Friday, February 22, 2019


The 2019 NFL Combine starts this week and our own Eric C. Wright will be there reporting on all the happenings.  On a related front, we once again went to town on all the top prospects this season as part of our annual NFL Draft Guide which is available for sale on Amazon here:

As a sample, here is how we see the passers shaping up in the draft. 


Draft Grade:  C

Possible First-Round Picks:  Dewayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock

*Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) 6-3 220 4.78:  With Oregon's Justin Herbert deciding to return to school for his senior season, the mantle of number 1 QB prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft goes to Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins.  That designation is based just as much on the potential/upside as it is raw ability as Haskins has terrific skills but lacks polish at this stage of his development.  The numbers were certainly of the video game variety in 2018 as Haskins tossed 47 touchdowns and just 8 picks for 4,580 yards going into the team's bowl schedule but the finer points of the passing game needs work.  Specifically speaking, Haskins is raw as 2018 represented his first year as a starter and despite the gaudy surface numbers; there are issues in terms of progressing through reads and footwork in and out of the pocket.  Also regarding the lack of experience, keep in mind that recent examples of high first-round picks who had just one year under center in college have included Mark Sanchez (disaster) and Mitch Trubisky (jury still out and well behind draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson).  While Haskins has good speed to keep a play going, he is not a burner by any means.  The arm is terrific though and Haskins has the strength to make almost all the throws.  Accuracy good but can still improve some.  If he takes to coaching while working through expected early growing pains, Haskins can turn into a star given the tools at his disposal.

*Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) 5-10 195 4.52:  Boy what a story this has turned out to be.  Having already secured a $4.66 million signing bonus as the first-round pick of the Oakland A's prior to the 2018 college football season, junior Oklahoma Sooners QB Kyler Murray secured an agreement with the MLB bosses to allow him to play one final year of football before beginning his baseball career.  Well, it is safe to say the A's may regret giving in to that request for years to come as Murray played at such a ridiculously great level in winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to the college football semifinals last season, that he quickly decided last January to enter into the NFL Draft.  With divergent opinions being floated around about where he will be selected, the general consensus is that Murray carries so much name hype that he will likely squeeze into the Day 1 process.  On numbers alone Murray certainly belongs in the first-round club as he passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns; while also adding 1,001 yards rushing and another 10 scores.  Those are video game numbers folks and Murray's physical attributes seem NFL-friendly in terms of his above-average arm strength, impressive accuracy, and supreme athleticism/speed.  The issue that makes Murray so polarizing though is his frame as he stands a generous 5-10 and weighs a very slight 185.  While the whole lack of height debate has been quieted some by in the instant success of fellow Sooners QB Baker Mayfield last season, Murray's frame is very thin which makes the injury risk quite high.  Be that as it may, Murray's upside is sizable and the fact he can beat you both with the pass and with the run makes him incredibly tempting.

*Daniel Jones (Duke) 6-5 215 4.85:  While Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray will get most of the attention in terms of being the most talked-about 2019 NFL Draft QB prospects, count this peanut stand as big boosters of Duke's strong-armed Daniel Jones.  Already entering the draft with the often-overlooked bonus of operating an NFL-style offense for a head coach in David Cutcliffe who is renowned for his tremendous work in developing both Eli and Peyton Manning, Jones has the most upside of any quarterback in the 2019 draft in our view.  A solidly built 6-5/215; Jones possesses the crucial double bonus of being accurate and also having a strong arm.  Despite not possessing much in the way of speed, Jones showed some guts in 2018 by standing up in the pocket in the face of the pass rush to deliver throws down the field.  Mechanics could use some work as Jones has a long delivery in the mold of a Jameis Winston and he also has battled some injuries as well which is concerning.  If he does, in fact, come out for the draft, Jones could turn out to be a terrific upside selection. 

Drew Lock (Missouri) 6-3 226 4.85:  While Missouri's Drew Lock has the classic NFL-type body build you look for in a pro passing prospect, there was a feeling he took a step back in his development during an up-and-down 2018 performance.  In terms of the positives, Lock has a rocket for an arm that can make every single throw the next level requires and he also has the underrated athletic ability that showed itself through six rushing scores last season.  What was not so hot was Lock coming up small in quite a bit of Missouri's bigger games in 2018 and he can be careless with the football in terms of forcing throws that get picked off.  A bit on the quiet side according to the team's beat reporters, Lock seems to be a "love him or hate him" prospect in the eyes of most. 

