3. Daniel Jones (Duke) | 6’5/221 | hand: 9.75
SPARQ percentile: 71.7
Comp: Ryan Tannehill (hat tip: Kyle Crabbs)
People say Drew Lock is the Josh Allen of this class. Not true, Lock can’t bring it on the ground and that’s the most intriguing part of Allen’s game at this time. Daniel Jones is the Josh Allen of this class — minus the bazooka and plus a world-class tutor.
Like Allen, Jones is a big, imposing athlete who can do damage on the ground. And like Allen, Jones underwhelmed statistically and frustrated on the field. Analytically, Jones is the anti-Kyler Murray. His conventional passing numbers give pause, as Hayden Winks has noted. So do Jones’ advanced stats.
Per PFF, Jones ranked No. 20 in adjusted completion % against pressure, No. 25 in adjusted completion % versus the blitz, and No. 35 in average depth of target. But two notes on that: 1) Duke’s supporting talent was quite bad (way worse than Drew Lock had at Missouri, it should be noted); Jones was No. 2 in this class in receiver drop rate, which really hurt his numbers, 2) Duke’s passing system, perhaps in part because of a lack of outside talent, was heavy on quick-hitting short passes.
And to Jones’ credit, he was outstanding in that phase of the game. It’s the part outside of running in his statistical profile where he shines, efficiency in the short game and touch/accuracy that stretches into the intermediate sector. But the difference between Allen and Jones is that Allen’s arm strength was Bunyan-esque, while Jones’ arm is average. Jones’ deep ball game was quite poor in college. It was almost non-existent.
And that’s a problem. But Jones can’t be dismissed because he’s big, athletic, experienced and polished. Credit for that last bit to David Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton and Eli Manning in college. Cutcliffe told the media before Jones had played a game that he was going to be a Round 1 pick.
If that doesn't end up happening... is that because Jones’ supporting cast was so bad that he didn’t have time to throw it deep or the receivers to catch it even if he did? Or is it because Jones is something of an imposter, a good-looking dual-threat pupil of one of college football’s all-time quarterback gurus who doesn’t have the arm talent to succeed in the NFL?
I’m tentatively bullish. I like the popular Tannehill comp. Jones also in some ways reminds me of Derek Carr coming out of Fresno State, in that Carr was a big kid with movement skills who had the arm to push it downfield but was always throwing bubble screens. I have enough examples of relative success stories to project a fair chance of Jones developing into a low-end starter who should be a capable backup even if he doesn’t.
4. Drew Lock (Missouri) | 6’4/228 | hand: 9.0
SPARQ percentile: 79.5
Comp: There's a chance he's a more-likable Jay Cutler… there's a better chance he's Blaine Gabbert
I was tempted to let these tables speak for themselves. I include Mahomes’ table only as a response to the ludicrously misleading Lock/Mahomes comp that you won’t hear me reference again this draft season.
It’s no secret I’ve never been high on Lock. But let’s start with the positives. He’s big, he’s got a gun, and he’s athletic. He plays with the same swagger you picked up on during his Senior Bowl and NFL Combine media hits. Lock is a bombs-away gunslinger who’s more comfortable challenging the deep sector than any quarterback in the class. Safeties need to be concerned not only about the pop-the-top rainbow shots, but also the knock-down-the-bottle carnival fastballs 20 yards down the seam. On any given play, no option is off the table for Lock. He’ll let it fly anywhere.
Lock is a strong athlete, but he’s not a big running threat (437 career rushing yards on 2.2 ypc). He doesn’t have the instincts for it — that’s where the Josh Allen comp fell apart for me. And for all my criticisms of his pocket game, it’s fair to note that Lock never bails on a play. He’s going to buy himself time — effectively — and keep his eyes downfield hoping somebody breaks free.
All that is why the NFL has been dreaming on this kid for the past few years. The issue is that Lock never really developed. He’s basically always been exactly what he is now: A big athletic kid with a bazooka arm and sniper’s scope aimed downfield at all times who sometimes doesn’t realize the enemy has snuck up behind him and sometimes fires at shadows and cats.
