After Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, a handful of quarterbacks are in line to be the third QB selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson is a dark-horse candidate for that honor.
Grayson is very experienced, having started three games as a true freshman for Colorado State before seizing the starting job at the start of his sophomore campaign. That season began with the signal-caller completing 73 of 127 passes for 865 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions over the first four games; however, he suffered a broken collarbone early in the Rams’ Week 5 contest against Air Force and saw action in only one more game before the season ended.
Grayson remained healthy for his entire junior season, leading the Rams to a winning record (7-6) and a victory over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. He completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, setting a number of school records during the season including two against Boise State: single-game total yardage (445) and completions (36).
The Rams surprised in 2014, finishing with a 10-2 record during the regular season. They earned a berth to the Las Vegas Bowl, where they got trounced by the University of Utah. Grayson improved across the board, completing 64.3% of his throws for 4,006 yards and 32 touchdowns with only seven INTs. The quarterback earned Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year honors and first-team All-Conference selection. His yardage total set a new Colorado State single-season record, and ranked fourth in the FBS.
Standing 6’2” and weighing 213 pounds, Grayson is slightly undersized when compared to other pro prospects at the quarterback position. His height and weight places him in the 19th percentile of quarterbacks. However, his hand-size measures 10 inches, in the 73rd percentile among his peers.
Grayson suffered a hamstring injury while training for the 40-yard dash prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, and did not participate in positional drills or any workouts. He was scheduled to partake in Colorado State’s pro day March 11, but bumped the session to March 23 to allow his hamstring additional time to heal.
What He Does Well
Grayson is a very accurate passer, both from the pocket and while on the move. His throws are precise on all routes, including plays along the sidelines and on the vertical. Additionally, he leads his receivers away from coverage and into open areas.
On this first play against San Jose State he throws a deep out route:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayOneVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayOneStill.jpg”]
Off the snap Grayson fakes the jet sweep before reading the coverage. With the Spartans playing Cover 1, the quarterback quickly looks off the post route from the outside receiver and instead finds his slot receiver on the deep out route. Grayson places the ball out in space, deftly leading the WR away from coverage. Anticipating his receiver’s break perfectly, Grayson delivers an accurate throw with a tight spiral.
Next, watch this touchdown throw against Nevada:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayTwoVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayTwoStillOne.jpg”]
The Rams send a running back in motion to the right, setting up an inverted slot. The receiver runs a post route from this formation against the Wolf Pack’s Cover 3, and Grayson places his throw into the confined space between the cornerback and free safety. Quarterbacks face narrow throwing windows on virtually every play in the NFL, and Grayson demonstrates the ability to locate the football with precision.
His accuracy extends to the vertical game, evidenced by this deep ball against San Jose State:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayThreeVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayThreeStill.jpg”]
The Rams use a bunch concept with three receivers to the right: one breaks to the middle, another to the sideline, and the third runs a deep post route. Grayson unleashes the throw from the 6-yard line, landing it in his target’s arms at the Spartans 40-yard line – a 54-yard strike.
Here’s another example of his deep ball accuracy, from CSU’s loss to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayFourVideoFinal.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayFourStill.jpg”]
Grayson uncorks another perfect spiral on the deep post route, leading his target away from coverage. His receiver secures the pass and gains 49 yards before getting dragged to the turf.
Likely because of his experience, Grayson exhibits tremendous poise. He rarely panics, climbs the pocket well, and keeps his eyes downfield while scanning for a potential target. He is athletic, showing mobility to evade pressure and keeping plays alive, and Grayson has the quickness to gain yards with his feet when necessary.
Against Nevada, he does a solid job of avoiding pressure before finding his man on a deep curl route:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayFiveVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayFiveStillOne.jpg”]
The Wolf Pack defensive front collapses the pocket quickly, with speed rushers coming off both edges, while an interior lineman also breaks free from his blocker using a spin move. Grayson climbs the pocket to evade the edge rushers, sidesteps the interior rusher, and delivers a good hard throw to his receiver.
Notice that Grayson has the strength in his upper body to avoid the strip-sack. One of the edge defenders gets his hand on Grayson’s lower right arm, but the quarterback has the football secured – with both hands – to prevent the turnover.
