Evaluating the 2017 NFL Draft QBs with Help from HBO’s Silicon Valley

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]After nearly 12 months of tape evaluation, the 2017 NFL Draft has come to a close and now timelines and websites are filled with draft grades for each NFL team. Last season, I put together a grading piece on every quarterback selection, but using quotes from “Game of Thrones” for each pick. It was honestly one of my favorite pieces to put together, particularly in the wake of the long slog up to and including the draft itself. A light-hearted look at the picks was what people needed.

This year, I’m doing the same thing, but using quotes from another HBO show, “Silicon Valley.” In my mind, it’s one of the funniest shows on TV, so please enjoy this lighter look at the 2017 quarterback class.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Bertram Gilfoyle: “I don’t trust anyone. It’s a huge part of my belief system.”

Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago Bears – 2nd Overall Selection

Heading into the draft there was a belief that after the first selection, anything could happen at pick two with the San Francisco 49ers on the clock. There was some late speculation that the Cleveland Browns might shock the football world and draft a quarterback to kick off the draft – which we shall get to – but in the end they stayed pat and took Texas A&M edge defender Myles Garrett. So when rookie General Manager John Lynch was on the clock for the first time, there were a number of directions he could go. Quarterback, safety, defensive line, running back, anywhere. With a list of needs and some great talent on the board, he could have filled any position of importance.

But he traded down, because right behind him with the third pick Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace was lurking and looking for a quarterback. So Lynch moved down one spot in the draft as the Bears came up, and Lynch secured 2017 third- and fourth-round picks as well as a third-rounder in 2018. This allowed the Bears to move up one spot and grab Trubisky with the second overall pick. It’s been reported that Pace believed that Lynch had two potential deals in place for that second pick, so he had to sweeten the deal to move up just one spot and grab the UNC quarterback:

In the wake of the trade, Pace’s decision has been derided by many. While we will need a few years to truly evaluate the move, as it will all depend on how well Trubisky fares in the NFL, we can be sure that Gilfoyle would be ready with a biting critique of the deal.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Erlich Bachman: “Big Head, I would hope that a handshake deal would be good enough for you. Because we’re headed down a long road, and that road must be paved with trust. Blind trust. And you bringing in these so-called experts really gives me pause, and it insults my honor.”

Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs – 10th Overall Selection

Buffalo and Kansas City executed the second trade of the night, with the Bills moving back in the first round – and receiving a 2017 third-round pick and a 2018 first-round selection – so the Chiefs could move up to the 10th spot and pick a quarterback. They went with Patrick Mahomes, a QB in the gunslinger mold coming out of Texas Tech and its Air Raid scheme.

Mahomes was one of the more polarizing prospects throughout this year’s evaluation process. Some viewed him as a player who, with some refinement, could go on to great success in the NFL. Others looked at the Texas Tech offense, his sloppy footwork and mechanics, and his tendency to make some head-scratching decisions, and could not envision all that working at the professional level. My thoughts on Mahomes are documented, and I’m a believer. But my view of him as a quarterback will not matter. Kansas City fans will need to trust in Andy Reid, his evaluation of Mahomes as a QB, and the work to come. With Alex Smith in place, the Chiefs have a bridge to Mahomes, and he will get some time to refine his playing style. Whether or not he succeeds in the NFL will be entirely up to him, and whether he goes on to greatness or fails, some so-called experts will be proven wrong on him.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Bachman: “It’s my Mona Lisa. And the entire cornerstone upon which I built this motherf&?%ing cathedral that I will forever be remembered for, was this beautiful little uptick. I think I have a bottle of Cold Duck in the crisper. Who’s drinking? Come on! I got a bottle of Martinelli’s for you, Jared.”

Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans – 12th Overall Selection

Last offseason, the Houston Texans signed former Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler to a $72 million dollar contract – without even meeting with him. Because of the rules surrounding legal tampering and the start of the free agency period, the Texans made the decision to sign Osweiler right at the start of free agency, before their front office and head coach Bill O’Brien could even sit down with him. The experiment ended badly, and in the wake of his exit from Houston there is even speculation that GM Rick Smith acted on his own in signing the QB, as stated by Michael Lombardi on a Ringer podcast.

The Texans entered this draft season with Tom Savage holding the starting quarterback position for now, but there was certainly speculation that the team would look to find another QB in this draft, particularly if one of the “big four” fell. When the Browns were on the clock with the 12th overall pick, Houston moved up, giving Cleveland next year’s first-round selection in the process, for the chance to draft Deshaun Watson.

Indications are that Watson was the quarterback who O’Brien coveted, as reported by Friend of Pylon Jeff Risdon in this instant analysis of the selection. So now, it is the coach and his decision that are on the clock, and the move to trade up for the Clemson QB might be the choice that defines O’Brien’s tenure in Houston. For my money, Watson was the top quarterback in this class, with a mix of intelligence, processing speed, athletic ability, short-area accuracy, timing and competitive toughness that fits well with O’Brien’s Erhardt-Perkins based offense. But with the Texans reportedly keeping Savage as the starter for now, perhaps we should keep the Cold Duck and Martinelli’s on ice for the short-term.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Dinesh Chugtai: “Buzzfeed linked to us. Now we’re picking up on Reddit. This guy falling off a cliff is the first good luck we’ve had.”

DeShone Kizer – Cleveland Browns – 52nd Overall Selection

As previously outlined, there was late speculation that the Browns would decide to go quarterback with the first overall selection. Whether they picked a QB at 1, or later at 12, everyone assumed they would try and address the position at some point early in this draft. Throughout the process they were linked to nearly every quarterback, whether it was Trubisky, Mahomes or Watson early, or Davis Webb or Joshua Dobbs later. But Kizer seemed to be off their radar.

