Senior Bowl: 3 Quarterbacks With Fantasy Football Dynasty Value

Which lower-rung Senior Bowl quarterbacks have a shot to make waves in the NFL?

Anyone who has watched even a second of an NFL or college football game while flipping through channels knows the importance of the quarterback to the game of football. Only the center and the quarterback touch the ball on every play.

The quarterback typically makes the offensive adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Good quarterback play makes or breaks a team in today’s pass-happy brand of football.

So why can’t the NFL find 32 starter-worthy quarterbacks at any one time?

This dearth of replacement-level quarterback talent in the league makes evaluating the position very important for scouts and general managers. For dynasty owners, it’s just as crucial: only 32 players get the chance to have starting fantasy value at any one time at this position, so finding a starter before they lock themselves into that role is a key part of dynasty quarterback scouting.

That’s why we have to turn over every rock in our search for the NFL’s next possible starting quarterbacks, and one of the reasons I scouted the 2016 Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The senior quarterback class this year isn’t stellar, but I found a few players who could be developmental projects in the pros.

Which non-premier passers should be priorities in your 2016 rookie drafts?

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

One of my favorite guys to watch during Senior Bowl week was Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who people had said coming into the week seemed undersized but mobile. He has some traits in his game similar to Seattle Seahawks’ signal-caller Russell Wilson, but his ability to move in the pocket and extend plays seemed more reminiscent of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Prescott may not have the fearlessness in the pocket that some may want from a franchise passer, but he has the ability to manipulate it and throw off the pass rush. His senior year passing rates and ranks among the 73 Division I quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts are below.

Player Comp% YPA Pass TD% INT% Rush YPC Rush TD%
Dak Prescott 66.2% (15th) 8.0 (t-26th) 6.1% (t-20th) 1.0% (2nd) 3.7 (15th) 6.3 (t-19th)

In Mobile, he flashed this ability to maneuver as one of his best traits, and his footwork was precise and solid -- even in the face of the rush. His limitation, however, is that he doesn’t have the biggest arm in the world. His deep balls are less bombs and more paper airplanes, and he doesn’t have incredible zip and velocity on short passes. He will have to rely on timing and precision in the NFL if he cannot increase this skill. That said, during the week he was one of the most solid players on the Ladd-Peebles Stadium turf. In the Senior Bowl game he completed 7-of-10 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, also rushing the ball three times for 14 yards.

He weighed in at 6'2", 226 pounds, with 31 3/8 inch arms and 9 7/8 inch hands. Interestingly -- assuming he runs between a 4.62 and 4.82 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine -- his best physical comps are Matthew Stafford, Pat Devlin, Christian Ponder, and Green Bay Packers' backup Brett Hundley, but his arms are significantly shorter than all of them. There is potential for Prescott, to be sure, but we have to be wary of his physical flaws, too.

Cody Kessler, USC

Cody Kessler was a player who, coming into 2015, was seen with very mixed reviews. His junior year at Southern California saw him torch the opposition for 3,826 passing yards and 39 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, but the caliber of defenses in his native Pac-12 conference was subpar at best. Evaluators wanted to see if this was a statistical anomaly, or whether he’d taken a true step forward in his development. In 2015, he proved his 2014 was a bit more mirage than maturation: he regressed in Yards Per Attempt (YPA) and Touchdown Rate (TD%), as well as experienced a significant regression in Interception Rate (INT%). His senior production below shows this.

Player Comp% YPA Pass TD% INT% Rush YPC Rush TD%
Cody Kessler 66.8% (t-11th) 7.9 (t-28th) 6.5% (t-14th) 1.6% (t-12th) -2.4 (69th) 6.6% (18th)

In Mobile, Kessler was somewhat disappointing to watch in practice. He had plenty of zip on his short passes, but his deeper balls -- whether airing it out or a bullet pass on a 15-yard out -- were lacking in placement and power. He had a lot of trouble leading receivers in the week of practice, and more than a few times had the ball out late because he wasn’t seeing the play develop. This was symptomatic of his time at USC, where he had little situational awareness of the pass rush and would stare down receivers. My big knock on him was his footwork, which looked like he would trip himself every time he dropped back and he would pass flat-footed, sapping his arm strength. That said, that is a fixable trait, should some team decide to work with him and develop him.

Kessler was a smallish 6'1", 224 pounds at the weigh-in but clocked 9 7/8 inch hands and 32 inch arms, and he’s projected to run between a 4.78 and 5.00 40-yard dash. His best physical comps include Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Kellen Clemens, and Jimmy Garoppolo. I could see Kessler filling an NFL roster spot like Clemens for a long time but never being an incredible talent due to his flaws.

Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech

The wild-card of this bunch is former Florida Gator Jeff Driskel, now out of Louisiana Tech. The fifth-year senior saw only limited action in his four years with the Gators, but it wasn’t pretty even in short stints. In his fourth year in college at Florida, he had just a 53.8 percent completion rate and tossed 9 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in only 212 passing attempts. It was no small wonder that he enjoyed a switch to Louisiana Tech, where the starting job was securely his and the Conference-USA competition was less worrisome than that of the SEC. His 2015 rates are below.

Player Comp% YPA Pass TD% INT% Rush YPC Rush TD%
Jeff Driskel 62.3% (t-32nd) 9.0 (t-5th) 6.0% (t-25th) 1.8% (t-21st) 3.5 (t-16th) 5.4% (t-26th)

His numbers drastically improved, but against lesser competition, it’s hard to say that he did measurably better. When he got onto an even playing field with other quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl this past week, though, it was clear that inaccuracy and poor placement would continue to be a bugaboo for him; he overthrew and underthrew plenty of receivers all week. He showed little feel for touch passes, rocketing in the ball on nearly every throw. However, that is the big reason why Driskel stands out to me. Excepting North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, Driskel clearly had the strongest arm at the Senior Bowl. Some team is going to fall in love with that trait and try to coach him up because of it (a la Logan Thomas).

At the weigh-in, Driskel came in at 6'3", 230 pounds with 9 5/8 inch hands and 32 1/2 inch arms. He is projected to run between a 4.68 and 4.90 40-yard dash at the Combine. His closest physical comps since 1999 include Devlin, Jay Cutler, Chad Pennington, and Brady Quinn. Given that all of those players had professional upside, I don’t think it’s a far cry to say that Driskel could be something in the pros. Whether some team decides to try to coax that out of him is another story.