**** Warning Long Post ****
It is time for me to nail my colours to the mast and show my workings in respect of my opinions on this year's QB class. I've only done four guys this year. I have some basic notes on a couple of others but I haven't watched enough on any of them to give as informed of an opinion. But remember folks, it is only an opinion.
A reminder of my process before we begin:.
1. My process is four step as every year:
Identify the runners and riders at Quarterback the summer before;
Try and watch each at least twice in live game action on tv by mid season;
From December on work on the film out there on each and start to break down for evaluation purposes;
Pick up on anyone who came late onto the scene and catch up with their film.
2. I try and balance the games I watch back in the evaluation phase for each prospect. I want to see them at their best and their worst in so far as is possible and against a range of opposition where possible.
3. My grades for each are against an objective scale…. They are not predictions of where players should go in the draft, nor are they relative to the strength of the rest of that year’s draft class. Mid to late first round does not mean “oh my God Gunner only has player x 25th on his big board”.
Kyler Murray – Junior – Quarterback – Oklahoma
Games watched: Florida Atlantic, UCLA, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Alabama, (all 2018);
Initial Comments: I got a late start on Kyler Murray because I didn’t expect him to declare. That said I had caught bits of Oklahoma during the season on TV and there was no doubting the kid is a talented playmaker. The question in trying to evaluate him is how will he transition to the NFL.
Plenty of arm strength and displays it with regularity especially on deep balls in the middle of the field which are among the best on his film.
Electrifying runner. Mobility off the charts. Plays backyard football as well as any Quarterback you will see in college and has the speed and sharp cutting ability to get away from NFL linemen as well.
Steely competitor and those traits were really on display in the playoff game with Alabama where despite his team getting into a hole early Murray was able to lead them back into a competitive position with a mixture of skill and pure desire.
Risk taker. The most surprising element on is film for me was how often he puts the ball into really tight windows between defenders and just gives his guy a chance to make a play. Only threw 7 interceptions all year and I expected to see a guy who plays it safe a little more but he is willing to cut it lose when required.
Disguises play fakes better than anyone I have ever seen. Watching the play it is almost impossible to decipher whether he has kept the ball or handed it off. Only slight worry with that is whether he will take some unnecessary big hits from defenders who can’t work it out either – those may draw flags but they will take a physical toll too.
Good general timing and accuracy – especially when throwing to the outside.
Size. I know he measured as 5’10 at the Combine but he still looks really small out there. His ability to withstand NFL hits when he is running and when he is faking handoffs has got to be a concern for his durability.
Will have to learn some of the conventional pocket footwork and awareness because currently everything is designed for him to get outside of the pocket and while that is effective and can deliver slash plays you win consistently in the NFL from inside the pocket and even the likes of Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson have had to show they can stand in there and make throws.
On 2nd and 3rd and long he holds the ball too long. In college that rarely led to sacks because he would always find a way to spin out. In the NFL he will end up on the floor a lot if he doesn’t get the ball out.
Accuracy suffers under pressure. He has a real tendency to lose the nose of the football when the rush comes and as a result throws a lot of uncatchable low balls, that said it is better to miss low than to sail balls through the air and risk picks.
Inexperience. One year starter and there is still some learning to do. He seems to struggle making quick reads against some pretty basic zone coverages and it is a lot harder to “learn on the job” at NFL level.
Linked to his size but he does have issues with tips and batted balls. He also doesn’t seem to throw slants very well at all. They either get batted or are often behind his receiver and I wonder how much he is throwing blind in those situations because he can’t see over the line.
Draft Grade: Kyler Murray is an intriguing NFL Quarterback prospect and a really hard evaluation. I think his electrifying ability as a runner will get him out of a lot of trouble early on while he continues to develop as a passer. The personality (or lack thereof) we have seen in media interviews this off season wouldn’t absolutely sell him to me but on the field he has the steely determination and poise and while I don’t see a potential elite Quarterback I do see a guy who can start and win in this league. Late 1st round grade.
