2017 NFL Draft – QB Preview (Part 2)

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

14.) Wilton Speight, Michigan (6’6, 243)

The red-shirt sophomore came out of nowhere this year to win the Wolverines starting job and has led them to an undefeated season so far. Speight has thrown for 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions and completed 64.5% of his passes.

Speight has been a solid game manager so far, but has flashed more than that, showing the ability to stretch the field with a powerful arm and surprising touch on his deep ball. He has ideal size which allows him to see over the line with easy arm strength to make all of the throws. If Speight can keep up the accuracy on deep passes, it’s going to make Michigan’s offense much more dynamic and open things up for the run.

His first few games defenses were stacking the box against the run, but Speight has proven he can move the ball through the air and has been so impressive that HC Jim Harbaugh has already compared him to a young Andrew Luck. Speight doesn’t have enough experience to put him in the top tier of draftable QBs yet, but he’s getting there. If he finishes the season strong and leads the Wolverines to a playoff birth, Speight could move into the first two days of the draft.

Projection: 4th-5h round

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

15.) Cooper Rush, Central Michigan (6’3, 230)

It might seem weird to see a QB on this list from a two win MAC team, but Rush has been creeping up draft boards for the last two years. He’s accounted for 50 TDs against 23 INTs over the last two seasons, despite poor line play and limited weapons around him.

Rush has just average NFL size, but a thick frame that makes him tough to bring down in the pocket, good enough footwork to avoid pass rushers, and enough speed (4.76) to gain yards outside the pocket.

He’s ability to avoid trouble in the pocket, strength to shrug off tacklers, and enough awareness to keep his eyes downfield under pressure might be Rush’s best traits. Pro Football Focus graded Rush as a top five passer under pressure in 2015 and that skill might give him an edge over most other late round QB prospects.

Rush’s arm is just good (not great), but he’s accurate and his mechanics are sound due to countless hours spent working on his game. His coaches and teammates rave about his work ethic, relentless film study, and his natural smarts. Rush has also played plenty of snaps under center which will give him an edge over a draft class over saturated with spread QBs.

He’s far from a perfect prospect or he wouldn’t be this far down the list, regardless of his conference or team’s record. Rush’s decision making is worse than it should be after three years as a starter and supposedly extensive film study. He is indecisive at times, not being able to decide between staying in the pocket and scrambling. Rush makes too many bad throws for his experience level.

Despite some bad decision making and sub-par conference, there is a lot to like about Rush. His arm is good enough to make all but the toughest NFL throws, he’s more accurate than most QBs on this list, has experience taking snaps under center, has above-average smarts and work ethic, and handles pressure extremely well. There is more than enough talent and drive there for Rush to be selected early on day three.

Projection: 4th-5th round

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

16.) Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati (6’4, 215) 

Former 5-star recruit who might have been an early round pick two years ago, but his career has been waylaid by injuries and off-field problems. He even left the team for awhile and was the third string QB for the Bearcats at the start of the 2016 season. Kiel eventually saw the field a couple of weeks ago and is off to a good start with six TDs and just one interception.

Kiel hasn’t played enough this season to update his scouting report, so here is what I had to say about Kiel back before 2015’s bowl season:

2015 Scouting report – Will most likely stay in school for at least another season, but Kiel could be tempted to come out due to multiple draft sites ranking Kiel as the 3rd best QB prospect in the 2015 draft after Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Kiel, the former #1 ranked high school QB, has all the physical traits teams look for; He’s tall, has a cannon arm, maybe the quickest release in the draft, can run if needed, and his footwork and mechanics are surprisingly polished for a guy with just one year of starting experience.

There are some question marks with Kiel though; I mentioned the small sample size already, he has missed time this year with relatively minor injuries like cramps and bruised ribs, and the Bearcats are Kiel’s 4th college team already which inevitably will lead to questions about his mental toughness.

Kiel will have a shot to be a first-round pick if he plays well in 2016, but a favorable grade in the the 2015 draft might be too tempting for Kiel to pass up. Virginia Tech’s talented secondary with a couple NFL prospects (Military Bowl opponent) will be a great test for Kiel.

Projection: 5th-6th Round 

Honorable mention: J.T. Barrett, Ohio St; C.J Beathard, Iowa; Patrick Towles, Boston College; Riley Ferguson, Memphis; Mitch Leidner, Minnesota; Sefo Liufao, Colorado