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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: QB KJ Costello

  • The Draft Network
  • February 1, 2021
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PROSPECT SUMMARY – K.J. COSTELLO

K.J. Costello originally starting his career at Stanford. While there, Costello showed to heavily rely on “covered about to be uncovered” throws because blind risks were taken—specifically on vertical one-on-one shots down the field and in the red zone. Balls were lofted in the intermediate and deep areas in hopes of generating explosive plays. Costello displayed full trust in his teammates to come out victorious when giving them chances in 50-50 situations. He's a taller quarterback prospect, but he contains an adequate amount of balance and knee bend in the pocket prior to throws. Weight transfer at the top of drops when operating from under-center or out of the gun is optimal. He's hardly ever caught off-balance or completely falling off of his original platform. Costello has a keen understanding of identifying and locating pressure spots. He's able to pinpoint blitzes and where the weaknesses are located with his hot routes. When pressure spots are leaky, Costello doesn’t panic or drop his eyes to locate it. The opposite was the case after transferring to Mississippi State. His mechanics, confidence, and decision-making faltered while playing in an Air Raid system. 

Costello has the athleticism to side-step and elude the first wave of pressure within the pocket, but he will not be one to heavily rely on escaping the pocket to generate extra opportunities outside the normal structure by outrunning any defenders. He has shown to be capable of escaping open lanes with little bearing pressure. He's consistent with keeping his eyes downfield in hopes of reappearing targets while doing so. Costello has often put his offense/team in unfavorable situations because of mind boggling decisions. Most of his bad throws are made in decaying pockets where the pressure is breathing down his neck. He has shown to be capable of standing in condensed pockets and delivering, but there are a handful of throws that are completely unnecessary. Tidying up those decisions and simply throwing it out of bounds or locating check-downs is an area that is yet to be seen in his development. For unexplained reasons, he relies on becoming a side-arm thrower in order to generate more touch on throws down the field. The unorthodox technique is a trait that’s worked for him, but the mix-and-match of arm angles can become a bit unnecessary and a tendency revealer.

Ideal Role: Developmental No. 3 QB that will need multiple years on the practice squad.

Scheme Fit: West Coast or Erhardt-Perkins offensive system. 

FILM EVALUATION

Written by Jordan Reid

Games watched: LSU (2020), Alabama (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Kentucky (2020), Arkansas (2020)

Best Game Studied: LSU (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Kentucky (2020)

Accuracy: It was a tale of two players for Costello. Pre-Mississippi State, he proved to be a QB that could place the ball in proper locations. Understanding the positioning of defensive backs, he understood how to place the ball away from them for receivers driving back downhill. He set targets up for after the catch opportunities. Fast forward to his time in Starkville, the complete opposite was the case. He was completely scattershot in the pocket and it negatively affect his ball placement.

Decision Making: In a system that places a huge emphasis on decision-making from both the quarterback and the perimeter targets that he’s throwing to, the offense was never on the same page. The only game where they were was against LSU. Outside of that historic performance, it was hard to get a gauge on who was right/wrong in certain situations. As a result, Costello’s decision-making was poor and it took massive amounts of velocity off of his throws. 

Poise: At Stanford, Costello showed to have control in the pocket and wasn’t timid to step up into new avenues and release the ball. There were shades of that at times last season, but tendency to get happy feet and speed up his mental state was evident. Mistakes turned into an avalanche for him and a true snowball effect throughout his final collegiate season.  

Progressions: Playing in a system that thrived against man coverage, he looked in-tune and decisive on where to go with the ball when facing that type of coverage. The same can’t be said against zone coverage where he appeared to usually be a tick slow on where to go with the ball. 

Release: Costello has a smooth wind-up, but loopy release that starts from his belt buckle. Holding the ball much lower than normal is also another variable behind why he had a tendency to be late on exterior throws. While at Mississippi State, he developed a habit of holding the ball low and with one hand. Just prior to releasing the ball, he would “burp the baby” repeatedly, which means he would pat the ball with his off hand just prior to releasing it. This is a signal that triggers his mind to release the ball, but also is a giveaway to defenders of when he’s about to throw it.  

Pocket Manipulation: Costello often did a solid job of climbing vertically within the pocket. Keeping his eyes down the field, he’s consistent with being able to reset his feet and fire, but also making throws off-script on one leg. Working the pocket is one area of his game where he continued to show positive signs.

Arm Strength: An average arm, he has enough to push the ball downfield when he desires, but there’s a clear drop off in the velocity of his throws when attacking outside of the numbers. Rainbow-arcing throws are seen, which is a clear sign of the lack of juice behind them. His best throws come over the middle of the field, which caters to his best traits. Costello thrives off of “trust” throws in which he gives his wideouts chances to win with jump ball types of throws on the perimeter.

Mobility: A borderline average athlete at the position, he has just enough mobility to get out of harm's way. Costello isn’t a QB that will consistently create new opportunities or make defenders miss in tight spaces, but he can get himself out of sacks and pick up the grass that’s afforded to him. 

Leadership: When at Stanford, his leadership qualities were spoken highly of. Transferring to Mississippi State, he quickly won over the staff and his teammates to earn the starting spot. That luster dwindled after the first half of the season as he struggled after the first game. 

Mechanics: There will need to be many alterations to Costello’s game. Starting with how he holds the ball (it is too low). Holding it higher could lead to speeding up his throwing process, which will help him improve on timing-based throws.

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Jordan Reid: 66/100

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