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Athlon previews the 2013 NFL Draft by telling you who to watch this college football season.
It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year's NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.
Today, we rank college football's best quarterbacks prospects with the help of 2006 BCS National Championship Game MVP for the Florida Gators Chris Leak. You can follow @CLQB12 or hear him on SiriusXM College Sports Nation's Coast-to-Coast nightly radio show from 7-10 PM ET with Chris Childers.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia (6-3, 220, Sr.)
Smith may have the biggest arm of any prospect in the class with the possible exception of Tyler Bray. He is poised, lightning quick in his release and decision-making and has posted some huge numbers. He topped 4,300 yards as a junior and could top 4,000 yards again this fall. He could easily reach 70 touchdown passes in his final two seasons and has a sterling 66.9 percent completion rate. He will be knocked for his bad second half of 2012 and that his numbers have been inflated by the shotgun, no-huddle spread attack at West Virginia. If he can prove he can play from under center and in a pro-style attack, Smith possesses all the elite tools to be an excellent quarterback on Sundays. Comparison: Matthew Stafford
Chris Leak's Scouting Report: Elite passer at CFB level. Student of the game with high football I.Q. Field general that can have immediate impact on an NFL franchise.
2. Matt Barkley, USC (6-2, 230, Sr.)
Barkley isn't nearly as big as his listed numbers indicate. He will be lucky to measure 6-foot-1 and will have to battle the "short" moniker. His numbers have been huge —12,327 yards and 116 TD passes — and he is an upstanding member of any locker room. He is a 64.0 percent career passer and has produced big numbers in the face of NCAA sanctions. He has a big arm and plays in a pro-style offense, but overcoming his late-season injury this fall will take some effort. There is little downside to Barkley as a professional as there are no questions about his work ethic, commitment, dedication to winning and being a leader. Comparison: Andy Dalton
Leak's Scouting Report: Intelligent QB who does so many of the little things well. Fundamentally sound and solid mechanics will allow immediate success at next level.
3. AJ McCarron, Alabama (6-4, 210, Jr.)
The Alabama Heisman candidate won't wow scouts with any one talent, but he has every piece of the puzzle to be a very successful NFL quarterback. He is a champion who has done anything his coaching staff has asked. He has an excellent frame and plenty of arm to make all the throws. He is an unquestioned leader who takes his work extremely seriously. He is wildly efficient as a career 66.5 percent passer and rarely turns the ball over. He will also set multiple career and single-season Alabama passing records. Look for his poise, intelligence and work ethic to move him slowly up draft boards come next spring — if he decides to leave early. Comparison: Matt Ryan
Leak's Scouting Report: Successful QB that shows poise and courage in the pocket against top SEC competition. Has ability to ignore oncoming defenders and still get off an accurate pass.
4. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (6-5, 215, Jr.)
Bray has a first-round arm, a first-round frame and has played against first-round competition. But he currently has a seventh-round head on his shoulders. He can make every throw in the book, but he hasn't proven he can protect the football, stay healthy, lead an offensive huddle or win football games. Scouts will love his raw skills but will have major doubts about his mental make-up, maturity and dedication. He is a 58.5 percent career passer in college and will post career highs with an SEC-best 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2012. Comparison: Philip Rivers
Leak's Scouting Report: Gunslinger with great height to scan entire field. Great feel on downfield throws. Needs to improve accuracy on intermediate throws.
5. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (6-2, 218, Sr.)
Wilson was highly thought of by college and pro personnel alike until this fall. His offensive production was clearly not the same without Bobby Petrino and it will raise questions about Wilson's long-term upside. He has a solid arm, displays incredible toughness (just ask his OL) and has adequate size for an NFL pocket. His team went from 11 wins to four in one year and his numbers plummeted in his senior season (3,638 yards, 24 TD, 6 INT in 2011 and 3,387 yards, 21 TD, 13 INT in 2012). He is a career 62.7 percent passer and will need to prove his accuracy during the combine circuit this offseason. Comparison: Mark Sanchez
Leak's Scouting Report: Possesses a strong arm, and has ability to fit passes through tight windows. Didn't progress as a senior however.
6. Mike Glennon, NC State (6-6, 235, Sr.)
There isn't much left to learn about Glennon. He has a massive frame that is perfect for an NFL pocket passer. He is not an athlete who will run around, so his big frame and big arm are well-suited for the pass-happy NFL. He has played with little elite athletic ability around him on offense and the running game has been non-existent over the last two seasons. He has turned the ball over a bit too much (26 INTs in last two seasons) and has completed just under 60 percent of his passes for his career. But he also finished with 6,702 yards and 61 TDs in his final two seasons. Scouts will love his size and arm strength, however, and that could push him up draft boards. Comparison: Joe Flacco
Leak's Scouting Report: Has ideal size and arm strength for the next level, but needs to continue and improve his technique. Unpolished with his footwork and needs to refine the details of the position.
7. EJ Manuel, Florida State (6-4, 240, Sr.)
Manuel might be the most intriguing prospect on this entire list. He entered college as an elite prospect and took three full seasons to develop into the star he is today. He has a great frame and big arm to make all of the throws. He is an excellent member of the community who will take his work extremely seriously on the next level. He also has above average athletic ability to keep plays alive and move the chains with his legs. However, he is unrefined as a true pocket passer and will need work developing his motion and release. As a career 67.1 percent passer, he has been efficient in the college game and scouts will wonder if that translates. He also has dealt with some injury issues in his past, especially in big games like Oklahoma in 2011 and the second half of the Florida game this fall. The upside is massive with Manuel, who has his team poised to win the ACC for the first time in nearly a decade, but he has some major question marks. He finished with 7,311 yards passing, 752 yards rushing and 56 total touchdowns. Comparison: Carson Palmer
Leak's Scouting Report: Ideal height with the arm strength to push the ball downfield. Has ability to extend and make plays with his legs. Intriguing NFL prospect because of his raw physical tools and athletic ability.
