This is what I see when I watch the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.
Marcus Mariota: Alex Smith.
Why: Smart quarterbacks who dominated college football and don’t make many mistakes. Practically the same size – 6-4, 218 pounds. Fast runners, although Mariota is faster. Good passers, although neither has a cannon and neither has pin-point placement. Neither had to throw into tight windows, neither had to anticipate openings in coverage and neither faced much pressure. Both played in spread offenses for teams that were much better than the opposition most of the time.
Smith was the top pick in the draft, but he needed a few seasons to adjust to the speed of the league and to get used to playing for a team that was much worse than the opposition most of the time. The same might be true for Mariota.
Jameis Winston: Jay Cutler.
Why: Big, mobile, pro-style, strong-armed quarterbacks who get picked off a lot. Winston threw 18 picks in 13 games this past season, and his interception rate at Florida State was 3.3%. Cutler’s career interception rate in the NFL is 3.4%. Both quarterbacks force passes and neither is particularly accurate.
Brett Hundley: Donovan McNabb.
Why: Powerful, fast, elusive, instinctual runners – like running backs. Strong arms. Quick releases. Inaccurate downfield passers. Practically identical college careers – McNabb threw 77 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and ran for 19 touchdowns at Syracuse; Hundley threw 75 touchdowns, 25 picks, and ran for 30 touchdowns at UCLA.
Bryce Petty: Blake Bortles.
Why: Strong pocket passers who can run – Bortles scored 15 rushing touchdowns in college; Petty scored 21. Both operated spread-option offenses and threw a lot of screens and one-read passes.
Garrett Grayson: Greg McElroy.
Why: Smaller quarterbacks – 6-2, 220 pounds – whose collegiate success is a product of playing with top running backs. McElroy played at Alabama with two who were first round picks – Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. Grayson played at Colorado State with Dee Hart, a running back who transferred from Alabama. When Grayson or McElroy faked a handoff, the defense followed the running back and left receivers wide open downfield.
Sean Mannion: Derek Anderson.
Why: Tall, slow-twitch athletes who can’t avoid a pass rush. Products of Oregon State. Backups.
Blake Sims: Tyrod Taylor.
Why: Small, fast-twitch athletes who can avoid a pass rush but can’t make accurate throws. Backups.