NFL Combine 2016 Schedule: QBs Who Really Need to Nail Their Interviews on Day 2By Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
The second day of the NFL Draft Combine will have some of the more recognizable college football players, which is to say the quarterbacks and wide receivers will be on hand for their media sessions.
The NFL Network's Mike Mayock, one of the most trusted draft analysts in the business, recently discussed this year's prospects in a lengthy conference call. You can read the full transcript here. Battle Red Blog picked out some of the parts pertaining to this year's QBs.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Cook might well be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's class of passers, though his ceiling may not be quite as high as his peers. Cook played in an NFL-style system, he can anticipate receivers' routes, hit tight windows, he plays with grit, and he and oozes confidence.
Thus, some NFL personnel will ask him why he was not named a captain for his senior season. Fortunately for Cook, he has answered the question before, albeit to a reporter rather than potential employers. During the conference call, Mayock raved about Cook's toughness and poise, but acknowledged the QB will field "character questions."
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Like Cook, Hackenberg falls into the "NFL-ready category," but the two QBs differ in a number of ways. First, Hackenberg regressed over his collegiate career. Sure, he played with shoddy offensive lines, and experienced a major coaching change, and no, Penn State was not a serious Big Ten contender during his three seasons there.
But the troubling criticism often associated with Hackenberg is what appeared to be sulking after turning the ball over, careless throws, and the aforementioned regression. Mayock called Hackenberg a "wild card" because he has a high ceiling, but is far from being a starter. Hackenberg cannot afford to be a QB who needs to drafted by a certain coach (ahem, Bill O'Brien).
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
Jones has the chance to stand out during Thursday's media sessions. Mayock may have dubbed him a "wild card," but any problems evaluators may have once had about his character should be long squashed. Jones will always be the "we ain't here to play school" guy, but by all accounts he started taking his education seriously and became a positive influence on his teammates.
Yes, Jones' accuracy is inconsistent (to say the least), and he was an awkward fit for Ohio State's offense, but his size and arm strength are enough to get him a shot at the next level. He should do fine with the athletic drills, but it is the interviews where Jones can really distinguish himself. Jones is charismatic, passionate, and he can be unexpectedly funny, all of which he can sprinkle over his newfound maturity.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The narrative surrounding Lynch's ability is quite similar to Hackenberg and Jones, though he is a more polished passer. He also has not had the benefit of playing at a Power 5 program. But one of the best things Lynch has going for him was Memphis' surprise success, particularly their upset over Ole Miss.
While any evaluator worth his or her salt has watched Lynch play, there are plenty of fans who have not. As it stands, Lynch is considered by some to be a first-round selection, though few have him going before Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. With his impressive measurables and physical tools, Lynch could be primed to climb many a draft board with a solid combine performance.