If you swing on over to the quarterback rankings of The Draft Network, you’ll see that we’re quite outside of the NFL consensus. Ryan Finley and Daniel Jones are much lower on our consensus rankings than those of the NFL or other draft outlets; we’ve all been drinking the Justin Herbert juice for a while; Brett Rypien is a strong sleeper that a couple of our guys — me included — really like.
But you’ll also notice that I’m not yet sold on the idea that Dwayne Haskins is the clear cut QB2 behind Herbert. This QB class is often presented as such: It’s Herbert (if he declares), then Haskins (if he declares), then a smattering of uninspiring senior quarterbacks.
I have Will Grier still above Haskins for QB2, and it comes down to what we know conclusively about the two players. Haskins is higher-ceiling; let’s get that straight out of the way. But I have a good understanding of Grier’s strengths and weaknesses as a passer; I know how to build an offense around them. I don’t want to say Grier is polished or complete as a passer, because he isn’t — there is still a rawness to him. But when looking at the body of work, I know I can get an NFL offense out of him.
Haskins, to this point, is still more toolsy than he is anything else. Because he hasn’t been starting for very long, his sample size is small, and there’s variance in his game at every turn: in his handling of the pocket; his mechanics; his consistency on both touch and velocity throws. Haskins is an excellent developmental quarterback, but that game against Purdue clearly indicated that he isn’t yet a top-flight NFL quarterback
Haskins, statistically, is a very successful downfield thrower. But a lot of that has to do with the space generated by the Ohio State spread, which is primarily oriented on stretching your defense horizontally. Haskins doesn’t go downfield often — he left a few plus one-on-one match-ups on the field against the Boilermakers, which is tough to show off of broadcast film. But in person, it was clear.
When you throw downfield, you need to anticipate and lead your receiver. You’re not putting balls on a line in between zone windows, but instead feeling how much space is available and putting air under the ball accordingly. There’s a sense of timing there as well — you have to know when the ball will arrive relative to the receiver. Haskins struggled with this multiple times against Purdue: his anticipation on touch throws seems shaky at best.
Two tight-window throws show out, both from the red zone. The first was a Double-China concept, which manufactures a ton of space at the back pylon by releasing the slot receiver on a long corner route. Haskins has a lot of room to place the football here, but fearful of the sideline, he was short on the throw and even a touch late to trigger, which gave the cornerback time to recover for the PBU.
You can see that Haskins gets a little disoriented in his drop, which disrupts the timing of his release with the route run by his slot receiver. One of my primary concerns with Haskins’ play, as it stands, is a mechanical one: when throwing with touch, he seems to short-arm a lot of his throws, not reaching full extension with his elbow. That lack of extension leads to the power drain issue here, that leaves the ball in the air a bit too long.
Ohio State came back to a similar throw on the field, though the concept was different and the window was smaller. On this throw, Haskins had a greater distance to cover to get into that reduced window, so anticipation was even more necessary for success.
This is a catchable ball, and some blame goes on the receiver for not hauling it in despite the contact. But look at how the receiver has to reach back out from his frame to address the football, because it’s a little shorter than where he expects it to be. If this is simply a landmark issue — Haskins and the receiver disagreed on where the route should have broken — then the mechanical/anticipation concerns aren’t as prevalent here. But because we’ve seen this problem before, we can assume they still had an effect.
The buzzphrase for red zone/end zone throws is “face mask or higher.” NFL teams like to see those balls placed up in the air, so that the receiver has a chance to address them without corners undercutting their routes. (Remember, corners can undercut end zone routes because they don’t have to worry about downfield routes.)
The receiver here has an early step on his opponent — this does not read to the QB as a back-shoulder look, but rather as a back-pylon look. Again, either Haskins mis-read it and threw the route incorrectly, or his touch failed him downfield. You can see from both the sideline and end zone view how Haskins steps hard into the bucket with his lead foot, his body popping up into the air instead of driving forward to add power to this throw. It seems to me again that his mechanical issues got the best of him.
Power drain from poor mechanics
Dwayne Haskins’ mechanics currently remind me a bit of what we saw from Lamar Jackson: they aren’t picture perfect, but he often gets away with it. Both had a lower carriage of their arm-slot — they throw with a release that looks a little ‘side-army.’ And with that comes consistency problems on routine throws.
We have upper and lower body issues here, but they come from the same point of genesis: With a big looping motion as he goes to release the football, Haskins must start his stride earlier than you’d like to see. By the time his lead foot has hit the ground, he has separated his hands and brought the ball halfway through his wind-up. This forces the shoulders to begin turning too early, and generally limits the power that Haskins is recruiting from his lower half.
As such, this throw needs to be all-arm. Already, we’re in a bad spot.
But Haskins has gotten away with this many times in his young career: lower-body timing is off, but he still whips that puppy in there. On this throw, however, you can see the whipping or snapping motion of his lower arm — elbow to wrist — which happens because his elbow comes through at such a low position. His elbow position limits the rotation of his shoulder, which then affects his release point and timing through his elbow and wrist.
This ball pikes into the ground with little velocity behind it because of the restrictions Haskins put on himself.
Purdue had ’em smoked by this point, but this view gives us a better look at Haskins’ arm slot. Do you see how low he keeps his elbow relative to his shoulder, and how loose and non-compact his throwing motion is? If we take this screen shot — a dangerous thing to do — you can see the extent to which Haskins seems to have a bit of a shotput motion.
Even if he’s generally accurate with these mechanics — which I would say is the case — they introduce variance into his throwing motion, and variance creates seemingly inexplicable drops in accuracy. It’s not irregular that redshirt sophomore has these issues — we just need to be aware of them when ballyhooing his draft stock.
Haskins struggled against Purdue as he struggled against Penn State — and even his Minnesota game wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. His performance against TCU was generally solid for a young starter against the Horned Frog defense, but he’s cooled down a bit from a hot start to the season, and his stock should be evaluated accordingly. He’s a rough-edged, growing young signal-caller, and that’s how we should treat him, even in a weaker quarterback class.