A muddled combination of a new writing gig with Bengals Wire, final year of law school, and sheer laziness has meant that this post brings an end to a whopping 322-day dry streak on the site. I hope you’ve survived, and that your constant refreshing of the home page over the past 11 months has finally borne fruit upon seeing this enticing, new article.
I haven’t watched anywhere near as many prospects this year as I have at this point in years past. Nonetheless, I plan on grinding the tape as often and as intensely as possible over the next month and a half as we gear up to draft day. I’ll be focusing primarily on skill position prospects, given that my knowledge of the defensive side of the ball is questionable at the best of times. Not that my opinions on offensive players should bear any weight in your mind. But hey, you’re the one reading this article.
I’ll try to put together a couple of in-depth film reviews on some of the more intriguing wide receivers in this year’s class over the coming weeks. As for other positions, I’ll throw out my thoughts in a more casual fashion in posts such as this. Unsurprisingly (if you’ve read the title), I wish to discuss a few of the top quarterback prospects to kick off my coverage of the 2019 NFL draft.
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
It goes without saying that Kyler Murray is a supreme athlete. The two-sport phenom is a highly dangerous threat as a runner. He’s a superb improviser with the ability to make magic happen on the move. Murray’s immense talent as a passer should not be overlooked simply because he’s fleet of foot. He has an above average arm, a quick release, and can deliver the ball with velocity. I like his accuracy in the short to intermediate range. The nature of his game is such that he can throw off a variety of platforms, but this is sometimes to his detriment, as he can be overly confident in his ability to create something out of nothing.
Obviously, the unavoidable concern with Murray is his size. At 5-foot-10, 207 pounds, he would be an extreme outlier if he were to succeed as an NFL quarterback. Nowadays, however, the league is much more receptive to the idea of handing the reigns of your offense to an undersized quarterback. The Russell Wilson comparisons are fair, but I believe Murray is a little more limited as a passer, while posing a greater threat as a runner than Wilson. In this year’s quarterback class, nowhere is too early for Murray to be drafted. I believe the Cardinals would be making a mistake to give up on Josh Rosen, but in terms of value, Murray is worthy of a top-5 selection based on his exceptional athletic abilities.
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Haskins is a very attractive option for a team that desperately needs a fresh, new face at quarterback (I’m looking at you, Dave Gettleman). His production in his sole year as starter for the Buckeyes was phenomenal, throwing 50 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. His arm is plenty big – he can drive the football. He’s a smart player who is willing to hit the checkdown or the underneath crosser. You see him go through his progressions and find the open man, and he has decent manoeuvrability in the pocket.
He operated the Ohio State offense to perfection, but this included heavy doses of screens and quick passes, and it remains to be seen how he will fare outside of this favourable structure. Potential issues I see with him as a prospect are that his ball lacks touch at times, he has limited mobility, and I’m unsure as to whether he has a deep ball based on what I saw on tape.
Haskins certainly has the ability to develop into a good NFL starting quarterback, but you have to accept that you might not be getting a substantial upgrade at the position if you already have stability at the position. I think the likelihood that Haskins ends up being ‘just another guy’ is equal to the likelihood of him developing into a top-tier guy. With that being said, he will be a first round pick, and rightly so.
Daniel Jones, Duke
There’s a lot to like about Daniel Jones from a physical standpoint. At 6-foot-5, 221 pounds, his size stands out right off the bat. He’s certainly not a statue, showing very nimble feet in the pocket. He’s quite athletic for his size. He throws accurately on the move and he’s quite capable as a runner. Jones is brave in the face of pressure, showing the ability to deliver the ball accurately in these situations. He has plenty of arm, and he can drive it to the far sideline. He has a little Roethlisberger to his game, in that it takes a lot to bring him down. You regularly see him shrug off oncoming rushers like they’re nothing.
He was able to work the quick passing game at Duke, but he is probably best suited to a downfield passing attack. His release is a little too slow for my liking, perhaps resulting in the significant amount of batted balls he had in 2018 (12).
