Matt Waldman’s RSP contributor Mark Schofield examines the game of 2020 NFL Draft prospect Cole McDonald, the quarterback from Hawaii.
Draft Season never ends.
The popularity of the National Football League—in particular, the NFL draft—coupled with the growth of coverage, usage of social media and expanding access to recordings of games means that the draft season lacks a finish line. Before Mr. Irrelevant even hangs up the phone with his new employer, watch lists, top ten lists and even “way too early mock drafts” hit the Internet. For the next draft.
I would be lying if I said that I had not looked at some of these pieces. You would be too.
People approach “summer scouting” in different ways. Now I’m not here to tell you to emulate how I approach this part of the calendar, but I am here to share the process that I’ll be undertaking when the weather is warm, to get ready for the season ahead.
Summer is all about baselines and building out a huge watchlist of players. In many instances, I am already a few seasons into studying a player. For example, I just got done watching a few more games of Nate Stanley, the Iowa quarterback, so to date, I’ve already studied six games of his. Three from 2017, and three from 2018. This gives me a good idea of how he has developed over the past few years, as well as a set of baseline expectations entering the upcoming season.
Part of the process for each player includes identifying areas where I want to see growth and development in the year ahead, and for example, with Stanley, I will be looking for faster decision-making, and I will also be curious to see how he handles an offense without Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson.
By means of reference, last summer I studied 40 quarterbacks. Some of whom heard their names called in this draft, others whom, well, you probably haven’t even heard of. But the idea is to cast a very large net and get a feel for a wide swath of players.
One of the best parts is coming across a player you have yet to study, and Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald is one such player. Two individuals whose opinions I value when it comes to scouting, Michael Kist from Bleeding Green Nation and Bryce Rossler from Sports Info Solutions, begged me to watch McDonald, as they spoke very highly of him. So when I was finished watching Iowa and Stanley, I moved to Hawaii film.
With the caveat that it is early in the process, and I am just a few games in, I can tell you that McDonald is definitely someone to have on your watch lists.
WIth the direction that the game is trending, and the traits that he brings to the table, McDonald could make some noise over the next season. He shows solid processing speed, a good mix of aggression and ball security, an understanding of leverage and placement and even some flashes of multiple progression reads. There is growth needed to be sure, but there are some traits to be excited about.
Another area of his game that was evident was growth, and evidence of learning during games or even over the course of a single drive. Playing quarterback at a high level is akin to any other profession, in the sense that you need to be constantly learning, growing and refining your craft. To see a QB learn from a mistake and immediately apply that knowledge is impressive, and is a good sign for that player’s future development. After all, evaluation is in large part a projection business.
These two successive plays against Army show McDonald learning on the fly:
Learning as you play is an impressive skill for a quarterback, and while yes, it is likely that the sideline reminded him of the right reads before play two, McDonald still needed to apply that knowledge to the task in front of him. He does, and it results in a huge play for his offense.
Again, the summer is about baselines and watch lists. It is too early to set evaluations in stone, but in terms of a baseline for Cole McDonald, if he grows from where he is now, some area scouts will be looking for flights over the Pacific come late fall.
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