Dwayne Haskins – Sophomore – Quarterback – Ohio State
Games watched: TCU, Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington (all 2018);
Initial Comments: I really wanted Dwayne Haskins to stay in school another year. He kind of came from nowhere in 2018 and played better than most expected but it would have been really interesting to see if there was development and improvement from one year to the next. That said, plenty of Quarterbacks in the past have suffered from not striking when the iron was hot and so his decision to declare is understandable.
Prototypical NFL size – not just in height but build too. Big guy who can take a hit and deliver the football.
Decent arm. I don’t think his arm is as good as some have speculated but there is enough arm talent there to win in the NFL.
Where Haskins sets himself apart from the other QBs in this class is the evidence on him tape of him going through progressions. He is willing to sit there in the pocket and work his way through his options to find the open guy.
Smart decision maker. He takes risks but calculated ones and when the ball needs throwing away or into the turf Haskins is willing to do it. He seems to thrive in two minute situations because of this.
His ball placement in the middle of the field is excellent. Especially on crossers and in breaking routes. He can deliver the ball exactly where it needs to be to hit his guy in stride with real consistency.
Willing to step up into the pocket. Fair to say his pocket presence is still developing and remains a work in progress (as you would expect from a one year college starter) but he does step up in the pocket when required and I love that element of his game.
The biggest thing missing from Dwayne Haskins’ tape is a real demonstration of anticipatory throwing. He stands in the pocket, goes through progressions and throws to an open guy when there are times where a better option was available to him if he was willing to throw to a spot where a guy will be coming out of his break. Leads to an occasional ‘staring down’ of a receiver who he is waiting on to get open.
Throws high under pressure. Doesn’t like the rush up the middle right in his face and he reacts by backpedaling and then letting the ball go high. That will result in picks in the NFL.
While I like his accuracy inside the numbers outside the numbers it is a little more sketchy. Particularly on back shoulder throws he consistently leaves the ball too far inside allowing defenders to make plays on the ball that better placement would render impossible.
Occasional fidgety footwork. His feet are generally pretty smooth but every now and again he does this “shuffle step” immediately before he steps into his throws. Sometimes he gets away with it other time it results in him being a split second late with the ball.
Mobility. He is a statue. When he is forced off his spot his movement skills are severely lacking. If you were being generous you might call him an ‘awkward’ mover. Will have to improve to avoid rushers at the next level.
Can be a slow starter. Seems to take a while to warm up in some games and you would want to see improvement in that area as he develops.
Draft Grade: When you first watch Haskins it is easy to think you are watching a genuinely elite level Quarterback prospect. That said, the more you watch the more visible the flaws become. He is inexperienced and for someone who has played so little he is relatively proficient from a technical perspective. But he needs refinement and might benefit from sitting for a year before he is truly ready to lead a franchise. Borderline 1st/2nd round grade.
Drew Lock – Senior – Quarterback – Missouri
Games watched: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma State (all 2018); Purdue and Arkansas (both 2017);
Initial Comments: Going into the 2018 college season Drew Lock was the #1 QB on my board for this draft. I don’t think he played as well in 2018 as in 2017 and he certainly didn’t take the step in terms of his consistency that I was looking for. That said, there is a lot to like here and he wasn’t helped by a pretty poor receiving corps at Missouri.
Prototypical NFL size.
Very good arm. I think he can trust it too much at times and is a bit of an arm thrower but he gets plenty of zip on the ball and can still generate that zip when having to throw from unusual angles.
Does show evidence of going through progressions. Has a tendency to lock onto guys in the redzone but between the 20s he will read the field and find his best matchup.
Sneaky mobility. It was one of the things I missed on Josh Allen’s tape last year was just how much potential he had as a runner. I don’t think Lock is that level of athlete but he is sneaky good when running in the open field whether on designed keepers or in scramble situations. Also demonstrates good judgement when sliding.
Likes the slant route and throws it pretty well on a consistent basis. It is one of his most consistent throws. That is a throw that translates pretty well at the NFL level.
Has done some limited under center stuff. While it is fair to say that his footwork on those plays is a work in progress there is at least some awareness of the concepts and necessary timing between your feet as you drop and the routes being run.
