NFL Network analyst Charles Davis has been breaking down the draft’s quarterback prospects on KNBR and various internet radio shows recently. Here are his breakdowns of E.J. Manuel, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, Geno Smith and Matt Barkley.
Q: What do you think of E.J. Manuel and Tyler Bray?
DAVIS: For Manuel, I think the accuracy is problematic. You want your receiver to stay on his feet, meaning put it on him so he can turn and run up field. I’ve seen too many throws by him where they have to go to the ground and get it or they have to reach out and get it. They can’t get the yards after catch they want.
But I love his athleticism, and in big games he shows up. Go back and look at his track record. He’s 25-6 in his career. He won his bowl game, including one where he came off the bench when Christian Ponder got hurt. I think Manuel was MVP twice. And then in the Senior Bowl he was the best quarterback on the field on game day. He was terrific. I like him.
Tyler Bray has some of the best arm action we’re going to see in the draft. He has the height. He has all of those things. Here’s where Bray has to get better, and it’s in the intangibles and maturity. He has to be able to prove to people that he can lead a football team, that people are going to invest in him to be a leader. I know he’s working on that, and I wish him all the luck in the world.
If you asked me if I would believe in Bray at this point to run my football team, the answer would be no. I would not have Bray running my football team.
Q: What did you think of Tyler Wilson at the Senior Bowl?
DAVIS: I thought he had a good week. I thought it was like the Tyler Wilson we knew as a junior. Of course, we all know the extenuating circumstances as a senior. I liken his position to what Drew Brees went through last year in New Orleans. Not quite the same, but there were similarities enough to have me feel like this is an OK context. Bobby Petrino and Sean Payton – both play callers. Both overarch their programs. In a lot of ways micromanage their programs – which isn’t always a bad thing. Took care of all details. When they weren’t there, people weren’t quite sure how to handle things.
Drew Brees last year took on more than he wanted to. Yes, there were play callers, but I think he felt a responsibility where he knew they weren’t up the level they had in the past and he had to do more. I think Tyler Wilson did the same thing. Sometimes you take on more than you should and then things go a little bit wrong. He got hit a lot, and that hurts his mechanics.
We got to see this week the Tyler Wilson we all saw as a junior when he was terrific. In fact, he was voted the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl the night before the game at a banquet session. The award was voted on by scouts, GMs and player personnel people in the NFL. They said he was the best quarterback there that week, and I have no reason to argue or dispute that. I thought he was really good during the week.
The game itself, sometimes guys look better in games and sometimes they don’t. I don’t they put a whole lot of stock into it. They’d love to see you play well, but if you don’t play quite as well as you had been during the week, there’s more stock put into the practices.
My instant analysis of him is he reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins coming out of Michigan St. Kirk Cousins has shown that not only can he play in the NFL, but you’ve got to give heavy consideration to him one day being a starter in the NFL.
Q: Is Tyler Wilson a first round pick?
DAVIS: No, he’s not a first round pick, but he’s a legitimate player with a chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. I’d be shocked if he was a first round pick, but at the same time I’d snatch him in a heartbeat. I think he’s going to be a very good NFL player.
Q: What do you think of Geno Smith?
DAVIS: Here’s what I love about Geno – he is a film rat. He’s a monster. The game will end, they’ve got the brown bags of food for the players or pizza – Geno’s got the pizza and he’s either headed to the film room or he’s firing up his computer to start watching the game back. He’s asking the coach, “What are we doing starting tomorrow?” They e-mail him the game plan starting Sunday as they put it together, and he’s sending stuff to his receivers and his offensive linemen, and it’s not for show. That’s who he is.
Does he have the arm? I have no doubt about that. Footwork? I think he needs some work in that area, but that’s not unusual playing in these types of spread offenses, footwork is different. He’s going to need some work on that.
Pocket presence? I think he needs to work on that. I also think he needs to use that athleticism he has to run the ball a little bit more and take some of the pressure off of himself.
He does not want to be a stereotypical athletic quarterback. I could insert the word “black,” couldn’t I? He doesn’t want to be that guy. He wants to beat you with his mind and his arm from the pocket.
Well, look where the game is going. You still have to do that first, last and everything, but those quarterbacks who can step out and sting you and third-and-ten and pick up a first down and kill a defense are a valuable commodity. Those who can run the zone read are a valuable commodity, because it breaks down the defense, it makes them work on things they don’t normally work on.
And now that run by the quarterback, do you know what they’re calling it in the league now? A poor man’s check down. Now, you don’t have to throw it out to your back and make him do it. You go ahead and get it. Geno can do that. He hasn’t been willing to do that. That’s the next part of his evolution in my mind.
Q: How good is Matt Barkley?
DAVIS: Matt Barkley is a very good quarterback. What people worry about with him is arm strength. If you’re going to play in Cleveland in an outdoor stadium, you better make sure somebody can whistle it, and with Geno I don’t have any worries about that.
With Matt, I don’t think Matt has the same arm. Does he have the same mindset as Geno, the same gym-rat mentality? He does. This kid just loves the game.
Footwork is better in the pocket than people give him credit for, but he’s zero threat to run the football. He doesn’t give you that added dimension. That’s why I have Geno ahead of him on my ranking.