*Newyorkjets.com's continuing coverage of the 2013 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, the Jets' needs at the spot, and the top players expected to be selected at the position from April 25-27. Today's fourth in the series: Quarterbacks. *
Mark Sanchez's fourth year was supposed to be the year where his game ascended to a new level. Instead it resulted being a year he'd like to erase. Sanchez committed 26 turnovers and was benched for the first time in his career in 2012.
"In my opinion, I underachieved and didn't play the way I'm capable of playing," Sanchez said the day after the season concluded.
Sanchez and backups Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy battled, but the level of play was never steady. Shortly after being hired in January, new Jets general manager John Idzik said there will be an open competition at the position this season. Head coach Rex Ryan elaborated on Idzik's assessment in late March.
"I think it's going to be a position, obviously, where we're bringing in competition," Ryan said. "I don't think there's a clear-cut favorite, in my opinion. I just think it's going to be competition from day one. Sanchez will take the first snap, but that's all you can say. It's going to be an open competition."
The QB spot already received a boost in competition when nine-year veteran David Garrard signed with the Jets back on March 11. Although Garrard last played in a game over two seasons ago, he earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 2009 and has garnered 76 NFL starts.
"I just expect to go out and compete and really try to help this team out in any way possible," Garrard said after his signing. "If the way I play on the field allows that to happen, then I think great. If it doesn't, I'm going to still be the best teammate I can be and help out this team as much as I can."
It's a team sport, not just me and the other QBs. It's everybody pulling together, helping this ballclub out as much as possible."
This QB draft class isn't nearly as heralded as 2012's which featured the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. However, there are still some notable names.
Geno Standing Pat as No. 1 QB
Despite skipping the Senior Bowl, West Virginia's Geno Smith looks to be the first quarterback taken in this draft. The Miami native presents three key QB skills: size, mobility and arm strength. Among QBs at the combine, he clocked the top 40 time (4.59) and produced the best broad jump (10'4" inches). His pro day at WVU attracted 29 of 32 NFL team evaluators.
Smith (6'3", 220) got off to an outstanding start in 2012. Through the Mountaineers' first five games (all wins), he completed 81.4% of his passes and threw 24 TDs with no interceptions. He wasn't as impressive during the second half of the season, but completed 23 of 24 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas in his final regular-season game.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said at the combine: "With Geno Smith, I see flashes of everything you want in a top-10 quarterback. I see a lot more inconsistency, though, than I see those flashes."
Buffalo signed free-agent signalcaller Kevin Kolb last weekend, but in Don Banks' "Mock Draft 4.0" on Sports Illustrated.com, released Wednesday, he has Buffalo taking Smith with the eighth pick, and CBS Sports' Evan Hilbert still expects the Bills to pick a QB in the first or second round.
Smith worked out Monday with Kansas City, which holds the No. 1 overall pick, and visited several other teams this week.
If USC's Matt Barkley had declared for the draft a season ago, he likely would have been a top-10 pick. However, Barkley decided to return to school for his senior season, hoping to guide the Trojans to a BCS Championship. Southern Cal was ranked No. 1 in preseason polls, yet finished the season a disappointing 7-6.
Barkley threw for 3,273 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior. He suffered a shoulder injury in USC's loss to UCLA which ended his college career and kept him from throwing at the combine. Rob Rang of The Sports Xchange ranks Barkley as his top QB prospect in this draft, writing, "He earns the highest grades of any passer in the 2013 Draft in the 'Three A's' — accuracy, awareness and anticipation — the traits that I believe to be most important at the position."
Jets QBs coach David Lee attended Barkley's pro day on March 27, as did 30 other NFL team representatives. Throwing for the first time since injuring his throwing shoulder, Barkley looked crisp, completing 55 of 60 throws.
"A lot of the proof is in the tape — that's where they look first," Barkley said. "But today was proof that I can still throw and make those passes down the field."
Glennon, Wilson Worth the Wait
At 6'7" and 220 pounds, North Carolina State's Mike Glennondisplayed the strongest arm among quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. Glennon's first two seasons in Raleigh were spent as the backup to Russell Wilson. Once Wilson transferred to Wisconsin before the 2011 campaign, Glennon was promoted to starter. In two seasons Glennon led the Wolfpack to back-to-back bowl appearances. In 2011 he completed 62.5% of his passes for 3,054 yards and 31 TDs. His accuracy declined to 58.5% last season, but he increased his season passing yardage to 4,031.
The Centreville, Va., native graduated from NC State in December with two degrees: a bachelor's in business management and a master's in liberal science.
