It’s my favorite time of the year: Draft season! With football in the rearview, I’ll be focusing each new DRFN on a position group for the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. This week, I’ll dive into eight of the draft’s QBs. Of course, I’ll still discuss all the hottest news in football including the rise of the AAF, my proposal for an 18-week season, how two soon-to-be-former Steelers are doing, and yes, a few unnecessary awards.
THINGS I KNOW
I know Dwayne Haskins is the most pro-ready QB. Before I dissect all these prospects, just a reminder that it is extremely hard to accurately project how a player will fare in the NFL. So much depends on scheme fit, the supporting cast and a coach’s ability to help the player. Not even NFL teams will always know how to fix a prospect. With that said, I do think Haskins is the closest to being a starting quarterback. He’s extremely accurate in the short passing game and has a big, strong arm to back it up, though he could stand to be more consistent on his deep throws. Haskins excelled in big-game situations as his leadership and anticipation were constantly on display. He’s good, not great, at sensing pressure in the pocket, though his reactions to that pressure might be his biggest flaw. It’s just a matter of how easily Haskins can learn to be more poised in the pocket (the space an offensive line forms around the quarterback during a play). Nonetheless, Haskins is a prototypical pocket passer who can still make plays with his feet. I would like him to have more confidence in his deep ball instead of often settling for the checkdown option (a shorter route designed to give QBs a safety valve). People will point out his inexperience as he was a full-time starter for only one season, albeit he was extremely productive. Considering Haskins’ rapid development and admirable traits, I wouldn’t be shocked if Haskins was the first QB drafted.
I know Kyler Murray could be the best quarterback. He could also be the worst, though. Let’s start out with his positives. Murray’s playmaking ability is elite, and he can make almost any throw at any level due to his quick release. His baseball background sure helps Murray make those absurd throws. While Murray is lethal on the ground, he is also a very good pocket passer. In fact, 89% of his throws were from the pocket this season, per Pro Football Focus. In the pocket, Murray commonly showed patience and poise. This was especially true in big moments, which Murray saw a ton of at Oklahoma. Some wonder if Murray is simply a product of the Oklahoma offense, though. In addition, Murray was a full-time starter for just one season, though he did win the Heisman. I’m not completely sold on Murray’s ability to throw deep, which at times wasn’t always there. However, the biggest knock on Murray is his size. The Combine will clear up his official measurements, but he’s currently listed at 190 pounds and just under 5-10. It’s impossible to predict how Murray will fare in the league because there has never been a prospect like him. Baker Mayfield’s success last season certainly bodes well for Murray, who could either be a superstar or an undersized player who can’t hang with the bigger NFL bodies.
I know Brett Rypien has some fascinating traits. His accuracy is top-notch as he throws the ball as beautifully as anyone in the class. Unlike most of the prospects in this year’s class, Rypien can throw deep very well. His quick throwing motion and clean footwork aid him in that area. In the pocket, Rypien can stand unbothered with a strong sense of poise. His toughness was almost always on display, too. He usually makes good decisions though could use some fine-tuning. Rypien is alright at anticipating receiver’s routes and at going through progressions (when a quarterback systematically looks from one option to the next). Too often, he’ll lock onto his first option and won’t effectively use his eyes to draw away defenders. Mobility is not a plus for Rypien as demonstrated by his ineffectiveness when throwing on the move. His awareness in the pocket isn’t great, and his below average size doesn’t help, either. The main concern about Rypien is his average arm strength. He’ll need to improve on that if he wants a long career in the NFL, though I can see him eventually carving out a role.
I know Jarrett Stidham is far from an NFL starter. He does have some desirable traits, though. His accuracy is solid, and he can anticipate his receivers’ routes fairly well. He could use a little more power on deep and sideline throws but overall his arm strength isn’t concerning. When given a clean pocket, he can deliver the ball with a quick motion while showcasing good footwork. He might be a pocket passer but don’t discount him as a running quarterback as his ability to throw on the run is surprising, yet he should never be relied on to win with his feet. Nothing is really impressive about Stidham, though. It doesn’t help that his offense was relatively simple and usually pre-determined a single read for him. Stidham is also horrendous under pressure; he looks like a deer in headlights. He’ll often panic and make bone-headed decisions. On top of that, he hasn’t shown he can handle big games and the situations that usually come with them. All in all, Stidham doesn’t offer too much and really needs to improve how he handles sticky situations. He might be best suited as a backup who could never get a crack at a starting job.
