Jarrett Stidham, QB, 6-2, 219, 4.72 (40 yards), redshirt junior
Expectations for 2018:
I have evaluated a dozen college quarterbacks thus far for the 2019 NFL Draft, and Oregon's Justin Herbert and Stidham are easily the two most talented and promising passers I've seen.
Stidham entered last season with plenty of expectations, responding by leading Auburn to a 10-win season, including a victory over No. 1 Alabama and an SEC West title. With a full season in the Tigers' offense under his belt, the expectations will be even higher in 2018 -- from fans and NFL scouts.
Auburn loses stud running back Kerryon Johnson (2018 second-round pick of the Detroit Lions), but returns four of Stidham's top targets at wide receiver. Auburn also loses several key pieces from last year's offensive line, most notably Braden Smith, but returns one of the most promising left sides in the SEC with projected left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho and left guard Marquel Harrell.
The up-tempo style of the Auburn offense makes it tough for Stidham to develop his anticipation and touch as a downfield passer, but that is where scouts are hoping to see development in 2018. Improved consistency will be important, but so will his health.
In Auburn's zone-read scheme, Stidham often uses his legs to pick up yards, which means physical hits on his body. He underwent surgery after the 2017 season to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing (left) shoulder.
In my opinion, Stidham made the right decision to return to school, as his timing and efficiency currently match his limited experience. However, his physical traits and developing consistency could make him one of the top quarterbacks on draft boards next spring. He is well-liked by NFL scouts for a lot of the same reasons Mitchell Trubisky went No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
What the 2017 tape says:
Gus Malzahn's quick-read, up-tempo offense allows Stidham to showcase several of his NFL-level traits. He is constantly on the move from zone-read action, boots or draws, which display his quick feet inside and outside the pocket.
When he has green grass in front of him, Stidham is a strong-striding athlete with easy acceleration to take away pursuit angles. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, he accounted for four rushes of 9-plus yards, including a 16-yard fourth-quarter touchdown scamper that gave Auburn a two-possession lead.
Auburn's "hot potato" horizontal passing offense is designed to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly, showcasing Stidham's above-average arm strength to hit receivers in motion before the defense can react.
When asked to drop back from the shotgun and survey the field, there aren't many whole field reads and Stidham eagerly gets rid of the football, not allowing all the routes to develop. However, he easily adds RPMs to throws with his three-quarters delivery to zip strikes. Stidham needs to get better leading his receivers downfield but isn't shy about threading the needle on skinny posts and expiring windows in between levels of the defense.
The quick-strike play-calling creates some bad habits with his base mechanics as Stidham tends to rush his process, which leads to unbalanced throws and inconsistent ball placement. Like most young quarterbacks, he also tends to drop his eyes and focus on the pressure instead of stepping up and resetting.
While pressure can disrupt his process, there is no questioning his toughness as he often lowers his shoulder and finishes as a runner. If anything, Stidham needs to better protect his body and learn not to fight for that extra yard if it doesn't result in a first down or touchdown.
A four-star recruit out of Stephenville (Texas) High School, Stidham had scholarship offers from several blue-blood programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and others. He instead elected to stay close to home, originally committed to Texas Tech before joining Art Briles' budding juggernaut at Baylor (Stephenville is about 90 minutes outside of Waco).
Stidham made three starts as a true freshman 2015, completing 75 of 109 passes (68.8 percent) for 1,265 yards, with a 12-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. After Briles was fired the following spring amid a sexual assault investigation involving his program, Stidham elected to transfer over the summer, spending the 2016 season at McLennan Community College.
Although he didn't play football at McLennan, he was considered the No. 1 junior college quarterback recruit, transferring to Auburn for the 2017 season, where he earned the starting job.
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