With the 2018 NFL Draft firmly in the rear view mirror, now is the time for general managers and personnel departments to look forward and to the future. I will re-iterate what I wrote in last years article “teams look ahead at future draft classes, it is important to remember that the scouting department inside NFL team’s scout prospects from the moment they enter the collegiate ranks, not just when they become draft eligible”.
While heading into 2018 I had Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen as consensus top prospects with Baker Mayfield only listed as an “other notable” – who knew a sub 6 foot 1, air raid quarterback would win the Heisman over Saquon Barkley/ Lamar Jackson and go first overall. To read the 2018 edition click here. Below is the prospective 2019 NFL Draft class, some of these might not declare, however, below are the names fans should watch out for over spring practice and throughout the 2018 college football season.
Drew Lock, Missouri (Senior)
Lock had a historic 2017 setting the SEC single regular-season record with 44 touchdown passes. Lock has been Missouri’s starter since mid-way through his freshman year and has racked up 8,695 yards with 54.5% completion percentage. He’s thrown 71 touchdowns and 30 interceptions while adding 262 yards on the ground and 3 further TDs.
Missouri’s offense utilised screens and deep shots, a more complex offense or greater responsibility at the line of scrimmage could further help Lock’s draft stock. Another area for improvement is his accuracy on intermediate throws, decision making and the speed with which he works through his progressions.
Pro comparison: Matthew Stafford
Will Grier, West Virginia (RS Senior)
After red shirting at Florida in 2014, Grier had a turbulent 2015 after going 6-0 as the starting QB he was then handed a year-long suspension in October for taking performance enhancing drugs. The QB eventually transferred to West Virginia and had an impressive junior season playing in 11 games and completing 64.4% of his passes for 3,490 yards, 34TDs to 12 INTs. He also ran 63 times for 122 yards and 2 TDs and led the Mountaineers to 7-4 before missing the final two games due to undergoing surgery on a broken finger.
Grier will likely find his name linked with QB needy teams at the top of the Draft, however, his smaller stature (listed as 6’2, 214lbs) could be a concern for some teams. He has a quick release and looks to get the ball out quickly, rarely progressing beyond his first or second reads although WYU’s offense is more intricate and advanced than others at the collegiate level. Grier has a great feel in the pocket and is athletic enough to extend plays or work free of rushers and still find his target down field. He does not have the same arm strength as others on this list but could be an effective run-and-shoot or west coast QB in the NFL.
Pro comparison: Jimmy Garoppolo
Shea Patterson, Michigan (Junior)
After starting QB Chad Kelly went down, Patterson started three games as a true freshman for Ole Miss in 2016. He was named the full time starter prior to the 2017 season and led the SEC in passing yards before tearing his PCL against LSU. In two seasons, Kelly gained national attention and in 10 starts completed 60.7% of passes for 3,139 yards, 23TDs, 9INTs and an additional TD and 153 yards off 88 rushes. Patterson transferred to Michigan in December 2017 and is immediately eligible to play due to Ole Miss again being banned from competing in Bowl games and changes to NCAA transfer guidelines.
Patterson’s elusiveness and style of play has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson. I believe Patterson’s arm talent, instincts in the pocket, ability to connect with receivers at all times while on the run and his 6’2 frame, project similar to Derek Carr. Patterson should thrive under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and a title contending season could significantly increase his stock ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Pro comparison: Derek Carr (also Russell Wilson)
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (RS Junior)
After playing as a true freshman at Baylor, Stidham transferred to Auburn following the Art Briles scandal. In 2017, his first season with the team, Auburn peaked at no.2 winning the SEC West after impressive wins over Alabama and Georgia before losing the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game. Stidham completed 66.5% of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18TDs and 6 INTs as well as adding 153 yards and 4TDs on the ground off 103 rushes.
Stidham needs to impress in 2018 after an Auburn offense that was heavily run-based in 2017. He is excellent throwing on the run and is well suited to a run-first offense which great touch and timing on deep shots off play action. Stidham is very accurate on quick short throws and could be the best “pure passer” in the country, however, he will need to develop his pocket awareness, progressions, footwork and other areas if he wants to push himself as this years top QB prospect.
Pro comparison: Mitchell Trubisky
Justin Herbert, Oregon (Junior)
Herbet has been highly effective with limited playing time in 2016 and 2017. In his first two seasons he’s thrown for 3,689 yards, 65%+ completion with 34TDs compared to 7 INTs. The hype train has already started heading into 2018 and a strong showing could see Herbet consistently mocked as the no.1 overall pick.
Herbet looks the complete package in terms of arm talent, size and athleticism for the position. Herbet is able to beat good coverage and throw open his receivers on deep shots or towards the sideline. He has the size (6’6, 231lbs) to stand in the pocket and withstand punishment while connecting with targets downfield. He’s an excellent athlete but will need to improve his decision making and ability to progress quickly through his reads if he wants to plant his flag as the no.1 QB in the 2019 draft class.
Pro comparison: Marcus Mariota
- Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (RS Senior) – Thorson is a smaller school guy with excellent traits and an off-the-field track record which every coach will love. He struggles due to a poor supporting cast but is able to make every throw and has athletic upside. While difficult to formulate a comparison, I have him pegged as a slightly smaller UCF Blake Bortles.
- Jacob Eason, Washington (Junior) – Lost the starting Georgia job to Jake Fromm after going down injured in the 2017 season opener. Eason has prototypical size for the position (6’5″, 235lbs school measurements) and performed well in an NFL-ready offense as a freshman.
- Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (RS Senior) – A dual threat QB with similar measurables to Carson Wentz. Fitzgerald needs a big year in 2018 as a passer with the verdict still out on whether he can make it at the NFL level or is the product of a Dan Mullen system that has churned out Alex Smith, Dak Prescott and Tim Tebow.
- Deondre Francois, Florida State (RS Junior) – A Heisman sleeper for 2017, Francois missed the entire season after injuring his patellar tendon in the season opener. Francois flashes the traits GMs look for in a top pick – big arm, upside athleticism and poise in the pocket. A big 2018 could catapult his name up boards and cause him to declare early.
- Ryan Finley, NC State (RS Senior) – Finley’s a big armed, pro-style QB who is effective from the pocket and has desirable size for the position.
- Trace McSorley, Penn State (RS Senior) – Undersized at 6’0″, 195lbs but with huge production of back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons with 73 total TDs. He doesn’t have the arm talent of others in the class but he is accurate and throws with good timing and anticipation down the field.
A WAY TOO EARLY, 2019 QB Big Board #NFLDraft #CFB #NFL:
1. Drew Lock, Missouri
2. Justin Herbet, Oregon
3. Will Grier, West Virginia
4. Shea Patterson, Michigan
5. Jarret Stidham, Auburn
6. Jacob Eason
7. Nick Fitzgerald
8. Ryan Finley
9. Clayton Thorson
10. Deondre Francois pic.twitter.com/i6VB7fb1h7
— Tom Like (@TomLikeNFL) August 7, 2018
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