Jones is a really intriguing prospect. Physically, he’s very impressive, and he moves very well for his size. He wasn’t helped out by his Duke teammates at all. He’s a risk high in the first round, but nonetheless, he’s worth a shot in the first by a team looking for some potential upside at the position.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock is the best athlete of the group behind Murray. His athleticism makes him very dangerous as a runner, which complements his impressive arm talent. He has a pretty big arm, and his release is compact and consistent. He can generate velocity with a solid base. His accuracy on throws down the sideline is very good – he drops it in the bucket time and time again.
I saw a steady mix of head-scratching inaccuracies and incredible ‘wow throws’ on tape, which highlights his frustrating inconsistencies. He can be quite lazy with his footwork and mechanics at times, and often appears to be overly nonchalant in the pocket. With that being said, I believe the last prospect whose footwork I pointed out as being particularly worrying was none other than 2018 NFL MVP Pat Mahomes.
Lock’s overall arm talent will be very enticing for NFL scouts and GMs. His game lacks a little structure, and at times he looks like he’s just slinging the ball around in the backyard. As of right now, I’m torn as to whether this is a positive or negative feature of his game. Overall, I love his strong arm and his accuracy deep down the field. There are more fundamental aspects of his games that he must clean up, but I think he offers a ton of upside as an exciting NFL passer with the ability to scramble if the play breaks down.
Will Grier, West Virginia
There’s a lot to like about Will Grier. The most impressive aspect of his game is his accuracy. He’s consistently on the money at all levels of the field. His ball placement on deep balls is outstanding. He does a nice job avoiding pressure, remaining calm and composed, and has an uncanny ability to avoid oncoming rushers. He’s a very quick processor. He hits the back shoulder fade with awesome precision.
Like Daniel Jones (and perhaps to an even greater extent than Jones), his release is slow. He simply doesn’t have the big arm of other prospects, and his balls lack zip. He’s also quite a limited athlete, offering very little once he breaks the pocket.
Grier is probably the most consistently accurate quarterback I’ve watched this year. He’s very smart with his ball placement. Ultimately, I think he’s an average starter in the league at best, due to his limited athleticism and arm strength – accuracy alone will not suffice. At worst, his sub-par arm prohibits him from elevating any higher than a career backup. On the other hand, if you think you’re getting a more accurate version of Andy Dalton (which you may well be), you can pull the trigger late in round 1 or early on day 2.
There is value in a quarterback that is intelligent and highly accurate. I do, however, see limitations to his game that cast doubt over his future as an above-average starter in the league. In the illuminating words of an unnamed NFC quarterbacks coach, “being short, having a beard and wearing a headband doesn’t make you Baker Mayfield”.
The word around town is that this is an underwhelming quarterback class. I agree with that line of thought for the most part, but I’m truly intrigued by all of these guys. Maybe saying that is another way of saying that most of these guys look like unfinished products that have little chance of becoming top-tier starting quarterbacks. Either way, we have a couple of guys with big arms and athletic upside, and even the more ‘boring’ prospects are highly accurate and poised, and may be able to step into a lineup and hold their own as starters. And it goes without saying that Murray will be a truly fascinating player to track in the pros, if only for the lack of precedent.
The reason I’ve made the case for all of these quarterbacks as potential first round selections is simply due to the importance of the position. Players that are drafted later than these guys may well be better pure football players, but the value of a talented quarterback far outweighs the value of a talented player at any other position.
Murray should be the first quarterback off the board. If you need a fresh face at the position with superb college production, an accurate arm, and relatively low bust potential, grab Haskins as high as you like in the first. If you want the closest thing to Mahomes that this draft has (stylistically, not talent-wise), go and get Lock and see if you can develop him into a more polished passer. If you need a strong-armed guy with a touch of athleticism for your downfield passing attack, Daniel Jones is your guy. If you want to play it safe, take the highly accurate Will Grier, knowing that he is unlikely to develop into a star in the league.
Stay tuned for the 2019 NFL season to see how wrong I was in my assessment of these guys.Follow @iamcathal