8. Derek Carr, Fresno State (6-3, 210, Jr.)
Older brother flop of a draft pick (David) aside, Carr has put together two big seasons in a row in two different systems. He has thrown only 14 interceptions in 903 attempts in the last two seasons with 62 touchdown passes. He is a career 65 percent passer and has led his team from a 4-9 record in the WAC in 2011 to a potential 10-win season and a share of the Mountain West championship in 2012. He takes care of the football and posts big numbers — try 3,742 yards and 36 TD with only five picks as a senior — with big-time talent. He will fly under the draft radars until scouts get a better look at him. His stock could soar late in the process. Comparison: Matt Schaub
Leak's Scouting Report: Strong arm with great feel on sideline throws, possesses a great deal of natural arm talent and is confident in his ability to fit the ball between tight windows. Very quick release but doesn't fully take advantage of his height due to 3/4 release point.
9. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (6-5, 260, Jr.)
Few players have the size and athleticism that Thomas can offer the scouts in the NFL. He also has been a walking turnover this season and the Hokies have produced their worst season in nearly a decade. He has an okay arm, but not elite. His major strengths are his massive frame, strength and athleticism. He lacks accuracy — he is a 56.3 percent passer and has nearly as many INT as he has had passing TD over his two-year stint as the starter. Someone will fall in love with his size and athletic ability but his inefficiency, turnovers and lack of arm strength make him a high-risk prospect. Comparison: Josh Freeman
Leak's Scouting Report: Has combination of size, mobility and arm strength for next level. Very gifted athlete with raw mechanics and will need to improve accuracy and mental part of his game.
10. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (6-4, 220, Sr.)
Few players have ever been as productive as Jones in college. He will finish with more than 16,000 passing yards and over 120 total touchdowns. Yet, he has struggled with turnovers (nearly 50 INTs) and has struggled to win big games — on the road or at home. He has good size and a great arm as a potential pocket-passer, but will have to overcome the dreaded "system" mantra as Oklahoma has elite wideouts, a big-time OL and faces mediocre defenses in the Big 12. Jones will be an intriguing prospect to watch as the offseason moves along. Comparison: Sam Bradford
Leak's Scouting Report: Very accurate passer in the pocket but not as much on the move. Can lead receivers down the field and on crossing routes, places throws where only his man can make a play. Ideal size and athletic ability for the next level.
11. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (6-1, 220, Jr.)
Undersized but very tough. Has a big arm and above-average athletic ability. Sneaky good potential. He finished his junior season with 3,550 yards passing, 490 yards rushing, 43 overall touchdowns and 10 wins.
Leak's Scouting Report: Excellent dual-threat QB. Consistent accurate passer on the move. Ability to freeze safeties by looking one direction and passing the other.
12. Aaron Murray, Georgia (6-0, 215, Jr.)
A winner who plays with great toughness and moxie. Gunslinger who is very undersized and will be hurt in the draft by his lack of height. He will remind scouts of a less efficient version of Russell Wilson with a similar skillset to that of Drew Brees.
Leak's Scouting Report: Successful SEC QB, possessing plenty of arm strength to handle the jump to the NFL despite his lack of preferred height. Decision making will be key for jump to elite status.
12. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (6-3, 215, Jr.)
Big arm and a pro-style passer who has dealt with loads of turmoil in the locker room. Has played with elite receivers, running backs and offensive lines, so he has much to prove on the next level.
Leak's Scouting Report: A traditional drop back passer and looks the part with a tall, filled out frame. Has above-average arm to make all the throws and does a nice job working through his progressions to find the open target.
14. Zac Dysert, Miami-Ohio (6-3, 230, Sr.)
Experienced leader who has thrown a ton of passes. Does he have NFL passing talent?
Leak's Scouting Report: Displays an obvious understanding of the game of football, with great size and height with the arm strength to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline. Can be a statue at times in the pocket but shows confidence in arm and throwing with accuracy.
15. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (6-2, 230, Sr.)
Has posted big numbers on a bad team. Has shown significant growth over his time as the starter.
Leak's Scouting Report: Has good arm strength and is very accurate throwing on the run. Shows toughness and is a gamer with a lot of potential.
The Best of the Rest:
16. Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah (6-4, 235, Sr.)
17. Collin Klein, Kansas State (6-5, 225, Sr.)
18. Sean Renfree, Duke (6-4, 225, Sr.)
19. Keith Price, Washington (6-1, 200, Jr.)
20. Matt McGloin, Penn State (6-1, 220, Sr.)
21. Alex Carder, Western Michigan (6-2, 225, Sr.)
22. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (6-1, 200, Sr.)
23. Jeff Tuel, Washington State (6-3, 225, Sr.)
24. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt (6-0, 205, Sr.)
25. Dayne Crist, Kansas (6-4, 230, Sr.)
Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:
2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs
2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties
2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles
2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers
2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles
2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers
2013 NFL Draft: Cornerbacks
2013 NFL Draft: Guards and Centers
2013 NFL Draft: Outside Linebackers
2013 NFL Draft: Quarterbacks