Rookie Scouting Portfolio contributor David Igono examines former Idaho quarterback and 2018 NFL Draft prospect Matt Linehan’s game, and he like’s Linehan’s developmental upside.
What’s often forgotten in the build-up to the draft is a simple fact: Not every pick that is made is expected to profoundly impact the organization. Some picks are made to upgrade the roster or at least bring needed competition to a position group. Even at the quarterback position.
One quarterback who was taken later in that 2011 draft who went from a sixth-round afterthought to a fringe franchise quarterback is Tyrod Taylor. Regardless of your opinion on his ability, contribution or future viability the fact is Taylor is still a playmaking NFL contributor.
Quarterbacks that are taken late in the draft or go undrafted usually have flaws that preclude them from being taken sooner. That much is obvious. What is not always visible is how a quarterback prospect fits into an offense that allows him to excel – or at least keep the ship afloat until the starter gets back.
A UDFA, Matt Linehan has noticeable flaws in his game. Arm strength and consistent footwork are among the culprits that weaken his stock.
What I do like about his game is his willingness to fight to stay in the pocket. It may not be pretty but you can sense he has a plan, a method to his madness. He also has a good idea when to turn off “hero mode” and make the simplest play in front of him. He can take calculated risks however his execution is controlled.
Linehan is not what you would characterize as an “exciting” or risky passer. What he does flash is a stunt double’s conviction to nailing a scene on its first take. Linehan doesn’t have the most potent arm although his execution of the ensuing play fake coupled with its ball placement is intriguing. In prescribed doses, Linehan can punish defenses downfield.
Another facet of his game that is encouraging is his ability to get the ball out quickly. Linehan’s footwork is at best inconsistent. He is still able to overcome that at times by knowing where he wants to go with the ball based on processing routes to coverage mismatches. Linehan’s ball placement on the following exposure highlights what a quick thinker can do when given time to operate.
Developmental quarterback prospects tend to have two separate career arcs. The first path is that of a custodian of the offense. They master the playbook and know how to run the offense. Like a school custodian, they have every key to every door on campus. In a pinch, you can call on them to bail you out of an emergency.
The second path is akin to that of a tour guide. Good tour guides are highly skilled at amplifying a predetermined route. They have limited if any knowledge of maximum room occupancies. Their primary duty is to highlight the good and avoid the bad. Quarterbacks in this category are good at getting the ball to the playmakers and getting out of the way. They have limited knowledge of what to do if their first read is taken away.
I’m not sure which path Linehan will follow. He has good decision-making traits but it remains to be seen if his body can catch up to his mind.
For analysis of skill players, get the 2018 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. If you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2018 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 each.