Last year, after Week 2 of the college football season, Colorado QB Steven Montez had a ton of hype, both for the Heisman race and for the NFL Draft as a redshirt junior. He had rebuilt his body and retooled his approach to the quarterback position. He and Colorado were good, and they were going to stay good for a long time.
The entire coaching staff was fired at the end of the season. College football isn't a cross-country ski, folks, it's the Super-G: tight turns at high speeds. Things get off-track quick.
The new sheriff in town is Mel Tucker, and the new offensive coordinator is Jay Johnson, who came along with him from Georgia. The new offense has more familiar West Coast concepts, and is more willing to allow Montez to work the middle of the field, while still maximizing his arm strength by taking deep shots.
Now, the Heisman hype isn't nearly there for the 1-1 Colorado Buffaloes and their high-octane QB, who's completing 67% of his passes, grabbing just under 10 yards/attempt, and scoring 4 TDs with only 1 INT to boot. Where is the NFL Draft hype?
Well, after the 2018 game against Nebraska, it was through the roof. Montez was getting billed as the next Josh Allen for his physical tools: size, mobility, arm strength. As is often the case, the hype train had quickly steamrolled off the tracks and out of control -- I wrote a piece tempering NFL Draft hype for Montez, who I thought failed to check significant NFL boxes in terms of mental processing, pocket management, and even accuracy.
After the 2019 game against Nebraska -- a three-score comeback that included one of the prettiest overtime-forcing TD throws you'll ever see -- I wanted to check back in on Montez and his NFL draft status.
Again, I was left unimpressed. Montez's pocket presence remains a harrowing issue, as the benefits of his athleticism are entirely lost as the pocket collapses. He fails to feel pressure, either from the front or from the backside, and is regularly accosted by the first rusher as he arrives -- this is much the same as it was in 2018, as you can read in my report from the time:
Skittish as all nothing when there's impeding pressure. Can't stand tall and deliver unless the pocket is clean; regularly fails to get to his hot read briskly as the pocket deteriorates and takes unnecessary sacks.
Last year, Montez took seven sacks against Nebraska; this year, it was only three. But those three came early, and Colorado worked to get the ball out of Montez's hands much quicker in the second half. That said, an NFL quarterback can't avoid pressure indeterminately through the machinations of his offensive designer -- Montez must become better at working the pocket to have an NFL future.
Now, that NFL future is predicated on the idea that Montez's physical tools are rare -- that's why the league is interested. I will say, I think Montez has a special arm in terms of ball velocity. When I say special, I mean it is better than the usual "best arm" we see in an average NFL draft. Montez has a verifiable rocket launcher, which is at its most impressive when he's on the hoof and needs to generate velocity solely with an upper body whip, as you see here.
And again, from the 2018 report:
Can really spin it, with a ton of natural torque in the upper half to drive the ball in the short and intermediate areas...Can release on the move with a ton of velocity and fire across his body with natural arm strength. Ball is a frozen rope.
But again, as I discussed above and as I discussed last year, bad decision making a spotty touch will lead to inaccurate and dangerous passes. It bit Montez in the tail all year in 2018, and its ugly head rears again in 2019.
This is a hole shot that should be expected from a serious NFL Draft contender, yet it is missed poorly by Montez, who fails to anticipate the corner sinking off of the flat route, and leaves this ball shallow relative the wide receiver's route. This miss is especially poor for a player with Montez's arm strength, as he could drive this ball into the tight window had he seen the sinking corner in the first place. But that's the second hurdle -- the first is him actually processing the coverage and how it relates to the route concepts.
Offense was kept painfully plain to account for poor processing. Cannot handle over half of the field and rarely, if ever, throws to a target other than his first read.
So, Steven Montez is much the same as he was to me: a toolsy player who lacks the mental and technical skills of the game necessary to consistently deliver at the quarterback position. While his tools will get him attention for the rest of the year, growth in the areas of mental process, pocket management, and accuracy is what I'll be watching for in the final games of his college career with the Buffaloes.