We have finally reached the last and most discussed position to analyze in this upcoming draft – the quarterbacks. Obviously I have spent several hundreds of hours purely on watching film from all these prospects I have already talked about, but with these signal-callers I had to invest even more time. Every year the quarterbacks are the hardest to fully evaluate because not only do you have to consider athletic ability, arm talent and work within the system, but you also have to understand the offensive play-calling, the opposing defense’s scheme, how these guys have to work through progressions and how all of that will translate to the next level. Moreover, this will be the face of your franchise and there are certain leadership and work ethic qualities that are necessary for somebody to succeed.
This group of quarterbacks certainly doesn’t have the same type of high-end quality at the top as last year’s did with four guys within the first ten picks and another one with the final selection of day one, but I think this group has gotten a bad rep by many. While a couple of guys are receiving way too much hype in my opinion, I think there are two hands-down first rounders, seven guys worth being drafted within the first two days, three talented developmental prospects to round out my top ten and a couple of quality backups beyond that.
1. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
As Gatorade’s National Player of the Year and with a perfect record of 43-0 at legendary Allen high school, Murray decided to follow the footsteps of his father at Texas A&M. As the Aggies were struggling and the entire program seemed to have a lot of mess going on, Kyler and the other quarterback Kyle Allen decided to transfer, with Murray landing at Oklahoma. After sitting out his first year at Norman and then backing up eventual Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield, Murray was selected in the MLB by the Oakland A’s. The pro baseball team allowed him to play his one year for the Sooner football program, but all the kid did was top the numbers Mayfield had put up. Kyler completed 69 percent of his passes for 4361 yards and 42 touchdowns on 11.6 yards per attempts, while adding over 1000 yards and another 12 TDs on the ground, averaging 7.2 yards a carry. Thanks to that he brought a second consecutive Heisman trophy to the program and he chose football over baseball shortly after the Super Bowl.
Murray might be 5’10” at best and very miniature in size, but he was by far the most electrifying dual-threat quarterback in the nation and took home Heisman honors over Alabama’s Tua Tagovailova. He broke Pro Football Focus’s spider-chart and was their highest-graded passer and runner from the quarterback position- Murray stepped up in every big game the Sooners played. I think of an epic 59-56 shootout against West Virginia or the revenge he got on Texas in the Big XII Championship game in back-to-back games. The play that sticks out to me from him as a runner is when he decided to go down the Texas sideline in their first matchup and you thought he’d be pushed out after like 20 yards, but he turned on the afterburners, defeated all the angles by the defenders and went almost 70 yards on the Longhorns. I’m not sure if I have ever seen somebody with quicker feet (as in the highest frequency) at the position. So not only does he open an offensive coordinators playbook to all types of option or straight up QB runs, but as a defensive play-caller you already know that you almost can’t spy him with a linebacker and man-coverage could end very badly for you if he decides to take off.
With that being said, Kyler clearly is a passer first and even when he is moving around, he mostly has his eyes downfield. He has an incredible arm, which allows him to put the ball 70 yards in the air, as well as completing corner routes towards the opposite hash at 20+ yards deep. But not only does he has the arm strength to those things, Murray can change up RPMs, arc, etc. to let the ball drop into the bread-basket of a receiver going vertical, put it over the top of a linebacker or defeat tight man-coverage by putting it to where only his guy can come down with it on throws above the shoulders. With his short, quick motion he exploit corner blitzes, as he lasers in balls that the replacement defender can’t contest as that guy is shading over that way. Even more than his arm, what I think is most impressive about Kyler as a quarterback is his incredible field vision. He has shown the ability to adjust on the fly in Lincoln Riley’s Air-Raid attack and constantly finds creative ways to fit throws into windows or create completely new lanes.
Even though he measured over 200 pounds at the combine, Kyle will need to protect himself at the next level. To do so I think he excellent feel for the rush collapsing and knows when it’s time to escape, plus he already has a beautiful slide from his baseball background. He just seems to have an innate feel for the bodies around him and how to manipulate rush lanes in order to create space for himself inside the pocket. So it’s not really about what this kid can do in the open field, but the way he can extend plays and allow his playmakers to get create late separation. There are instances where Murray has somebody about to hit him right in the face and at the last moment he gets rid of the ball and turns his body away from the defender while fading backwards to avoid devastating shots. You see him tilt his feet away from potential tacklers and he understands how to create angles for himself to defeat the pursuit when he escapes the pocket, as he re-sets his feet and then he has the sudden burst to beat guys around the corner to avoid hits. Murray excels at throwing the ball on the run and whilst moving up towards the line. He had this amazing throw versus Alabama in the Orange Bowl, as he looked like he would turn upfield, but then still let the ball go off the wrong foot for a 50-yard touchdown.