I know the NFL should expand to an 18-week season. This idea has been brewing in my mind for some time, and I’m glad I found a good place to talk about it. Before I explain my reasoning, let me give you the layout of this proposal. The season would get an extra week that eventually becomes each team’s second bye week. The first bye would be positioned between weeks five and nine. A bye on week four would be alright but personally, that’s too early. The teams’ second byes would occur between weeks ten and fourteen. While that means there will be at least a month at the start and end of the season with all teams playing, it also leaves eight teams (that’s four games for you math degenerates) off the field for ten straight weeks. In that case, I guess spreading out the bye weeks to weeks three and fourteen could be fine. However, the real reason for this change is simply adding more football while giving teams a whole extra week to rest. It would still be 16 games. Obviously, there would still be some kinks to work out, such as either starting the season earlier or ending it later. Hit me up if you have any questions or concerns, and I’ll be more than happy to discuss this proposal. It’s more football while also promoting player health and safety; two things the NFL should love.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know why the Broncos traded for Joe Flacco. This baffled me in more ways than one. First off, the Broncos just paid the 31-year old Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million contract. Even if he has one year left on his deal, that’s starter-like money that will be hard to move. Flacco is 34 years old and coming off his first season not as the Ravens’ starting quarterback. If the Broncos plan to draft another quarterback early, then why trade for Flacco when Keenum is arguably better and can still provide an adequate veteran presence? If the Broncos do draft one, then keeping both Keenum and Flacco seems pretty pointless from a financial perspective. I also doubt trading Keenum would give Denver back the fourth-round pick they surrendered for Flacco. This screams like a desperation move by GM John Elway, who sans Peyton Manning has yet to find a viable, long-term starting quarterback.
I don’t know if Drew Lock can be polished enough. He is so inconsistent. At times, he’ll look like the second coming of Patrick Mahomes. At other times, he’ll look like Patrick Ramsey. (Who? Exactly.) The only thing not polarizing about Lock is his admirable physical traits. At his best, Lock can make any throw on the field with great strength and velocity. He gets the ball out quickly and can drive it into tight windows. Unfortunately, this version of Lock isn’t seen as much as NFL teams would like. His poise under pressure isn’t great, and it can cause him to launch passes off his back foot, which is a very dangerous habit. His footwork in general while passing could use some work, though the biggest thing for him is learning how to work through his reads. Lock can make plays on the ground but isn’t as mobile as a guy like Josh Allen, who reminds me a little of Lock. As of now, I think a team will fall in love with Lock’s pros and overdraft him in the first round.
I don’t know why Daniel Jones is a projected first-round pick. There’s a lot to be fixed with him, even if he does have some positive traits. For starters, he’s pretty reliable in the short passing game due to his nice, quick release. He’s a threat on the ground, too and demonstrates proper footwork. After all, Jones did play under the coach who helped the Manning brothers, David Cutcliffe. He did make some ‘wow’ throws but overall, I’m not that impressed. Jones is not overly trustworthy to throw a deep pass, both due to inaccuracy and poor decision-making. He needs to work on going through his progressions, too. Aside from his inconsistent ability to improvise on broken plays, Jones’ big issue is facing pressure. When this happens, he lacks poise and gets flustered easily in the pocket. It should also be noted that Jones broke his collarbone last year but returned rather quickly to the gridiron. The lack of good quarterbacks in this year’s class elevates Jones’ status. I can see why Jones would appeal to NFL teams but I can’t see why he should warrant a first-round pick.