A lot like Glennon, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson (6'2", 218) had to wait to earn the starting job — his first two seasons in Fayetteville were spent behind Ryan Mallett. Despite starting just 24 games for the Razorbacks, Wilson showed he could lead an SEC offense. In 2011 he didn't go unnoticed. He completed 63.2% of his passes for 3,638 yards and 24 TDs on his way to becoming the first Arkansas QB to earn All-SEC first-team honors from conference coaches and media. The Razorbacks finished the season with a No. 6 BCS ranking and defeated No. 11 Kansas State to capture the Cotton Bowl.
Last season wasn't as successful for Wilson or the Razorbacks, primarily due to several coaching changes, but he's still expected to be a high draft prospect. Rang described Wilson this way: "Despite less than ideal height, possesses a solidly built frame and may be the toughest quarterback prospect in the 2013 draft."
Since 1945, only two quarterbacks from Syracuse have been drafted. That number will increase to three when Ryan Nassib hears his name called. Nassib was a three-year starter for the Orange and exited the Big East school as only the fourth QB in conference history to pass for more than 9,000 career yards.
"I think what's going to happen to him will be similar to Kirk Cousins last season or Andy Dalton two years ago," Mayock said. "When the coaches get involved in the evaluation, they'll start to fall in love with this kid because of his work ethic and intelligence."
When glancing at the résumé of Florida State's EJ Manuel, the first thing that stands out is that he became only the second player in college football history to win four consecutive bowl games. Besides that impressive note, Manuel in 2012 led FSU to just its third 12-win season in program history and guided the Seminoles offense to 6,591 yards — its most prolific season ever. NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks compares Manuel to current Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman.
What intrigues NFL scouts most about Manuel is his raw athletic tools. He capitalizes on extending plays and with 4.65 40-speed can escape pass rushers. Named the Senior Bowl's Most Outstanding Player in January, the only uncertainty teams continue to have with him is his mental game.
"Leadership, winning and make plays — I'm a playmaker," the signalcaller said at the combine. "I think I made great decisions in college, I had a great passing percentage or quarterback rating, whatever you want to call it. I really wasn't big on my statistics. I just wanted to win the game, to be honest."
Bray Throws His Weight Around
While many prospects dropped their weights entering the combine, Tennessee's Tyler Bray was the opposite. The Volunteers QB added 24 pounds before the event and came in at 6'6" and 232.
As Sports Illustrated noted, "Bray zinged the ball (and did so accurately) during drills. There's definitely room for quarterbacks to rise and fall between now and the draft, and Bray's weekend work has him trending in the right direction."
This past season was Bray's best in Knoxville as he threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns. Scouts have said that his arm strength is elite for the NFL game.
Yet Jason Pieri of Buffalo Rumblings said: "He doesn't seem to have a team-first, killer attitude. His interviews make him look like an arrogant college kid that has been given a lot in his life. He doesn't come across as a leader, and his off-season issues at Tennessee underscore the point. ... A team drafting Bray needs to be careful."
Oklahoma's Landry Jonesis possibly the most experienced QB of this draft class. A four-year starter during his time in Norman, the former Sooner enters the pros as the Big 12 Conference's all-time leader with 16,646 passing yards and 16,271 yards of total offense.
The 6'4" 225-pounder is comfortable running a spread offense and most of the time operated without a huddle in college.
"I think most of the league is looking at him as a third-round guy," Mayock said. "I think he's a little better than that because I've seen him play at a higher level."
Zac Dysert from Miami of Ohio is another interesting prospect. In his four-year collegiate career, he played under three head coaches and five coordinators and QBs coaches. Yet despite the constant turnover, each year his touchdown-to-interception ratio improved and he departed as the RedHawks' career passing leader with 12,016 yards.
Forced to miss the combine with a slight hamstring tear, Dysert was evaluated at his March 21 pro day. Following the workout he said of his hamstring, "It's probably like 85 percent. It feels fine. It doesn't hurt when I jog or when I run, but I haven't sprinted." He'll work out again for NFL scouts on April 15 in Oxford.
Prior to the combine, Arizona's Matt Scott told KJR radio in Seattle, "Honestly, I think I have the strongest arm in this coming class."
Scott definitely didn't hurt himself with that statement. Out of all the QBs at the February combine, his stock may have jumped the most. Besides setting a combine record with a 3.99-second time in the 20-yard shuttle, he also finished first at 6.99 in the three-cone drill and in the top five among QBs in the 40, vertical jump and broad jump. Although he started only one full season at Arizona, the 22-year-old could be one of this draft's sleepers.
Tuesday, April 2: Running Backs Tuesday: April 9: Offensive Line