game.
Scheme Fit: With his ability to make timing and rhythm throws in the intermediate area of the field, Kanoff projects best to an Erhardt-Perkins system.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Kanoff is a fringe draftable player, likely a 7th round pick or a UDFA who sticks on a roster as a practice-squad player as a rookie. In the right system Kanoff can develop into a lower- to middle-tier backup by his third season.
Draft Grade and Projection (This has my round grade on each player, and where I anticipate them being selected): 7th Round/UDFA – 7th Round/UDFA*
Teams to Watch: New England Patriots, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals
Resources on Kanoff: First Sound
19. Peter Pujals, Holy Cross
The rankings keep us in the Football Championship Subdivision as we turn to Peter Pujals from Holy Cross. Pujals was a five-year starter for the Crusaders (yes you read that right, more on that in a moment) and the first four-year captain in school history. Early in his first senior season Pujals suffered a broken leg, but was retained eligibility for a final campaign this past year. His play on the field earned him a berth to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He was an All-Conference player three times in his Holy Cross career, and leaves school with a bevy of Holy Cross football records under his belt.
Strengths: Pujals is a very experienced player with five years as a starter under his belt. Operated in a spread-based offense mostly out of the shotgun but did line-up under center. He displayed fairly solid footwork on his drops whether from shotgun or under center, and has the ability to maneuver in the pocket. Very active in the pre-snap phase, can identify blitzes, change the protection and the play-call pre-snap, and is very quick to recognize movement and shifts on the defensive side of the football. Shows impressive processing speed at times, usually on half-field concepts where he is reading the coverage and throwing off the rotation or reading an isolated defender. Can make full-field reads, and is effective in scramble drill situations. Functional to decent athlete who throws well when moving his feet, has sufficient play strength to shrug off potential sacks in the pocket. His film has examples of impressive throws with trash at his feet or defenders in his face. Aggressive decision-maker who is willing to challenge some NFL throwing windows. Loves attacking the Turkey Hole when he sees Cover 2.
Weaknesses: Processing speed is impressive at the FCS level but whether it can translate to the NFL is a question-mark. As mentioned earlier his processing speed is at its best when reading half-field, an isolated defender, or an isolated part of the coverage. Ball placement is spotty at times, leaves a number of throws high. Fairly clean mechanically, but his throwing motion does have a bit of a draw to it. Sometimes vacates cleaner pockets, when he could step up and/or reset his feet. Makes some ill-advised decisions at times, including throwing late over the middle, throwing into coverage, or throwing across his body very late in the play. Much better on the move when rolling to his right and not his left, does need to get better at involving the left hip and shoulder when rolling to that side of the field and throwing.
Scheme Fit: Fairly scheme diverse, projects best to either an Erhardt-Perkins system or a West Coast system.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Likely a practice-squad player as a rookie. Has some impressive traits and some scheme diversity on film, and he could develop into a solid backup in the NFL.
Draft Grade and Projection: 7th Round/UDFA – 7th Round/UDFA
Teams to Watch: Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs
Resources on Pujals: First Sound
18. Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Tanner Lee made the decision to transfer to Nebraska from Tulane for a chance to run Mike Rielly’s pro-style offense in Lincoln. Lee showed flashes of draftable traits at times, with a penchant for making some impressive downfield throws with velocity. But he also had a knack for staring down routes and throwing some very ill-advised interceptions. Lee had an additional year of eligibility left, but decided to enter the draft when Nebraska hired Scott Frost as their next head coach. Frost’s offense is likely not a schematic fit for Lee as a passer, so the quarterback decided to take his chances in the NFL.
Strengths: Experience in a “pro-style” offense and is versed in working under center and throwing out of play-action (both in the pocket and on play-action boot concepts). He shows good ball-handling into and out of play-action fakes. Lee flashes above-average arm strength, and can make some impressive throws from time-to-time, including some powerful throws when operating off platform and off structure. Lee displays functional athleticism and he can evade, slide, climb and extend in the pocket when pressured off the edge. Lee showed the ability, albeit on an inconsistent basis, to make bucket throws in the deep passing game using touch, also showed flashes of anticipation throws. He was most impressive on hitch, curl, Bang 8 and slant routes, and can make some rhythm throws.
Weaknesses: Lee has very inconsistent footwork, some drops whether from center or when in the shotgun lacked any semblance of structure. His accuracy and ball placement can be spotty, and accuracy was inconsistent to all levels of the field. Lee stares down a lot of routes, and needs to be much better with his eyes. Processing speed is a concern, and this has to improve. He made lots of slow reads and this led to turnovers and strip-sacks. Threw some back-breaking interceptions at Nebraska this past season.