I don’t know why people aren’t talking about Jordan Ta’amu more. This was the quarterback I was least familiar about, so I enjoyed developing a stance on him. My stance: in a draft flooded with mainly developmental quarterbacks, Ta’amu is being overlooked. Ta’amu consistently hit a wide variety of throws, including those down the field. His strong arm and good-looking form were especially on display with those vertical passes. Ta’amu was alright when facing pressure but generally stood confidently in the pocket. His ability to anticipate receivers’ routes was promising, too. He might not be the most vocal player, but coaches still praised him for his quiet leadership. Of course, Ta’amu isn’t perfect. Despite his mobility, he was inconsistent at improvising on broken plays. His decision-making is probably his biggest area of improvement, but that could be due to the simple offense he played in at Ole Miss. Either way, Ta’amu would often predetermine where he was going to throw to or he’d misread the defense entirely. Another area of concern is that Ta’amu’s production could’ve been a result of the phenomenal wide receivers surrounding him. He’ll need to improve his football IQ and those in-game applications, but the right coaching can certainly elevate Ta’amu to a quality NFL starter. He’s my early sleeper pick.
I don’t know how I feel about Will Grier. As I said earlier, this draft is headlined by raw quarterbacks who have flashed potential. That often entails polarization among the football community, and Grier is no exception. Despite his small size (6-1, 214), Grier displayed an accurate arm that led to highly productive seasons. He also showed he can read defenses, and his good anticipation when throwing supports that. Given space, Grier can really launch the football while showcasing nice footwork. On the ground, Grier is a threat to be reckoned with and can turn a broken play into a huge gain. Even with his superb playmaking abilities, his arm strength was mostly alright and some will be turned off by his passionate leadership and wild style of play. His throwing motion is strange and might not succeed all the time in the NFL. His inexperience under center contributes to the idea that Grier could be the product of an effective, high-octane offensive system. His ability against zone coverage has come into question, too. Most of the times, Grier will be too eager to make a play and will cost his team big. Off the field, Grier was suspended for all of 2016 due to performance-enhancing drugs. You might hear some Baker Mayfield comparisons, but do not buy them. They both might be smaller quarterbacks with a history of off-field issues, but Grier isn’t as accurate nor consistent as Mayfield was. Still, that might be enough for Grier to sneak into the first-round.
TRIVIA OF THE WEEK
Question: Among the top ten passers in the Alliance of American Football, how many combined NFL games have they played in?
Check out the ‘Awards’ section for the answer.
Note that I only included the players talked about in this week’s article and that feelings/projections on a prospect will fluctuate, especially after the draft. Here are my preliminary rankings on this year’s quarterbacks class and a sentence for each.
Dwayne Haskins – He’s a deep-ball away from being a solid NFL starter, and his rapid development has been encouraging.
- Kyler Murray – The ideal collegiate quarterback who will either continue that success in the NFL or will be impeded drastically by his size.
- Drew Lock – An inconsistent player whose sky-high ceiling will appeal to many NFL teams.
- Brett Rypien – The only reason Rypien is behind Lock is Lock’s superior ceiling, though Rypien might be the safer prospect.
- Jordan Ta’amu – Looks like a natural quarterback who needs to improve on stuff that can be taught easily.
- Daniel Jones – Might be lower on him than most but seems like he has a long way to go to reach the high ceiling he’s occasionally shown.
- Will Grier – Polarizing playmaker who flashed in college, but I have concerns on if he can translate well to the NFL.
- Jarrett Stidham – I’m not inspired by him and considering his surprising regression, he looks more like a backup than anything.
Following last year’s tradition, each week I’ll focus on one wide receiver in hopes of finding the next superstar. This week, that player is Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
Stats: In three years at Texas, the Junior had 125 receptions, 1,622 receiving yards, ten touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
- Size (6’4, 225)
- Good balance
- Run-After-Catch ability is best trait
- Instinctively finds open space
- Runs deep routes well
- High leaping ability
- Flashed full-extension grabs
- One-year wonder
- Not fast nor quick
- Limited to slot
- Not explosive off line of scrimmage
- Inconsistent hands
- Tends to wait for ball rather than jump up for it
- Not overly athletic
- Blocking was woeful at times
- Rarely used hands when fighting through coverage
The Unknown: Will Humphrey’s traits be enough to warrant an NFL roster spot?
Bottom-Line: Humphrey has a couple appealing traits but will have a steep uphill battle if he wants to make an NFL roster.
