The College Football season is over and NFL Draft talk is at a premium. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have come out of hibernation, said goodbye to their wives and have set up shop at ESPN HQ. The most discussion involves the quarterbacks. These guys are the players we all know and they do the most exciting things with the ball. Last year we had 5 quarterbacks go in the first round, a feat that’s unlikely to ever happen again; or at least this year.
I’ll start my draft analysis with quarterbacks. This will be the first of a 3 part series going over the following 9 quarterbacks.
Dwayne Haskins (OSU), Daniel Jones (Duke), Will Grier (West Virginia), Drew Lock (Missouri), Ryan Finley (NC State), Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn), Trace McSorley (Penn State), and Clayton Thorson (Northwestern).
Let’s start with 3 later prospects: Jarrett Stidham, Clayton Thorson, and Trace McSorley.
1. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
– 4th year Junior | 6’3″, 215 | 29 career starts
Background: Stidham began his college career at Baylor before transferring to Auburn. Auburn had title hopes when he came to town 2 years ago, but the fit didn’t make sense at the time, and still doesn’t. Stidham came in as a pocket passer, while Head Coach Gus Malzahn prefers mobile quarterbacks, a la Nick Marshall. Stidham has gone 18-9 over 2 seasons with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Pros: There’s a lot of good and bad to go around with this particular prospect. One of the things I have always admired while watching him is the command of the team. Stidham has shown his leadership abilities over the past 2 years in commanding Auburn during some big games. They haven’t always won but he’s shown a lot of poise playing against some top competition. Stidham also possesses a lively arm. In the bowl game, he was showing off his ability to fit the ball into tight windows and make plays down the field.
Cons: The lack of touchdowns over the past 2 seasons (only 31) are a bit concerning, but this is a run-heavy offense. Which leads to another con, he may not know the terminology required to compete in an NFL system. He’ll need some time to develop and start making better decisions. In the bowl game vs Purdue, at the 10:25 mark in the first quarter he does a quick fake handoff and throws an immediate slant. The ball touches the defender’s hand and falls to the ground. Plays like that can swing a game and highlights Stidham’s lack of experience with reading a defense. Last note, he needs to work on his play faking ability. The plays don’t look smooth and I’m not sure the defense is buying any of his fakes.
Final decree: The inconsistencies this year have really hurt him. I like what I think he should be, but the truth is he hasn’t shown it on the field. He should be an intriguing day 2 pick, but needs time to develop and a coordinator who can coach him up.
2. Clayton Thorson
– 5th-year senior | 6′ 4″ 225 | 52 career starts
Background: Thorson has been a 4-year starter for Northwestern winning 35 and losing 17. He’s the face of the Northwestern football program. He tore his ACL in a bowl game at the end of the 2017 season and came back in time to play the entire 2018 season.
Pros: Thorson has been labeled a dual-threat quarterback in the past showing off some above-average athleticism in taking off for a deep run. He’s had multiple 40+ yard TD runs. He has 52 career starts for a power-5 conference and has faced some top-level college competition. There’s a big enough sample size to know he’s not a 1 season fluke. I also love the way the ball flies out of his hands. He throws an immensely catchable ball and can look really smooth doing it. Part of evaluating the quarterback position is having a throwing motion that comes naturally to the player.
Cons: The flip side of knowing he’s not a 1 season fluke, is he hasn’t always shown us the best side of him. Over the past 2 years, he’s thrown 30 touchdowns compared to 26 interceptions. That’s not great. As well, the athleticism might’ve disappeared a little bit too. He ran for 9 touchdowns this year but had his lowest output at -100 yards. The ACL injury concerns me a bit there.
Final Decree: He has an NFL body and the experience to transition, but he hasn’t shown it on the field. He’ll go late if he goes. His last chance will be at the senior bowl to show off the skills that he has.
3. Trace McSorley
– 4th year Senior | 6’0″ 201 | 39 career starts + 1 bowl game to go
Background: You ever see those college players around and think “Wow have they been around for a while?” Trace feels like that guy. He sat his first year and since has been a 3-year starter going 31-8 with 1 bowl game left to play. He has really benefitted from having James Franklin (and Saquon Barkley for 2 years) around to get the offense where it needs to be.
Pros: Trace makes plays on the field. Being an Ohio State fan I have gone against him 3 times over the years. This guy absolutely scares me. He can make plays with his arm and his legs. He burned Ohio State on 25 carries for 175 yards earlier this year and has 29 rushing TD’s over the 3 years. He can also bomb the deep ball and isn’t afraid to take the chances that are needed to stretch the offense. He’s been a scary player to game plan against and that has to mean something. He’s also been quoted as Todd McShay’s favorite late-round prospect.
Cons: He’s really small. He checks in at 6′ and ~200 pounds which is not quarterback size by any means. If he makes the adjustment to the NFL he’ll have to figure out a way to dodge taller defensive lineman. We’ve seen it be done by the likes of Drew Brees but we’ve seen many others fail. I did mention the deep ball earlier in the column, but I did not mention his arm as a weapon. Some of the accuracy numbers he’s posted as concerned me. He had 4 games at 50% or lower this year and is a career 59.5% passer on 1200 attempts. The sample size is quite a bit high to call it an outlier. On his deep balls, you can see the throws don’t come as natural as you’d like either. He really use his full body on deep throws and in the NFL you won’t really have that time.
Final Decree: He’s an intriguing late-day prospect. I’d rank him #1 in our 3 person list here. Sometimes you have to bet on character over pure physique and this could be one of those guys. He’s a proven winner in college, but I don’t expect too much out of him in the NFL.
Thanks for tuning in for the first part of NFL Draft Quarterback reviews. Over the next week, we’ll review Ryan Finley, Drew Lock, and Kyler Murray.