The NFL is now a pass-happy league, a throw first and run the ball second in many organizations. Having an elite quarterback at the helm is every franchise’s No.1 priority. I try to avoid the comparison game. Not only will that get you in trouble, it basically gives talent evaluators a comfort zone in which they feel good about a player, instead of grading them for the attributes and skill set they bring to the table and how those skills can be utilized at the next level.

This is the first position of the Top 5 by position series. I will explain in detail the critical factors and athletic skill set for each position, which is what NFL personnel men look for when grading a player’s DNA (film) and how size, injuries and character issues and concerns may affect draft boards in all 32 war rooms.

QUARTERBACKS

Critical Factors

Mental Awareness: Intelligence, ability to take hard coaching, understanding coverages and ability to read defenses on the move. Make quick and good decisions while under pressure.

Leadership: Natural born leader, most respectful leader on the team, commands respect in the huddle.

Competitiveness: A clutch player with a win-at-all-cost attitude, with a high level of intensity. He is at his best under adverse and pressure situations, with the will to win. He has confidence in himself and his teammates have confidence in him.

Toughness: This most unprotected player in the game must have a high level of toughness. A clutch player to consistently deliver under pressure with ability to play both injured and hurt when the team needs him.

Production: Produce under pressure in critical situations and in red zone with consistent results.

Arm Strength: The ability to spin the ball with a tight spiral, good velocity and zip, with the ability to deliver underneath with touch. Has deep ball accuracy with very little air under ball.

Third-Down Efficiency: Sustain drive production, clutch situational habits under pressure to convert.

Size/Strength: Does he meet the requirements for the position? Can he take the punishment and still deliver production?

Athletic Skill Set

Football Intelligence: Student of the game; film breakdown and playbook memorization. Football instincts with read reaction quickness and the ability to process information or situations fast. View the game like a coordinator. Help assimilate game plans.

Athletic Ability: Quickness, speed and ability to change direction with burst.

Accuracy: Split into two categories: 1. Short; ability to stick it on the receiver, accuracy and touch is more important than strength, along with anticipation and timing of routes. 2. Long; throw to an area and allow receivers to run under the ball or the ability to hit the receiver in stride with good ball placement.

Set-up quickness: Quickness from under center in traditional offense with smooth transition to get into drops.

Ball Handling: Footwork and ball protection on play-action fakes.

Drop: Foot quickness, punch step with smooth stride tree-, five-, seven-step drops with strong anchor. Look off safety in drops with eyes, shoulders and pump fake.

Delivery: Rhythm and timing are very important, with weight transfer and foot balance (18-25) inches, any wider then that is considered over striding, which effects a quarterbacks release point and accuracy. Is follow-through like a pitcher (body weight ending over post leg).

Poise in Pocket: Stand tall in pocket under pressure keeping eyes down field on receivers with good field vision.

Escape Ability: Foot quickness with mobility in pocket to elude, slide and avoid pressure to escape and buy time.

Release: Can throw from different platforms with release over ear, shoulder or sidearm sling.

Arm Strength: Spin football with velocity, turn out zip, deep ball. Does the quarterback use a lot of hip torque or all upper body arm and shoulder thrower. Throw the ball with effortless motion.

Pocket Awareness: Feeling pressure to step up away from outside pressure off edge.

Decision Maker: A good decision-maker from the line of scrimmage to audible out of poor situations or change plays to gain an advantage and manipulate the defense.

Running Skills: A downfield threat with positive production, creating another added dimension for the offense.

Protections: Recognize and identify pressure from pre snap reads vs. blitz packages from base defense and sub packages.

Clock Management: Two-minute drill, adverse situations and normal.

Voice: Strength and clarity.

Hand size: The larger the better.

*Andrew Luck Stanford 6-4 234 4.64 Luck’s attributes for the position and skill set along with intelligence will make him very successful at the next level. A right arm quarterback, that was bred for the position since a kid and has developed into a good athlete with very good football instincts, superb intelligence and is extremely competitive, and has a natural feel for the game. Good set-up quickness from under center, with good footwork in three-, five, and seven-step drops with eyes down field. Great pocket awareness to feel pressure to slide and avoid with downfield running skills and production. Very good rhythm passer with timing and anticipation. Arm strength is good not great; might struggle with passes at the next level from hash to the far numbers or sideline on a consistent basis when throwing to his right because of an elongated motion. Good balance to transfer weight on delivery with over-ear release point. Very good short- and long-ball accuracy. Can squeeze into a window vs. man coverage and throw over the top of linebackers and drop in front of safeties vs. zone coverage. His ball-handling and play-action fakes remind me of a young Peyton Manning. Very good toughness to stand in and deliver under pressure and take the big hit. Good decision-making on pre-snap reads to audible at the line of scrimmage with the ability to recognize coverages and blitz to set protections. Per several sources, Luck has very strong leadership qualities. Very good voice strength and clarity. Player that fights through adversity, doesn’t get down after throwing an interception, has the mindset of a champion and is ready to compete on the next series. I saw some issues with clock management, allowing the play clock to run out in critical situations (see 2011 USC), but this can be cleaned up. Sharp young man, spoke with authority and handled the Peyton Manning questions at the Combine very well. Career production: Games played/games started 38/38, completions 713, attempts 1,064, completion percentage 67.0, yards 9,430, yards per attempt 8.9, touchdowns 82, interceptions 22. The 2012 NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick.

