Mark Schofield examines quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ preseason performance in Washington as it relates to his college tape.
It is human nature to want to be right.
Whether in a relationship, professionally, or just in friendly debates at the local watering hole, when we make a statement or prediction we want to be proven correct in the end. This, as one might expect, certainly carries over to the draft evaluation world. When we spend hours upon hours pouring through film, charting plays, using data, to craft an evaluation of the player we want to be proven right once that prospect enters the NFL.
When it comes to being “right” in the draft evaluation world, some might focus on rankings. However, for many evaluators what they want to see correct is the evaluation itself. The traits they identified in the player that worked, the traits that needed to be developed, the scheme fit analysis, and the bulk of the evaluation.
With that framework in mind, we can turn to Dwayne Haskins.
When working through his evaluation—and by extension the evaluation of Kyler Murray—it seemed that it would come down to a question of process versus results. As I wrote about Murray, with the Oklahoma Sooner you needed to value the results above the process.
Murray was often able to get to a great answer, but his path might not be an expected one or one that always works in the NFL. Conversely, with Haskins, his process always seemed solid, if not spectacular, for a one-year starting quarterback in college, but the results were more often than not mixed.
Take this play against Purdue:
Everything comes together for Haskins on this play. He knows the coverage, he freezes the free safety in the middle of the field using the backside crossing route. The play side cornerback squats in response to the jet motion, and the corner route comes wide open. But he flat out misses the throw.
The process is on point. However, the results are not. He misses an open receiver for what could have been a very big play for Ohio State.
Now let’s look at a play against the Atlanta Falcons in Haskins’ third preseason game:
Similar to the Ohio State example, everything that Haskins does here is great…before the throw.
This is a red-zone concept designed to work that route to the flat open. Haskins knows that in the red zone, space is condensed so everything has to happen faster. As such, he cuts his drop short (notice the shuffle-steps on his drop prior to the throw) and knows exactly where to go with the football.
He just flat misses the throw.
Perhaps poor mechanics are an issue still. If you look at his footwork on this release, his left foot is well left of the target line. He “steps in the bucket” to use the common parlance.
The things we see in college, coming to life in the NFL.
But while Haskins failed to earn the starting job for Washington, he has a potential ace card working for him: His competitive toughness. This was another area that we saw on film with him. Haskins showed both the ability to hang tough in the pocket, as well as the ability to try and fight through adversity and bounce back from mistakes.
We saw that against Penn State when he struggled in the first half and looked like he might get pulled, but battled back in the second half to help lead the Buckeyes to the big road victory. We even saw it in the Purdue game. This was another road contest where Ohio State trailed throughout on the road and ended up losing, but there he was in the fourth quarter, still battling:
This comes on a fourth and five play late in the game, with the Buckeyes trailing by 22. As you can see, Haskins adjusts the protection and slides the tight end into a wing to help in pass protection, anticipating a blitz. The blitz does not come, but Haskins still throws a rope on a quick post route for six:
We are also seeing that play out in the NFL too.
In his first NFL action against the Cleveland Browns, Haskins struggled. He threw two interceptions, including this on a wheel route to the running back out of the backfield:
Once more, Haskins and his process are ideal, but he makes a mistake with the throw. He fails to put enough loft on this to get it over the linebacker, and the pass is intercepted.
Fast forward to the Atlanta game. Haskins misses that throw on third and goal in the red zone. What does he do on his next passing attempt?
Here Haskins shows great placement and a great read on this vertical route along the right side. To make this throw – especially after the miss he had on the previous drive shows both mental toughness as well as the potential he brings to the Washington roster. Plus, it comes on a similar route to the wheel route against Cleveland. Here, there is both loft and precision placement. Signs that he has learned from the previous mistake.
Haskins is far from a finished product. But what we are seeing from him in the NFL are traits and abilities that we saw from him at Ohio State. In the end of his time in Columbus, he transformed himself into a first-round prospect thanks to his mental acumen for the position and his competitive toughness. While the early returns have been mixed, what we are seeing so far puts him on a similar track in the NFL.
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