With the San Francisco 49ers projected to have 14 draft picks at their disposal in this year’s draft, they must certainly draft a quarterback to replace Alex Smith. Unfortunately for the 49ers, this quarterback draft class is weak, really weak. When you take a look at the top quarterback prospects, from top to bottom, you will be hard pressed to find a legitimate first-round talent.
However, I have picked three players, I think the 49ers should target. All three players are projected to go no earlier than the third-round, so with the 49ers having three third-round picks, this works perfectly in their favor.
The first quarterback prospect is Tyler Bray (Tennessee). Bray has a cannon for an arm and can zip the ball in the smallest of windows. His ability to generate power through his hips is uncanny. A quarterback that more times than not, throws a tight spiral, Bray has the arm strength NFL scouts covet. However, he is not much of a scrambler and his footwork is average at best, making him a pure pocket passer.
In addition to Bray’s immobility as a runner, Bray also had a lackluster junior season. Many scouts around the NFL thought he would catapult himself as a top 10 pick, but that was not the case, as Bray noticeably struggled against SEC talent. Overall, a great prospect that will likely develop as a top backup, if a team can clean up his inconsistencies.
The second prospect is Landy Jones (Oklahoma). Jones is another pure pocket passer but with a quicker release. He has a more accurate arm than Bray and can make all the throws. However, the knock on Jones is his inability to extend plays outside the pocket. When under pressure, Jones absolutely crumbles. He feels pressure that is not there, and lacks the elusiveness to out run pass rushers. In all, another great prospect with all the tools to succeed, if developed in the right system.
The last prospect is Matt Barkley (USC). Heading into the 2012 season, Barkley was considered by many to be vying for the number one overall selection, but that quickly came to a halt as Barkley often struggled and showed no promise worthy of a number one overall pick. He often over-threw receivers downfield, and was unable to make accurate throws without stepping into them. However, he did play in a pro-style offense, and ran it very well while at USC.
In Lane Kiffin’s offense, Barkley was able to make pre-snap adjustments at the line of scrimmage. A great indicator of a smart signal caller. Furthermore, Barkley showed enough ability to make accurate throws out of the bootleg and roll out. A typical West Coast offense trademark, Barkley will most likely be targeted by teams like the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and Philadelphia Eagles.
Whether the 49ers pick a quarterback in the third-round or the seventh-round, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh being the quarterback guru that he is, will develop that player into a quality NFL starter, much like he did with Alex Smith and now Colin Kaepernick.