#1 best-selling author Mark Schofield reveals his list of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft. Schofield, who wrote 17 Drives – a chronicle of the 2015 college football season – has ranked Jacoby Brissett as his 9th ranked prospect. Click here to look at all of his work on the 2016 QB class.
In late September of 2015, NFL scouts descended upon Raleigh, North Carolina to see Jameis Winston in Florida State’s game against North Carolina State, but those scouts likely left town with more notes about his counterpart in the contest. During that game Jacoby Brissett turned in an impressive display during that game, throwing for more than 350 yards and three touchdowns against the Seminoles. Veteran broadcaster Sean McDonough compared the quarterback to both Fran Tarkenton and Ben Roethlisberger during the course of the game, and with Brissett turning in a number of highlight-reel plays in the first half, it was no wonder why. The QB finished the season completing 60% of his passes for 2,606 yards and 23 touchdowns against only five interceptions, and his statistics and junior tape had some evaluators wondering if he would make the leap to the top of this draft class.
Statistically, Brissett took a slight step back his senior year. He completed 60% of his passes for 2,662 yards and 20 touchdowns, with six interceptions on the season. After a hot start against some lower-level competition (and four straight wins), Brissett and the Wolfpack fell back to earth with two-straight conference losses, and NC State finished the season with a 7-6 record – ending the year with a loss to Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl. Brissett was invited to the Senior Bowl, where he was able to put his ability on full display for the bevy of NFL scouts, coaches and evaluators in attendance.
Watching Brissett, one of the first things that stands out is his play strength. It is no surprise why McDonough made that Roethlisberger comparison, as both he and Brissett have the ability to stand tall in the pocket, shrug off potential sacks using pure strength, and keep plays alive. If you want a quick look at his play strength, watch his game against Virginia Tech from 2015, and look for an option play where Hokies defensive end Dadi Nicholas hits Brissett three yards behind the line of scrimmage before the QB then drags the defender downfield for a short gain.
Brissett is not a pure athlete in the mold of a Marcus Mariota, but compares in this department to Winston, as pointed out by Matt Waldman in his 2016 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Brissett is athletic enough to extend plays with his feet or pick up yardage on the ground, but he is not a quarterback you would base a heavily athletic, spread option attack around.
Brissett is well-versed at operating both out of the shotgun and under center, and his footwork on his drops from either starting position is very solid. He can execute precise three- and five-step drops, and can move within the pocket very well, sliding away from defenders and finding room to make a throw. Brissett is adept at keeping his eyes downfield when the pocket is breaking down around him to find a target in the passing game, and he rarely lets his eyes drop. He also can throw very well on the move, and knows how to use his upper body to generate the necessary torque when he is moving to his left.
He is a quarterback with the ability to work through full field progression reads, and pick out the open receiver in the passing game. This, however, comes with a catch, which we will cover in a moment. In addition to working his reads, Brissett has the ability to manipulate second- and third-level defenders with his eyes.
When he does throw the football, arm talent is not an area of concern. Brissett has the arm strength to challenge narrow throwing lanes on every level of the field, and is extremely adept at throwing both the slant route, as well as vertical routes down the field. When throwing the deep ball, Brissett can apply the right amount of touch, and put the football exactly where it needs to be to allow his receiver a chance for a big play.
While Brissett has the ability to extend plays with either athleticism or his pure strength, he needs to improve his willingness to climb the pocket, rather than escape out the back door. He passed up chances to do this during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and perhaps missed out on big plays as a result, as his movement played right into the defenses’ hands.
His accuracy can dip at times, particularly when he is forced to try and reset to throw to a second or third receiver in his progression structure. There are occasions where he leaves himself with too wide a base, and then his release point is off causing the pass to fail to arrive at the desired location.
Brissett can make full-field reads, and there are countless examples of him getting to his third or fourth, and even fifth, read on a given play. But it is a slow and deliberate process at times. This was good enough to compete in the ACC, but he must speed this up in the NFL. Another area that could greatly aid his transition would be the increased ability to deliver throws on time, and with better anticipation. Brissett right now is more of a “see it, throw it” type of passer, lacking the vision to throw receivers open. If he can add this ability to his repertoire, it would greatly improve his chances of reaching his ceiling in the NFL.
Inside Brissett there is a classic, dropback-passer fit for the Coryell system just waiting to be unlocked. With his arm talent and his touch in the vertical passing game, his ability to keep his eyes trained downfield in the pocket and ability to extend plays in the pocket, Brissett is a great fit for that style of play.
Brissett had a strong game against Wake Forest in NC State’s 35-17 victory over the Demon Deacons in 2015. On the Wolfpack’s opening drive, they face a 1st and 10 at their own 41-yard line. The offense empties the backfield with Brissett in the shotgun in a 2X3 alignment with trips to the right. Wake Forest has a 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game, and they employ Cover 3 Mable in the secondary with the slot cornerback matching the route from the middle trips receiver and a linebacker playing man coverage on the slot WR:
Defensive lineman Wendell Dunn (#14) is unblocked off the line of scrimmage and has a free shot at the quarterback:
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Brissett is able to wrestle away from the potential sack before escaping the pocket to his right. After flashing the play strength to remain upright in the face of pressure, he then shows the ability to keep his eyes downfield and find a target, Maurice Trowell (#87), breaking free in the secondary:
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Play strength from a quarterback can mask flaws or breakdowns in a protection scheme. This play is a perfect example. The defense only sends five rushers, but the left tackle, guard, and center block two defenders, allowing Dunn a free shot:
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From this angle, you also see the quarterback tuck the football for a moment as he thinks about running the football. But then he reloads, snaps his eyes downfield (indicated once more by the tell-tale center stripe on the helmet), and finds Trowell running free behind the coverage. This is Brissett at his best, shrugging off pressure and making a big play down the field.
Late 3rd – Early 4th Round
One- to Three-Year Projection
Brissett has an NFL future ahead of him, provided his future team recognizes the skill-set he brings to the table and employs him in an offensive structure that takes advantage of his talents. He is likely someone that will compete for the backup job in his rookie season and likely win it during his second training camp, if he is in the right organization. He should be a top-end #2 quarterback by his third year in the league, and will be competing for the starting job shortly after that.