RSP contributor J Moyer makes his debut with a film review of his top-four quarterbacks in this 2019 NFL Draft class.
There is no draft pick that comes with higher stakes than taking a quarterback in the first round. If you miss, as most teams do, it begins a 3-5 year process of losing football games, cycling through coaches, and throwing good money after bad until it is abundantly clear that the quarterback is the problem. Despite so much being on the line, recent history tells us the NFL is very bad at identifying and developing the first-round quarterback.
Of the 29 signal callers drafted in the first round between 2006 and 2016, just five have appeared in the Super Bowl. One of those (Carson Wentz), did not play in the game as he watched third-rounder Nick Foles bring the Lombardi to Philly. From those eleven draft classes, only Joe Flacco started the big game and won the ring (and he played with a historically good defense at the time). On the other hand, 12 of the 29 are no longer even on an NFL roster.
Despite history telling us that taking a quarterback early may not be a worthwhile endeavor, the excitement and romance of finding a franchise-altering quarterback in the draft push bad teams looking for a quick fix into the water, often over-and-over again. For instance, it is widely believed Arizona will soon spend the first overall pick on Kyler Murray, despite having traded up to draft Josh Rosen at pick 10 just last year. So we can expect teams to continue drafting quarterbacks, and drafting them highly.
Accordingly, here is a primer on my top-four quarterbacks in the 2019 class:
4. Drew Lock, Missouri
Consider Drew Lock the next in a long line of intoxicating bazooka-armed quarterbacks. Because of his golden arm, he’s often compared to Patrick Mahomes. However, Lock is closer to Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. Like these players, Lock can recognize defenses pre-snap, adjust play calls at the line, process defensive changes after the snap and make the daring, highlight-reel throw with decent regularity.
But like Stafford, and especially Cutler, his reliance on arm talent appears to have led to deficiencies in discipline and footwork that he is not athletic enough to overcome. This manifests in blooper-reel mistakes when plays evolve outside of expectation.
If Lock dedicates himself to his craft, with deliberate attention placed on footwork and navigating the pocket, he will minimize his tendency to have things go really wrong when things go wrong.
3. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Murray is a fun prospect. Given his size alone, he’s clearly not your traditional quarterback prospect. Interestingly, a large portion of his draft hype is built on precedent: the recent success of a strong-armed, mobile, creative quarterback with a baseball background (Patrick Mahomes) combined with the flying-colors rookie success of a short quarterback who just so happened to precede him at Oklahoma (Baker Mayfield).
So do these three quarterbacks have more in common than the first letter of their last names? Like Mahomes, Murray has a knack for delivering highlight-reel downfield throws that make you spit out your milk.
These ‘wow’ plays happen frequently enough to justify the excitement. However, Murray is not the next Mahomes or Mayfield. First, much of Murray’s production came while standing in a clean pocket for several seconds. When pressured or forced outside of the pocket, he tends to run. When he does pass in these situations, he lacks the downfield vision, schematic knowledge, and processing to avoid costly mistakes. Even within play design, Murray has a tendency to make 1-2 egregious, pull-your-hair-out reads/throws per game.
Finally, most historically great NFL quarterbacks have success by executing the easy play perfectly, over and over again (e.g. Tom Brady). While Murray can make the difficult look easy, he often makes the easy play difficult. This is a result of inconsistent accuracy in the short passing game, and considerable deficiencies reading, processing and integrating coverage.
Put it all together, and I have real concerns about his conceptual knowledge, processing and ability to consistently execute bread-and-butter plays against NFL defenses. So while he has a very high ceiling based on his athletic talent, he has a startlingly low floor.
2. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Everything I just wrote about Murray is inversely true for Haskins. On the good side, Haskins displays the ability to read defenses pre-snap, execute progressions post-snap and hit open receivers from the pocket, in rhythm even when faced with unexpected post-snap looks. His lightning-quick release pairs well with his pocket skill and compensates somewhat for deficiencies in athleticism.
The fact that he is so adept at post-snap processing with just 14 starts under his belt indicates a mental ceiling on par with several recent Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. However, similar to those Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks (especially the Manning Bros), Haskins is so uncoordinated and unathletic that he can look silly when pushed off his spot or while attempting complex athletic tasks.
While the popular tendency is to value athletic traits with the assumption the mental side will develop, history tells us that quarterbacks who possess advanced on-field integration of mental quarterbacking acumen are the ones who continue to develop these traits successfully in the NFL. This development eventually can compensate for some athletic deficiencies. In Haskins’ case, I believe he has a Peyton Manning-ish ceiling, with a much higher floor than Murray
1. Will Grier, West Virginia
Not a popular choice as even a top-tier quarterback prospect, (other than here at the RSP) Grier is the Goldilocks of this class. In addition to possessing great coordination and natural throwing accuracy, Grier’s best trait is his ability to process the field and make good decisions quickly. He displays excellent footwork and balance within the pocket, with quiet feet and controlled movement, allowing him to buy the split seconds needed to make pinpoint downfield throws when faced with pressure.
Grier is adept at throwing his targets open and will stand in, take a hit, and deliver the correct throw accurately at the correct time.
Grier’s biggest flaw is his relative inability to improvise once outside of structure. He frequently holds the ball too long and takes sacks well outside of the pocket, when he could just throw the ball away. Even when he does try to throw it away, he lacks off-platform arm strength necessary to consistently get the ball out of play.
Overall, his strengths reside in the areas I prioritize most in my quarterback valuations: rapid processing, excellent pocket skill, and downfield accuracy. As a result, he edges out a group of imperfect prospects as the top thrower on my board. And given recent history, the fact that he may fall outside of round 1 can only be a good thing.
J Moyer has seven years of experience as a high school coach. He’s in the process of becoming a general surgeon in northern California. Follow J on Twitter @JMoyerFB and his YouTube Channel, Skill Films.
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