*Robert Griffin III Baylor 6-2 3/8 223 4.39 Griffin’s personality, football intelligence and charisma, which I saw during his press conference at the Combine is extremely contagious. This young man will have no issues processing football information per several sources. A respectful leader among his peers and an extremely competitive athlete and football player. A right handed quarterback with great feet in set-up quickness three-, five- and seven-step drops from under center in pre-draft workouts and is a natural from the shotgun position. Pocket awareness is very good to slide and avoid with burst and acceleration with cat-like quick movement to escape. Inconsistent to trust his instincts vs. pressure at times. While he performs very good under pressure, his poise in the pocket is adequate at times and is flushed too easily. He did on several occasions show the ability to reset his feet and make the big throw, but he relies on his comfort zone, his ability to make plays with his feet downfield. This is not a negative. Has a narrow base to throw from several platforms, relies on upper body, arm and shoulder, with very little weight transfer to step into his throws. Arm strength is very good, can flick deep balls with effortless motion. Deep-ball accuracy is very good, throws to an area and allows receivers to run under balls. Will need development on short-ball accuracy when it comes to ball placement and squeezing into NFL tight windows and sticking it on the receiver. A true downfield threat when flushed adding a huge dimension to his game outside the pocket with a combination of speed, quickness and cutting ability to escape defenders in space and defy angles. His speed was not a shock to me because I can see that on film. To be honest, I thought it would be slightly faster than reported. While Griffin’s football intelligence is off the charts per several sources coming out of the Combine meetings, he played in a funky spread system with only 10-plus pages in the playbook. Like all rookies, he will need further development in decision-making in pre-snap reads of coverages, blitz recognition, protections, clock management and third-down efficiency at the next level. This player’s DNA (film) doesn’t lie. His production both passing and running was exceptional. RG3 is a true playmaker and his kid-like antics on the field after a score by a teammate tells me he loves the game and is having fun playing it. Career Production: Games played/games started 41/40, completions 800, attempts 1,192, completion percentage 67.1, yards 10,366, yards per attempt 8.7, touchdowns 78, interceptions 17. Top 10 Pick.

Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M 6-3 7/8 221 4.65 (estimated) A former receiver turned quarterback his junior year, is right handed and extremely athletic with a good combination of size and speed for the position. Flashed natural leadership skills on films viewed getting after his teammates on the field and on the sideline. Good footwork in set-up quickness three-, five- and seven-step drops with mobility and balance. Good field vision with eyes downfield and pocket awareness to slide and avoid with escapability and downfield run threat with production. Has very good toughness to stand in under pressure to deliver, and take the big hit. Good delivery skills with rhythm and balance along with timing and anticipation of receivers in routes. Good overall accuracy both short and intermediate to throw away from defenders and allow receivers to make the easy catch. Tannehill can stick it on the receiver with good velocity, inconsistent to throw to an area in mid field, better in red zone but has shown he can make all the passes needed at the next level. Good passer outside the pocket rolling either right or left to square shoulder and deliver accurate balls on the move. Good, not great production as a passer, impressive running in open space for tall quarterback. Highly competitive to handle pressure with poise in the pocket. Tannehill has a strong arm, is smart and competes at a high level in both practices and games per several school sources. Good decision-making skills with recognition of coverages and blitz packages. He walks up and down the offensive line barking out audibles, displaying a good command of the offense. Still very raw in every sense of the word, but has all the attributes and skill set to develop into a very good quarterback at the next level. Extremely intelligent as a football player and has already graduated with a biology degree, and as he told me at the Combine his career goal after the NFL is to become an orthopedic surgeon. His broken foot or the inability to showcase his talent at the Combine will not hurt this signal-caller’s draft status for me. His DNA (film) is in the bank, despite limited starts at the position. Tannehill had surgery on his foot, with a screw inserted to repair a broken bone and has yet to work out for coaches and scouts. Career Production (only one full season as a starting quarterback): Games played/games started 49/25 (19 as a quarterback), completions 484, attempts 774, completion percentage 62.5, yards 5, 450, yards per attempt 7.0, touchdowns 42, interceptions 21. First-Round Talent.

