You know, sometimes things just don’t pan out the way you thought they would. For now, that’s the case with this quarterback class, as Jon Ledyard explained earlier this week.
The once promising lineup of Will Grier, Jarrett Stidham, Drew Lock, Ryan Finley, Brett Rypein, Brian Lewerke and Justin Herbert now seems like just a party of one. Hebert is having a very good year out on the West Coast, and, if he declares, he will likely be the first quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. The names around him have all had performances that are noteworthy, and even plays that you can easily see them make at the NFL level, but the difference between Herbert and his peers is that he is consistent, and thus far the rest are anything but.
However, this is football, and knowing that it’s football, we also know that quarterbacks will be coveted come draft time no matter what. With that said, if Herbert is QB1, someone has to be QB2. Whether they’re worth it or not, we’re not going to get just one quarterback in the first round. It’s just not logical to think that will happen.
Someone has to be QB2, and QB2 has a lot of money to make by becoming QB2.
With Herbert at the top, I identified the key game for most of the other major contenders for that QB2 spot, as things stand right now. If each thrives in their game, that will be their best chance to be the second quarterback taken on draft weekend.
Will Grier, WVU
Game: WVU at Texas, November 3rd
Will Grier‘s name is up there with other Heisman contenders around the country, and he could find himself as a Top 3 finalist when it’s all said and done. So what gives? Is over 1,800 yards with 21 touchdowns not enough? Well…
Grier’s highs have never been the problem. It’s never been the ceiling with him. Grier can sling the ball with the best of them anywhere on the field. The problem is he doesn’t do it consistently enough. His six interceptions help tell that tale.
WVU’s game in Austin against the Longhorns is the test I chose for Grier as the one that will carry the most weight. The Mountaineers do play Oklahoma later in the season, but I truly think that the road test against Texas can hold more weight for him, if he puts on a catalyst, mistake-free performance.
If he can toss a few touchdowns, limit the bad throws and get his team a win, that tape will give him a lot of QB2 momentum, even when we look back it in draft season.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Game: Missouri at Alabama, October 13th
Drew Lock, like Grier has the arm to do it all — Lock’s is even better. Velocity and distance are no problem for him, as he can get the ball to places better than most quarterbacks you’ll see in college football, and even a good amount of them in the NFL.
This was suppose to be the year Lock took his big NFL step, as his Tigers were transitioning to a more pro style system. Instead, he has just over 1,400 yards thus far with 11 touchdowns, and four interceptions. What’s even more concerning is that he still can’t get that completion percentage above 60 percent.
Lock and the Tigers travel to Alabama this weekend, and it really may be the last big test where Lock can prove himself against NFL-level talent. He’ll have a long season of SEC games after this weekend, including a game against Florida, but after struggling against Georgia, another less-than-ideal outing against Alabama may seriously hurt his chances of being QB2, even if he steadily improves as the year goes on.
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
Game: Penn State at Michigan State, October 13th
Penn State might not even be Brian Lewerke‘s biggest game for the rest of the season, but the reason I chose it to be the one that means the most to him is because it is this week, and if Lewerke is going to get himself on track to leap past Grier, Lock, Finley or whoever else, he’s going to have to string together a few big games here as the season goes on.
Penn State is where it has to start. So far this season Lewerke has six touchdowns and six interceptions. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, that won’t get it done as a QB2 candidate. Lewerke, who has the ability to throw with touch better than almost every quarterback in this class, just has not taken the next step in terms of mental processing and decision making with the football.
This upcoming game against Penn State needs to be one with multiple touchdowns and no interception with a leadership-driven win. That has to propel him to also play well against Michigan and Ohio State later this season.
If he wants to be QB2, Lewerke has a lot of ground to make up, and it has to start this weekend.
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Game: Big 10 Championship/College Football Playoff
Dwayne Haskins‘ 25 touchdowns to just four interceptions with nearly 2,000 yards already is by far the best stats among this group. However, most of his competition has been lacking while accumulating those numbers.
Haskins has had his worst two QB ratings against the only two ranked teams Ohio State has played thus far. OSU is likely going to remain unbeaten through Big 10 play, so, to me, the biggest tests for Haskins will come in the Big 10 Championship Game (likely against Wisconsin) and then in the College Football Playoff.
It’s there, against the best teams in the country, that we’ll be able to judge whether or not this young redshirt sophomore is mature enough to handle an NFL team next season. He has the arm talent, but where his mind is as a decision maker and mental processor once the competition gets closer to NFL level is what must be measured by the end of this season.
Ryan Finley, N.C. State
Game: N.C. State at Clemson, October 20th
Though I’m not nearly as sold on Ryan Finley even being a Day 2 prospect as some others are, I wanted to be fair and identify where he can make a jump, if it’s going to happen.
The currently undefeated N.C. State Wolfpack travel to Death Valley to face Clemson in a few weeks, and that will surely be the biggest test of the season for Finley. With a defensive line like Clemson’s, we’ll really get to see how Finley operates under pressure, and if he can continue to get the ball to his playmakers. His 10 touchdowns, 1,600 yards and 8.7 yards-per-attempt average are all on pace to be career highs in his final season.
There really won’t be a signature game for N.C. State after Clemson, so Finley will need a good showing to make a big leap.