Mark Schofield debuts his 11 Personnel column at Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio with 11 thoughts on player fits from the 2019 NFL Draft.
With the 2019 NFL Draft behind us, it is time to try some new things.
That is exactly what I am doing now with this debut of 11 Personnel, a column that I’ll bring around from time to time where I work through 11 different thoughts or items of consequence. In this post-draft edition, I’ll talk about some potential quarterback fits that have me excited, a fit that has me nervous, address a big elephant in the room and yes, talk about the 2020 class.
Let’s start with some fits that I like.
1. Arizona and Kyler Murray – In the final hours before the draft, it seemed like the Cardinals might be moving away from this, but in the end, Arizona drafted the Oklahoma quarterback. Honestly, it might be the perfect marriage of player and scheme, with Murray serving as the triggerman for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread, Air Raid influenced offense. The name of the game in today’s NFL is maximizing the rookie quarterback contract window, and more and more teams are turning to college concepts to get their young quarterbacks on the field early and playing at a competent level. Pairing Murray with Kingsbury would be an ideal situation for the young QB, placing him in a familiar offense as he starts his career. In such a setting Murray could produce very early as a rookie. Beyond this, the Cardinals acquired a number of new receivers for Murray, so it does look like the organization is striving to immediately build around their new quarterback.
2. Washington and Dwayne Haskins – I really like the way Washington worked for their board. Despite rumors of the organization trading up into the top five to select a quarterback, and in the face of reports that there were clashes within the building over Haskins and Daniel Jones, they stayed pat at 15 and selected the Ohio State quarterback. (Then they traded back into the first round and took advantage of Montez Sweat’s fall. Finally, they added some interesting receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon. A pretty impressive draft by Washington).
In Haskins, Jay Gruden is getting a smart quarterback who handles the process extremely well. He is active in the pre-snap phase of plays, all on his own, and he can work quickly through reads and challenge defenses to all levels of the field. Gruden has previously chastised his quarterbacks for failing to be aggressive downfield, and if you watched Washington’s offense last season when Colt McCoy and Josh Johnson were taking snaps, the route combinations stayed aggressive. Haskins is a good fit in such a system.
3. Denver and Drew Lock – Similar to Washington, credit to John Elway for working for his board. Long rumored to be in the mix for Drew Lock with the tenth overall selection, Elway instead traded out of that spot and later in the first round selected Noah Fant, the talented tight end from Iowa. Then, with back-to-back picks in the second round, he added Dalton Risner, an offensive lineman from Kansas State, and Lock. Picking a quarterback that you were rumored to draft at ten in the 42nd spot of the draft is called “working your board.”
In Lock, the Broncos get a quarterback who can throw on the move and is athletic enough to operate the boot action designs we expect to see out of the Denver offensive. They also get a quarterback with a powerful arm who, with some refinement, can truly tap into what he can do as a passer. With Joe Flacco in place, Lock has a chance to clean up his mechanics, get more consistency in his ball placement, and develop nicely.
Of course, there’s another new Broncos quarterback we’ll have to talk about…
4. New York and Daniel Jones – This was the selection that left many stunned, myself included. But let’s try and put this in the best light possible.
Every draft season you come across a statistic that just floors you. This year Jones was a part of that phenomenon for me, and it was this number: 72.6. According to Bryce Rossler from Sports Information Solutions, Jones “was primarily asked to execute 0/1-step drops, RPOs, screens, and rollouts, concepts that generally indicate simpler, or even singular, reads. He did so on a whopping 72.6% of his dropbacks, the eighth-highest rate among 164 quarterbacks who dropped back 100+ times in 2018. To give you an idea of how that might translate to the NFL, Nick Foles had the highest rate of 43 NFL quarterbacks at 58.3%. Only two other quarterbacks did so at a rate above 50%, and the average rate among quarterbacks who dropped back at least 100 times was 33.8%.”
What do you do with that in the NFL?
I do think there is an offense that makes sense for Jones, and it is with a Gruden. But Jon, not Jay. Jon’s traditional West Coast system would be the best kind of landing spot for Jones. Absent Jones landing with the Oakland Raiders, the Giants might be the next best fit for him. If Pat Shurmur is going in on a more traditional West Coast offense (and acquisitions of players like Golden Tate would lead one to believe that is indeed the case) then this could work. While many were ripping Dave Gettleman for the pick (again, myself included) he is not lying when he declares that other teams had Jones as the top quarterback on their board. Now, they need to handle him the right way. An offense geared towards what he does best, in the short areas of the field, is a start.
5. Los Angeles and Easton Stick – Stick does some nice things as a passer. If you are looking for a quarterback who can run a “pro-style offense,” and who can deliver on those ‘back to the defense” play-action types of plays, Stick might be your late-round guy. He is very adept at throwing seam routes to slot receivers, a staple of many offenses, including New England’s. Landing in Los Angeles in a system that utilizes a lot of West Coast concepts, while also giving the quarterback some chances to push the ball downfield, is ideal for his skill set.
6. Jacksonville and Gardner Minshew – Minshew was one of the more enjoyable evaluations I had during this draft process. When I finally got the chance to study his Washington State tape, I truly appreciated his process in the pocket, his footwork as he worked through reads, and his decision making in Mike Leach’s offensive system. Plus, getting the chance to talk to him down at the Senior Bowl and seeing how he approached the game, hearing him elaborate on how Air Raid offenses truly train quarterbacks and seeing a bit of a chip on his shoulder gave me the impression he would find a way to stick in the NFL.
