Mark Schofield’s Check With Me April 27, 2017: Ranking the Developmental QBs in the 2017 NFL Draft

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]We now find ourselves at the back portion of the quarterback rankings. We’ve gone through the Big Four, the Next Four, and the Guys I Can’t Quit. This final group of signal-callers are developmental type of players, and while there are more in this quarterback class, these are the guys I’m highest on. Others that I won’t dive into include Dane Evans, Philip Nelson, Trevor Knight, Cooper Rush, Zach Terrell, Kyle Sloter and Wes Lunt. Some other evaluators in this space have worked on these guys, and I’d recommend Bryan Tulen’s pieces on Evans and Nelson as well as Nick Martin’s interview with Sloter.

For me, these are the quarterbacks that I’d be most interested in taking a chance on later in the draft, starting with a player who has not gotten a lot of attention this draft cycle, but should hear his name called on Day 3.



[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Phillip Walker, Temple University – QB13

Walker is one of the most decorated players in Temple football history, and leaves campus as the school’s all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and total offense. He came to Temple and fought for the starting job as a freshman, and while he did not win the job outright, Walker appeared in nine games in 2013, and took over the starting job as a sophomore in 2014. That season he led the Owls to their first victory against an SEC team with a win against Vanderbilt, and he finished the year completing 53% of his passes for 2,317 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. In 2015 Temple started the season 7-0 for the first time in school history. They lost three games down the stretch, including a prime-time, last-minute defeat against Notre Dame, but earned a bowl berth at the end of the year. That 2015 team returned to postseason play for the first time in four years and was ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in 36 years. Walker was a big reason why, throwing for 2,973 yards (completing 56.8% of his passes) with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. This past season, he closed out his collegiate career in another bowl game (becoming Temple’s first QB to lead the Owls to back-to-back bowl games) to cap off a strong senior campaign.

Walker is a veteran quarterback who rarely gets rattled in the face of pressure, whether off the edges or from the interior. He is well-versed in operating under center or in the shotgun, and shows solid footwork dropping into the pocket from both starting alignments. He is very impressive with his ball-handling in the pocket, and Temple used play-action as well as multiple ball fakes / reverse looks as a core component of his offense. All those designs relied upon Walker to execute the fakes in the backfield and help fool second- and third-level defenders. Walker throws a nice ball in the vertical passing game, and can deliver routes such as digs in the intermediate area of the field, as well as deeper routes such as corner routes, post routes, and straight vertical routes with touch and accuracy. He is adept at reading the coverage on deeper route concepts, and can manipulate safeties in the passing game with his eyes. Walker is very athletic, displaying the ability to extend plays with his feet and, when he transitions from passer to runner, he is dynamic with the football in his hands.

He’ll face some questions about his size, as he measured in under six feet at Temple’s pro day. He’ll need to improve at looking off receivers and not locking in on his primary target so often. In addition, his accuracy can be inconsistent, particularly in the short area of the field. Routes near the line of scrimmage or to the boundary can be spotty with their placement, and depending on the offensive system he finds himself operating, that could be an area of concern.

Scheme Fit:

Given his downfield ability, and how he is calm in the pocket even as it starts to collapse around him, Walker projects best to an Air Coryell system. He could also work in a more Erhardt-Perkins style of offense, one that relies on play-action plays and routes in the intermediate area of the field.

One- to Three-Year Projection:

Walker will need to refine some aspects of his playing style, and will need to avoid bird dogging his primary read as he moves to the NFL. He can develop into a solid backup in this league, with the ability to step into situations and keep an offense on schedule with his vertical passing ability, as well as his knack for extending plays in or outside of the pocket.

Round Grade:

Sixth Round

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Alek Torgersen, University of Pennsylvania – QB14

This brings us to our third quarterback from the Commonwealth, following Walker and Nathan Peterman. Torgersen is a three-year starter for the Penn Quakers, and an All-Ivy League selection the past two seasons. In Penn’s offense, he was given numerous opportunities to carry the football in their spread-option attack, and he is an athletic ballcarrier, who ran for over 500 yards and 18 touchdowns while in college. Similar to Walker, Torgersen was at his best working downfield, on seam or post routes. He demonstrates the ability to read the secondary at the third level as well as showing a good understanding of the backside safety’s leverage, and on many occasions he’ll move that safety just enough to fit in a backside post or seam route. In the pocket, Torgersen stands tall, and will hang in long enough to make a throw knowing pressure is coming and he’s about to take a shot.

On deeper routes to the boundary, Torgersen displays the ability to drop those throws in with touch and accuracy, as well as demonstrating good timing on these route designs. The Quakers used a lot of smash or related concepts, and he was very confident on those concepts, reading the secondary and making the right decision with the football.

Torgersen does stare down his primary read at times, and is often very slow to either move to his second read or even just tuck the football and get what he can with his legs. He gets himself into trouble in these situations, insisting on forcing throws to his first target rather than checking the football down or finding a later read in the progression. A number of his throws are tipped at or near the line of scrimmage, signs that the defenders are starting to read his eyes at the first- and second-levels. Mechanically, he has a bit of a wind-up to his delivery, which can get him into trouble when combined with the times he either hesitates on pulling the trigger, or stares down a route.

Scheme Fit:

Torgersen looks to be a solid fit in a vertical passing structure, that can rely on his downfield ability and doesn’t require immediate, split second decision from the pocket.

One- to Three-Year Projection:

Torgersen likely finds himself as a practice squad player his first season or two in the NFL, but for a team with some current depth at the position he is an enticing option to stash and develop. By the end of his rookie deal he has the potential to solidify his role as a backup quarterback in the NFL.