Lock shredded bad defenses from the moment he stepped onto campus, the Idahos and UConns and SE Missouri States of the world. And as the years went on, the massacres became bloodier and bloodier, running up his stat line. But time and time again, against above-average competition, Lock was bad. SEC bowl teams with strong edge rushers and athleticism in the secondary defended Lock with ease, speeding up his internal clock while taking away the downfield freebies he feasts on against the Sun Belt and FCS.
Lock has never been the sum of his parts. And I’m going to let you in on the secret as to why: His individual parts are all good, but they don’t work together in harmony. Lock’s throwing arm, like Devon Sawa’s in IDLE HANDS, has a mind of its own. It is not interested in coordinating with his lower half, which hurts his accuracy, particularly when he’s on the move. Think of it like a first date: You can be charming and compelling, but if you have no follow through, you’re never going to score. He’s a chucker, not (yet) a pitcher.
Lock has struggled with pressure throughout his career. He’s the kind of quarterback who forces you to hold your breath with when he’s scrambling — and not in the Brett Favre kind of way. Favre brought every ounce of his arm strength with him out of the pocket, and even though the mechanics were sometimes quirky, his accuracy and touch on the move could be breathtaking.
You love to see Lock keep his eyes up on the move, but he leaves his brain behind — sometimes he won’t see an open swatch of field in front of him, or a leaking running back who is standing inside a 10-yard halo of personal space upfield. Decision-making is a general concern, but let’s fine-tune that a bit: Lock is a great decision-maker when he’s kept clean.
Lock wants you to know how big his arm is and how fearless he is. On every play. That’s to his detriment. But it might be all he knows because it’s all he can do: He’ll go long stretches where there is no touch or nuance to his game, where he’s doing the Josh Allen thing of throwing 100 mph swing passes or driving a ball that whizzes through the air five yards behind his slanting receiver.
If you combined the past two quarterback classes, I would rank Lock QB9. The tools are there, but they never played against top competition. Blame his supporting cast all you like, but do keep in mind he got one year with one of the sport’s best offensive coordinators (when watching his 2017 tape under Josh Heupel watch how many times a TD pass goes to a receiver who was wide open when the ball was released) and played with a small handful of NFL pass-catchers (J’Mon Moore, Emanuel Hall, potential 2020 TE1 Albert Okwuegbunam, et al).
The best case for Lock’s career is a non-sourpuss Jay Cutler. If he busts, you’ve got yourself ... well, hold that thought for a sec. I want to close with a snippet of NFL.com's scouting report.
Strengths: “Prototypical size and excellent speed for the position. … has the arm strength to make all the throws.”
Weaknesses: “Trusts his arm too much and puts the ball in harm's way too often. Does not show good touch on passes over the middle and needs to learn to take a little velocity off certain throws. Late feeling pressure at times which neutralizes his very good mobility.”
Oh, sorry. I didn’t clarify. That wasn’t Lock’s scouting report. It was Blaine Gabbert’s.
5. Will Grier (West Virginia) | 6’2/217 | hand: 9.375
SPARQ percentile: 66.4
Comp: Case Keenum
Comps are hard.
Sometimes we pick a player whose style of play is closest to a given prospect, even if said player has had a much better career than we’re projecting for the prospect. And sometimes — this is my preference — we do comps where we try to bake into the comp a career projection, so that we’re not, for instance, comping a guy like Jarrett Stidham to Derek Carr and misleading the reader to believe we think Stidham will start more than 75 NFL games in his first five seasons. I’m willing to skimp on the style element a bit to look for a comp that gives a more accurate depiction of how I project the prospect’s career to play out.
Once every blue moon, you get a prospect whose style AND career projection match a current NFL player — a perfect comp. Folks, Will Grier is Case Keenum. Case Keenum is Will Grier. Similar skillsets and builds, similar college production coming out of similar systems.