Outside of his height the biggest question about Murray is his commitment to football, as he might be the first guy ever to probably have the chance at any moment to jump ship and get a guaranteed contract by the Oakland A’s despite his statements. On the field what I don’t like is that he drops his head a little too much in the pocket and he needs to work on swinging that back-leg through more consistently as a passer. Too often he preferred to spin out of traffic and tried to make somebody miss, instead of using the space inside the pocket to operate. At times his feet are ahead of his mind and the ball is underneath his belt too much. Murray benefited a whole lot playing behind college football’s top offensive line last season and incredible skill-position players around him, not even mentioning the creative play-design and -calling under Lincoln Riley. A large amount of his numbers has come from lay-ups on mesh concepts and quick screens, as well as wide-open targets in the RPO game.
While there is a very small track record of successful NFL quarterbacks below six feet and Murray had just one season as a starter in the worst defensive Power Five conference, this kid is a such transcendent talent that I think he will continue his meteoric rise in the sport. He is a playmaker and his biggest strength is the ability to improvise, but he can also win from the pocket and slice defenses with aggressive downfield throws. Despite his height he only had five batted passes last season. I believe you will have to adapt on offensive system in which Kyler is featured in shotgun, where he can use a lot of quick decision-making and which changes his launching point every once in a while. He would definitely be a perfect fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive attack if the Cardinals decided to select him first overall.
2. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Taking over for a three-year captain and school hero like J.T. Barrett can be a tough task, but Dwayne Haskins basically became a Heisman candidate as soon as he was inserted into the starting lineup. The former top-five pro-style quarterback recruit from New Jersey played his high school ball in Maryland and was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year. He originally committed to join the Terrapins, but after their head coach was fired, he decided to go with Urban Meyer instead. Haskins already had a crucial performance versus Michigan in 2017 when Barrett was forced to exit the game and the then-freshman brought some excitement to the field. However, it was last season that he really entered the national spotlight as the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, as he led the nation with 4831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns, while completing 70 percent of his passes.
Haskins might not scare people as a runner, but he can pick defenses apart from the pocket. He loves to spread defenses out and attacks them everywhere on the field. He realizes where the open target will be so early and might have the quickest release in this draft class. Haskins processes information at a fast rate, as he reads coverages and understands how to manipulate defenders pre- as well as post-snap. He will set his backs up nicely on screen passes with signals and his shoulders turned upfield the other way. The one-year starter is willing to attack the middle of the field and delivers some beautiful touch-passes over the top, allowing his receivers to adjust to the ball. However, Haskins also has the arm strength to complete these 18-yard comebacks to the opposite hash and really leads receivers towards the sideline on corner and deep out routes. For anyone questioning his deep ball – Haskins went 9 of 13 with seven touchdowns on 40+ yard throws last season. Overall he put up a passer rating of 134.8 from a clean pocket, which was only behind Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. He recorded 290 combined first downs and touchdowns with an adjusted completion percentage of 77.3. According to the Ohio State coaches Haskins was responsible for all the protections and consistently got the offense into the right play.
When I watched Haskins at the start of the 2018 season I wasn’t really sure about him due to his lack of mobility, but later on I saw enough to make me feel good about him as a future prospect. While he isn’t a real running threat, Haskins was enough for the Buckeyes to run zone-read plays and hold that D-end or linebacker on the backside. Haskins does a good against pressure to climb the pocket and re-set his feet, plus he Is willing to take a hit to complete a pass. He really convinced me versus Maryland, when the OSU defense allowed over 300 yards on the ground and Haskins had to score six combined touchdowns to win a 52-51 contest in overtime to keep their Big 10 and possibly playoff hopes alive. Unlike most Buckeye quarterbacks in recent years, Haskins could not depend on a smashmouth rushing attack and a suffocating defense, but really the team started to put the ball in Haskins’ hands a ton and he had to shoulder the load in a lot of games, not really ever having the luxury of his defense shutting out mediocre opponents. Haskins played his best football down the stretch versus Michigan in the regular season finale, the Big Ten Championship versus Northwestern and the Rose Bowl against Washington. The former Buckeye had one of the best pro day workouts I have watched in recent years, where he showed quick movement inside the pocket while staying in a throw-ready posture.
Despite his downfield numbers, there was a lack of a vertical game with. Haskins completed shallow crossers at such a high rate and got the ball out on screen passes to both his receivers and running backs, where a lot was added to his totals thanks to yards after the catch. You saw him check the ball down a whole lot, being hesitant to pull the trigger, and asked his playmakers trying to create. I have to come back to the athleticism argument, because for as many true pocket quarterbacks as we have seen dominate the league, the game is changing and Haskins is more what people were looking for five to ten years ago. I would also like to see him work on his slides, as he looks very clunky when doing so, scraping the knee and potentially buckling to the side if he takes a late hit. Haskins tries to loft some passes into the receiver, where I would like to see more zip from him and he loses awareness for the underneath coverage every once in a while.
