Dwayne Haskins ended the drought, but these 5 B1G quarterbacks could also become first round picks
The B1G’s first round quarterback drought is a whole 2 weeks old.
Granted, it’s not quite as long as the 24-year drought that preceded Dwayne Haskins becoming the conference’s first quarterback to be picked in Round 1 of the NFL Draft since Kerry Collins.
But now, we move on to the next one. The question is who will that be?
Here are 5 current B1G quarterbacks who could become the conference’s next first rounder.
1. Nate Stanley, Iowa (2020)
Does he overthrow too many people? Yes. Is he a complete prospect and will he be come draft time? Probably not. But are there teams who would absolutely fall in love with Stanley if he led Iowa to a B1G West crown and threw 30 touchdown passes? For sure.
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about first round quarterbacks in the 21st century, it’s that NFL teams aren’t afraid to take chances on big, strong-armed quarterbacks. Stanley might actually be deemed less of a risk as a 3-year starter.
Even without T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, there are still talented pass-catchers around to help Stanley, who finished the year looking like a first-team All-B1G quarterback (63% accuracy, 8-2 TD-INT ratio) during Iowa’s 3-game winning streak.
Stanley could help himself a ton by improving his efficiency, no doubt, but the foundation is there.
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State (2021)
Haskins became a first round quarterback after just 1 season of starting in Ryan Day’s system. Fields, however, will get 2. At least that’s what one would assume. Obviously a lot of this is speculation with someone who has yet to start a college game, but the talent is off the charts. Watching some of the throws he makes will make NFL scouts drool.
This throw is filthy. Oh my goodness, Justin Fields.😲😲😲 pic.twitter.com/4C9LbzqVrW
— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) November 17, 2018
And despite what his role was as a running quarterback at Georgia, I actually think Fields’ running game will be a little more Baker Mayfield-like. In that, he’s going to use his mobility to make throws out of the pocket and not necessarily rely on his legs as much as people might think.
I’m interested in seeing how Fields handles pressure when he can’t always out-run defensive ends like he did so much in high school, and there are of course mental hurdles that any first-time starter at a big-time program needs to overcome. But will Ohio State become the first B1G team to have multiple first-round quarterbacks in the 21st century? I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.
3. Hunter Johnson, Northwestern (2021)
Like Fields, I’m doing some major projecting by saying that Johnson has the chops to become a first round pick before he ever starts in college. And unlike Fields, Johnson could actually go the Haskins route and leave for the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore after the 2019 season.
But I put Johnson at 2021 because it seems wild to project a 1-year starter at Northwestern to leave early for the NFL Draft and become a first round pick. Then again, it seemed pretty wild that a former 5-star recruit would leave Clemson and go to Northwestern after just 1 season.
What I want to see from Johnson is how he handles the intermediate throws and how well he can bounce back up after taking a hit. We know the arm talent is there, and he can move pretty well. But that toughness and precision are the things that could allow him to deliver on his 5-star potential.
Who was the last first round quarterback from Northwestern, you ask? Otto Graham. That’d be some elite company to join.
4. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska (2021)
Before you tell me there’s no way a player like Martinez could become a first-round pick, consider this. He’s going to have at least 2 more years to develop in Scott Frost’s system. The decision-making needs to improve. The ball security cannot be a liability.
But in this era of smaller, outside-the-pocket quarterbacks getting serious first round consideration, why can’t Martinez develop into that guy? The dude can definitely take a hit, he’s extremely poised and while he might not have as big of an arm as others on this list, he can still stretch the field when needed.
HUGE throw from frosh Adrian Martinez for the go-ahead 57-yard score against Colorado pic.twitter.com/iiZr4N7XDN
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 8, 2018
This is all in the event that Martinez continues to progress and he makes Nebraska relevant. I believe he already checks a lot of the same boxes that Marcus Mariota did as a prospect coming out of Scott Frost’s system. Obviously what Martinez does in 2019 will have a big impact on if he can begin to generate NFL Draft buzz, but the talent and intangibles are there.
5. Shea Patterson, Michigan (2020)
So I actually almost went with Dylan McCaffrey here. Maybe some Michigan fans agree with me on that. But I went with Patterson for a couple reasons. In the event that he finally gets Michigan over the hump and the Wolverines claim their first B1G Championship under Jim Harbaugh, all the NFL eyes will be on Patterson.
Keep in mind that he’d be a 3-year starter with legitimate experience playing multiple offensive systems. With Josh Gattis leading an RPO-heavy offense this year, Patterson can fit the mold that a lot of NFL teams are shifting toward.
Granted, Patterson needs to do a better job of sensing pressure and getting rid of the ball when he doesn’t have room to run. But if Michigan is less predictable on offense, it’s only going to benefit Patterson. His mobility will be even more of a weapon and his relatively average numbers will get a nice boost.
If we’re being honest, I probably wouldn’t bet on Patterson becoming a first round quarterback just because I’m not sure he has that kind of upside as a prospect. But I wouldn’t rule out someone with his career path and skill set as being an attractive late-first round option if he takes a big step in 2019.
And a way-too-early wild card …
I know I don’t have to get any Wisconsin fans on the Graham Mertz hype train, but man, the dude seems like he’s going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in Madison in awhile. Yes, watching Mertz absolutely tear up the U.S. Army All-American Game had something to do with that. It made me think concerns about his Kansas competition were a bit overblown.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Paul Chryst utilize the redshirt rule with Mertz to let him fill out a little more while getting him some reps in relief of Jack Coan. That could be a better long-term plan for Mertz.
Of course a ton of things would have to work out in Mertz’s favor for the first round projection to be possible in 2022. He’d probably have to win the starting job at least by the start of his second year in Madison. If Wisconsin could do what it does — dominate at the line of scrimmage and produce an elite running game — that would certainly help Mertz, too.
But yeah, if I’m putting money down on one B1G quarterback who hasn’t even been on the sidelines for a college game yet to get picked in the first round, it’s Mertz.