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If you’re new to the 2019 NFL Draft — your team’s season, circling the drain for a few weeks now, has finally gone ‘ker-SPLAT!’ — perhaps you don’t know about Brett Rypien yet. Most national outlets don’t give him much run, preferring the preseason clout and bigger markets of Missouri’s Drew Lock, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, and even NC State’s Ryan Finley. Boise State has a conference championship berth on the line against Utah State this Saturday — potentially Rypien’s final game before entering the NFL — and that game will hardly break a week long inundation on Michigan/Ohio State.

I’m here to tell you that Brett Rypien is good. Good enough to get drafted in the first three rounds. Good enough to potentially fight for a starting job in the NFL. And in a class without elite quarterback talent available, Rypien might be good enough to make some boards as QB1.

Rypien isn’t there yet: on my last rankings, he was QB4 behind Justin Herbert, Will Grier, and Dwayne Haskins. As it stands today, Grier, Haskins, and Rypien are in a closely knotted tier for me, with Herbert still a head above the pack.

Rypien had a rough game against San Diego State early in the season, but as the year has gone on, every time I catch him he seems improved. His tape is marred with some putrid decisions — inexplicable risks/miscalculations for an otherwise highly efficient passer — and he’ll have to account for those to be successful at the NFL. But without any other QBs in this class taking major strides forward, Rypien’s arrow is pointing up as we enter the thick of the Draft cycle. And as we know, anything can happen.

Step 1: Herbert goes back

Nobody in this class has the juice to challenge Herbert for the top spot — not Haskins, Grier, Rypien, Daniel Jones, or some dark horse on the bowl circuit. If he comes out, he’ll be the first QB off the board. I know I said anything can happen, but that feels like a gimme.

It has less to do with Herbert’s actual game and more to do with the nature of his competition: Grier and Rypien are clearly lower-ceiling players, despite the fact that they have more polish than Herbert; Haskins and Jones are players in need of development, like Herbert, but are probably not as far along on that path.

Herbert has enough in his toolkit, and has the promising developmental outlook, to put him in the top spot handily. If Rypien wants to end up there, he’ll be crossing his fingers that the true junior returns to Euguene.

Step 2: Get invited to the Senior Bowl

Let’s call Brett Rypien an absolute shoo-in for the Shrine Game. He’s highly productive, potentially a conference champion player, and was on the Senior Bowl watchlist in the beginning of the season. He checks a lot of the easy, obvious boxes.

Rypien should also be a shoo-in for the Senior Bowl, but from what I’m being told, he isn’t. What with Trace McSorley and Clayton Thorson already invited to the game, we have anywhere from four to six spots left. We all expect that Jarrett Stidham and Drew Lock will receive invites, and I’ve been told that Gardner Minshew II has likely earned himself a spot as well. That leaves potentially one invite left for Will Grier and Ryan Finley, both bigger name guys, before we even get to Rypien.

Even if the Senior Bowl expands the roster to eight, it will likely be to incorporate a player like Daniel Jones, a redshirt junior out of Duke expected to declare and graduate early, and thereby become eligible for the game. Rypien could still be on the outside looking in.

I’ll be upset if that’s the case, as Rypien needs to play with higher-caliber competition more so than a Stidham, Finley, or Lock — those players are relatively well-known commodities to this point. One of the biggest gaps remaining on Rypien’s evaluation is the true needle on his arm strength, as it seems to be improved in 2018. Is it NFL-caliber? I think so, but I’d like to see it in person, first — especially up against the more powerful arms that may be at the Senior Bowl with him.

I acknowledge that other players also have empty boxes that could be checked during Senior Bowl week — but if the NFL is going to knock Rypien for his size/arm strength, it’d be nice if they let him have an opportunity to show it among other Draft-worthy players.

If Rypien doesn’t get that initial invite, he’ll have to attend the Shrine Game, blow competition out of the water, and then wait and hope for a spot to open up. It’s not a terrible bet, but he’s deserving of an initial spot regardless.

Step 3: Rock the Senior Bowl

Obviously, if Rypien is to be QB1, he’ll have to show out in Mobile. I think his performances during 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s will impress easily, as Rypien is an accurate quarterback and excellent reader of coverage. His biggest on-field issue is his panic under pressure instinct, which will be tested more clearly during 11-on-11s and in game scenarios. That’s where the primary focus should be, for those scouts evaluating Rypien.

As I said above, Rypien will have to clear physical thresholds that teams like to see, in order to be considered a potential early-round pick. I believe he will. He doesn’t have a hose, but he has more than enough pop in his arm to hit far hash throws into the boundary; that’s been evidenced on tape.

And finally, in that the “best” QBs there will likely be Grier and Lock, Rypien needs to clearly beat ’em out — simple as that. He should act as if he’s in that caliber of prospect — because he is — and endeavor to make that clear in every head-to-head opportunity he gets.

Step 4: Interview through the roof at the Combine

This will be the last and biggest step for Rypien. As a smaller QB with average mobility and arm strength, Rypien will need to prove to teams that he can beat defenses mentally before he even takes the snap. West Coast coordinators will like Rypien’s ability to beat zone coverage with placement, anticipation, and awareness — but does he have the mind to retain and maximize the playbook?

Rypien is likely a long-term backup in the NFL at worst at this point in his evaluation, but backups can leverage opportunity into starting jobs when they are prepared, good risk managers, and capable of executing the offense without limitation. Even if he’s drafted as a backup, Rypien profiles as a player you can win with, and may present a more attractive option than higher-ceiling, volatile passer above him on the depth chart.

I don’t expect Rypien to be the first quarterback off the board, even if he hits all four steps comfortably. The NFL generally prefers bigger bodies, a better developmental profile, and more mobility than Rypien offers. That won’t change how highly I value him if he hits these benchmarks; it’s just the reality of the league.

For the NFL, however, Rypien can make noise as that “Year 1” type. Herbert, Haskins, Lock — these are buzzy names in part because the physical potential is so high. But if your team is ready-built to win and win now — Jacksonville? Tennessee? Washington? Denver, maybe? — Rypien presents an alternative to the high-ceiling type that will require development. He projects more as a plug-and-play guy, with a risk-averse, on-schedule style of play. He has more ‘polish,’ he’s more ‘pro-ready.’ That should be the niche he tries to fill during the bowl circuit and pre-Draft interview process.

It all starts with a key match-up on Saturday against a staunch Utah State defense. With a strong performance there, Rypien will earn a conference game against a great Fresno State defense he already diced up earlier this year, likely a Top 25 finish, and a good bowl game. Money to be made on Saturday, folks.