Russell Wilson Wisconsin 5-10 5/8 204 4.54 Former baseball player and quarterback throughout his collegiate career. Height hurts this player in the draft ranking for all 32 teams. Despite his size, this young man is a playmaker, and the difference in several of the Badgers’ wins in 2011. A natural born leader per several sources at both collegiate stops (North Carolina State and Wisconsin) with excellent athletic skill set and is extremely football intelligent and a well spoken and bright young man. Has aligned in both traditional (under center) and shotgun, with very good set-up quickness in three-, five- and seven-step drops, with punch step and anchor to bounce with eyes downfield. Has very good rhythm, timing and anticipation of receivers in routes. Release point is over ear with very good accuracy both short and deep. Undersized quarterback with very good arm strength to make all the throws needed for the next level. Very good pocket awareness to slide and avoid defenders, reset feet and make the big throw, or leak into space and ad lib on the move. If trapped has the ability with the combination of speed, burst and acceleration and change of direction as a down field threat with very good production, an exciting player on the move. Wilson makes good decisions in the pocket or in space. Good pre-snap reads to recognize coverages and blitz packages, can audible and set protections. Very productive; handles a two-minute drill with ease. Wilson is very competitive with toughness and the desire to be great; you see it in his play. Plays bigger then measured, height doesn’t affect his downfield vision, to look through timbers (offensive linemen), which I saw on film and live at the Senior Bowl. A NFL team will adapt like Wisconsin did, implementing an offense with boots, waggles, rollouts, play-action and use Wilson’s natural ability to ad lib on the move outside the pocket as a change-of-pace weapon. He was also effective as a receiver as well on throw-back plays. Wilson was extremely effective on third-down efficiency both as a passer and a runner to improvise. Speaking with this player at the Combine, Russell said he loves baseball, but his heart is set on playing in the NFL. A true playmaker, Wilson’s DNA (film) jumps out at you, tells me he can develop into a starter at the next level. Career Production: Games played/games started 51/50, completions 907, attempts 1,489, completion percentage 60.9, yards 11,720, yards per attempt 7.9, touchdowns 109, interceptions 30. First-Round Talent, but height knocks him into the third round for most if not all NFL teams.

Nick Foles Arizona 6-5 243 5.07 Pocket passer to stand tall and deliver. Very poised and composed to deliver under pressure, confident quarterback in all games viewed. Flashed clutch play to consistently deliver the big play through the air. Good foot quickness in set up from center in three, five and seven step drops on film and at the Senior Bowl. Works out of shotgun a high percentage of the time in spread offense. Good strength in pocket with awareness and ability to step up and make all the throws needed at the next level. Has rhythm along with timing and anticipation to bounce in pocket, read coverage and throw. Good over shoulder release point with zip and velocity to spin a good ball. Tall quarterback to throw from several platforms, best when nestled in the pocket and surrounded with timbers. A strong right-handed quarterback with good accuracy and production on intermediate to deep balls, throwing to an area and the ability to stick it on the receiver with touch. Very good on play-action fake and then eyes downfield in read progression. Has good slide and avoid from pressure, to leak out and short set. Is slightly heavy footed with limited burst and acceleration and escapability in space and is not a downfield running threat. Spins an adequate ball on the move, will throw a consistent flutter if he doesn’t set his feet. Per sources, Foles is a student of the game, works hard at preparation and has a passion to play at the next level. They also talked about his mental toughness and gave him an 8.5 out of 10. I spoke with Nick at the Senior Bowl. He is a very low-key person. I put him in several football scenarios both on and off the field and he responded very competitively. Foles will further develop under NFL tutelage on reading coverages, calling protections and recognizing blitz packages. Career Production: Games played/games started 36/32, completions 938, attempts 1,404, completion percentage 66.8, yards 10,067, yards per attempt 7.17, touchdowns 67, interceptions 33. Second or Third-Round Talent.

The next five prospects at the quarterback position are ranked as follows:

1. Kirk Cousins: Michigan State

2. Brandon Weeden: Oklahoma State

3. Brock Osweiler: Arizona State

4. Chandler Harnish: Northern Illinois

5. Austin Davis: Southern Mississippi