Antonio Pipkin and 5 Late Round Quarterbacks to Watch in the 2017 NFL Draft

by Kevin Roberts
on April 6, 2017

Every NFL team that doesn’t have a quarterback in place already knows going into the 2017 NFL Draft they better turn over every rock in an effort to find one. Several struggling franchises have turned to stop-gap options or still don’t have an answer of any kind as the draft draws closer.

Teams like Chicago and San Francisco have options under center but require a long-term solution, while the Jets, Browns and others seem to have no idea whatsoever what their plan at quarterback is going to be.

Picking early in the draft can often help teams figure that all out, but a lack of early selections, other glaring holes or (in this draft’s case) a lack of high level passing talent can hinder a franchise’s ability to find the quarterback they need.

We’ve seen gems pop up in the past, however. Tom Brady still stands in as the most obvious success story, while other gems like Tony Romo and Kurt Warner weren’t even initially drafted. Could there be another quarterback gem waiting to be picked up late in the 2017 NFL Draft? If so, these five arms could be the best bets beyond round five:

C.J. Beathard (Iowa)

We’ll start our look at the top quarterback sleepers in the 2017 NFL Draft just because he is a big-armed passer who thrives in the play-action and currently is either going very late or possible going undrafted. Beathard has the ideal size, leadership qualities and arm strength to make all of the plays at the next level, but does have some accuracy and awareness issues that he’ll need to clean up.

Beathard fortunately hails from a Pro Style system at Iowa, which could suggest his learning curve from college to the big leagues won’t be as steep as it will be for others. Having that extra leg up could be huge, as Beathard does have interesting arm talent and a knack for selling play-action, but he still needs work on getting throws out on time, trusting his protection and general consistency.

Nick Mullens (Southern Miss)

Mullens is your classic case of the extremely productive college quarterback who put up numbers and looked the part at one level, but may not initially look the part when transitioning to the pros. There is no getting around the fact that Mullens doesn’t have ideal size for the next level, while it’s fairly arguable that he doesn’t make up for it enough with arm strength or high level athleticism.

While Mullens doesn’t have the physical traits NFL scouts actively search for, he seems to have everything else. Mullens is a natural gamer who can both color inside the lines and freelance on the fly when needed. He’s displayed an innate ability to sense pressure, locate the big play and also possesses nice control, timing and touch on the majority of his throws.

Mullens also displays exceptional grit, competitiveness and leadership on the field, potentially giving him an added edge in dire situations. Those physical limitations could come back to haunt him in the end, but someone will take a crack at him late in this draft just to see if the baller we saw in college can be the same guy at the next level.

Trevor Knight (Texas A&M)

Knight might be the most fun prospect on this list to think about, as his natural athleticism, fluid hips and elite long speed make him a very interesting dual threat passer for the NFL. Knight is so fast (4.54 40-yard dash time) and explosive in general that even if he doesn’t translate to the next level as a passer, he could genuinely fit somewhere as a running back or wide receiver.

Knight ideally could figure out a career under center, however, as his vision as a runner and ability to react to the defense could really help make him a special threat. Knight isn’t without positive attributes as a natural passer, either, as he’s got a big, bulky frame and a strong arm.

Unfortunately, Knight’s delivery is a little jagged and may not be quick enough to consistently burn defenses at the next level. Beyond that, there’s little doubt Knight’s most dangerous asset is his legs and not his ability to carve up defenses with his arm. That being said, there is a high level athlete here that has a big arm and a penchant for big plays all over the field. He’s worth a look, .

Antonio Pipkin (Tiffin)

Surely downgraded for his lack of high level competition, Pipkins is actually a very interesting dual threat option for the next level.

In addition to coming from a small school and facing weak competition, Pipkin is fighting an uphill battle even further to the NFL thanks to less than ideal height. Pipkin certainly is a smaller quarterback, but he packs a serious punch with elite mobility, above average awareness, terrific long speed and a penchant for the big play.

Pipkin is a true gamer who carried his offense over the last two years at Tiffin and has the same skill-set that made Robert Griffin III such a tantalizing prospect back in 2012. There is no denying Pipkin’s shortcomings, but his fluidity and awareness after the snap aren’t coachable. If he can develop his game in the right system, he could eventually be a very lethal dual threat passer.

Seth Russell (Baylor)

Less explosive as Pipkin but understandably more proven and far more polished is Baylor’s Seth Russell. Polished is a funny word with someone like Russell, especially since he’s coming from a Baylor system that hasn’t produced highly successful passers.

Regardless, Russell remains a very interesting quarterback prospect who has the size, arm strength and moxie to potentially turn into a weekly starter in the NFL. Serious injury issues have clouded his draft stock, with both of Russell’s meaningful runs with the Bears ending in devastating fashion.

That doesn’t take anything away from Russell as a prospect, as he looks the part of an NFL signal caller and has all of the physical ability to make it in the NFL. He does come from a very simple system that tends to inflate numbers and his injury history is shaky, of course, so he’ll need to go in the right system and given time to mature.

There are more interesting passers to keep an eye on heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, but these may be the best bets late in the draft, likely beyond round five. Have another quarterback you think should be on this list? Think we got the list wrong? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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