While I think he is a little less athletic, Haskins reminds me a lot of a young Ben Roethlisberger. He is a true pocket passer with all the arm talent and football intelligence you want to see. While being just a one-year starter, who benefitted from excellent play-calling and an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the skill-position players as well being sacked just 20 times all year, Haskins might have had the dynamic season of any quarterback in Ohio State history. As a throwback prototype Haskins would benefit from going to a system that uses him in that mold and allows him to continue to grow, possibly learning on the bench for one year.
3. Drew Lock, Missouri
As an Elite 11 camp participant and Kansas City Metro Player of the Year, Lock had his choice of college programs, but he decided to stay home in Columbia and started the final eight games as a freshman for the Tigers. In his second season only he already led the SEC in passing yards and finished top 10 in the nation in that category. In 2017 he recorded 44 passing touchdowns, which not only led the country, but also set a new conference single-season record. His totals went down a little last season, but so did the turnovers and he was still a second-team All-SEC selection. Before the start of the 2018 season I said Lock was the best quarterback in college nobody was talking about, but he has emerged in this pre-draft process and the arrow is pointing towards him going somewhere in the top half of the first round.
Swagger is the word that comes up when you talk to scouts about Lock. He had serious D1 offers for basketball, but decided to go with his true love in football and came just one passing touchdown short of the magical number 100 for his career at Missouri. Lock has prototype size at 6’4”, 225 pounds and he might have the most arm talent of anybody in the draft class. He throws a beautiful ball with effortless velocity and can change things, such as completing a ridiculous under-hand throw in the Senior Bowl game. At Mizzou he ran a very up-tempo, high-powered offense that included a lot of hitches, slants, go-routes and smoke-screens. While he completed only 56.9 percent of his passes throughout his college career, Lock was the victim of a serious amount of drops and pushed the ball down the field as much as anybody in college football these last few years. He would buy some time to allow his speedster Emmanuel Hall to get past everybody and then just launched rockets 60-70 yards downfield.
Often labelled as a product of completed the system, Lock certainly has some excellent qualities to transcend any type of scheme. He shows very good processing speed and the ability to foresee plays as they occur. Lock’s ability to anticipate throws is highly underrated and he shows the potential to work within a rhythm- and timing-based offense, where he has to get rid of the ball before receivers are coming out of their breaks. You see him fit some balls into microscopically small windows that few quarterbacks would even attempt. I think back to a couple of passes in the Alabama game, where I had to go back several times to see how he actually did it. Missouri coaches utilized Lock’s athleticism on zone-read plays, where he picked up yardage quickly. He confirmed the speed I saw on tape with a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Inside the pocket, I think Lock does an excellent job reducing the shoulder against pressure off the edge and stepping up to deliver downfield. He slides around behind his line and is very sudden at opening up to escape. Even though Daniel Jones won the Senior Bowl MVP, I thought Lock showed way more talent and completed more big-time throws.
With that being said, Lock gets himself into trouble at times by hesitating for a split-second and being late on some throws, which costs him. That is even worse when he lets the ball float instead of trying to drill his man. He definitely has the arm strength to fit balls in some tight windows with great velocity, but he has to find some more consistency when it comes to accuracy. Lock is a bit of an “arm-thrower” whose feet aren’t always linked to his upper body and have him fading away. Because of that his ball-placement can be off a little, to where he does get it to the intended target, but the ball is too far inside when it should go to the back-shoulder or slightly behind his running back, who has to stop for it on a swing route, taking away easy yards after the catch. Lock has yet to learn the nuances of the position, such as moving safeties to open up throwing windows as well His mechanics break down to some degree when forced off the spot and he is way too loose with the ball when he has a rusher in his face. Only having nine-inch hands doesn’t help either, which caused him to fumble six times in 2018. Throughout his career with the Tigers he had a 1-10 record versus ranked SEC teams, with a completion percentage of just 52.1 percent and 14 touchdowns compared 16 INTs in those games.
Lock has four years of experience in college football’s toughest conference in and while he might not have won a big game until the Florida matchup later on in 2018, the talent-level around him was always a lot lower than the ones from the top SEC schools. Until last season Lock was in that Baylor Air-Raid system, where he made very simple reads and didn’t have to worry about footwork, progressions and such as, but last season he showed some growth with more full-field reads and cut down on turnover-worthy throws. He would certainly still benefit from sitting on the bench for a year to clean up his delivery and according football, to be more consistently accurate. When I look at Lock I see guy that reminds me of Matt Stafford, but he needs to learn to square his shoulder whilst on the move and make more plays outside the pocket to be as dangerous as the Lions’ gunslinger.
