No need for much preamble here. Let’s cut right to the chase.
–This is what I look for in prospects.
–This is how I chart prospects and additional things to account for when evaluating prospects.
–This is my charting for the projected top 4 prospects this year.
|Name, Age||College System||Quality|
|Kyler Murray, 21||Vertical Air Raid||1st overall to 3rd round|
|Drew Lock, 22||West Coast Spread||Early-mid 1st round|
|Ryan Finley, 24||Mixed Spread||2nd to 3rd round|
|Jarrett Stidham, 22||Air Raid||3rd round|
|Gardner Minshew, 22||Air Raid||3rd to 4th round|
|Dwayne Haskins, 21||Meyer Spread||4th to 5th round|
|Kyle Shurmur, 22||West Coast||4th to 6th round|
|Brett Rypien, 22||Air Raid||5th to 6th round|
|Will Grier, 24||Meyer Spread||5th to 7th round|
|Tyree Jackson, 21||Mixed Spread||6th to 7th round|
|Easton Stick, 23||Air Raid||6th to 7th round|
|Daniel Jones, 21||Air Raid||6th round to UDFA|
|Nick Fitzgerald, 23||Meyer Spread Classic||Baltimore/Buffalo|
Kyler Murray is extremely difficult to evaluate, and I would be lying if I said I was confident in his outcome even after watching all available tape. He played in the most stat-boosting scheme, behind the best offensive line, throwing to the best receivers. His stats are obviously going to be insane given all of those advantages. Much of evaluating comes down to how comfortable or confident you are projecting his game to the NFL, but it’s hard to project from a utopia to the real world.
Let’s start with the good. His arm talent is 100% legitimate. He gets insane zip from all arm angles whether or not he engages his body in the throw or not. He is surprisingly accurate most of the time, and while the precision isn’t perfect, it’s usually good enough. His running ability isn’t quite up to the level of Lamar Jackson, but he’ll still be the second best QB runner on day one.
The bad? Everything else. He looks like a baseball player playing football. His footwork and arm action are straight out of baseball, not football. As a result, he has a lot of natural inconsistency in both placement and accuracy. As noted above, he makes it work most of the time, but when he doesn’t, the ball ends up all over the place. His ability to make even basic reads is questionable. His pocket feel is rudimentary at best and he killed multiple drives taking terrible avoidable sacks. His leadership and commitment are at least questionable based on all available information. While I am not concerned about his size, I am concerned about the number of awkward looking hits he takes – based on my research, sacks while trying to escape are among the most dangerous plays for a QB, and he takes a lot of them.
Ultimately, there are times when Murray looks absolutely unstoppable, and there are times when Murray looks like a super raw QB who is just getting bailed out by his elite receivers and poor college level defenders. On his arm and leg talent alone, he’s an easy 1st overall pick with top five in the NFL potential. Based on everything else, he’s a day three developmental prospect. I don’t know which side he’s going to end up on in the NFL, and I’m not sure anybody else does either. How much you like Murray ultimately comes down to how much inconsistency you can stomach. I know saying “I have no idea” is unsatisfying, but it’s the truth. Only time will tell whether Murray’s natural gifts will overcome his other limitations.
To see my breakdown of Kyler Murray, view his chart here
-System: Shanahan/McVay or Reid
-Protection: Not necessary?
-Receivers: Ideally needs receivers who can win contested throws
Drew Lock is a four year starter who has been on the prospect radar since he was in high school. And it’s easy to see why. Lock has ideal size, good athleticism, and plenty of zip to all levels and areas of the field. He took a big leap forward with both accuracy and precision this year and has answered many of the questions that lingered through his first three seasons.
His four years of experience really shows, as he makes pre-snap reads, shows good pocket feel, reads defenses, and has great situational awareness. He can escape the pocket and make plays on the run. His mechanics are refined. He shows all the physical and intangible skills necessary to be an NFL QB.
