Who is the best quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft class? We might not know until after the Scouting Combine. That, and more pre-draft information was learned after our lengthy conversation with Bleacher Report's lead NFL Draft analyst, Matt Miller.
The San Francisco 49ers are currently in search of a new head coach, so keep in mind that Miller wasn't asked specifically about scheme fits. We spoke with Miller to gauge his thoughts on the top players available in the 2015 draft.
Below you'll find the key takeaways from the conversation.
-Quarterback is considered to be the weakest position group, according to Miller. "We all want there to be good quarterbacks because it makes the draft more interesting," Miller said, "but after the big two, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – assuming he declares – there's an enormous drop-off." The third-best quarterback can be found 50 spots later on Miller's draft board following the Florida State and Oregon signal-callers, whom he ranks one and two at the position, respectively.
-The "Winston or Mariota" debate as top quarterback selected will likely rage into the offseason. "We haven't had that kind of debate for a while," Miller said.
-Winston is more "pro ready," according to Miller, who cited Winston's delivery, anticipation and accuracy as his top traits. "He's making NFL throws," Miller added. "He's throwing the 20-yard out. He's attacking the whole field."
-Per Miller, Mariota doesn't have the same off-field concerns as Winston. Oregon's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback also has better athleticism and mechanics than the 2013 award winner. Miller said Mariota wasn't asked to make as many big-time throws. "It's not that he can't throw a 20-yard out or a comeback," Miller said, "but we haven't seen him do it, so it's more of a question mark."
-Mariota, should he elect to enter the NFL Draft, could attend the Senior Bowl because he's already graduated college as a junior. "I don't think he will go," Miller said. "But man, he could answer a lot of questions if he went down there, stepping outside of the Oregon system and throwing some of those NFL routes. That's really the biggest question about him right now."
*Note: Interview was conducted before Mariota's right shoulder injury in the CFP national championship game loss to Ohio State.
-The Senior Bowl will have a big factor on which quarterback emerges as the third-best passer. Only four quarterbacks have accepted invites so far: East Carolina's Shane Carden, Colorado State's Garrett Grayson, Baylor's Bryce Petty and Alabama's Blake Sims.
-Velocity is the most notable quarterback skill at the Senior Bowl. "I don't really knock a quarterback if he's not super accurate at the Senior Bowl," Miller said. "You're playing in an unfamiliar situation. You don't know the receivers. The timing of the route isn't always good. Velocity is big and mechanics are huge."
-Best players to watch on film: West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, Kentucky defensive end Alvin Dupree and Louisiana State offensive tackle La'El Collins.
-White, Dupree and Collins will all be at the Senior Bowl.
-Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker and Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley are senior standouts who won't be at the Senior Bowl. "It dilutes the class a little bit," Miller said. "But this is a good, deep senior class."
-Pass-rushers are the deepest pool of talent in this year's draft class. "I know it isn't a huge need for the 49ers," Miller said, "but it's such a good group for that hybrid defensive end or outside linebacker player."
-Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, Missouri defensive end Shane Ray and outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. were the top edge-rushers mentioned by Miller. Those three, plus Dupree, Beasley and Virginia defensive end Eli Harold could all be first-round selections.
-It's not a guarantee that a running back will be selected in the first round, but Miller noted that six or seven backs could be viewed as workhorse runners in the NFL.
-This year's wide receiver crop is not as deep as last season, but it's still very formidable with Alabama's Amari Cooper leading the way. The strength of this year's pass-catching crop is in their size. Big receivers can be had in 2015.
-There hasn't been a clear-cut cornerback to emerge as the position group's top prospect. "It's not a great year for corners," Miller said. Washington's Marcus Peters was considered to be the top prospect before his dismissal from school. Junior prospects like Trae Waynes out of Michigan State, Jalen Collins out of LSU and Alex Carter out of Stanford are other cornerbacks to track leading up to the NFL Draft.