4. Ryan Finley, N.C. State
An all-state football and basketball selection from Phoenix, Finley redshirted his first year with Boise State. The following season he appeared in five games as a reserve and in 2015 he was lost for the year with an ankle injury after just three games. Finley had earned his degree during that time and with Brett Rypien penciled in as the Broncos’ starter, he decided to transfer. At N.C. State he immediately took over the starting spot and exceeded expectations. Finley was the Wolfpack’s Co-MVP as a junior and a first-team All-ACC selection last season, when he completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 3928 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Finley might not have the biggest arm among these guys, but he is very accurate on all three levels and knows how to spread the ball around to his playmakers. He excels at chipping away with precise underneath completions against soft zones on hitches, square-ins and quick outs. He doesn’t mind changing to a quick screen if he has numbers on the trips side either. Finley is at his best when throwing with timing and anticipation. He gets rid of the ball way early when he throws curl routes to the opposite hash, to the point where his receiver hasn’t even cut down his strides yet. However, he he can also throw some strikes down the field when he has a guy open. Finley displays excellent touch with a beautiful over-the-top delivery and the off-arm tight to his rib-cage, which often times leads to pin-point accuracy, just away from the closest defender. He is one of the best back-shoulder throwers against tight man-coverage. Finley liked to feed his go-to target Kelvin Harmon and would work very well in general with a big-bodied target on the outside. He typically takes good care of the football and had a streak of 339 consecutive passes without an interception in 2017, as he doesn’t hesitate to throw the ball out of bounds when there is nowhere to go either.
The lanky 6’4” signal-caller surprised me with a 4.73 in the combine’s 40. He has enough athleticism to make blitzers off the edge pay for taking an angle that is too aggressive and is underrated in his ability to throw the ball on the run. Finley shows a lot of command of the offense when he makes his reads on one side of the ball and then is flushed the other way, but still knows what is being run over there and if he can throw it. He has experience with a lot of pro concepts and shows the ability to operate from under-center with the drop-back and heavy play-action game. This young man very advanced with his footwork, really hitting that back-foot, hitching up to allow his receivers to clear the coverage and climbing the pocket with squared-up shoulders. He has the pocket presence to feel penetration and use subtle footwork to keep himself balanced and ready to step into a throw. Finley can move safeties with his eyes and always reads coverages high-to-low. He was responsible for 192 first downs and touchdowns last season – good for fifth among all quarterbacks in the country, as his rushing attack averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt.
However, Finley definitely lacks the bulk and pure throwing power teams are looking for in an NFL quarterback. He had just two completions of 40+ yards last season and you could call Finley somewhat of a game-manager with modest touchdown numbers and only 7.6 yards per attempt, which is one of the lower numbers among the guys on this list. He rarely drives the ball with high velocity and doesn’t create a lot of torque with his lower body. Finley gets caught locking in on the receiver that the initial leverage dictates and doesn’t pull the ball back down if a DB sniffs it out and jumps the route. I am not sure how much he will still develop with five years of experience and turning 24 this upcoming season.
Finley is a rock-solid quarterback, who is very efficient with his footwork and makes the correct reads over the full field. He has a gift of putting arc on passes to lay them over the top of the underneath coverage and then come down to his receiver. I don’t think he will ever be a guy who carries a franchise on his back, but he could be a Kirk Cousins-type player, where if you put enough around him he can win games for you. While the mainstream media is hyping Duke’s Daniel Jones up to potentially be the fourth quarterback selected in the first round, I would much rather see a team take a shot a Finley with the later picks.
5. Will Grier, West Virginia
After throwing for a nation-leading 77(!) touchdowns with almost 5000 yard through the air and over 1200 on the ground with 13 more scores, Grier decided to join Florida as a highly sought-after recruit. He redshirted his first year with the Gators and won all five games he started the following season. However, he was suspended by the NCAA in 2015 for taking performance-enhancing substitutes and after feeling unwanted by the team’s coaches, he transferred to West Virginia. He immediately was successful in the Big XII, throwing 34 touchdowns compared to twelve 12 INTs on 317.3 passing yards per game. Last season he was a second-team all-conference selection only behind Heisman trophy winner Kyler Murray, as Grier was long considered a finalist for the award due to 3864 passing yards for 38 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.
Grier can fling it all over the field and led one of the most high-powered offenses in the country after transferring to WVU. He feels comfortable spreading defenses out and having space to operate, with receiver-stacks or trips-formations into the boundary. He has the precision to fit the ball in-between defenders as well as being able to put the necessary air under it to drop it right into the bucket for his receivers, as they can put their arms out in front and not break stride at all. Grier understands when to drive or lob throws, the necessary arc and when to put it to the back-shoulder. He has learned how to work with a big-bodied receiver in David Sills, putting the ball high and away from trailing defenders and into spots where only that guy could catch it. Those two had an incredible connection leading to almost 2000 yards and 33 touchdowns since the start of 2017. Grier finished 2018 with 9.7 yards per attempt, showcasing his ability to stretch the field, as he led the nation with yards (2850), touchdown (36) and big-time throws (54) on passes that travelled at least 20 yards through the air.
