Since the 2001 NFL Draft, there has only been one year (2013) that saw the quarterback position go untouched in the first three picks. Unquestionably the premium position in the NFL today, it has never been safer to assume that at least one quarterback will be gone in the first five picks of the draft, with a strong chance that two come off the board in that range.
The potential 2019 class is currently lacking one thing: any established, consensus order or value amongst the quarterbacks. We’ve got edge pass rushers, interior defensive linemen and offensive tackles that would be first round picks if the draft started today, but the quarterback room hasn’t been this up-in-the-air for a long time.
Each week I’ll be looking at the quarterbacks with potential to be high draft picks in the 2019 class, evaluating where their stock has moved based on their performance the previous week, and highlighting the important upcoming matchups for their evaluation that should be on our radar.
Drew Lock, Missouri
My QB1 going into the season, Lock didn’t have any issues taking apart Tennessee-Martin’s secondary last week. That performance was only going to be a story if he struggled, but now Lock has to buckle down for a tough run of games.
Even at home, Wyoming’s defense will be no gimme, as there are 3-4 NFL prospects amidst that group. Two weeks from now a three-game stretch of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama could be a defining slate of performances from Lock. I’m extremely excited to see how he fares.
Will Grier, WVU
Some of the best throws of Week 1 belonged to Will Grier, who threaded a few needles with excellent velocity and placement. His first touchdown pass of the game was a catch-and-run by the receiver, but Grier hit him in stride with perfect timing, which allowed the YAC score to happen. That’s something Ryan Finley consistently failed to do against James Madison.
Grier also missed several throws that were egregious, including two wide open vertical shots that probably would have scored. His decision-making in scramble mode is head-scratching, and he was definitely at his best from the pocket, although I know that’s not always his style. Grier is toolsy, but inconsistency still plagues his game. His performance against Tennessee will go down as one of his best, however.
Ryan Finley, N.C. State
I watched all Ryan Finley’s throws against James Madison. All it did was make me wonder how in the world he’s getting Round 1 hype. Some mock drafts have him as the first quarterback off the board! Why?
Finley’s throwing motion pushes the ball out of his hands rather than zips it, which makes his arm strength and velocity less than desirable. He can throw with touch and is generally accurate short-intermediate, but last week his ball placement consistently forced his receivers to adjust despite being wide open. He’s also skittish under pressure and will panic in the pocket. Too many concerns for me.
A date with WVU in nine days looms large for Finley. Other than Clemson, that is the only currently-ranked team that N.C. State will play this season.
Sleeper: Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
Ta’amu is small for a quarterback, but he sure looked the part against Texas Tech. Showing marked improvement from last season, Ta’amu displayed excellent touch and ball placement on his deep passes, something this quarterback class lacks almost across the board, at least in terms of consistentcy. He needs to manage the pocket and move through progressions better, but his arm and accuracy stood out last Saturday. A date with Nick Saban’s defense is nine days away.
Also, don’t sleep on Boise State’s Brett Rypien. He went 20-28 for 305 yards and four touchdowns against Troy, and looked good doing it. He might be my favorite sleeper in the 2019 class so far, and back-to-back road dates against Oklahoma State and a tough Wyoming defense in Weeks 3 and 4 should tell us a lot about him.
The Redshirt Juniors
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
Classic Lewerke game. Slow decision-making from the pocket, some ill-advised play under pressure, but some big-time gamer throws from him too. He’s such an untraditional Big 10, pro-style, Michigan State quarterback that watching him makes me laugh.
Lewerke has to find consistency in his game, especially on the deep ball. He has some beauties and some rough ones, and the latter typically come when his mechanics break down. A late night contest against Arizona State on the West Coast will be an interesting one to watch on Saturday, especially after the Spartans struggle to dispatch Utah State last week.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
The broadcast crew for Stidham’s game against Washington last week heralded his early performance, but a lot of his throws were relatively simple. When the pocket was clean and his first read was open, Stidham looked good. When things broke down, well, you know how that goes with him.
Auburn has a snoozer this week in Alabama State, before hosting LSU in nine days for what should be a very important early season showdown. For Stidham, the opportunity to be more of a featured performer in Auburn’s offense against one of the best secondaries in the country is one he needs to take full advantage of.
Sleeper: Deondre Francois, Florida State
Francois started off 8-10 with a dropped touchdown pass on a gorgeous throw against Virginia Tech, but then came crashing down to earth as the game went on. Granted, his protection was poor and his receivers were miserable, but Francois also made some poor decisions, forcing the ball into coverage and getting skittish in the pocket. Still, the flashes were encouraging to see from a player coming off a major injury, and Francois will now get to settle in against a weaker slate of opponents over the next month.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
10-21 with two interceptions against Bowling Green doesn’t look like a great final stat line, but Herbert was plagued by some drops and two tipped balls for turnovers. He also threw five touchdown passes in those ten completions, including a couple of deep ball dimes.
He needs to be better, but the arm strength, velocity and accuracy Herbert shows are extremely enticing. His first big test will come against Stanford at the end of the month, where he can really put Oregon on the map as a contender this season.
Shea Patterson, Michigan
What a disastrous start to the Shea Patterson tenure in Michigan. Granted, the quarterback wasn’t aided by his offensive line or by his head coach, but Patterson made poor decisions under pressure and turned the ball over twice. He only looked comfortable throwing to wide open receivers underneath, and didn’t make many throws down the field or into tight windows.
We won’t see Patterson really tested again until the second week of October against Wisconsin. Although, the way Michigan played last week, he could be in more adverse situations against weaker opponents than we may think.
Nate Stanley, Iowa
I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Stanley’s game against Northern Illinois, but some errant throws and poor decisions definitely contributed to an 11-23, 108-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception performance. Stanley definitely has tools, but he sure didn’t look ready in Week 1.
Iowa State’s defense won’t be easy to overcome on Saturday, nor will Wisconsin’s two weeks from now. Stanley needs to elevate his performance to stay on the map as a legitimate prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Sleeper: McKenzie Milton, UCF
I’m not sure what the NFL’s interest level in a 5-foot-11 (at best) quarterback will be, but Milton can sling it and make plays out of structure. I haven’t studied him enough to know if he’s just a fun college player or has real NFL potential, but he was truly outstanding against UCONN. It’s going to be enjoyable to see how the perception of Milton builds as the season moves on, but it is probably very unlikely he declares early for the draft.
The Redshirt Sophomore
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
This will be Haskins’ section all year long, as he is currently the only redshirt sophomore on our draftable radar. He looked terrific against Oregon State, showing plenty of zip on the ball and the ability to make high degree of difficulty throws to all levels of the field. Oregon State is admittedly a pretty pathetic opponent, so how Haskins fares in two weeks against TCU will tell us a lot more about how far he’s come as a quarterback prospect.