I thought he would be an ideal fit for Philadelphia (more on them in a moment) but the next best thing is playing for one of their former coaches. With John DeFilippo headed to the Jaguars as their new offensive coordinator, you can expect to see a lot of Air Raid concepts and RPO designs with their new quarterback Nick Foles, who DeFilippo coached in Philadelphia. That kind of system is perfect for Minshew, and he’ll be the backup quarterback in Jacksonville sooner than you think…
7. New England and Jarrett Stidham – The Gods smiled upon me during the final day of the draft when the Patriots (a team I root for a cover on both a daily podcast and for SB Nation) selected Stidham, a quarterback who I got to talk to down at the Senior Bowl. You can see a nice little photo of me and the new Patriots on my Twitter header if you were so inclined…
I had described Stidham previously on this website as the draft’s biggest enigma, comparing him to Podrick Payne on Game of Thrones. While that is still an apt comparison in my mind, Stidham does bring to the table some of the traits the Patriots value in a quarterback. Manipulation, short area accuracy, timing, and rhythm throws, and the ability to handle the blitz. He will get a chance to sit and learn, but he also gives Josh McDaniels the opportunity to groom his potential heir apparent.
8. Baltimore and Trace McSorley – Trace McSorley is a quarterback that did not get me too excited in the draft, but there were some potential fits that would give him a path to becoming a backup quarterback early in his career. Baltimore is one such fit.
When you look at the offense the Ravens implemented last year with Lamar Jackson, you can see how McSorley can step in and execute these designs. A spread-based, RPO heavy system that is tailored to an athletic quarterback gives McSorley the chance to run an offense that he was basically leading last season. McSorley is at his best executing quick reads and RPO designs and using his athleticism to extend plays and challenge defenses. In addition, John Harbaugh already indicated that he will get chances to contribute on special teams and in other roles, similar to Taysom Hill. The more he can do, the more opportunities he will have to stick with the Ravens.
Now let’s talk about one fit that has me nervous.
9. Philadelphia and Clayton Thorson – I was not high on Thorson, to begin with, but I knew before the Senior Bowl that the NFL would not share my opinion on him. With Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, stating that the league viewed Thorson as a “third round pick” it was clear that the NFL would be higher on the Northwestern QB than I was.
That being said, I am not sure about this fit in Philadelphia. I think the Eagles had a better option in Minshew, for the reasons previously outlined, yet with the Washington State QB still on the board Philadelphia went with Thorson. The Eagles’ offense incorporates a number of concepts that stress quick reads and decision making, and that is not a strength of Thorson’s right now. Thankfully for him, with Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld in place, Thorson will get a chance to learn and develop behind these two quarterbacks. In time he may grow into the offense, but at first blush, I’m a bit skeptical.
Let’s close this out with some thoughts on the elephant in the room, as well as some very preliminary thoughts on the 2020 quarterback class.
10. The Rypien Elephant – Anyone who read my work last season or listened to any of my radio or podcast appearances knows how I viewed Brett Rypien, the Boise State quarterback. He was my fourth quarterback this year, ahead of a large number of players who heard their names called. Rypien, however, was left to sign with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent.
At the outset, Rypien was given a pretty decent contract for a UDFA, and with the Broncos immediately cutting Garrett Greyson from the roster, that would indicate that the organization has some hopes for Rypien sticking on the roster. So there is still a chance in front of him. However, with Denver drafting Lock in the second round, absent Rypien truly living up to my pre-draft expectations it is likely a second contract for him comes with another organization, should he get there.
But the bigger question is what happened. Was this a miss on my part and if so, how did I miss? Time will tell, I revisit my draft rankings every two years to give players time to truly start their careers, but right now it seems like I was wildly off. Perhaps my emphasis on the little things and the mental approach is a flawed approach given how teams are using quarterbacks these days. Perhaps I need to give size thresholds more consideration, as Rypien checked in with nine-inch hands and faced some concerns about his overall build (although I would note Lock has the same hand size). Perhaps his lack of athleticism and inability to escape pressure was a concern for teams.
Perhaps there was some hubris on my part.
Eventually, Rypien will chart his course in the NFL, and in the not-too-distant future we’ll get a chance to revisit pre-draft rankings of him, but right now I think a combination of the above factors led to my being too high on him.
11. Some “way too early” Thoughts on the 2020 Class – Development is not linear. I have often said this. However, as my work on the 2020 class has already begun it is worth chiming in on what many expect to be a talented class. You know the names at the top: Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailova, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and Jalen Hurts. Some other names will likely be familiar, such as Nate Stanley, Shea Patterson, and K.J. Costello. A player like Brian Lewerke could rebound from what was a difficult 2018 season. But there are other quarterbacks to watch, such as Cole McDonald from Hawaii, Jordan Love from Utah State and D’Eriq King from Houston, who gets a chance to play for Dana Holgorsen in the year ahead. Then there is McKenzie Milton, who if healthy is another electric quarterback with the skill set perfect for where the league is heading. Whether he is back for 2019 or sits out until 2020 remains to be seen. We also cannot leave out Steven Montez from Colorado, Joe Burrow at LSU, and Jake Bentley at South Carolina.
The fact is, there is a lot of potential with this group.
A lot can change between now and the 2020 NFL draft, but if you are putting together a quarterback watch list, these are some names to start with.
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