*Will Grier (West Virginia) 6-2 221 4.80:  The numbers were predictably excellent for West Virginia QB Will Grier in 2018 as he operated the always explosive Dana Holgorsen passing offense but that doesn't mean the junior has what it takes to be a potential franchise passer for his prospective NFL team.  There is also a checkered history here as Grier tested positive for steroids in 2015 while with the University of Florida and his attitude was questioned at times during his collegiate career as well.  Now in terms of the tools, Grier does check out nicely in terms of possessing a quick release and his accuracy is above-average.  This makes Grier more ideal for a West Coast offense at the NFL level but his lack of a cannon arm could lead to him being exposed beyond such a setup. 

Ryan Finley (N.C. State) 6-3 208 4.80:  Solid but unspectacular is the apt description for N.C. State senior QB Ryan Finley.  What quickly jumps out about Finley and which serves as a very important plus for his NFL stock is the fact the guy is very accurate and throws a terrific ball.  Finley showed himself to also be very adept at putting the football where his receivers can keep stride and continue down the field after making the catch.  In addition, Finley was careful to limit interceptions and made good decisions in the pocket.  These skills helped overcome some arm strength issues and also some negatives concerning reading through progressions.  Finley often latched onto his first read and checked down at the first sign of trouble.  While effective at not turning the ball over, Finley also lacked flash.  At the very least, however, there is a potentially bright future here given the impressive accuracy. 

Clayton Thorsen (Northwestern) 6-4 227 4.75:  Very experienced senior passer who did as well as could be expected on Northwestern teams that didn't exactly supply him with much in the way of help, QB Clayton Thorsen is catching some decent mid-round attention.  While Thorsen's 15/14 TD/INT in 2018 was not pretty, the underlying indicators were decent as the overall ball placement and accuracy were quite good.  While Thorsen was guilty of forcing throws into tight quarters which resulted in a majority of his picks, his plus athleticism made him a dual threat runner/passer.  Overall Thorsen is a heady player whose extensive tenure as Northwestern's starting QB will help shorten the learning curve at the next level and also help overcome some arm strength negatives.

*Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) 6-2 210 4.65:  One QB who saw his draft stock take a hit during the course of the 2018 season was Auburn's Jarrett Stidham.  Expected to contend for a national championship, both Stidham and Auburn as a whole struggled for long stretches that ultimately resulted in a down year for the program.  What was really troubling with Stidham's 2018 performance was that he did his worst work in Auburn's biggest games; including flops versus LSU and Mississippi State.  What quickly catches the eye is that Stidham has an erratic arm and he all too often throws the football off balance.  Stidham also has some happy feet in the pocket which is a sizable negative and he tends to sail the football past the intermediate level.  On the plus side, Stidham is very athletic for a QB and he can be a threat running the football when needed.  Accuracy is also above-average which is always one of the most crucial skills to possess in terms of NFL passing prospects.  This one could go either way.

*Tyree Jackson (Buffalo) 6-7 245 4.73:  Looking to capitalize on a very weak QB draft class for 2019, Buffalo junior Tyree Jackson decided to come out early in going against consensus advice to stay in school.  While Jackson tossed a very impressive 28 touchdowns last season, the red flags centered on a shaky 55.3 completion rate and he averaged a paltry 7.7 per pass attempt.  Clearly, Jackson is a work in progress but there is some solid upside here given the imposing frame and good speed. 

Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt) 6-4 225 4.82:  Two things quickly jump out here when it comes to Vanderbilt senior QB Kyle Shurmur.  The first is that he is the son of New York Giants head coach Pat which can only be seen as a plus in terms of development.  The second is that Shurmur broke almost all of the school passing records of longtime NFL veteran and former first-round Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler.  While no one mistakes Shurmur as anything but a mid-round pick, he kept on getting better during his three years as the Commodores' starter.  The accuracy checks out nicely here and Shurmur also protected the football.  Also, the arm strength is just average and Shurmur often has to step up firmly in the pocket to get the power to sling it down the field.  While there is nothing flashy here to speak of, Shurmur is well worth looking into as a developmental prospect. 

Easton Stick (North Dakota State) 6-2 221 4.75:  Another small-school kid from the same program that brought superstar Philadelphia Eagles passer Carson Wentz to NFL stardom, North Dakota State QB Easton Stick opened some eyes with a very good performance at the East-West Shrine Game.  As far as Stick is concerned, the athleticism jumps off the page as he scored 11 rushing touchdowns to go with 22 through the air a year ago as a senior.  An experienced three-year starter, Stick uses his speed to buy extra time in the face of the rush and this helps to somewhat overcome what can only be described as an average arm.  Short-to-intermediate routes are where Stick will make hay as a possible NFL passer as there will not be much in the way of deep passing success but this kid is our favorite late-round QB prospect. 