He does have a few notable weaknesses. He really struggled with inside pressure, often making bad panic decisions leading to ugly interceptions or sacks. Outside pressure was no problem, but inside pressure generated a ton of bad outcomes. He doesn’t always square to his target when throwing to the offensive right, leading to inconsistency on those throws. It’s fixable, but it’s a flaw. When his #1 receiver was injured, his numbers cratered – he is more the type to give his receiver a chance to make a play than the type to throw his receiver open.
Lock should be able to step in as an NFL starter on day 1 with upside to be a top 10 NFL QB and potentially more. He is particularly good on balls to the deep sidelines, and any team that drafts him should look to ask him to make a lot of those throws. He is not a perfect QB and I would expect him to struggle early in his career, but he has everything needed to succeed, so it will just be a matter of finding the right situation and developing at the next level.
To see my breakdown of Drew Lock, view his chart here.
-System: Reid will maximize, but should be able to execute any
-Protection: Interior necessary
-Receivers: Outside deep threats, especially ones who can win jump balls
It will probably surprise most people to see Ryan Finley ranked this highly. Finley’s draft stock has been all over the place and remains so. At 24 years old, Finley is not a developmental QB. He is what he is. He’ll probably take an age 25 leap in his second season, but that tends to be a consistency leap, not a development of new skills. I believe Finley has the skills that just need refinement, thus the relatively high ranking.
While I don’t want to speak for other analysts, I think the wide range on Finley is because he has one flaw that makes him look really good sometimes and really terrible other times, but it’s not a particularly glaring one. Finley doesn’t always step into his throws. That’s really it. When Finley steps into his throws, he looks a lot like Drew Lock. When he doesn’t, he looks a lot more like the guys who I have projected on day three for lack of arm strength.
Typically, when a QB has bad mechanics, it’s reason for significant downgrade. But in this case, he actually has good mechanics, just not on every throw. Given how fixable the issue is in this case, I am projecting him towards his high end. If he was consistent, he would be a first round prospect. If he never stepped into throws, he would be a day three prospect. As such, it feels right to project him right in the middle.
As an old three year starter, he should be able to start on day one, which is a bonus for QBs on their rookie contracts. He didn’t handle pressure particularly well, but nobody really does. Other than that, he showed the ability to make accurate deep throws with zip, fit it into tight mid-level windows, and get the ball out short. For Finley, it’s just a matter of ironing out one major inconsistency. Do that, and he should succeed at the next level. If he doesn’t, he’s still a fine backup, which is still worth taking here.
-Receivers: Needs receivers who can get at least a little separation
The least interesting QB prospect in the whole draft. He’s average. He does everything at an average level. He has an average arm, average legs, average other abilities. I really don’t have much to say about him. He is the only QB who I don’t have a single plus or minus for. He’ll probably be a high level backup who never reaches above that and never sinks below that. There’s value in high level backups, and that value is typically 3rd round value.
-System: Will only really look good in Shanahan/McVay but could execute others, in theory
Now we get to the category of guys who are pure spread guys. It’s so hard to project these guys outside of this system because the system doesn’t ask them to do much. I look at talent and mechanics, but there’s just a bunch of things the system doesn’t ask the QBs to do, and so I can’t project their ability to do it at the next level.
Minshew is the guy who best executed this system in college this year. He consistently led his receivers into open space, allowing YAC. His short and intermediate balls reached their targets on time and on target. He made the right first read consistently. He was second in the NCAA in completion percentage behind only Southern Miss’s QB. That’s notable because, well, we’ve already seen how well Southern Miss alum Nick Mullens executed this scheme when pressed into service. He has enough athleticism and legs to escape the pocket and pick up the first when things break down.
So why isn’t Minshew higher? Well, for one, he just doesn’t have much of a deep ball. He is truly limited to short and intermediate throws. He can’t really read a defense, which isn’t a problem in the system but could be a problem against more exotic coverages in the NFL. He also occasionally just misses a couple of throws in a row for no reason – unexplained inconsistency is always a problem.