Accuracy. Or more precisely inaccuracy. And it is of the “natural inaccuracy” variety which means there is no obvious technical breakdown that causes it. He can occasionally launch an absolute dime right into the bucket against good coverage. But he misses too many easy throws to open guys and he misses in every which way: some are high; some are low; some are too far in front and some are behind. It is the biggest concern on his film.
Careless with the football under pressure. When the rush comes he gets panicked and puts the ball up for grabs in the middle of the field too often and in addition he holds it out in a way that entices defenders to go for the strip sack. Interceptions, lost fumbles and multiple other close calls in both regards too.
Not enough tight window throws on his tape. In 2018 he noticeably struggled in the redzone and that was often a result of not being able to fit balls into those smaller windows.
Another of my concerns is that his 2018 tape is not better than his 2017 tape. I have to wonder whether there is more room for growth or whether what you see is what you are going to get.
Plays worse against better competition. In 2018 he threw 28 TDs to 8 picks. But only half of those TDs came against SEC competition, whereas 7 of the 8 picks did.
I’d like to see some more big boy NFL throws. Those back shoulder fades, the deep seam route, the corner route, the deep out. They are there on his tape but rather sporadically.
Draft Grade: I have been back and forth and back and forth on Drew Lock. There is so much there that makes you believe he has the raw materials to be an NFL franchise Quarterback. Even in my final checks on the top four QBs over the past seven days I have bumped Lock up a couple of points but ultimately I just can’t overcome the inconsistent accuracy enough to like him as much as his talent should dictate. I think he can start in the NFL. But unless those accuracy issues can be resolved I don’t see potential franchise Quarterback. Borderline 2nd/3rd round grade.
Daniel Jones – Junior – Quarterback – Duke
Games watched: Virginia, Pittsburgh, Clemson, North Carolina (all 2018); Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both 2017);
Initial Comments: Daniel Jones is the late riser of this class and in part that is because of his relationship with David Cutcliffe who has a track record for producing NFL Quarterbacks. He didn’t play on a very good Duke team and was hurt by drops as badly as any QB I have seen this year but he still lacks some top end Quarterback traits.
Good height, though his frame is a little wiry.
Throws with really nice touch and his short and intermediate range balls are generally catchable and allow opportunity for YAC.
Sneaky athlete. Not going to beat you with his legs but he can make some first downs on the ground if you let him escape on you.
Impressive timing and accuracy on anything travelling 15 yards or less through the air. Natural rhythm thrower in the quick game.
Has pretty good pocket presence. Think he understands how to slide around inside the pocket and shows a working knowledge of protections and pass rush angles.
When playing within the confines of his offense as a ball out quick rhythm thrower he will let things go with good anticipation before his receiver is out of his break.
Bonus – he can pooch punt!
Sub-optimal arm strength for the NFL which significantly affects his accuracy deeper down the field, and a long windy release too.
Reminds me of Ryan Fitzpatrick when trying to throw to the sideline from the far hash mark in that his whole body is moving to try and generate sufficient velocity on the throw. Numerous examples of defenders breaking on the ball and dropping sure fire interceptions. As Nathan Peterman found to his cost in the NFL the defensive backs hold onto those.
Way too many batted balls for a guy who is 6ft5. Has a tendency to lose the nose of the football at the end of his elongated wind up.
Some evidence of progressions but too often it looks like primary read or checkdown. You don’t see enough of him scanning the field for deeper routes.
Average decision maker who tends to try and force balls rather taking sacks – which results in turnover opportunities.
The timing that is so in sync on shorter routes seems off on longer developing plays. Has a horrible ball patting habit while waiting for those routes to develop which I don’t think helps.
Draft Grade: When I watch Daniel Jones I see a placeholder / backup level NFL Quarterback. He doesn’t possess any truly elite traits and while I have no doubt he could play and competently move the ball to some extent I don’t see a guy who is going to win you NFL games. Many see his coaching as a benefit, I see it as a drawback… because I suspect it is good coaching that has elevated his play beyond its natural level – not sure I see a ceiling much beyond what he is today. Borderline 3rd/4th round grade.
Right guys and girls.... flame away!