All of the raw data generated each year at the annual NFL Scouting Combine makes it very much a quantitative event but the numbers are thrown out the window during Saturday’s quarterback’s passing session.
With Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray opting not to compete, all eyes were on the first wave of passers to throw Saturday, a group which included projected first round picks like Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones, as well as the most freakishly gifted athlete of the class, Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson.
Brushing off a disappointing showing in the timed drills earlier in the day (more on this below), Haskins lived up to his billing as NFLDraftScout.com’s top-rated passer, showing off his quick release, easy velocity and consistent accuracy.
Showing a calm that belies the fact that he only started one season at Ohio State, Haskins coolly fired strikes on the early slants and square-ins, firing throws that would have hit his intended targets directly in the chest or head if their hands didn’t catch it.
Haskins showed off his arm by scraping the ceiling on his deep balls, throwing with a high trajectory which allowed his receivers an opportunity to run under his throws.
Lock, my top-rated senior quarterback all year long, was similarly accurate, with the ball zipping out of his hand on time and accurately on underneath routes.
His deep balls had a flatter trajectory but were less accurate, with an early throw down the left sideline taking his intended receiver out of bounds. He was similarly sporadic on the deep post corner routes to the right side.
Jones appeared a little tentative early in the process, guiding the ball on shorter throws rather than uncorking them. This is problematic as Jones is generally reliant on his accuracy and decision-making to be effective and by guiding his passes, it forced his receivers to make several grabs outside of their frame. Further, Jones does not possess as strong of an arm as the afore-mentioned Haskins and Lock (and Murray), which was clearly shown with the 6-5, 221 pounder taking a crow-hop on deeper throws to generate more power on the ball.
Jones’ lack of a power arm is certainly not news to talent evaluators so his ho-hum performance Saturday likely will not have much of an impact on his final grade.
It is unlikely that Jones converted any doubters into believers with his performance during the QB session.
Frankly, two others facing similar concerns about raw arm strength – North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley and Washington’s Jake Browning – enjoyed more consistent performances.
After demonstrating better than expected athleticism (more on this later), Finley’s pillow-soft touch was especially impressive on the deep balls.
From a pure accuracy perspective, Browning was as good as any passer on the field during Saturday’s first quarterback session. He threw the ball confidently and it came off his hand with as much velocity as at any point I’ve seen it during his four years as Washington’s starting quarterback.
A team looking for a quick distributor at quarterback will no doubt be intrigued by the smarts, accuracy and apparently improved arm strength from Browning.
Every scout in the building, however, was no doubt intrigued by the raw upside demonstrated by the rocket-armed Jackson, who literally had to be told by former Carolina Panthers All-Pro wide receiver (and current NFL Network analyst) Steve Smith to ease off the fastballs being throw to the poor pass-catchers during the gauntlet drill also hoping to impress Saturday.
Smith’s comments came after several gifted receivers had Jackson’s missiles slip through their fingers after handling seven other quarterbacks’ softer throws throughout the rest of the drill.
Jackson seemed enamored with showing off his raw arm strength, sacrificing accuracy on underneath throws (like the gauntlet drill) and touch on post-corners to leave vapor trails for the scouts in the stands to hang their laundry.
During the measured portion of the quarterback workouts earlier in the morning, Buffalo’s Jackson was also the easy winner.
The 6-7, 249 pounder was clocked at an unofficial 4.59 seconds on his first attempt at the 40-yard dash, demonstrating a degree of athleticism that could have earning consideration at tight end if he wasn’t such a talented thrower.
That may be the future for Mississippi State’s similarly impressive dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who was clocked at 4.64 seconds at 6-5, 226 pounds and received a request from at least one NFL team to compete in TE drills.
Or Penn State’s Trace McSorley, who clipped Jackson by just two-hundredth of a second to run the fastest of the quarterbacks tested Saturday and is apparently viewed by some as a possible DB convert.
Notable (but not unexpected) times were turned in by Haskins, as well as Lock and Jones.
As expected by most, Haskins proved significantly slower than his peers, registering a pair of 5.0+ times and finishing last among the first batch of quarterbacks to run the 40-yard dash with his best time at 5.04 seconds – significantly slower than Lock (4.69) and Jones (4.81).
Haskins wasn’t just slow in comparison to his peers this year; his time ranks among the slowest in modern league history at the position – something that a team considering investing a first round pick to acquire him will want to fully consider.