The days of the 6’5″ dropback quarterbacks are quickly going the way of iPods and MP3 players. It wasn’t so long ago — the 90s to be exact — when statuesque triggermen were routinely selected in the first round, with the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Kerry Collins, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf all qualifying as top 5 picks. The 2000s saw the similarly heavy-footed Eli Manning and Philip Rivers follow suit.  And though height will never be frowned upon, all starters in today’s game — no matter how big, short, stocky or scrawny — are expected to possess a fair modicum of scrambling ability. 

This has opened the door to a plethora of quarterback prospects who talent evaluators promptly discarded a decade ago. As a result, today’s NFL features a number of starters chosen in the mid-to-latter rounds of the draft.

This group of notables includes Russell Wilson (3rd round), Nick Foles (3rd round), Kirk Cousins (4th round), Dak Prescott (4th round), Jarrett Stidham (4th round), Gardner Minshew (6th round) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (7th round). While the members of this fraternity didn’t exactly check all the boxes when they entered the league, each — with the exception of the unproven Stidham — have worked on their deficiencies and prospered. 

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst has hinted that the quarterback position will be addressed in this year’s draft, as the organizational brain trust recognizes that the curtain is rapidly closing on the Aaron Rodgers era. The process of identifying No. 12’s eventual successor is taking place right now at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

While most fans would agree that the prospect of Gutekunst using the 30th pick of 1st round on a quarterback is unlikely given more pressing needs at linebacker, wide receiver and offensive tackle, securing a signal caller at any point following the draft’s opening night looks to be a pretty safe bet.

Among the quarterbacks who can be drafted in the 3rd round or later, three are feature standout traits that can be molded in time to where they may one day be the next line to be at the helm of Green Bay’s offense.

 

ANTHONY GORDON 6-2, 210 Washington State

2018 WSU 2 3 5 60.0% 2.5 17 3.4 8.5 0 1 6 0 0 48.6
2019 WSU 13 493 689 71.6% 53.0 5579 8.1 429.2 48 16 65 20 153 157.9
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Strengths: Touch, accuracy and the ability to throw the ball from a variety of arm angles are among his primary attributes. Gordon is a patient quarterback who reads his progressions and tries to wait for his target to clear coverage. By the same token, the California native is an anticipation thrower who executes great timing while delivering the ball before his receiver gets out of his break. He demonstrates consistency in his mechanics and flashes a quick release. As a runner, the former Cougar is light on his feet and agile enough to tuck it and scramble for first downs. Many of these traits were on display in his Sept. 21 performance versus UCLA.

Weaknesses: Gordon had a lot of reps, but also threw a ton of easy check-downs. In addition, he can sometimes be patient to a fault by holding on to the ball too long. The one-year Pac-12 starter doesn’t possess a big arm and relies more on touch, accuracy and anticipation than generating pure velocity. In his Nov. 29 outing versus the in-state rival Washington Huskies, Gordon allowed the opposition’s constant pressure rattle him, as he uncharacteristically began throwing balls up for grabs.

Conclusion: Fresh off a superb Senior Bowl exhibition, the redshirt senior has the look of a heady quarterback who should be able to look off defenders and make the proper reads at the next level. Some may view him as the type of player who may be better equipped to perform in a dome stadium or warm climate. In the right system, Gordon should be able to attack defenses with sharp and timely intermediate strikes in any type of environment. He may end up as one of the bigger steals in the draft if he falls out of the third round. No. 18’s stock is one the rise.

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NICK TIANO 6-4, 235 UT Chattanooga 

2018 UTCHAT 11 233 378 61.6% 34.4 2710 7.2 246.4 15 6 89 12 18 131.8
2019 UTCHAT 12 174 329 52.9% 27.4 2242 6.8 186.8 14 10 75 13 0 118.1
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Strengths: The one-time Mississippi State Bulldog is a big-armed shotgun quarterback who can all the throws required of him in the pros. The fearless gunslinger can fit the ball in tight windows and also shows enough touch to put air under his downfield throws when necessary. Tiano also exudes the instincts to make quick decisons and find open targets underneath with the defense breathing down his neck. The small school phenom is an effective scrambler despite his height and stocky frame. In fact, the FCS prospect not displayed the ability to escape pressure, but made tacklers miss with his surprising elusiveness. His arm talent was on display during the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where he threw for 135 yards and a touchdown and was voted the game’s MVP.

Weaknesses: The cocksure field general has a tendency to play with excessive confidence that borders on carelessness, particularly when he stares down receivers and tips off the coverage. Tiano paid the price for this deficiency on more than one occasion in UT Chattanooga’s 45-0 shootout loss to the Tennessee’s Volunteers. As a runner, Tiano can be just as reckless since he has yet to master the art of sliding.

Conclusion: Tiano enters the NFL as a tabula rasa in need of major development, which he’ll be afforded for the forseeable future in Titletown USA. If this youngster can absorb the nuances of reading defenses, his arm talent, pocket movement and confidence may force a coaching staff to give him a shot to compete for a starting job down the line. He may require a couple of seasons of seasoning, but this project has the tools that are worth waiting on.

 

 

JAKE LUTON 6-7, 229 Oregon State

2018 OREST 8 140 224 62.5% 28.0 1660 7.4 207.5 10 4 63 16 135 135.9
2019 OREST 11 222 358 62.0% 32.5 2714 7.6 246.7 28 3 75 24 170 149.8
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Strengths: The tall aspiring pro has experience lining up in shotgun and under center. During his 2019 campaign, the sixth-year senior uncorked a number of well-placed deep balls (see his 53-yard touchdown to Tyjon Lindsey versus UCLA). Additionally, Luton completed precise sideline passes, as well as showcasing the ability to throw with touch, accuracy and anticipation by reading the defender’s leverage and making sure the ball arrived at its spot in time for his receiver to immediately — and easily — secure it. In terms of movement, the one-time Beaver is no cigar store Indian considering the fact that he can feel backside pressure and scramble for first downs. And unlike Tiano, this quarterback knows how to slide. But one can argue that Luton’s best asset is his ball security, as evidenced by 7 interceptions over the last two seasons.

Weaknesses: At his towering height, one would expect Luton to possess a howitzer arm, but that’s not the case. His arm strength is average at best, as you’ll often see him put a lot of effort behind each throw. But what’s most troubling is his long windup while getting into his throwing motion. The wasted movement will not only tip off NFL defenders to what’s coming, but it will also make it difficult for the pride of Marysville, Washington to repeat his delivery. In fact, in Oregon State’s Aug. 30 loss to Oklahoma State, there were instances where some balls simply got away from Luton not because of the pass rush, but due to poor mechanics.

Conclusion: Luton may never be Dan Marino or Drew Brees when it comes to quickly (and effortlessly) disposing of the ball, but several quarterbacks have carved out long careers with less-than-perfect mechanics (see Byron Leftwich). What will help the rookie-in-waiting are his versatility to line in a pro style, shotgun or pistol formation and making sound reads from the pocket. While Luton is fairly mobile for a man of his dimensions, he profiles as a pocket thrower who’ll need deliver the ball from between the tackles to achieve sustained success.

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