In a few days, the football world descends upon the Alabama gulf coast. While the seafood and nightlife that Mobile has to offer are wonderful, those who make the trip are looking to find the next gem in the upcoming NFL draft class. The quarterbacks heading to the Senior Bowl comprise an interesting group, and while it lacks the star power that a player like Deshaun Watson may have provided, there are a few signal callers here that can expect to hear their names called during the draft, perhaps as early as Day 2.
C.J. Beathard – Iowa – 6’2” 215
Beathard is an experienced starter, with two seasons at the helm for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He led the team to a berth in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game, but the Hawkeyes faltered a bit this season and suffered a blowout loss to Florida in the Citrus Bowl. Beathard is a generally accurate passer, both when throwing from the pocket and when on the move. His experience operating under center might lead some to believe that he is ready to work in a pro system, but it really only gives him a bit of an advantage when it comes to learning the footwork on drops from center. The concepts Beathard ran at Iowa are very similar to those run at other schools and by other quarterbacks in the draft. In addition, Beathard will have an advantage learning to read defense from under center, as the viewing angle from that position is much different, and more difficult, than when in the shotgun. Footwork is an area where Beathard is generally solid, although he does lapse at times. He has demonstrated the ability to work through progressions, but an area to watch is his processing speed and his tendency to pull the ball down and not risk throws or challenge throwing windows.
ITP Resources: C.J. Beathard and Patience, Placement and Leverage:
Sefo Liufau – Colorado – 6’3” 230
Liufau is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in this group, having started 39 games since setting foot on the campus in Boulder four years ago. He started seven games as a true freshman, becoming just the tenth QB in Colorado history to start as a freshman quarterback in school history. Liufau is a very tough and athletic quarterback, and he’s not afraid to stay in the pocket in the face of pressure and adapt his arm angle or body to create enough space to deliver a throw. Heading into Senior Bowl week, look for some refined mechanics, as well as some more consistency in ball placement from Liufau. Additionally, Liufau needs to show he can work through the more complex progression reads that the professional game might put on his plate.
ITP Resources: Sefo Liufau Under Duress
Nate Peterman – Pittsburgh – 6’2” 225
After transferring from the University of Tennessee, Nate Peterman found a home in Pittsburgh. He started the last two seasons for the Panthers, and put up some solid numbers in the ACC. Peterman is an accurate passer, who seemingly has the arm strength to challenge most throwing windows that the NFL has to offer. There are also times when Peterman shows good anticipation as well as aggression, making some risky throws and showing a good understanding of both coverage schemes and route concepts. One question that I have at this point is whether Peterman can maintain that level of aggression on a consistent basis, because there are times on his tape when he seems to be almost too conservative with his decisions and placement of the football. Despite this, Peterman is one of the QBs I think has the best chance to make some noise down in Mobile.
ITP Resources: Nathan Peterman and Aggression
Josh Dobbs – Tennessee – 6’3” 210
The reason the aforementioned Peterman left Knoxville? Josh Dobbs. The Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering major started 35 games for the Volunteers while in school, including four starts as a freshman, making him only the eighth freshman in school history to start at that position. Dobbs is a very athletic quarterback, dangerous with both his arm and his legs. In addition, he has a pretty solid understanding of coverage schemes and route concepts, and has displayed the ability to work through progressions, make full-field reads and make some good decisions with the football. He has also shown the ability to throw routes on time within the flow of a play, as well as the ability to make anticipation throws. But there are times when his decision making is flawed, and these instances often pop up when he faces pressure. He’ll be paired with Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson during the week, and that relationship might bear some fruit, as Dobbs could fit in well with Cleveland’s passing concepts.
ITP Resources: Joshua Dobbs and Decision-Making
Antonio Pipkin – Tiffin University – 6’2” 208
Aside from Watson, no invitation to Mobile was met with more excitement than the announcement of the invitation to Pipkin. A standout for Division II Tiffin University, Pipkin took over as the starting quarterback for the Dragons very early in his freshman season and never looked back. On his tape, Pipkin looks every bit the part of a pro prospect. He shows good feel for the pocket, an understanding of blocking concepts as well as coverage and route schemes, and has the arm strength to win at the Division II level. Pipkin is also an athletic football player, who can make defenders miss both in the pocket and down the field. The biggest question mark facing him is whether his ability can translate to a higher level of competition. Will his processing ability adapt to the faster pace of play he’ll see down in Mobile? In addition, while his arm looked more than sufficient against Division II competition, does he have the velocity to challenge the tighter throwing lanes he’ll see in Mobile…and beyond? This is a great opportunity for Pipkin to answer these questions with a strong week of practices, setting him up for a rise up draft boards.
ITP Resources: Antonio Pipkin and Feel
Davis Webb – California – 6’3” 227
Webb is the type of quarterback that some teams could rate very highly if they utilize a vertical passing game. He was the starter at Texas Tech for a season before the Red Raiders turned the offense over to Pat Mahomes II, so the signal-caller headed west to finish his collegiate career at Cal. Webb operated in a Air Raid-based passing system at both schools, but was at his best when pushing the football down the field on vertical routes. Of all the quarterback in this class, whether headed to the Senior Bowl or not, Webb might throw the best go route of the bunch. But he’ll need to address the other routes in the passing tree with some consistency, as well as shoring up his processing and decision-making, to truly make a splash down in Mobile.
ITP Resources: Davis Webb and Decision-Making
Two quarterbacks are traveling to Mobile after accepting invitations, but will not be participating due to injuries. For both players, the trip makes sense given that the concerns teams may harbor about them can be addressed in the meeting room or on the whiteboard.
Chad Kelly – Mississippi – 6’2” 224
A gunslinger at heart, Kelly led Mississippi to the Sugar Bowl as a junior, operating in a fast-paced spread offense. That junior year included a win over Alabama in the regular season, which propelled Mississippi close to the top of the polls for a short period of time. Kelly’s senior year was marred by injury, as he suffered a right knee injury that ended his season, the second time he tore the ACL in that knee. He certainly has the arm strength to play at the next level, and as a QB in the gunslinger mold, there are few throwing windows he is afraid to challenge. Despite the offensive system, Kelly was tasked with making a number of decision both pre- and post-snap, and shows a good understanding of defensive alignment, coverage schemes and defensive leverage. His tendency to take risks on the field is an issue he’ll have to address, but his off the field behavior might be his biggest hurdle. He was dismissed from Clemson, and this season he was caught on film storming the field during one of his brother’s high school football games. Given his injury and off-the-field concerns, Kelly’s best path to the NFL might run through both the meeting rooms in Mobile, as well as the medical examination rooms.
ITP Resources: Quick Kicks Podcast – The Gunslinger Mentality
Seth Russell – Baylor – 6’3” 220
Russell in many ways fits the mold of a starting quarterback in the NFL. Over his two seasons at Baylor he displayed the arm strength, processing speed, athletic ability and deep accuracy that teams covet in a quarterback. But the Baylor product enters Senior Bowl week with some red flags. First on the medical side, his junior year was cut short with a broken bone in his neck. Russell recovered from that injury to be ready to start Week 1 of his senior year, but suffered a rough-looking ankle dislocation that ended his season and his collegiate career in November of 2016. The on-the-field concern stems from the offensive style of play. Baylor runs a very simplified spread attack, which doesn’t require Russell to make a lot of progression reads in the style that we typically associate with the professional game. Their offense does require him to make decisions based on defensive coverages and Russell has the ability to work through RPO concepts, but whether he can translate that to a more conventional NFL offense is something he’ll need to demonstrate at the white board while in Moblie.
ITP Resources: CFB Film Review