Matt Waldman shares his Rookie Scouting Portfolio pre-NFL Draft report of Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch.
4. Paxton Lynch, Memphis (6-7, 244)
If it’s correct that many teams consider Wentz the top quarterback prospect in this class, it’s equally likely that Lynch is seen as the best combination of physical talent and upside. Many in the NFL still begin sucking their thumbs when they see a big, tall quarterback deliver a 63-yard throw to a receiver in stride.
It is an impressive sight. And there’s a lot more to Lynch’s game that makes the Memphis quarterback a potential franchise player. There’s also a lot more to Lynch’s game that needs developmental time and patience. Whereas Carson Wentz earned his spot with a greater range of workable skills, Lynch’s game has more highs and lows.
A tall, strong prospect with an over the shoulder throwing motion, Lynch’s velocity is notable, and he gets rid of the ball fast. His velocity often beats defenders jumping on zone routes. Lynch ran a read-option and outside option gameplan at Memphis. While he sells the read-option exchange with his head, shoulders, and ball extension, he’s miscast in this system.
His skill to run the football is functional, at best. While not a complete stiff, Lynch’s best yardage-gaining technique might be falling forward with his 6’7” frame. I would not be surprised if there was an agreement between Lynch and his Memphis staff that if there was not a big opening to run through he could pack it in early.
Where Lynch earns opportunities under center is in the red zone. Lynch’s movement from the center is more natural and he can threaten the outside just enough to manipulate defenders on the edge with a run-pass threat. He likes to use the pump fake and can deliver a fluid, full-motion pump fake with one hand on the ball, adding a little bit of violence to the motion.
Lynch uses his feet well in the short passing game from the spread where he sets up with good steps and fires from a solid base. He also takes fluid steps in short game to set up the screen.
There’s a hitch to Lynch’s throwing motion when he torques his hips during the release. Despite having excellent arm strength as is, I don’t think Lynch generates the power or accuracy he’s capable of unlocking on some of the power throws that cross the opposite hash or reach the deepest zones of the route tree. Lynch tends to lose velocity on throws from these set stances because his first step is too wide into the throw and he whips the ball over the top of a straight leg.
If Lynch can streamline his release and maximize his power, he could unlock another level of power and accuracy that forces defenses to truly defend the entire field. At this point, Lynch lacks consistent pinpoint accuracy in the rhythm passing game—especially on routes breaking to the sideline or along the perimeter. His patience on rhythm routes also needs improvement. He doesn’t wait long enough and often places the ball into a contested spot.
If ball placement is a function of touch as much as intensity, Lynch has to work on touch throws. I want to see quicker pacing with his drops. Most of his drops come from the from pistol and shotgun and his footwork is slow and deliberate.
I’d like to see Lynch cultivate more anticipation on timing routes. A faster pace with his drops will encourage Lynch to deliver at the top of the receiver’s stem rather than after the receiver has made his break. This should also help Lynch conceptually when delivering the ball to a spot so he’s more accurate with placement. Although Lynch throws catchable passes in the short range of the field, he lacks pinpoint accuracy and this is the area of the field where it’s vital to hit tight windows with precision. He has to reset his feet when he pivots to the next receiver in his progression.
Due to a combination of his height and footwork, Lynch’s passes also have a tendency to sink. Lynch’s placement issues often mean the ball consistently arrives behind the breakpoint of the receiver. I think Lynch tries to shape throws from unbalanced platforms and it leads to inaccurate throws lacking the velocity required for the route. Somewhere during his development, Lynch thinks he has to take something off specific throws and it hurts his accuracy when forced to throw against pressure or on the move.
There are some questionable elements to Lynch’s decision-making. He throws the ball into spaces where his receivers are well-covered and there was time to choose a different target. He’s too aggressive when he locks onto receivers in this fashion. I’d like to see Lynch change plays at the line. Either he isn’t allowed or he doesn’t see opportunities to adjust. I think it’s the former based on his reactions to play calls that don’t work. Lynch left some bigger plays on the field in down and distance situations where more aggressive throws would have been preferable.
When it comes to his progressions, Lynch stares at receivers too long and then misses other receivers breaking open the next zone over. For a player with a gun for an arm, Lynch throws a lot of check-downs because of what he misses on the field.
There are a lot of little things that Lynch has to address, but the arm strength is a shiny bauble for many who covet this aspect of quarterback. When Lynch’s feet synch up well enough to his release, he has the arm to deliver to the opposite hash, hit the deep out from the near hash to the far sideline, and even drive the ball 63 yards as if it were a 35-yard seam route.
Lynch is comfortable rolling left or right, resetting his feet, and delivering the ball with accuracy in the short and deepest reaches of the intermediate zone. Although his accuracy is spotty in every range of the field, he also displays accuracy on throws that are not easy to make: Over the shoulder flat routes where the receiver is breaking right to left from the opposite hash; deep outs and comeback; and crossing routes thrown against the momentum of his body. Lynch’s most accurate routes are patterns breaking back to the quarterback and outside-breaking timing routes.
All of these footwork issues are easier to correct than arm strength. Pocket presence is another positive of Lynch’s game. He is decisive under pressure and understands how to climb and flush from the pocket. When working left, he can set his feet and deliver a high-velocity throw across his body to an open man.
Lynch doesn’t always manage the game at a pace that fits the offense’s field position, but he displays skill to keep the play alive in the red zone. He will find his second or third window to target a receiver in a crowded zone or locate a second or third option. His height and weight help him bounce off hits and escape the pocket.
This won’t happen as much as it did at Memphis but 244 pounds in a 6’7” frame still has its advantages in the NFL. I think most people have it backward when it comes to Lynch and Cardale Jones. The Ohio State quarterback is seen as a developmental project and Lynch is seen as the monster-in-waiting with a quick turnaround of his upside. Both players are close enough in scores that all it will take is a bump in the road—be it a workplace conflict, injury, or issues with work ethic—for the other to develop at a faster rate.
But if I’m betting on one to develop before the other, Jones is my guy because his issues appear to be more about the timing that comes with rapport. He was better conceptually and mechanically as a passer in the most important games a college player can experience. Lynch has many of Jones’ physical skills as a thrower, but his technique has a lot of little flaws and his hesitation on routes despite more on-field experience than Jones.
Lynch’s decision-making flaws as a manager of the game often force the quarterback into actions that are more difficult for him to execute. If he learns to allow his receivers to do more of the work for him, Lynch will be making quicker, easier throws and moving the chains with greater efficiency.
There are too many times where Lynch digs himself a hole and tries to work his way out on the strength of his arm. This won’t work in the NFL and there’s too much going for Lynch’s game to get locked into this mode of game management.
Give him 2-3 years of playing time in small doses and Lynch could fulfill the vast promise he offers as a thrower. If a team throws Lynch into the deep end too early, they’ll learn there’s a difference between a thrower and a quarterback.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Lynch is often considered the No.2 or No.3 quarterback in this class. He’s closer to being the RSP’s No.5 passer than the No.3 guy and closer to No.7 than No.2. Lynch has franchise starter upside with the right amount of patience exhibited by the team that drafts him.
There will be better values on the board and Lynch will likely command a lot of excitement from the crowd of fantasy owners and analysts who fall in love with his physical dimensions and arm strength. If you encounter this scenario and can turn another’s infatuation with arm strength in your favor, do it. If not, there are better values at all three positions.
This analysis of Lynch is only the beginning of what you’ll find every year in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication. For most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available, 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. You can pre-order the 2019 RSP beginning in December.