The 2023 quarterback class is going to be interesting to follow over the course of the draft process.
Pretty much everyone is in agreement on the top two quarterbacks in the draft, and even the next two are pretty universally agreed upon. But what about after the top four quarterbacks on the board?
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is an undersized but highly competitive, productive, and athletic quarterback. Thompson-Robinson is a true dual threat who is capable of generating highlight reel plays with his legs and arm, although his high-risk high-reward style of play can also create defensive highlights.
Could Thompson-Robinson catch the eye of a team looking to find a gem outside of the first round in the mold of Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, or Russell Wilson?
Games Played: 49
Passes (completions): 1,359 attempts (860 completions, 63.3 percent)
Yards (YPC): 10,701 (7.9 per attempt)
Yards (YPC): 1,826 (3.9 per carry)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 116 (88 passing, 28 rushing)
Turnovers: 50 (36 interceptions, 14 fumbles)
Games Played: 13
Passes (completions): 382 (266 completions, 69.6 percent)
Yards (YPC): 3,169 (8.3 per attempt)
Yards (YPC): 645 (5.5 per carry)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 39 (27 passing, 12 rushing)
Turnovers: 13 (10 interceptions, 3 fumbles)
Best: Athleticism, arm strength, competitive toughness
Worst: Size, mechanical consistency, over-aggression
Projection: Eventual starting quarterback in a “Spread-Coast” offense
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is an undersized, but highly experienced, competitive, productive, and athletic prospect.
Thompson-Robinson is a long-time starter for UCLA, having played in 49 games since his true freshman year in 2018. Over that span, Thompson-Robinson has thrown for almost eleven thousand yards (10,701) and run for another 1,826 yards with 116 total touchdowns (88 passing, 28 rushing). He normally operates out of the Shotgun or Pistol sets in UCLA’s offense and is able to execute a mix of West Coast, Spread, RPO and Read-Option principles.
Thompson-Robinson is a “twitchy” athlete who plays with a sense of urgency as both a passer and a runner. He has steadily improved over the last three years (the span of tape viewed), and operated the offense crisply in his final season at UCLA. He typically processes the defense quickly and well, showing the ability to anticipate and understand coverages, as well as work through a full read progression after the snap. He also has a good feel for post-snap option reads, and generally distributes the ball correctly on RPO and Read-Option plays.
Thompson-Robinson has good arm talent that should translate well to the NFL level. He generates good torque as a passer and has plenty of velocity to drive a catchable ball down the field, across the field from the far hashmark to outside the opposite numbers, or challenge tight windows in coverage. Thompson-Robinson has big (9 ⅞ inch) hands for a smaller quarterback, which allow him to control the ball well, and he shows the ability to throw with touch and feel, or layer the ball between defenders in the intermediate area of the field. He also has a flexible enough arm to alter his arm angle or throw off-platform. He is routinely able to drive the ball with accuracy while running laterally or on jump-throws.
Thompson-Robinson is an excellent athlete who has impressive quickness, agility, balance, burst and acceleration, and long speed. He is able to use that athletic ability to extend plays, pull the ball down and scramble, or gash the defense as a runner. Thompson-Robinson has great vision, which combined with his athleticism, make him a very difficult quarterback to bring down in space.
He is a very competitive quarterback, with a willingness to hang in the pocket against pressure, challenge tight coverages down the field, or take on contact as a runner. He has also shown improved wisdom and judgment as a runner and passer, sliding or stepping out of bounds to preserve his health or throwing the ball away rather than risk a turnover.
That said, Thompson-Robinson’s competitiveness can also get the better of him. Despite his improved judgment in recent years, he is still willing to put his health at risk as a runner, hang in the pocket longer than is prudent, and attempt throws he probably shouldn’t. That’s a big reason why he also has 50 turnovers (36 interceptions, 14 fumbles lost) in 49 games. Most of those turnovers came earlier in his career, but they are still a concern as he enters the NFL.
Thompson-Robinson can also be prone to “looking through” defenders and attempting passes even when defenders have dropped into coverage and clogged the passing lane.
He also needs continued development in his passing mechanics. Thompson-Robinson has consistent, repeatable mechanics when he is dropping back on time and in rhythm. However, he can also be prone to stopping his feet or taking too long of a stride forward when he isn’t in rhythm, making it difficult for him to transfer his weight as he throws. He can also be prone to not aligning his lower body with his target, compromising his pass placement.
Finally there is the issue of Thompson-Robinson’s size. He will almost certainly be too small for some teams, and his willingness to take on contact in pursuit of a win will likely raise injury concerns.
Overall Grade: 6.9
Dorian Thompson-Robinson projects as a developmental quarterback prospect with starting upside in a system that incorporates Spread and West Coast elements.
Thompson-Robisnon is a fun quarterback to watch. He plays the game with a frenetic urgency and a “never say die” attitude that can lead to some incredibly exciting plays. It can also lead to some frustrating mistakes on his part. He is very athletic and has a truly live arm that allows him to extend plays and make almost any throw on the field. While Chip Kelly’s offense at UCLA featured the usual complement of bubble screens and short RPO throws, there were enough “NFL” throws to prove that he can execute them at the next level.
He’s a very capable runner with the ball in his hands, showing great vision, quickness, acceleration, speed, and anticipation. He does a great job of setting up his blockers, identifying running lanes, and then using his athletic ability to create angles for himself.
Teams will be worried about his size, and his willingness to put his body on the line for the win opens him up to an increased injury risk. That said, it’s also very difficult for defenders to get many opportunities for clean hits when he’s trying to evade them.
Despite all his experience, Thompson-Robinson will still need development at the NFL level and would benefit greatly from a year on the bench with a good quarterbacks coach. He needs to develop more consistent and repeatable mechanics.
That said, if a team is looking for a mid-round quarterback prospect who could develop into a player who you can win because of, not just with, Thompson-Robinson might be that guy. His track record for improvement in college, his athletic ability, arm talent, and competitive toughness all suggest that Thompson-Robinson would make a sound investment.