They even had the same coach! Prior to becoming West Virginia’s HC, Dana Holgorsen was OC under our buddy Kevin Sumlin at Houston. Back in the good ol’ days for all three, Sumlin/Holgo/Keenum teamed up for two years to create one of the most efficient and devastating passing offenses in G5 history. Holgo skipped to West Virginia after Keenum’s junior season (in sum, Keenum threw for over 5k yards three times in school!). Keenum graduated and in 2012 entered the NFL, which most unfortunately at that time still fetishized large unathletic white quarterbacks from the South who couldn't throw a ball through a tire 10 yards away.
Keenum went undrafted. Ryan Lindley, BJ Coleman and Chandler Harnish did not. Brandon Weeden was a Round 1 pick, and Ryan Tannehill was a top-10 pick. Keenum ended up having a better career than 1.2 Robert Griffin III.
It took some doing. In 2015, his fourth NFL season, Keenum was considered a fungible journeyman. That turned out to be the last time Keenum didn’t attempt at least 320 passes in a season. That same year, in October 2015, Grier, a star redshirt freshman at Florida who was considered the future face the program, was popped for PED use and suspended for a calendar year.
Grier postulated that this would be a great time to transfer. Holgo now had a shot to turn back the clock. He may have lucked out, as Grier chose West Virginia despite telling the media at the time that Ohio State’s Urban Meyer had recruited him hardest. Grier at Ohio State would have been a sight to behold, and it would have spun Dwayne Haskins’ career into yet another post-Maryland-flip alternate reality. But it would have deprived us of Holgo reenacting his redneck JK Simmons WHIPLASH routine on another Case Keenum. So the universe did everybody a solid by steering Grier down those John Denver old country olds.
Grier became eligible in 2017 and ended up posting a 71/20 TD/INT on better than 65% completions with a YPA near 9.5 over two seasons under Holgo. Keenum put up an 88/26 TD/INT with a completion percentage not far south of 70% but a YPA under 8.5 in 2008-2009 under the same guy in a weaker conference.
Keenum’s game wasn't given just credit coming out. In my opinion, Grier is getting that credit. I find the four guys above him on this list varying degrees of overrated. But I mostly see Round 3 grades on Grier and that’s perfectly reasonable. Grier’s upside isn’t nearly as high — if/when he starts, he’ll be a below-average starter his team is looking to replace — but his floor is absolutely higher than Lock’s. In fact, if I got decent odds on Grier starting more career NFL games than Lock, I’d drop the cash.
And while I thought long and hard about rating Grier over Lock, I in the end couldn't do it for the following reason: If a coach can fix Lock’s processing and composure issues, he’s going to be a solid NFL starter. Whereas Grier figures to blur the good QB2/bad QB1 line like Keenum, existing in that qualitative QB28-44 quagmire.
Grier has an extremely high floor, with one caveat: The only difference between he and Keenum is that at Houston, Holgo stressed efficiency over explosion to Keenum, whereas at West Virginia, with Grier and his fleet of future NFL receivers, he prioritized explosion over efficiency. Grier is more NFL-ready in the sense that he played with and against plenty more NFL players in college. But the quick-hitter Air Raid that Keenum operated at least didn’t imbed drunk swashbuckler bugs that could bite him in the NFL, where he needed to be a game manager.
This is strange to type but it’s true: The most important thing for Will Grier’s career outlook is for him to realize that his destiny isn’t to become an NFL superstar. He must instead be a Ricky Rubio-like point guard, firing passes confidently whenever he sees an open window but never trying to take over a game.
All the tools are there for an NFL game manager metamorphosis: Grier is a rhythm thrower who causes problems when he’s on, a full-field reader with plus accuracy (as long as he isn’t moved off his spot) who’s polished and comfortable in the pocket. He’s also lauded as a great leader. The only way Grier fritters away the most valuable aspect of his evaluation —that he’s an extremely high-floor quarterback amid an awful QB class — is if he thinks he’s Drew Brees and is unwilling to change.