Basically, he’s a limited QB who can execute one scheme that a lot of QBs can execute, but he can execute it really well. If you plan on running it, he should be able to run it as either a starter or a backup. He doesn’t bring much to the table, but he doesn’t take much off it either, and again, that has value in this range.
What I find most interesting about Haskins is that the deeper you go on him, the less you like him. As Benjamin Solak best put it, “I’m not sure why there ever was — and still is — hype around Haskins.” Haskins’ numbers might look good until you realize that Tim Tebow and JT Barrett each had seasons almost matching Haskins’ numbers in the same system. Meyer has built a great system for boosting numbers (and winning games), but the stats it generates simply has no bearing on QB quality.
But we’re not judging on numbers, we’re judging on projectable qualities. So why does Haskins not project well? Let’s start with the absolute biggest issue: he is statuesque to a fault. He cannot run at all, he cannot escape pressure at all, and if he doesn’t receive superb protection, he will be a sitting duck. When he throws under pressure or on the run, his ball placement completely disappears. If you are that limited under pressure, you need to be really good when you are not under pressure.
And, well, he isn’t. His ball placement is below average in the best of conditions, often short-circuiting plays by forcing his receiver into giving up YAC to secure the catch. His anticipation is poor, waiting for receivers to become fully uncovered before throwing. His deep ball is highly inconsistent, alternating between way short and way long with very few hitting the mark. When his pre-snap read was wrong or his first option was covered, he really struggled to quickly switch sides of the field both mentally and physically (again, his statuesque feet are a huge problem).
Ultimately, Haskins is far from a ready now prospect. Given his young age, his solid if unspectacular arm strength, and his base level accuracy, there’s some things to project on. But he’s a few years away from being a starter, and it’s hard to see him ever becoming special, given that he lacks a single special tool and he will never have any ability to make defensive lines pay for giving him running lanes to escape. Given that most NFL QBs, would be good if they had an always clean pocket, he will need to improve the rest of his game significantly to be more than a backup.
To see my breakdown of Dwayne Haskins, view his chart here.
-System: Shanahan/McVay or Belichick/Payton potentially
-Protection: EXTREMELY necessary
-Receivers: Needs good receivers
Shurmur is easily the most technically sound QB in the entire draft. He’s the best at reading defenses. His ability to set his platform and throw with perfect mechanics on the run in open space is unique and fun to watch if you’re into that type of thing. His clean mechanics lead to clean and consistent throws. He has almost everything you would want in an NFL QB. Except…
His arm strength, even with perfect mechanics, just barely reaches the lowest level of passable. Off-platform? Forget about it. And while he can escape a collapsing pocket, he’s not a good enough runner to create the space he will need to set and throw often at the next level.
In the right system, he’s a guy who completes short and intermediate passes in a clean pocket and keeps the chains moving consistently. More likely, he’s a good player to have in the QB room and as a backup for an established vet but who just can’t bring enough to the table to ever be a starter.
-System: Anything under 15-20 yards
-Protection: Somewhat necessary
-Receivers: Anybody good at running short/timing routes
Rypien is similar to Haskins, but while he is more ready now with his precision and ability to read a defense, he doesn’t have the arm strength. Mediocre arm strength combined with poor mobility limits Rypien to backup duty. He can run an offense well enough when he’s not asked to make any difficult throws and when he doesn’t face pressure, but those limitations means he doesn’t really have any upside beyond being a backup.
-Protection: Necessary; Receivers
-Good receivers, especially ones who can add YAC
I appear to be lower on him than most. He has decent accuracy but very iffy precision. He has enough zip for anything about 20 yards and shorter, but anything longer than that floats. He can escape initial pressure but will not threaten anybody with his legs, and when he can’t escape, it’s a mix of bad sacks and worse throws. Most problematically, he really struggled to read defenses in the red zone, where the tighter defenses meant the system didn’t create easy throws as often, and in those situations he threw a lot of really terrible passes. At 24 years old, he doesn’t have much upside left. If you’re running the system, he might make a passable backup, but his limitations make it difficult to see more than that.