I would call Grier a calculated gunslinger for the most part, showing adequate aggressiveness to make plays downfield and he delivers some beautiful balls in the vertical game. You see him bouncing on his heels constantly and his eyes are trained to stay downfield. He excels on deep over and skinny post routes and he can really take advantage of the seams against single-high safety alignments, plus he excels at looking off safeties to clear space for the receiver to come down with the ball. Grier can also speed up the throwing process under immediate pressure and not really have his accuracy suffer a lot on check-downs. The former Mountaineer has better mobility than he gets credit for. He shows a good feel for the pocket and how to maximize his space within it, but he can also be creative on the move and pick up crucial yards with his feet. He shows the ability to throw the ball down the field off platform and lay it over the top of somebody. Grier is a gamer, who will step up in his team’s most important matchups. In a showoff of top-20 teams versus Texas he delivered a perfect strike to Gary Jennings and scored the game-winning two-point conversion on a quarterback draw. Overall he won 20 of 28 starts for the Gators and Mountaineers.
As much as I like the mental process with Grier overall, I think also attempts too many ill-advised throws off his back-foot with the rush in his face. He made some highly questionable decisions versus Kansas last season and turned the ball over three times at the goal-line. At times I would like to see him not play hero-ball and just live for another down. Grier benefitted a lot from lay-ups and screen passes in Dana Holgerson’s Air-Raid offense and on some routes he needed to see receivers actually be open before letting the ball go. If he waits for somebody to come back to him on a curl route in the NFL it will already be too late and there’s a good chance a defensive back is taking it the other way. Grier simply lacks NFL size and has limited athleticism to escape the rush, being caught down low on several occasions. He also waves the ball around way too much as a scrambler and needs to learn how to avoid big hits in the open field. Altogether he fumbled 14 times in twice as many games. I thought struggled to find consistent accuracy early on in Senior Bowl team drills.
Grier was an interesting evaluation for me. With these Big XII guys who you see sling it all over the field against poor defenses, you often times are very skeptical. There are certainly some decisions that shouldn’t have been made and I think Grier presents something rather average physically, but he is a better prospect than he gets credit for. His dropbacks are smooth, he is slippery within the pocket and definitely not afraid to push the ball down the field.
6. Brett Rypien, Boise State
The nephew of former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien, young Brett was considered one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits after setting Washington state records with over 13000 career passing yards and winning state Player of the Year with 50 touchdowns. Rypien beat out eventual N.C. State signal-caller Ryan Finley for the Broncos starting gig and immediately found success, winning Mountain West Freshman of the Year and earning first-team all-conference, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 3353 yards and 20 touchdowns, compared to eight INTs. He was named first-team All-Mountain West the following year with similar numbers and second-team all-conference as a junior, while leading his team to double-digit wins both years. Last season he was Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, as he became the conference’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards and 300-yard passing games halfway through his senior year, which also was his best statistically – completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 3705 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven picks.
This kid is not afraid of letting it “rip” and he can fire the ball all over the field with a snappy arm. At the same time he is very patient and takes what the defense is giving him. Rypien shows excellent work on timing-based routes, where he uses anticipation and accuracy to constantly hit his receivers right out their breaks. At times the ball almost surprises the pass-catchers and the Broncos move the ball down the field that way. He doesn’t mind checking the ball down to his backs if the coverage dictates it and throws a beautiful deep ball, where he lays it right into the bread basket. I have seen Rypien roll one way and hit a deep out route from that hash to the according sideline over 30 yards from the launch point right over the trailing defender. However, he can also put touch on the ball to lay over the top of an underneath defender or attack certain leverages with placement to the back-shoulder of his receivers. What I really appreciate about his game is the fact that he always plays in rhythm and the way he understands the context of plays.
Rypien already does a really good to move linebackers and safeties, plus he trusts in his ability to do so and let it fly. He just plays games with single-high safeties with look-offs and tremendous eye-discipline. You see him move those guys one way and then hit a go-route perfectly in stride on the opposite sideline. He already uses little head-and-shoulder fakes that make the entire defense freeze. His pump-fakes are very effective and he quickly comes back the other way to exploit the space he just opened up or makes a defender jump on the initial break on double-moves. With the way he is standing in that pocket despite the rush in his face there is no reason to question Rypien’s toughness. You see the turn of the shoulders and sudden, short movements to navigate within small spaces. The former Bronco QB is smart with taking off against two-man or when there’s just some lane opening up over the middle. He also understands when the play is over and it’s time to protect the ball with defenders about to wrap him up. Rypien seemed to convert in short-yardage situations on sneaks every single time, as he takes his head down and just plows ahead. I just see a lot of composure and a certain calmness with his game.
At 6’2”, just over 200 pounds Rypien doesn’t really qualify for the NFL standard. He has to strain on those longer throws across the field and the ball definitely loses some speed when going to the opposite sideline. His ball-placement around the line of scrimmage can get wildly inconsistent even if his man gets hands on it and I would define it as him having general accuracy only. Sometimes Rypien assumes the play will be there from what he saw pre-snap and throws some passes he shouldn’t have. He needs to do a better job confirming information post-snap and learn which adjustments have to be made. Rypien kind of rushes his throwing motion against the blitz and chucks the ball into the nowhere at times. I think he lacks some awareness for pressure off the edge when he is locked in on one side.
