With the 2015 college football season upon us, NFL scouts and GMs are slowly beginning to determine who the top prospects for next year's NFL draft will be.
For the Kentucky Wildcats, their best prospect may end up being one of their underclassmen this year in addition to being their starting quarterback. That's Patrick Towles, who will once again be UK's starter after holding off Drew Barker for the second-straight year.
Over at CBS Sports, Rob Rang did a draft preview of UK's top draft-eligible-prospects, and it was Towles who topped his list. Rang also compared Towles to former Oregon State QB Sean Mannion, who had a productive career with the Beavers before being selected 89th overall by the St. Louis Rams in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Like the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Mannion, Towles looks the part of an NFL quarterback with prototypical height, broad shoulders and evenly distributed muscle mass. Also like Mannion, Towles' best success comes on bucket throws to the outside, demonstrating the touch, trajectory and ball placement to defeat press coverage on intermediate and deep fade routes and occasional deep posts. Also like Mannion, however, Towles sprays the ball when he doesn't have the leg room to step into throws, raising concerns about arm strength and true accuracy. Both players possess an elongated delivery that give defenders an extra split second warning of where the ball will be headed.
One important distinction between Towles and Mannion, however is pure athleticism. Despite Towles' size, he is surprisingly athletic, rushing for 305 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. Some of this production is scheme related as the Wildcats often call read-option plays. Also, Towles is very willing to leave the pocket when he senses it collapsing to get what he can. He's faster and more agile than he looks but must do a better job of keeping his eyes downfield to exhaust passing opportunities rather than simply scrambling. It is scouts' hope that improvement in this area (and several others) will come with more experience.
If Towles can have a productive 2015 season, don't be surprised if he at least puts his name for evaluation from the draft advisory board. This isn't a particularly great QB class, and Towles could quickly find himself in consideration for a Day 2 or early Day 3 selection in the 2016 draft with a big season.
Also making Rang's list of draft-eligible prospects were senior safety A.J. Stamps and senior linebacker Josh Forrest.