-Receivers: Good ones
Perhaps the most interesting developmental prospect of the draft, Tyree Jackson has the opposite problem of many of the guys ahead of him. He has a very nice deep ball, plenty of arm strength, and can’t really do anything else. Only 21 years old, Jackson is one of the youngest QBs in the draft. He has slow feet, though he has fast straight line speed when he gets moving. He really just can’t throw anything accurately shorter than 20-25 yards right now. At 6’7, he is just so long that his arm motion becomes unnatural on shorter throws. On deep balls, he can uncork it, but when he tries to adjust short, it just…doesn’t work. He’s worth working with as a 3rd QB for a few years because that deep ball is real, but he’s probably just never going to become consistent enough to be a starter.
-Protection: Somewhat necessary
-Receivers: Deep threats
Stick’s lack of arm strength may just be too much to overcome. Stick is a pretty good QB who is a very good runner. I just don’t think he has the arm strength to play at the next level. If he develops a little more zip, he can make it as a backup, especially with his ability to extend plays and drives with his legs. As is, I think he just won’t be able to get the ball to his target consistently.
-Protection: Not super necessary
-Receivers: Can catch balls at their feet
Jones gets a lot of buzz for being a David Cutcliffe disciple, but the only Cutcliffe disciples of any relevance were the Manning brothers, so maybe it was them more than him?
Jones has myriad issues, none of which have an easy solution. While his mechanics are good, they are slow. Like, legitimately the slowest I have ever seen. While a slow release is typically associated with arm motion, Jones has extremely slow feet. As a result, by the time he gets square, sets, and releases, his ball is either late or batted down. His tape is littered with plays killed by his inability to get the ball out in time to beat the defense. Against good defensive lines and blitzes, he has a ton of balls batted down at the line. He also ends up throwing behind receivers as a result of the slow release, and these balls tend to end up hitting defenders rather than receivers. I lost count of how many dropped INTs there were on his tape.
Even if he were to speed up his mechanics, the rest of his game doesn’t look much better. He has a decent deep ball, but it’s too floaty and not consistent enough to be a plus at the next level. He lacks zip to the outside. He struggles to make basic reads and never sees robber defenders. He panics under pressure.
Much like former Cutcliffe specials Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree, don’t expect much from Jones. He has passable arm strength and good mechanics and accuracy, but the total package just doesn’t project to play at the next level.
To see my breakdown of Daniel Jones, view his charthere.
-Receivers: Good ones
Watching Fitzgerald is interesting. He legitimately has one of the strongest arms in the entire class. He has no idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand, but it’s going there fast. And while he probably has a little growth left in that area, expecting him to ever complete more than 55% of his passes seems like a total pipe dream. Even that might be expecting too much. So why is he even on this list?
Well, he’s a really good runner, and probably would’ve been even better if his team had put in a scheme more suited to his talents. Some team will probably draft him based on his arm strength, but his real talent is running, not throwing. That being said, there is one team that we know values a QB who throws hard, doesn’t know where it’s going, and runs well. So…
Jordan Ta’amu has nice physical traits but lacks everything else. At only 21, he might make a nice practice squad/scout team QB for a few years to see if he can improve the game around his physical tools. Trace McSorley is too limited in every way to be worth picking up. Clayton Thorson is just bad. I honestly couldn’t recommend even bringing him in to camp. Jacob Dolegala doesn’t have much tape available, but over his last three games, he completed 41% of his passes against terrible competition, so there’s no real reason for optimism.
This is a weak draft for QBs. Murray and Lock have high upside but big question marks, while the vast majority of the available QBs are pure system guys and/or do not have much upside. One of the most disappointing parts of doing draft analysis is spending a ton of time to come to the conclusion that a guy isn’t good, and that happened a lot with this class. Ultimately, time will tell, but unless your team comes away with Murray or Lock, it’s just really hard to get excited about any other QB in this class.