A true pocket passer with the ability to extend plays and pick up yardage if the opportunity arises, Rypien can make throws all over the field and works through his progressions in a very advanced manner for a college signal-caller. He can make multiple reads during a play and use subtle details to win from his neck up while trusting his arm to deliver. If he was a couple of inches taller and played for a Power Five team, Rypien would probably be receiving first-round hype. I really like him.
7. Daniel Jones, Duke
This Charlotte native was a two-time all-state selection and three-year basketball star at his local high school. Jones decided to learn under Peyton and Eli Manning’s college coach in David Cutcliff at Duke, who put him on the field immediately. As a freshman he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for almost 3000 yards through the air and just under 500 on the ground, 23 total touchdowns and nine interceptions. His numbers dipped a little the following year, but he shined in the Quick Lane Bowl, where he won the game’s MVP award and led his Blue Devils to a victory. Last season he missed two games with a broken clavicle, but went back to completing over 60 percent of his passes with 25 total touchdowns compared to nine INTs. Once again, he saved his best for last, throwing for over 400 yards and five touchdowns in Duke’s bowl game win over Temple.
Jones reminds you a lot of the Mannings in terms of his mechanics. He shows very active feet and kind of frenetic motions inside the pocket. Jones completed a ton of quick rhythm passes, shows excellent touch and uses arc to put the ball into the outstretched arms of his receivers. The former Blue Devil fits very well in a spread offense, where he makes opponents defend the entirety of the field vertically and horizontally. He gets the ball to his pass-catchers on the short and intermediate level on target at a very high rate. Jones is already very advanced when it comes to moving safeties and linebackers with his eyes and front-shoulder, plus then he has a quick turn of the hips to use the throwing window he just opened for himself. While his numbers are definitely not the most impressive, especially with a completion percentage right around 60, he also saw 9.2 percent of his passes last season being dropped and overall didn’t play with any draftable players on offense.
This young man has some of the best pocket presence and movement of anybody in this class of signal-callers. Jones feels comfortable working in tight quarters in-between bodies with impeccable footwork and he can hitch and fire as well as anybody in this draft. The former Dukey reduces the shoulder beautifully and slides to open an area for him to step up into. He won’t let a grab of his jersey throw him off and quickly resets his base. Jones finds creases in the pass rush coming at him and has completed some passes with a defender dragging him down by his hips. Jones also has impressive athleticism and ability to run for his size. He was used in the QB run game quite a bit and will surprise you in how quickly he picks up yardage with the ball in his hands, showing not only a quick burst but also the according long speed. He had a 61-yard touchdown versus North Carolina last year for example. Jones ran a boatload of bootlegs for the Blue Devils, where he showed pretty good accuracy and squared his shoulder before releasing the ball on the move..
While I would call Jones an accurate passer at the college level, he is not very precise, meaning his receivers are often forced to stop or reach behind to make the catch or the ball is put towards the wrong shoulder. All that leads to little YAC for his guys and sometimes it allows defenders to knock the ball out after the receiver touches it. Overall he is often a beat late on throws as he hitches once or two times more than he needed to, which can turn completions into turnovers. Jones throws too many passes off his back-foot and started to see ghosts behind a sub-par Duke offensive line at times. He has plenty of balls sail on him, which he should drive and simply doesn’t seem to have the elite arm strength to consistently threaten a defense over the top, having completed just two passes of 40+ yards last season. Jones had 12 passes batted down at the line last season as he gets locked onto a target occasionally and he had very few big-time throws where he had to zip the ball outside the numbers.
Jones has been praised by head-man David Cutcliff as a young man with great football intelligence and work ethic. I could see him succeed in a spread or West Coast offense, where he wins with quick decision-making and movement in the pocket. However, with arm talent that I wouldn’t define as special I could see him struggle against NFL speed, especially those teams that build their defenses around man-coverage and challenge him to beat them with ball-placement. He is more of a late day two guy for me.
8. Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
Despite finishing top five in Michigan high school history in passing yards and touchdowns as well as being a first-team all-state selection as a senior, Jackson’s only scholarship offer from a Division I team came from Buffalo. After a redshirt year, he started nine of ten games for the Bulls the following season. Jackson missed four games due to knee injury in 2017, but put up pretty good numbers in those eight contests he started – completing 60.2 percent of his passes for over 2000 yards with 16 total touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. Last season he started all 14 games and threw for 3131 yards with 28 touchdowns compared to 12 INTs, while adding another seven scores on the ground, as the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year. Instead of transferring, he decided to go pro a year early and has been rising in this pre-draft process.