Scheme Fit: From a physical and mental profile Lee projects best to a downfield passing team.
One- and Three-Year Projections: Lee is likely a practice squad quarterback as a rookie, with an outside shot at pushing for the backup job in the most ideal offensive system. By his third year he should be a backup quarterback with the potential to become an upper-tier backup.
Draft Grade and Projection: 7th Round/UDFA – 7th Round
Teams to Watch: Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
17. Brandon Silvers, Troy
After redshirting as a true freshman, Silvers took over as the starter for the Troy Trojans as a redshirt freshman and never looked back. Silver capped off one of the better careers as a passer for the Trojans by leading Troy to a 50-30 victory over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl. Like many other passers in this class, Silvers leaves school with some Troy records under his belt, including career passing touchdowns (77). He finished his career ranked second in school history in passing yardage, completions and total offense. Silvers was invited to the 2018 Senior Bowl, and in other accolades he comes in as QB17 in my rankings, a spot that perhaps propelled Dak Prescott to stardom…
Strengths: Silvers is a multiple-year starter in a Spread-based system utilizing a number of RPO concepts. He displays good to very good footwork on both RPO/Mesh drops as well as three-step drops from the shotgun formation. Silvers is a very tough quarterback who will hang in the pocket and take a shot to deliver a throw. His tape includes examples of him showing good processing speed on RPO designs, and he makes quick decisions, speeding up his process as necessary. Fairly developed quarterback when it comes to using his eyes, has the ability to manipulate defenders at the second- and third-levels. Shows good feel and anticipation on many familiar route concepts. Fairly athletic, with the ability to extend plays, but might lack the ability to truly create outside the pocket.
Weaknesses: Silvers’ accuracy is inconsistent to all levels. When he attempts throws in the intermediate and deeper areas of the field they tend to be higher than they should be, and his deep/vertical placement can be spotty. Stares down a high number of routes, particularly when expecting pressure. Mechanics in the upper body can be spotty, he often resorts to more of a windup when he feels the need to drive in throws with higher RPMs.
Scheme Fit: Because of his experience and his ability to make quick decisions on some designs, Silvers projects best to an offense that runs a blend of West Coast, Air Raid and Spread concepts.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Silvers likely sticks on an NFL roster as a third-string quarterback as a rookie and spending his season on the practice squad. In the right offensive system, Silvers could develop into a long-term backup in the NFL and should be pushing for the backup job as a third-year QB.
Draft Grade and Projection: 7th Round – 7th Round
Teams to Watch: New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders
Resources on Silvers: First Sound
16. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
One of the more decorated and experienced passers in Ohio State history, Barrett leaves Columbus as the only three-year captain in the school’s prodigious football history. He was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year three times and as a freshman in 2014, Barrett was named both the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He also finished fifth in Heisman voting that season. His 45 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2014 set a Big Ten record. Something that makes Ohio State fans smile is the fact that Barrett is the only quarterback in school history to start and deliver four wins over the Michigan Wolverines. Barrett set 34 Ohio State records including career completion percentage (63.5), touchdown passes (104), passing yards (9,434) and passing yards per game (188.7).
Strengths: Veteran passer with experience playing on some of the game’s biggest stages. Barrett is active in the pre-snap phase. He is an athletic quarterback who shows solid footwork on his drops, while playing primarily from the shotgun and/or pistol formations. Barrett is very proficient in the RPO passing game, and his best moments from a processing speed standpoint come on those designs. An athletic quarterback, he can be very elusive in the pocket with good play strength to shed would-be sacks in the pocket. Can make full field reads when asked. Shows the ability to manipulate third-level defenders, which would be a plus for a downfield offensive system.
Weaknesses: His play and processing speed on non-RPO plays is a big concern. Will stare down routes/route concepts and have open receivers, but will be much too slow getting the football out of his hands. He needs to be much faster with his reads if he is to have a successful NFL career. Footwork is generally good but can get sloppy if he is pressured or is flustered in the pocket. Despite the ability to make full field progression reads he does tend to drop his eyes and look for an escape route as the internal clock starts ticking.
Scheme Fit: Projects best to an offense that combines vertical concepts with spread elements.
One- to Three-Year Projection: Barrett is likely a practice squad quarterback as a rookie who, in the most ideal of offenses could push for a backup spot. He will need to develop and to seriously improve his internal clock, but if he does he could become an upper-tier backup quarterback in the NFL.
Draft Grade and Projection: 7th Round – 6th Round
Teams to Watch: Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys
Resources on Barrett: First Sound