Early Team Fit: Any
Early Projection: Final Two Rounds
The Alliance of American Football kicked off its inaugural campaign this month as a way to satisfy deprived football fans and provide additional opportunities for forgotten football players and staff, among other reasons. The AAF’s eventual goal is to become a breeding ground for developmental players hoping to one day make it in the NFL. To help you get familiar with the rising league, each week of its three-month season (including 10 regular season games) I’ll be highlighting a little bit about the league. Today, I laid out all eight teams and a notable player/coach on each one.
Orlando Apollos (2-0) – Steve Spurrier
Birmingham Iron (2-0) – Trent Richardson
Arizona Hotshots (2-0) – Josh Huff
San Antonio Commanders (1-1) – Kenneth Farrow
San Diego Fleet (1-1) – Damontre Moore
Salt Lake Stallions (0-2) – Branden Oliver
Atlanta Legends (0-2) – Denard Robinson
Memphis Express (0-2) – Christian Hackenberg
Bane Award: Shaan Washington
The Batman super-villain is known for breaking heroes’ backs, akin to what Washington did on this bone-crushing, helmet-flying hit to Mike Bercovici. While the hit might be entertaining and awesome to some, others have cried out for player safety. It’s one of the many reasons why the AAF can be, no pun intended, hit-or-miss.
Drama Queen Award: Antonio Brown
Brown’s outspoken persona as has been under the spotlight for a few years now, yet it has never been more prevalent than in the past couple weeks. It’s not like he’s said anything negative, but he sure has said a lot. I guess it helps that the Steelers have finally agreed to trade him, though I bet a handful of NFL teams have grown even wearier of Brown after his latest social media pleas, like saying goodbye to Pittsburgh before they agreed to look for possible suitors.
Ghost Town Award: Le’Veon Bell
In Kanye West’s hit song Ghost Town, the lyrics “I feel kinda free” are repeated over and over again in an excited yet accomplished tone. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything better to describe Bell’s situation, who will finally be a free agent after being franchise tagged the past two offseasons. I’m still 100% sold that Bell will be a New York Jet, though I wonder if the Jets would still want him after he reportedly ballooned up to 260 pounds in his time away from the football field. (My guess is they won’t care.) He was still an elite running back with super receiving skills. Ouch, tough time to be a Steeler.
Cracked Crystal Ball Award: Me
I stumbled onto something cool that I normally do. A year ago, I wrote into my calendar on February 1st, 2019 that the Super Bowl would be the Rams versus the Steelers. I was almost right, but I guess I could only see half of the future. While I’m at it, I figured I’d do the same thing for 2020. My oh-so-early prediction: Rams versus Chiefs.
Trivia Answer: Five
Question: Among the top ten passers in the Alliance of American Football, how many combined NFL games have they played in?
That’s right. Between the ten best quarterbacks in the new league, they have only seen five NFL games. The craziest part is that only two of those ten players have played an actual down in the NFL. Passing leader Garrett Gilbert played one game last season and completed two of three passes while the fifth-place passer, Matt Simms, saw action in four games back between 2013 and 2014. Simms is also the lone quarterback in the AAF to have scored an NFL touchdown when he notched one in 39 pass attempts. This just further proves how inexperienced the players are.
ONE LAST THING
The Alliance of American Football is entering its third week now, and as with previous professional football leagues, it’s garnered a lot of hype. There’s certainly good reason for its early success, but I wonder if it can last, unlike its predecessors. In case you’re unfamiliar with ‘The Alliance,’ I hatched together a pro/con list about the new league:
- Avenue for younger, forgotten players
- Satisfies football-hungry fans in the NFL offseason
- Easy to watch (including live stream on the website)
- Easy to connect with via social media
- Possibilities are endless in terms of coverage, fantasy
- Notable rule differences and penalty leniency
- Run and supported by big names, including former players
- Six teams located in cities without NFL teams
- Backing of big TV networks, like CBS and NFL Network
- Steve Spurrier is back!
- Will still compete with NFL for coverage
- Players have less skill and name recognition
- Sloppier play
- Little success of past secondary football leagues
- History suggests frequent franchise relocation
- Remains to be seen if finances will be an issue
The Deep Route Football Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, fantasy updates, and more. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN or 4for4.com.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.