With Indianapolis and the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror for almost everyone, the assorted Pro Day workouts are the next big dates on the draft calendar. However, a few quarterbacks turned in performances over the weekend that might have bolstered their draft stock, likely keeping them on the board for the New York Giants with either that sixth overall selection, or perhaps later into the draft. Here is a quick look back at how the “Big Four” passers rated during their time in Indianapolis, as well as a peek at one quarterback who turned more than a few heads, perhaps playing himself into the Day Two mix.
If you tuned into the Combine expecting to see a dynamic, athletic quarterback run a blazing fast 40-yard dash from Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, you may have been misled. Haskins’ game is not the overly athletic, mobile one but rather that of the refined, prototypical pocket passer who will need to rely on his arm, his footwork and his mind to excel in the NFL. While we did not get a chance to see his mind at work - that was done behind closed doors when meeting with the individual teams - Haskins’ display throwing was in line with his status in the draft. His footwork on his drops and throwing mechanics was much improved from what we saw on film, and he displayed the arm talent, as well as accuracy to all levels, that teams covet in a pocket passer.
Haskins might lack the big ceiling that Kyler Murray provides in this draft, but he could have the higher floor as a passer. In an industry dominated by risk-averse decision makers, that could really help Haskins’ draft stock as we get closer to April.
Speaking of Mr. Murray...
The Oklahoma quarterback decided not to partake in any of the workout drills, and therefore his Pro Day out in Norman, scheduled for March 13, is going to be a “must see” event. However, the most important place for him in Indianapolis was the scale, and he passed that test with flying colors. Murray weighed in at 207 pounds and topped 5’10”, numbers that keep him an outlier in terms of NFL quarterback size but put him squarely in the “Russell Wilson” outlier category, and not the Doug Flutie outlier category.
Of course, those measurements - particularly the weight - led many to immediately assume that 207 would not be his playing weight, and that he simply bulked up to pass this test at the Combine. That might be so, however, continued fears over Murray’s weight gloss over one of the things that he demonstrates on film: His ability to protect himself. Murray does a very good job at sliding and/or stepping out of bounds, sacrificing potential additional yards for avoiding hits.
In all, despite the decision not to workout, this was a good week for Murray. Rumors of him becoming the first overall selection now dominate NFL media. He’ll need a good Pro Day to solidify those rumors, so book your flights to Oklahoma City now.
The University of Missouri product looked to build off a strong Senior Bowl week with another solid performance in Indianapolis, and to a certain extent he completed that task. A big issue to watch with Lock is his footwork and lower body mechanics, as they were very inconsistent while in school. As we saw down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, his lower body mechanics are becoming more and more crisp, and the work he is putting in seems to be paying off. His drops were much improved over his time at Missouri, his weight transfer on throws was consistent, and he did a much better job of involving his hips to generate torque, something that was also missing on film with him.
During the throwing session, you could see his experience on throwing a number of different routes, such as slants in the short game and deeper routes along the boundary in the vertical game. Those are the types of throws and the areas of the field where he has the most experience as a passer. His ability between the numbers and the hashmarks, however, also remains a work in progress. On some deeper routes to the middle of the field, such as posts and digs, those passes were a bit off the mark, and while still catchable, they tended to be behind the target a bit. Something to watch.
Something else to watch will be the discussion of his hand size, which came in right at nine inches. Depending on who you listen to, 9.25 inches is the magical threshold for hand size in the NFL. However, recent quarterbacks such as Jared Goff (nine inches) and Patrick Mahomes (9.25) have had success with smaller hands.
Where this usually shows up is in weather games. Lock’s final regular season game was against the University of Arkansas in a cold rain. I’d invite you to watch that game to alleviate any concerns.
In contrast to Lock, Jones needed to rebound from what was to many a disappointing Senior Bowl week. The Duke University product did that in large part, showing some athleticism during the testing drills and throwing the football much better during the on-the-field drills.
Jones posted a 4.82 40-yard dash, which while not electrifying matches what you can see from him on film. Jones can use his athleticism to escape the pocket and extend plays, and can pick up some decent chunks of yardage on the ground with his legs. Having that element to his game might make him a more desirable option than even Haskins.
Where Jones needs to step up his game to match the ability of some of the other passers in this group is with his ball placement. Outside of the short game, Jones’ ball placement on film was a big question mark. On West Coast type of concepts, he throws with good placement and shows some understanding of leverage and coverage. However, as you get down the field, Jones’ throws lacked the necessary precision and placement. This was not the case on Saturday, as he seemed a more confident passer and was much more accurate.
I still have my reservations about Jones, but if the rumors are true, he seems to be very much in play for the Giants at that sixth overall selection.
Back a few months ago I made the case that there was a quarterback in this class that had some of the abilities of Josh Allen, despite worse passing mechanics. That quarterback was Jackson, and the University of Buffalo product might have won the weekend at the QB position. First he wowed during the testing drills, including posting a 4.59 40-yard dash, a vertical leap of 36.5 inches and a broad jump of 10’ feet, showing you the explosiveness that he displayed on film, such as on a long touchdown run against Army two seasons ago.
Then during the throwing session, Jackson displayed the arm strength that was not only evident on film, but was also showcased down in Mobile. From routes in the short game to more vertical routes down the field, Jackson’s arm is among the best in this class and he has the ability to dial up velocity to all levels of the field. One of the more interesting moments during Saturday’s session was when former wide receiver Steve Smith implored with Jackson to dial down the velocity during the “Gauntlet” drill, so the receivers would have a better chance at catching the ball.
Jackson remains a raw talent, and will need work to fix a lower body issue that has proven fatal for other tall quarterbacks. But if he can correct that front leg of his and work to stop locking it up when he throws, he might be a great value sometime on Day Two of the draft.
Reading the Tea Leaves
Keeping in mind that this is the lying season, when you should not believe any anonymous reporting, it seems that a few moves at the quarterback position are soon to unfold. The first domino to fall seems to be Nick Foles to the Jacksonville Jaguars via free agency. That might not completely preclude Jacksonville from taking a quarterback at seven, but it decreases the odds substantially. The next domino is likely what the Arizona Cardinals decide to do with the first overall selection. Reporting out of Indianapolis has it all but a “done deal” that Murray is going to Arizona with that first pick. Whether that is a negotiating ploy or not remains to be seen, but if the Cardinals do make such a move, Josh Rosen immediately becomes available. I’ve argued already that I’d be willing to trade the sixth overall selection for him, but with Peter King reporting that both Kurt Warner and a “renowned NFL GM” told him that Rosen’s value is just a third round, you would have to think that Dave Gettleman would pick up the phone and inquire.
The other rumor coming out of Indianapolis was that the Giants were interested in Jones. Now, I think he is more of a second round quarterback, so the sixth overall pick is too much in my mind. But if he falls deep into the first round, it might be worth pursuing.