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Alabama NFL Draft Prospects

Possible NFL landing spots for Jacob Coker, 2016 NFL Draft

Marvin Gentry- USA TODAY Sports

Jacob “Jake” Coker came to Alabama in 2014 under lofty expectations, but he leaves as a battle-tested quarterback. He sat behind EJ Manuel and Jameis Winston at Florida State during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, after redshirting his freshman year in 2011. Very little playing time forced Coker to transfer to Tuscaloosa, where he would battle Blake Sims for the starting job.

Having to learn a new school, coaching staff, football team and fan base was a lot to take in, yet Coker handled it with class. He saw action in seven games during the 2014 season, totaling 403 passing yards and four touchdowns. His toughness and mechanics would be questioned multiple times in 2015, nevertheless, Coker marched on and won the respect of his peers and coaches.

He came six points short of leading Alabama to a dramatic comeback win against Ole Miss, despite not starting the game. His ability to extend plays came in handy in wins over Georgia, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Auburn and Florida. Coker finished last season with 3,110 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He completed 66.9 percent of his throws, en route to a national championship. The Mobile, Alabama native recorded 335 yards and two touchdowns in Alabama’s 45-40 victory over Clemson in the College Football Playoff national title game.

Coker, 6-foot-6 and 236 pounds, was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

He did, however, take full advantage of his Senior Bowl invitation. The hometown man led two scoring drives for Team South in its 27-16 win  over Team North at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Nine teams in the National Football League will be in search for a quarterback in the upcoming draft, and five have this position as a top need. Coker is projected a fifth-to-sixth round value.

NFL teams with quarterback as a “top need”

Cleveland Browns (3-13, 2015 record)

San Francisco 49ers (5-11, 2015 record)

Philadelphia Eagles (7-9, 2015 record)

Los Angeles Rams (7-9, 2015 record)

Houston Texans (9-7, 2015 record)

Summary: Coker is a day three pick, but the Cleveland Browns desperately need a quarterback. Experiments with Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel both failed, leaving Derek Anderson as the last successful quarterback since 2007. Prior to joining Carolina in 2015, Anderson played for Cleveland from 2005-09. He guided the Browns to a 10-6 season in 2007, yet it did not make the playoffs. The 10-6 mark was its last winning seasons in eight years. Anderson earned a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl and was named most improved player, per Football Writers Association.

Josh McCown was decent last year, posting 2,109 yards with 12 touchdowns to four interceptions, but is he a franchise quarterback? Cleveland will look at top prospects Jared Goff (California), Paxton Lynch (Memphis) and Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), but Coker’s size and exceptional arm talent could sneak in during late rounds for the Browns.

Colin Kaepernick was supposed to be the savior in San Francisco, but it has not panned out that way. He has managed to put in two solid years (2012, 2013), since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. His emergence to the world came during Week 10 of the 2012 season, when he replaced quarterback Alex Smith against the Chicago Bears.

Kaepernick, an alumnus of Nevada, would go on a tear after that game.

He took San Francisco deep in the playoffs and despite Smith’s recovery, then head coach Jim Harbarugh stuck with Kaepernick. He got the 49ers to the Super Bowl where it loss 34-31 against Baltimore.

Another postseason run would occur in 2013, but it ended with Seattle winning 23-17.

Frustration with the front office could led to Kaepernick leaving San Francisco, even with its hire of former Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Drafting Coker would provide Blaine Gabbert with much needed competition. Coker is more athletic than Gabbert and though he comes from a pro-style offense, Coker would fit better in Kelly’s scheme than Gabbert. The 49ers have a running back in Carlos Hyde and a group of talented receivers led by Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.

All it needs a confident quarterback.

Between having Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez and even Tim Tebow trying to a make a comeback, the quarterback situation was an absolute mess in Philadelphia.

Sam Bradford, who suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2013 and 2014, tried to improve the position last season. The former Heisman-winner struggled in 2015, tossing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He signed a two-year, $36 million extension on Mar. 1. The deal includes $26 million guaranteed.

Bradford is still young at 28 years old, but his medical issues are a looming concern. New head coach Doug Pederson will look through every prospect in this draft class, as the Eagles desire to return to the playoffs next season. It has a strong cast on offense, led by DeMarco Murray.

Nick Foles did not have the year he envisioned in 2015 during his first season with the Los Angeles Rams (formerly known St. Louis Rams). He threw for 2,052 yards and seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions. His backup, Case Keenum, put in 828 passing yards and a better percentage at 60.8. He had four touchdowns to one interception.

Rumors state that if Foles is available for trade offers, Dallas is interested.

The Cowboys would have its successor for Tony Romo, and Los Angeles would use the 15th pick on a quarterback.

Todd Gurley has established himself as the heartbeat on offense. The former Georgia standout totaled 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 229 carries last season.

Houston made the playoffs last season, yet it took four quarterbacks that had over 40 attempted throws. Brian Hoyer led much of the year, amassing 2,606 passing yards and 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Brandon Weeden took over late in the year and delivered a huge win over Indianapolis to get the Texans into the postseason.

Houston took Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he spent the 2015 season on injury reserve. Head coach Bill O’Brien is looking for a starting quarterback and running back, with the Texans releasing eight-year veteran Arian Foster. Alfred Blue for now could be the featured back. Houston returns a roster full of talented receivers with DeAndre Hopskins and Nate Washington as its leaders.

Other NFL teams that need a quarterback

Dallas Cowboys

Chicago Bears

New York Jets

Denver Broncos

Release of the ball and footwork in the pocket are two areas that Coker needs to clean up. Both aspects are teachable and with some training, he can be a solid backup in someone’s system. Coker will participate in Alabama’s annual pro day on March 9.

*The 2016 NFL Draft is from April 28-30.*

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama MagazineYou can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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