Round Grade:

Seventh Round




[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Sefo Liufau, University of Colorado – QB15

Much like a few of the quarterbacks in this category, Liufau leaves the college game as one of the more accomplished passers in his school’s history. He became only the 10th QB to start as a freshman at Colorado, when he appeared in eight games with seven starts as a true freshman in 2013. All told, Liufau started 39 games while in Boulder, the most ever for a Buffaloes quarterback. He leaves school holding 98 school records, 63 of which are for passing.

As a quarterback, Liufau is a very tough quarterback who does not shy away from contact or pressure in the pocket. He shows a good understanding of coverage and leverage in the pre-snap phase, and when he is confident of the post-snap look he is decisive with the football. Liufau is accurate in the short area of the field, and throws quick routes like slants and hitches with good accuracy, velocity and placement. On deeper plays, Liufau has the ability to move defenders with his eyes, and influence safeties away from his intended target. He also shows an appreciation for timing of routes and putting the football on receivers when it is best for receivers to gain yardage after the catch, and at times he’ll even cut his drops short or speed up his process to get the football out of his hands and take advantage or a coverage mistake or hole. Another route where he excels is on the fade from a slot receiver, and he shows good touch and placement on these throws. He is also fearless against the blitz, and will stand in there until the last second in the face of pressure.

On deeper throws, his accuracy can be spotty at times. Liufau is also indecisive, slow to pull the trigger on concepts even when the route structure is in perfect position to attack a coverage. Anticipation throws are not his strong suit, and that will need to be factored into his development curve or scheme fit. In terms of his mechanics, Liufau has a more slow, deliberate delivery that can get him into trouble when challenging tighter windows or making more downfield throws. In addition, it seems that he could generate more torque by involving his left arm / shoulder more, but at times he just drops that lead arm down to the side rather than violently pulling through the throwing plane. At times he can get locked onto targets, and when Colorado ran the mesh concept he would often stare down the initial crosser and would be slow to get to his second read.

Scheme Fit:

With his accuracy in the short area as well as his mechanics and decision-making process, Liufau fits best with a West Coast team. In addition, a scheme  that incorporates some option elements to take advantage of his ability as a runner would also be a good fit.

One- to Three-Year Projection:

Liufau could potentially be a backup early in his career, in the exact right system. Imagine a team like Tennessee for example, as he could probably run that offense (or a good portion of it) early. But that is a very narrow scheme fit, and in all likelihood he’s facing a longer transition. If he can speed up the mechanics and decision-making, and learn not to stare down receivers, Liufau has some traits (toughness, accuracy, and poise against the blitz) that will help him in the NFL. He could develop into a solid career backup.

Round Grade:

UDFA

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin University – QB16

Pipkin was a surprising addition to the Senior Bowl roster, and one that threw the scouting community into a bit of a blaze when he was announced. A record-setting quarterback for Division II Tiffin University, he ended his collegiate career by leading the Dragons to eight victories and being named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year. In 2016, he completed 64.9% of his passes for 2,534 yards and 25 touchdowns, with six interceptions. Those numbers were actually a step down from his junior year, when he threw for 3,227 yards (completing 64.1% of his throws) with 32 touchdowns and six picks.

When he was added to the Senior Bowl roster, scouts and evaluators started to dig into his tape. What they found was a quarterback who was tough and athletic in the pocket, who was able to respond to pressure well and make throws under duress with accuracy, and from a variety of platforms. Pipkin demonstrated the ability to throw the deep ball well, showing good placement and touch on deep post patterns, seam routes, and boundary vertical routes. In Tiffin’s offense, he was given the opportunity to make plays with his legs in the option game as well, and is a dangerous player with the football in his hands. What really intrigued me was his feel for the pocket. He was able to sense pressure off the edge, evade defenders to keep the play alive, and then find receivers downfield. On tape Pipkin showed a willingness to keep his eyes downfield and look for targets in scramble drill situations. Finally, Pipkin’s ability to keep his eyes trained for a receiver in these instances displays a solid understanding of coverage as well as route structure.

However, down in Mobile some of the flaws that were present on tape were on full display. He was hesitant throughout the week, often waiting too long to get the football out of his hands. Pipkin really needed to see routes come open before throwing them, and on many occasions he decided to tuck the football and try and make something happen with his feet rather than let the ball fly. In addition, on tape against Division II competition Pipkin’s arm was sufficient for success, but his ability to generate velocity did lag behind some of the other quarterbacks down in Mobile. He’ll continue to face questions about decision making and play speed as he tries to transition to the pro game.

Scheme Fit:

The routes that Pipkin throws best, vertical routes in the middle of the field or along the boundary, make him a better fit for a Coryell type of offensive play structure.

One- to Three-Year Projection:

Pipkin has a way to go before he can be a viable NFL quarterback, and his ceiling is likely that of a backup. Ideally he is signed by a team with depth at the position and he can find a place on the practice squad, as he learns to speed up his style of play and processing speed. With some work, he’ll be able to crack an active roster by his third season.

Round Grade:

UDFA

Finally, as I often do, I want to just thank the readers, viewers and listeners of Inside the Pylon for another fun and enjoyable draft season. Writing about football is a dream realized for me, as well as everyone at ITP. It is a great time to be a football fan given all the great content that is out there, and we cannot say how much we appreciate every one of our readers, viewers, listeners, etc. We all love this game, and love sharing it with you. Enjoy the draft.

Interested in reading more about the NFL Draft work here at Inside the Pylon? Purchase a copy of our 2017 NFL Draft Guide!

Follow @MarkSchofield on Twitter. Buy his book, 17 Drives. Check out his other work here, such as a self evaluation on scoutinga look at the 2015 wide receiver class, or his collection of work on the 2017 Senior Bowl Quarterbacks.

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