This kid has a massive frame at 6’7”, 245 pounds – both FBS-high marks for quarterbacks in 2018. Jackson never had a private quarterback coach growing up, but instead watched some drills on Youtube. I thought his throwing motion and delivery were shortened after the season ended, which I think will not only quicken his release but also improve the accuracy. Jackson has an absolute howitzer of an arm to fit the ball into pin-sized windows and stretch the field with balls that cover more than half the field in the air. He can zip in throws in the voids that occur between the linebackers and the safety along the seams. Every once in a while, in-between drilling receivers with bullets, you see him show some touch with passes over the head of a linebacker as well. Jackson displays the ability to move defenders one way to open up space behind them along with that. He was let down by plenty of his receivers dropping the ball on simple slant and hitch routes, which resulted in a few of his interceptions. Jackson recorded a passer rating of 109.2 on pass attempts of 20+ yards and his average depth of target was at a crazy 14.3 yards.
Jackson has a rare ability to make plays off script by delivering passes downfield with his big arm. You see him complete some passes off the wrong foot or off platform with no business of even attempting it. He had an absolutely ridiculous throw versus Rutgers last season, where he was scrambling to the right and launched a ball from his own 35 to the opposite 10-yard line almost perfectly in stride for Anthony Johnson. At the same time he shows the ability to slide around, quickly re-set and fire from within the pocket. When Jackson decides to take off, he has the contact balance and lower body power to have tacklers bounce off his legs. He eats up yardage quickly with his long strides as a runner and looks Cam Newton-ish in the open field. That speed was verified at the combine, where he ran a 4.59 in the 40 at 248 pounds and he smiled throughout the duration of the workout. He also showed off his big arm and wheels during the Senior Bowl game, even if the result were kind of a mixed bag.
This is a special physical talent, but Jackson’s footwork still needs a lot of refinement. He sets his feet too early when he wants to get the ball out, which enables savvy defensive backs to break on passes and locks in on his primary read a lot, which he got away with so far for the most part because of the bullets he throws. Jackson’s upper and lower body aren’t always connected, leading to plenty of flat-footed throws and inaccuracies. He needs to narrow his base a little and recruit more of his body instead of jerking his hip forward. To go with that, he makes some absolutely stupid decisions, throwing the ball across the field with a safety right there and asking his receivers to go up as if they were 6’7” as well. Jackson still has to learn that he doesn’t always have to throw the ball as hard as possible, especially on underneath routes. Overall he needs to play the position with more of a plan, manipulating defenders and showing some game-management qualities with situational awareness. He had a horrible day versus Ohio and threw two bad interceptions into the hands of Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, with one of them almost leading to two points the other way after a Buffalo touchdown. Jackson has to understand when it’s time to just throw the ball away. As a runner, he needs to be more careful with the ball in his hands, tucking it tight to his body and he can’t let his elbow swing wide as he is changing directions.
Man, this kid drove me nuts when I watched his tape. He is so reckless with the ball in his hands and his maturity as a decision-maker is far from where it needs to be to even see the field at all in the NFL. But then again, he probably was never held accountable appropriately, didn’t have a QB coach like a lot of the other guys and he obviously has all the physical tools you could ever wan. If you think you can reign him in and have your quarterback coach clean up some of his mechanical flaws, Jackson definitely has the potential to be an exciting starter at the next level – but he is far away from that right now.
9. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
With the transfer of Shea Patterson to Michigan, expectations for the Ole Miss program and their quarterback situation were fairly low. So the emergence of Hawaiian native Jordan Ta’amu, who already played pretty well in mop-up duty the prior season, was all the more surprising. Ta’amu didn’t receive any FBS offers coming out of Hawaii’s Division 2. It took a strong year at junior college for the Rebels to recruit the young man. The senior signal-caller threw for almost 4000 yards and scored 25 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions, completing 63.6 of his passes in his one full year as a starter.
Ta’amu shows very clean drop-backs, consistent mechanics and a lightning-quick release to get the ball to his playmakers on hitch or short in-breaking routes. His accuracy on the short level is excellent and usually leads to yards after the catch. He can also throw with touch in-between the hashes and puts some beautiful arc on deep balls, which allows his receivers to run under it. Ta’amu made several big plays down the field, completing 11 of 16 passes that travelled 20+ yards through the air, while finishing top ten among draft-eligible quarterback with an average depth of target of 11.7 yards. I thought the young man suffered a lot from playing in an offensive system that didn’t really allow the weapons around him to showcase their talents. He was asked to put the ball in the air a ton and rarely had the opportunity to come back to an easier option due to the route patterns Ole Miss ran.
The Hawaiian native displays an incredibly quick turn of the shoulders to revert to the opposite side of a concept or manipulate underneath defenders with pump-fakes and take the throwing lane he created for himself. He is light on his feet and slippery as a runner. Ta’amu was used in the quarterback run game quite a bit, especially on draw plays, and he can make defenses pay when they leave a lane for him to tuck the ball. He can make some plays with his arm on the run as well, as he excels at leading receivers across the field when he is on the move himself and completes some pretty balls at the sideline. If you take away the games against the top SEC defenses in Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State, Ta’amu completed 68 percent of his passes for an average of 391.1 passing yards, 24 total touchdowns and only four INTs. You can’t just remove those games, but when you see the amount of drops and pressure allowed by his offensive line, you understand that this was more of an overarching issue for the offense. Ta’amu is a quiet, hard-working, tough overachiever, who is highly regarded by his coaches and teammates.