Another example of his pocket maneuvering against San Jose State:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlaySixVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlaySixStillOne.jpg”]
When facing pressure, quarterbacks place themselves in peril when they break diagonally away from the line of scrimmage – and deeper into the pocket. This method plays into the momentum of the defender, who can disengage from the blocker and converge on the passer with ease.
By reaching proper depth on the drop and then only attacking forward, the quarterback arrests a defender’s momentum, forcing him to stop and track back. Grayson climbs the pocket and leaves the edge rusher behind him then turns parallel to the line of scrimmage to survey the secondary before firing a strike along the sideline to one of his receivers, all while throwing on the run.
Throwing on the Run
As the previous play demonstrates, Grayson is a talented passer on the move, keeping his mechanics tight even when his feet are racing underneath him. Here against Nevada, Grayson executes a roll-out following a play-action fake. Pay particular attention to his lead, or left, shoulder in the moments before release:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlaySevenVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlaySevenStillOne.jpg”]
The QB keeps his lead shoulder pointed at the target, which is very solid mechanically. But in the instant before the throw he cranks his lead shoulder inside a touch, generating an extra bit of torque as he rotates his upper body through the throw. This allows him to get increased zip on the pass, producing a strong throw to the sideline for a first down. Throwing while on the run is tough to master, but Grayson displays nearly flawless technique here, compete with an exquisite shoulder turn.
Grayson has only average arm strength, so he generates velocity through a combination of mechanical elements. As we saw on the previous play, he uses his lower body to create power and uses his shoulders well to generate torque. However, there is one negative mechanical aspect that he uses to generate power. Watch this clip to see if you catch it:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightStill.jpg”]
Here are two other quarterbacks from this class for comparison. First, Baylor’s Bryce Petty from the Combine:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightPettyVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightPettyStill.jpg”]
Next is Jameis Winston from the Combine:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightWinstonVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightWinstonStill.jpg”]
Not sure what the difference is? Grayson uses a windup to generate strong throws. Here is an annotated version of that first clip:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightVideoTwo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightStillTwo.jpg”]
Notice how the quarterback brings the football down, around, and then over. This looping windup is somewhat similar to that of a baseball pitcher. In contrast look at the other two quarterbacks, particularly Petty. Winston has a bit of a windup to his throw, but it is much more compact. Petty, however, is pristine with his release. The football barely moves from his right shoulder before the throw.
Here is another example of Grayson’s delivery:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightVideoThree.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayEightStillThree.jpg”]
In each of the throws shown earlier in the article, you will see the same elongated windup delivery on every throw. This could cause problems as he transitions to the next level. First, his release is slow because of the windup, an issue for offenses reliant on precision timing. Second, the football is exposed away from his body for an extended period of time before it starts coming forward. As one editor commented when viewing this footage: “Strip-sack City.”
Like some other quarterback prospects in this class, Grayson tends to stare down his primary target, inviting defenders to jump routes. On this first play with the Rams in the red zone, the quarterback tries to throw a weak-side slant route:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayNineVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayNineStillOne.jpg”]
Grayson takes the snap, locks onto his weak-side WR, and never looks away. All 11 Spartans defenders jump the route. OK, only four defenders are near the throw, but it seems like the entire defense reads this play. Thankfully for Grayson, the underneath defender fails to hold onto the ball and the pigskin falls harmlessly to the turf.
Next, Grayson locks onto a vertical route and the pass only falls incomplete because the defender stumbles after getting into position for the interception:
[jwplayer file=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayTenVideo.mp4″ image=”http://insidethepylon.com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GraysonPlayTenStillOne.jpg”]
Like all young quarterbacks, Grayson needs to eliminate this habit from his passing repertoire.
Kirk Cousins. With his ability to throw on the run, his accuracy on the deep ball, and his tendency to lock on, Grayson is reminiscent of the Washington backup.
Grayson benefits from a weak quarterback class. I believe his ability and skill set merit a fourth-round grade, but would not be surprised if a team likes him enough to select him in the third round.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.