NFL draft: Is Cal QB Jared Goff still considered a top pick if he declares? (Shutdown Corner)

The draft debate on Cal QB Jared Goff just got a little more interesting. As we suspected last week Goff might struggle against a talented Utah Utes defense, and the results — a five-interception game — have the NFL draft community reevaluating one of the potential top picks of the 2016 class. Goff, a junior, made some uncharacteristically shaky throws in the same, some of which were intercepted, some of which were not. Three of his five picks almost certainly can be put squarely on Goff’s head, and his receivers let him down elsewhere in the game with drops and poorly run routes. Overall, Goff did show some resiliency in the game by rallying for some strong drives to keep the Bears close and tally 340 yards and two touchdowns. His night ended when Goff’s fourth-down pass was knocked down with 26 seconds left in the 31-24 loss. [ Enter Yahoo’s 50/50 Contest for an even bigger shot at winning! Top half wins cash ] “This is probably the worst game of my life,” Goff said afterward. “But it’s going to have to be something I’m going to have to get better at and learn from. They are one of the best defenses in the country for a reason.” But is Goff, who before the game was starting to become one of the early favorites for the top pick overall next spring, still considered in that discussion? One game isn’t going to knock him down completely, but it could change things. One talent evaluator who said the game said it reminded him of Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, struggling badly his final season against Florida. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 265 yards with no touchdowns and three picks before being benched late in a 49-10 Gators blowout. “[Stafford] was rattled, you could see it,” the evaluator said. “It was two top-10 teams. He was playing [Tim] Tebow, who ended up with like six touchdowns [actually five], and just seemed like he was forcing balls into tough spots against an aggressive defense. “Same with Goff. I thought he got off his game a bit there after the third pick [in the first half]. Bad throw. Tipped ball. Dropped pass. It all kind of blew up, but 16 [Goff’s uniform number] held it together OK. He fought through it.” That said, weren’t Matt Barkley and Geno Smith considered top-pick possibilities before their stocks started tumbling? The free fall for Barkley kick-started with an awful performance his senior season against Stanford, throwing two picks and looking helpless against the Cardinal pressure. Smith was a Heisman favorite before a blitz-happy Kansas State team exposed some serious flaws in his game, and it’s a tape a lot of scouts went back to when it came time to formulate his draft grade. There’s also the question of need when it comes to who ends up being the first pick. The current NFL standings have the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins with one or fewer victories. The Lions have Stafford — are they ready to move on? That’s unclear. Same with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick and the Chiefs and Alex Smith. It feels too early to bury Drew Brees with the Saints yet. Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles aren’t going anywhere. The only obvious team in that group that might be QB hunting in the draft is Houston. Are the Texans the worst team in the NFL? We don’t know that yet either. Goff will have ample time to put up more good tape this season with some quality opponents and respectable defenses still left on Cal’s schedule. “I think he’ll be fine,” the evaluator said, “but I’ll be very interested to see how he plays this week and after that. We could see [Michigan State’s Connor] Cook in the same boat with [a tough] Michigan [defense] up this week.” One game might not knock Goff from being a top-five selection, but it at least has shown us that he is far from the top-of-the-draft lock some might have thought him to be. Top 10 quarterbacks for the 2016 NFL draft (all draft-eligible prospects included) 1. Jared Goff, Cal — One bad game does not a season make. Overall, he has improved over a very good sophomore season, and he constantly has to compensate for the Bears’ bad defense. Goff is not Aaron Rodgers, but he’s worthy of a top-10 pick. 2. Connor Cook, Michigan State — He has his detractors who point to Cook’s occasionally erratic passes, his consistency issues and his lack of athleticism. But Cook also seems to have a clutch gene and throws a very pretty ball, giving him a nice foundation with which an NFL team can work. 3. Cardale Jones, Ohio State — Had he come out after last season’s three-game flurry, Jones might have been a late first- or early second-round pick. Now? Yet to be determined. The physical skills are intriguing, but he’ll be 24 early next season and is far from instant coffee. 4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State — There are some stunningly bad stretches of tape for a player many thought had a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the draft not long ago. The tools are undeniable, but the results are often head-scratching. But still, NFL coaches think they can cure anyone, so Hack still could go high. 5. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati — A concussion knocked him out of the game against Memphis and kept him out the following week. Kiel also struggled against the same Temple defense that assaulted Hackenberg. Overall, Kiel might not be maximizing his draft value if he declares after his junior season but still could win over evaluators with his arm talent. 6. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State — Outstanding size, strong enough arm and decent poise, though Wentz does strike a bit of a Mike Glennon vibe when watching him, more so than his most often comparison of Joe Flacco. There’s some buzz around Wentz, but his level of competition likely will prevent him from rising into the first-round discussion. 7. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee — Often carrying his Vols teammates on his back through a tough season, Dobbs has raised his stock as a junior and has interesting potential that could be refined but must be used the right way. 8. Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State  — Entered the season with some intrigue, but it has fizzled a little bit following a so-so effort against Virginia Tech that saw his interception-less streak end at 241 throws. A project but one with some moldable skills. 9. Cody Kessler, USC — Forget the Drew Brees comparisons some folks were whispering before the season. Kessler is a system quarterback with smarts and guts, and he plays keep-away well but likely can’t drive the ball downfield consistently enough. His leadership will be tested thoroughly amid all the turmoil surrounding the Trojans program. 10. Kevin Hogan, Stanford — No, he’s not Andrew Luck and never will be. But Hogan has shown marginal improvement after flat-lining the past few seasons and could develop into a good backup/fringe starter in time in the right system. – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

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