With apologies and all due respect to fans of the NBA, NHL and college basketball, in addition to baseball fans excited about the beginning of spring training. But for football fans, NFL Draft season is about to begin with the league’s scouting combine starting next week. Prospects will undergo plenty of evaluation from now until April 27, when the NFL’s annual player selection meeting kicks off in Philadelphia.
The prospects who will likely experience more scrutiny than any other are the quarterbacks. And a big part of that process has become an annual rite of passage, in which the draft’s top signal callers sit down with ESPN analyst Jon Gruden for all sorts of questions, film study, and drawing up plays on the white board. Gruden getting to know these quarterbacks, talking to them like a NFL coach would (and often answering his questions for them) is one of the most entertaining aspects of what has become a very long process, especially in terms of the attention it receives.
If you were worried that we might go through NFL Draft season without Gruden’s QB Camp, you can relax. It’s coming back. Gruden, his clicker, the widescreen TV, the white board and that table are returning for their eighth season on ESPN, beginning April 11. During those eight seasons, Gruden has sat down with 50 NFL Draft prospects, almost all of whom have been quarterbacks. This year’s class, if that’s what you’d call it, consists of seven signal-callers, led by Clemson’s national championship quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is expected to be a first-round selection.
— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) February 23, 2017
As you can see above, the other quarterbacks involved in Gruden’s QB Camp this year are North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky (who could be the No. 1 overall pick), Brad Kaaya from Miami (Florida), Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech, Pitt’s Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs from Tennessee.
Gruden gave a quick evaluation of this year’s class in an official announcement from ESPN:
“There’s some unknowns this year, but this class starts with Deshaun Watson. His body of work is as impressive as any quarterback we’ve had come through QB Camp. I got the chance to see him live and I think he has a ton of ability. There are some underclassmen coming out who have questions that need to be answered. That’s why this process is exciting. But three or four years from now, I expect people will be saying this is a pretty good quarterback class.”
You can read a brief synopsis on each quarterback from Gruden in the press release. Here is what he said on Trubisky, for example:
“Trubisky is a lot more athletic than people think. He can run for first downs and touchdowns. If you look at him on tape, he displays some real courage. He’s stay in the pocket under intense fire and throws strikes. I just wish I had more film of him. He’s had just one year of work, but I am impressed with him.”
Gruden’s QB Camp will premiere Tuesday, April at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and episodes will be replayed across all ESPN platforms — including shows such as SportsCenter and NFL Live — and also on ABC. The full schedule will be released later this month. In addition, past episodes of the show will be available on ESPN Classic Video on Demand from April through June. So if you want to watch that Johnny Manziel sitdown (wouldn’t you rather revisit Cam Newton or Andrew Luck?), it will be there for you.