However, the pocket presence Ta’amu showcases on the field is still a work in progress. You see his eyes drop to see the rush instead of feeling his way towards the open space and completely give up on working his progressions. He flat out misses on some simple reads with a seam route and an in-breaking route into the vacated area or refusing lo look towards a stick-concept against the short side with a safety 12 yards deep. Ta’amu cost D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge several long gains and touchdowns with underthrown balls. When there is a hole to take advantage of at the sideline in cover-two or a corner is missing blitzing and the safety shades over that way, Ta’amu needs to learn to drive those balls to the back-shoulder to protect his receivers from a hit downfield. He will allow safeties to enter the picture by staring down his primary receiver at times and needs to do a better job protecting the ball going into contact as a runner.
If you are looking for a developmental quarterback prospect on day three, this is the type of guy you should bring into your organization. We know he has all the intangibles and character positives teams are looking for, but he also has an NFL arm and athleticism. I think Ta’amu was really held back by Phil Longo’s scheme at Ole Miss, but you saw the ability to be accurate on all levels and his playmaking outside the pocket is something that could improve going forward.
10. Easton Stick, North Dakota State
Taking over for a number two overall pick and school legend in Carson Wentz can be a tall task, but all Stick did in his eight starts as freshman was go undefeated and win an FCS National Championship. He would go on to be an honorable-mention All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection the next two years and win another championship. In his senior year Stick was a first-team FCS All-American, completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 2752 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while also a huge weapon on the ground, where he went for almost 700 yards and another 17 scores. Oh, and he won another national championship and won the MVP trophy that game. He is now leaving North Dakota State as the team’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
Stick keeps a good bounce to his step, has a compact release and the ball comes out of his hand with some zing to it. He shows quick processing speed to get through his progressions with quiet feet and good pivots. You see him attack defenses deep constantly. He will hold safeties on the spot and then completely drill passes over the deep middle on post, dig and deep crossing routes. Stick has no issues delivering bullets in cover-two holes along the sideline to the back-shoulder of his receiver. Last year he completed 48 percent of his passes that travelled 40 yards or more, which included three touchdowns. Stick simply has a feel for the pocket, telling him when to stay on the spot, move up, slide and get the ball off with the quick, sudden moves to get it done. He is willing to hang in the pocket until the last second and hitches up into hits if this allows him to complete passes. When there is an outside rush, he hops up into the pocket with a reduced shoulder to evade it. You can tell by how integrated his movements are and how he seems to know where he wants to go with the ball once it’s snapped that he works on his craft tirelessly.
The former Bison QB has experience in a pro-style offense that utilizes 21 or 12 personnel and heavy play-action with elements of the West Coast. He might have the most refined run-fakes in this class, as he ducks his head and hides the ball coming off the fake and then immediately gets himself into a throw-ready posture. The way he carries out play-fakes not only impacts the defense in a way where throwing lanes will open up, but he also holds the back-side defender to open up room for his running backs. Stick Has the arm talent and throw-on-the-run ability to connect on deep comebacks off several steps into his bootlegs. He can also re-set his feet outside the pocket with authority and fire the ball downfield. Stick athleticism was heavily utilized on read-option and even quarterback ISO plays, where he got the edge on plenty of defenders and outraced them to the sideline. He showed off his speed at the combine when he ran the 40 in 4.62 seconds. But he is also quick and can escape the grasps of reaching defenders. When a lane does open up in front of him however, he will take full advantage of it and he is fearless with the ball in his hands.
Some of the throws Stick made versus FCS defenders because of they were leveraged won’t work versus NFL talent and while he can employ simple look-offs, he will have to learn how to manipulate pro defenses and anticipate throws a little earlier. Technique-wise Stick’s base gets too wide at times and his accuracy suffers in the process. The former member of the Bison will try some “hope-throws” where he knows the defense is in pretty good position, but he simply tries it anyway. Once he gets off track with those type of things they can pile on for him. Stick has also taken some big shots as a runner and definitely has to protect himself better going to the pros,
I think Stick, similar to his running back Bruce Anderson, is one of the most under-discussed players in the draft. He might not meet NFL standards size-wise, but he has more than enough athleticism with the quickness to elude defenders and his arm isn’t rated highly enough. Stick is as tough as a five-dollar steak and his work ethic is visible by what he does on the field. Carson Wentz said Stick is the most 24/7 football guy he’s ever met and even encouraged him to get a hobby. That’s the type of a guy I am willing to take a shot on in the middle rounds and at the very least he will be a quality backup.
The next guys up:
Gardner Minshew (Washington State), Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn), Clayton Thorson (Northwestern), Trace McSorley (Penn State)
For draft rankings on all other positions go to halilsrealfootballtalk.com