Two games. 689 passing yards. 73.3 completion percentage. 9.2 yards/attempt. 8 total touchdowns. 1 interception.
I only have one question.
Is that good?
Colorado QB Steven Montez is already hearing the rumbling of ol' Johnny Heisman, having put up stellar numbers against rival Colorado State and high-profile Nebraska to start the season. Thanks to these numbers, the emergence of sophomore WR Laviska Shenault (that boy good), and a fun feature piece from Bruce Feldman of The Athletic focusing on frozen pizzas, the Draft community has started to buzz about Montez.
Montez was one of the Pac-12 quarterbacks covered in our summer player profiles, of course. I was the author of the report, and I did not hold back on my concerns with Montez. The arm, the size, the mobility -- all were evident on the tape. But the weaknesses were too much to ignore -- general accuracy, intermediate work, progression through reads, and finally, processing speed. So much so, that as of his 2017 tape...
Lacks decision-making chops to be considered an NFL prospect at this time.
...I did not consider him draftable.
But after Montez captained a comeback win over the Huskers, I had to see if the strides made into 2018 were really that significant. Many folks out of Colorado lauded his extra tape study, improved accuracy under new QB coach Kurt Roper, and extra reps with WR Juwann Winfree. (They were keeping Shenault a secret.)
Is Montez now a Draft-worthy player? For sure -- just his tools and current development track alone warrant a late-round flier. But is he anything more than a Day 3 gamble at this point? I remain unconvinced. Let's reign in those horses, folks.
Montez's greatest stride has been his improvement hitting the 9 ball. While it was still a throw he had in his arsenal last season, he clearly has repped it to the point that he has a great knack for placement into the boundary -- so much so, that he can make the throw under some pretty averse conditions.
So we can all agree that that's stupid, right? Opposite hash, falling away from the throw, 40 yards vertically, with excellent placement.
It's easy to chalk that up to a prayer -- and it probably was a bit of a Hail Mary, if you will. But Montez proved that he's able to hit that throw under more controlled conditions. It's the money throw for Colorado -- they look for it on third down and in the near red zone, as you see here. Winner winner chicken dinner!
That's as pretty as they come, folks -- you won't hear any argument from me.
It is worth noting, however, that Montez's mechanics on this throw are generally poor -- and across his tape, there are issues abound. Montez is fully leaning back on this throw and transfers no weight at all -- which speaks to his arm talent to drop this thing in the bucket. That release is snappy and the ball jumps off his hand, but without normalized lower body mechanics, we should expect to see accuracy issues and power drain at the edge of his range.
For example, when Montez is looking for added juice on an intermediate throw, his poor lower body mechanics lead to an inaccurate ball. Working the seam route here, Montez doesn't drop or hitch with rhythm, which affects the timing of his throwing process. He doesn't get his hips pointed to his target, and when attempting to drive the ball, his upper body tilts into his plant foot and he slashes across.
That big whipping motion of his upper body affects his arm position when he releases, as well as the timing of his release overall. That ball is low and away, which makes it mighty difficult to catch -- especially in such a tight window.
This ball placement issue is not an irregular occurrence, especially when Montez is trying to attack intermediate windows. Colorado had basically lost this game when Nebraska/the refs gifted them a first down with a personal foul penalty only called because Montez whiffed on a hospital ball across the middle.
Again, because his drops are not timed with the route concepts, Montez's throwing motion does not start in synchrony with his decision to throw. His weight transfer is behind his throw, not ahead of it -- that creates power drain issues and leads to the sailing of the football.
We can say this pretty comfortably: unless he's uncorking the football at full blast, Montez has issues modulating his arm strength and his accuracy accordingly suffers. We've covered two high-velocity throws -- but when Montez looks to throw with touch, he's regularly behind his receivers, which forces more difficult catches and limits YAC opportunities. These are not huge gripes in the grand scheme of things -- but if you'd like to ascend the ranks as a Draft prospect at the quarterback position, these are the details you should hit.
Falling away from the throw, stepping into the bucket, sailing the pass.
If we return to the two high-velocity misses from above, you'll notice something else about those throws: they are not...great decisions. In the first clip: that vertical combination from the two slot receivers to the field puts stress on the deep-half safety. Montez has time to read him -- and time to acknowledge No. 2 Laviska Shenault (that boy good) smoked his man. This throw feels predetermined.
So does the second one -- a middle of the field throw with limited clock despite man coverage to the boundaries. That safety was lurking the whole way -- and Montez has a tendency to miss squatting zone defenders tracing back to 2017 tape.
This Colorado offense runs through bubble screens, tap passes on jet motion, and the quick flat/sit route against off coverage. When they need cash, they work the streak/comeback combo on the boundary -- which makes sense, given Montez's strength throwing into the boundary. (But even then, the lack of successful back-shoulder fade throws on Montez's tape raises my eyebrows.)
The Buffaloes don't throw it over the field with Montez. I don't think he sees the field well enough to be trusted in that regard.
I suppose this is rather the summation of my issues with Montez at this juncture in his young career. He stares down this corner-post route to Winfree, leading #41 (middle of the three deep defenders at the snap) right to the route; he chooses to throw into double coverage regardless, failing to work a second read/extend the play; and he tilts and slashes again in an effort to generate extra velocity, thereby sailing and putting the ball even further into harm's way.
We didn't even get into Montez's seven sacks on Saturday. The brunt of the blame goes to his offensive line, but Montez's slow processing and first-read focus limits his pocket presence and escape instinct.
Credit goes to the Colorado coaching staff. First for their offensive design: they play directly into Montez's strengths, yet are clever enough to remain unpredictable and effective. Second for Montez's development thus far: he is generally more accurate, has a quicker release, and has markedly improved his deep ball.
Montez, a redshirt junior, is a name to star for future interest. If Kurt Roper proves to be as handy with quarterbacks as his mentor, David Cutcliffe, another offseason could help proper Montez to the next level. As it stands, a confident, well-equipped, and supported Montez could indeed continue to make Heisman noise -- but his tape lacks the body of work expected of a future starter in the NFL.