Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
NFL analyst: QB class down
Former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round Saturday.
LITTLE ROCK ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Wednesday he does not have a quarterback listed among his top 25 players for the 2013 NFL Draft after what turned out to be a chaotic year for the quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first several rounds of the draft.
Among that group are Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Matt Barkley of Southern Cal, Geno Smith of West Virginia, Mike Glennon of North Carolina State, Tyler Bray of Tennessee, EJ Manuel of Florida State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and possibly others.
Because of injuries, poor seasons by their teams, lack of strong supporting casts, average bowl game performances and tepid Senior Bowl showings, Kiper said the quarterback class is a mystery and much less bankable than the 2012 NFL Draft, which produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Brandon Weeden as solid first-year starters.
“It’s just a tough evaluation trying to figure out which quarterbacks in this draft, if any, will be great starting quarterbacks,” Kiper said. “I don’t have a quarterback in my top 25. … There’s not a quarterback in this draft who says ‘Take me!’ ”
Wilson was one of nine quarterbacks invited Thursday to the annual Jon Gruden’s QB Camp in the weeks leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft.
Barkley, Smith, Glennon, Bray, Manuel, Nassib, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Miami of Ohio’s Zac Dysert also will attend the camp, which will come with a twist this season. Gruden also has extended an invitation to nonquarterbacks Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, who is under consideration for the top pick of the draft, linebacker Manti Te’o of Notre Dame and running back Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, who is recovering from major knee surgery.
Kiper said he thinks Smith and Barkley will be taken in some order during the first round, then he has Wilson and Glennon going next.
“Wilson right now is solidly, I think, the fourth quarterback to come off the board, maybe the third,” he said. “A lot of things happened that prevented Wilson from having the kind of year expected. I think he’s an early to mid two [second round] and at worst an early three. … Some think late first. I don’t see it right now.”
Wilson sustained a concussion that knocked him out of the second half of a stunning 31-28 overtime loss against Louisiana-Monroe in Week 2 and he missed a 52-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama the following week.
Kiper said all the top quarterbacks had their struggles, citing USC’s fall from preseason No. 1 to a six-loss season, Smith’s problems in the second half of the season, and the turmoil Wilson endured at Arkansas with the loss of Coach Bobby Petrino and a 4-8 season.
“It’s just like the wheels came off for all the quarterbacks at some point this year,” Kiper said. “Things just didn’t fall right for these quarterbacks, allowing them to maximize their abilities.
“That’s why I think the teams right now are in the predicament they are, trying to figure this whole quarterback thing out and not try to overdraft or push a guy up when he’s not deserving.”
Kiper said Barkley would have been taken No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Browns last season if he had come out.
Wilson also considered declaring early and would have had a shot at becoming a first-round selection as well.
Kiper said he thinks the quarterbacks’ pro days on their campuses will loom more important than the NFL Scouting Combine later this month.
“The combine is rough on quarterbacks,” he said, citing lack of familiarity with the receivers they are throwing to as well as the pressure they are under from the intense scrutiny of medical examinations and a long stream of meetings with team personnel.
Sports, Pages 23 on 02/15/2013