Brett Rypien (Boise State) 6-2 200 4.77:  The nephew of former Washington Redskins Super Bowl winning QB Mark, Boise State senior passer Brett Rypien could be a late-round pick or free agent developmental signing based a good deal on that pedigree.  Rypien had a very good senior season that included 30 passing scores and just 7 picks and operating four years as the team's starter can be seen as nothing but a positive.  The accuracy is very impressive here and combined with Rypien's smooth delivery, this should net him a long look as a Day 3 selection.  On the negative side of things, Rypien's lack of a cannon limits his effectiveness going down the field and he needs to add some bulk to adequately hold up to NFL pounding. 

Jordan Ta’amu (Mississippi) 6-2 210:  While it certainly plays second fiddle to the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game often has served as a draft launch point for some less heralded players and that appeared to be the case for Mississippi QB Jordan Ta’amu.  It was Ta’amu who really stood out in the game this past January as he showed a strong arm, impressive quickness in and out of the pocket, and improved accuracy.  The latter development was significant as one of the biggest question marks about Ta’amu was his somewhat shaky accuracy while with the Rebels; while he also didn’t show the best pocket awareness.  Be that as it may, Ta’amu’s impressive work in the Shrine Game puts him squarely on the Day 3 developmental radar. 

Trace McSorley (Penn State) 6-0 195 4.82:  Life without superstar running back Saquon Barkley was not kind to Penn State QB Trace McSorley in 2018 as the senior passer saw major statistical erosion almost across the board.  With McSorley unable to lean on Barkley to consistently balance out the offense, the passing game sagged at times as he went into the team's bowl game with just 16 passing scores, a 53 percent completion percentage, and 2,284 yards (down from 26/65 %/3,228 respectively).  Last year's performance also served to expose the prospect limitations on McSorley who is severely lacking in size and possesses just moderate arm strength.  What McSorley has going for him is a quick release, decent accuracy, and the ability to pick up yardage on the ground but overall it is not enough to make him more than a late-round pick. 

Jacob Dolegala (Central Connecticut) 6-6 235 4.80:  Small-school passer who has gotten some buzz given the massive 6-6/235 frame, Central Connecticut QB Jacob  Dolegala has a very strong arm that can make almost all the throws.  In addition, Dolegala possesses ideal size that can surely withstand an NFL pounding.  Level of competition is a major concern though and Dolegala will need a good season or two of seasoning before he would be ready to possibly take the field. 

Kyle Kempt (Iowa State) 6-5 210 4.84:  Injuries torpedoed the senior season of Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt which makes it somewhat challenging to formulate a firm draft outlook on the kid.  An MCL injury in his knee knocked Kempt out for the majority of the Cyclones' season and opened the door for freshman Brock Purdy to ignite the team in his place.  As of this writing, it is not known whether or not Kempt will return to college after being given a sixth year of eligibility but if he does, it will obviously be elsewhere given the ascension of Purdy.  In terms of ball skills, Kempt has a very quick release, solid mechanics, and footwork in the pocket.  Being technically sound is where the strengths lie here as Kempt is not overly athletic and doesn't have a cannon for an arm. 

Gardner Minshew (Washington State) 6-2 220 4.83:  Mike Leach offensive product who put up 36 passing scores as a senior in 2018, Washington State QB Gardner Minshew is a limited player overall in terms of natural skills.  A quick release and solid accuracy does put Minshew on the late round/free agent prospect map however and of course, the mustache is awesome. 

Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) 6-5 230 4.74:  With Mississippi State senior QB Nick Fitzgerald known more for his running than passing acumen while in college, this is obviously not conducive to making an NFL roster while operating under center.  It does need to be said though that in the copycat NFL, the nice success of New Orleans Saints backup gadget QB Taysom Hill in 2018 could give Fitzgerald a chance to get into the late Day 3 realm with the idea he could be used in the same way once in the pros. 

Justin Hansen (Arkansas State) 6-4 218 4.81:  System passer on the small school level which resulted in some big numbers against lesser competition, Arkansas State senior QB Justin Hansen could end up being signed as a free agent.  While Hansen has good arm strength and size, the lack of touch on his throws show the limitations here. 

Jake Browning (Washington) 6-2 205 4.73:  Washington QB Jake Browning held some draft buzz going into the 2018 but that faded as he more than did his part to sink what turned out to be a disappointing season for the team.  While he does have vast starting experience going back to his freshman season, Browning did throw for 43 scores as a sophomore which is nothing to scoff at.  Overall, Browning is a classic case of an excellent collegiate player who doesn't have the skills/physical makeup to make it as a pro. 

Brad Mayes (Lehigh) 6-2 220 4.75:  Lehigh QB Brad Mayes struggled badly at times in 2018 in putting up a shoddy 10/13 split in TD/INT but the small-school kid went 31/12 in those areas just the season prior.  Quick release and a solid enough arm may net a free agent look. 

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