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2017 NFL Draft quarterback watch list: Deshuan Watson, Brad Kaaya, others to watch

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The 2017 NFL Draft is a ways off, but with College Football starting up, it is time to start figure out who we should be taking a look at.

The San Francisco 49ers are just halfway through their preseason schedule, meaning the NFL offseason is a ways off, but it is never too early to start previewing the draft. Greg Valerio dropped his first position watch list on Monday (Here), where he gave us a look at five running backs of intrigue. I’m here today with scouting reports of five potential first-round quarterbacks that are eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft.

The 49ers quarterback situation is far from solved. At this point, Colin Kaepernick is a quality backup at best. Blaine Gabbert has starter-type talent, and will win you several games in the regular season, but he’s not the guy to make a deep run in the postseason (especially with below-average receivers). San Francisco also grabbed Jeff Driskel in the sixth round last year, but he’s at least a year or two from being NFL-ready. It is likely the Niners will have top-10 selection, so if they decide to go down the road of picking a quarterback in round one, they’ll have their choice of some viable prospects. I start my watch list here!

Deshuan Watson

#4 | Clemson Tigers | QB | Junior
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 210 lbs
2015 Stats: 67.8 completion % | 4,104 yards | 35 TD | 13 INT

Strengths: Watson has a fairly well-rounded game. He can hurt you in many different ways, whether it be with his feet or his killer accuracy, particularly on the move. He is very elusive in the open-field and can escape pressure in the pocket last second. Watson has had great production throughout his career at Clemson and should continue to pile on the numbers this year.

Areas to Improve: Obviously the first negative that comes to mind is size. At 6-foot-2 and just 210-pounds, Watson’s durability has to be questioned. Although he excels at eluding defenders breathing down his neck, he is still bound to take vicious hits, especially at the next level. Another red-flag with Watson is his inability to read defenses. Too many times on film (see App. St, Alabama) you’ll see him not be able to recognize the defense is loaded to one side of the field, and the play will end up being a bust.

Conclusion: The Heisman candidate has a ton to like about him, but is he worth a no.1 overall pick? His capability to get out of trouble is uncanny, but is it enough to sell an NFL organization? Watson will need to prove, along with other things, that he can get a firm-base underneath him and deliver the ball from the pocket without losing velocity.

Brad Kaaya

#15 | Miami Hurricanes | QB | Junior
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 210 lbs
2015 Stats: 61.2 completion % | 3,238 yards | 16 TD | 5 INT

Strengths: When building a prototype quarterback, you start from the ground up. Clean footwork must be present before a QB can sharpen the finer points of his game. Kaaya is exceedingly nifty in the pocket and has a good feel for when he should step up and climb. He throws an incredibly pretty football with plenty of zip, retains enough arm strength to fire it deep, and is very tough mentally and physically.

Areas to Improve: Kaaya will often leave his passes low. They will sometimes even get tipped at the line of scrimmage due to the lack of air underneath them. He could help his case by exploding off his back foot and firing into his throws. Looks nervous and inexperienced the few times he has taken snaps under center in Miami’s spread based offense. Could also stand to add bulk to his frame.

Conclusion: Kaaya looks the part. His toughness speaks for itself. He repeatedly took devastating hits and continued to stand right back up afterward. Kaaya’s natural abilities and football smarts should escalate his draft stock. With refinement in some facets of his game, he has a chance to be a really special player.

Luke Falk

#4 | Washington State Cougars | QB | RS Junior
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 214 lbs
2015 Stats: 69.4 completion % | 4,561 yards | 38 TD | 8 INT

Strengths: Maneuvers well inside the pocket. Excellent side-step ability along with the knowingness of when to get rid of the ball. Flows through his progressions with ease, which should make his transition from a spread-based offense to the NFL much easier. Another component that makes up Falk’s game is his accuracy. He fires the football with imposing zip and can thread the needle to all areas of the field.

Areas to Improve: While Washington State’s features predominantly shorter (underneath) routes, I saw Falk leave the deep ball shy quite a few times. He will also throw off his back foot and exit the pocket prematurely at times.

Conclusion: Falk, a 6-foot-4 returning redshirt quarterback, showcases a skill-set that proposes a promising future. However, he’s a ways off from being NFL-ready. He will likely benefit from another two years at WSU, but if he does enter the 2017 NFL Draft, Falk has the chance to go as high as round one.

Chad Kelly

#10 | Mississippi Rebels | QB | Senior
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 224 lbs
2015 Stats: 65.1 completion % | 4,042 yards | 31 TD | 13 INT

Strengths: Kelly has a cannon for an arm. He generates tremendous power throughout his entire body and can sling the deep ball accurately. He has likeable production and is ultra-competitive and tough. Kelly also converted for 500 yards and 10 scores on 107 carries.

Areas to Improve: He needs to learn to settle, or just throw it away. Far too many times Kelly has taken an unnecessary sack or forced an impossible throw. He also had problems off the field, leading to his dismissal from Clemson.

Conclusion: Kelly has the tools to become a NFL-starter someday, he just needs to show-up consistently. He loses his top target in Laquon Treadwell this season, so we’ll see how he performs minus a big-time receiver.

Patrick Mahomes

#5 | Texas Tech Red Raiders | QB | Junior
Height: 6’3” | 230 lbs |
2015 Stats: 63.5 completion % | 4,653 yards | 36 TD | 15 INT

Strengths: Finds absolutely no trouble in delivering the football to anywhere on the field. Showcases durable size at 6-foot-3, 230-pounds. Mahomes also excels at keeping the play alive and keeping his eyes downfield when on the run. Super athletic and is a hard-nosed competitor.

Areas to Improve: Deep ball inaccuracy - needs to work on getting the right amount of air on his passes. Mahomes could help his accuracy issues by firing into his throws, rather than falling off and letting the ball sail or wind up in the dirt. Rarely under center and doesn’t get much practice in going through his progressions.

Conclusion: Mahomes is another product of the spread. He has all the arm strength in the world, but lacks accuracy, proper mechanics and retains almost no experience taking snaps under center. Prior to the season, he looks to be a third-round QB at best.