In the end, the Browns went in another direction entirely on the first night of the draft. They selected Garrett with their first pick, and then when they were on the clock at 12 they executed the trade with the Texans to move back to 25. There, Cleveland drafted the athletic Jabrill Peppers for its defense. Late in the night, they traded back into the end of the first round not to address quarterback, but to get more athletic on offense with Miami tight end David Njoku.

They did not pick again until later in the second round, but the Notre Dame quarterback was on the board, and head coach Hue Jackson pulled the trigger. For some, Kizer was the top quarterback in this class, and his 2015 tape might be some of the best play from any of the signal-callers in this draft. But the postseason process seemed to damage his resume, and that was in the wake of Notre Dame’s 4-8 finish in 2016. Cleveland worked its board very well, believing in its process, and Kizer’s fall brought him right into their laps late in the second round. Kizer will get an offensive-minded head coach in Jackson, and as the Browns get more athletic, when he’s ready to play he’ll have some options in the passing game. Kizer’s dropping stock might be the luck Cleveland needed to turn its fortunes around.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Richard Hendricks: “I always knew I was missing something, and then when someone explained the concept of “game.” I remember very distinctly thinking, “That’s what I don’t have.”

Davis Webb – New York Giants – 87th Overall Selection

As the Senior Bowl week ended, the quarterback getting the bulk of attention as the football world left Mobile, Alabama, was Webb, the California product by way of Texas Tech. On the verge of the draft, there was even some talk that Webb would find his way into the latter half of the first round, or at worst, he would come off the board early on Day Two of the draft. But it was not until the third round that Webb heard his name called, and he heads to the Big Apple to potentially succeed Eli Manning.

Now, I was never fully in on the Webb hype train, giving him a third-round grade. There are certainly aspects to his playing style that are attractive. Webb has a big arm and throws perhaps the best deep ball in this entire class, earning the monikers of “Captain Nine Route” or “Mister Nine Route” around the ITP offices. He has also shown some quick processing and decision-making, at times. But my hesitancy on Webb was more the fact that right now, he is a fairly scheme-dependent quarterback. I like his fit with a downfield passing team in the Air Coryell vein, but picturing him in a more West Coast-based attack requires a big projection. And that is where he’s going.

So, he’ll need to learn and develop that part of his game. The great thing for him and the Giants is that he will have a tutor in Ben McAdoo and a mentor in Manning who have a deep understanding of that offense and how best to execute it. In addition, with Manning firmly entrenched as the starter and Webb coming in as a third-round pick, there should not be any external pressure to rush him onto the field. Finally, if he does have to play early, the Giants have a lot of offensive weapons in place for whomever is taking the snaps. Therefore, if Webb can fully develop the parts of his game that he needs to so he can be effective in a West Coast offense, this might be a great pick for the Giants.  

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Hendricks: “Face it, Jared, being too early is the same as being wrong.”

C.J. Beathard – San Francisco 49ers – 104th Overall Selection

Back in March, when I debuted the “Check With Me” column, I highlighted two potential late-round sleepers in this draft. The first, Chad Kelly, is a QB we will get to in a few paragraphs. The second was the former Iowa Hawkeye, Beathard. As I wrote back then, “do not be surprised if he comes off the board more quickly than many expect.” That is exactly what happened, as Kyle Shanahan passed on the other big quarterback names in this class and selected Beathard as the third-round drew to a close.

This selection stunned many evaluators, as Beathard was viewed by most as a Day Three prospect at best. But the simple fact of the matter is this: Shanahan saw something in him, either based on tape, in the meeting rooms, or both. Beathard is a veteran quarterback who was down in Mobile, and really flew under the radar even during Senior Bowl week as quarterbacks like Webb, Nathan Peterman, Dobbs and even Antonio Pipkin drew more attention. But studying his tape, particularly from 2015 when Iowa made its magical run to the Big Ten Championship Game, you see a quarterback who can quickly process the defense, shows patience in the pocket, particularly in the red zone, throws with good timing and accuracy, and shows an ability to make anticipation throws. And when my colleague Ted Nguyen likes a quarterback – as he likes Beathard – I take notice.

The risk here for the 49ers is not great, given that he was selected in the third round, but if he fails to develop into a quarterback while one of the players selected after him turns out to be a true NFL star, Shanahan will face some criticism for being both wrong – and early – in making the pick.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Erlich: “We may be fine. We may be totally fine. We also may be totally fucked. I’ll let you know either way.”

Joshua Dobbs – Pittsburgh Steelers – 135th Overall Selection

After the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Ben Roethlisberger stunned Steelers Nation by implying he was ready to retire. Weeks before the draft, the big QB indicated that he indeed would be returning for his 14th NFL season. But his declaration and retraction threw the Pittsburgh front office for a bit of a loop, and given his potential retirement, the Steelers were suddenly in the market for a quarterback.

In the fourth round, Pittsburgh addressed the position, selecting the former Tennessee quarterback. Dobbs was a multiple-year starter for the Volunteers and is on track to become a literal rocket scientist, given his collegiate major: Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering. Those plans are on hold given his ability on the field but he will need to be much more consistent if he hopes to stick in the NFL. Inconsistency was a hallmark of his time at Tennessee on the playing field. Dobbs can demonstrate quick processing speed and a keen understanding of defensive leverage and coverages on one play, and then miss a simple rotated coverage on the next. He can show the ability to make full-field progressions on one snap, and then stare down a receiver and make an incredulous decision the next. That inconsistency was even on display down in Mobile, when he struggled on the first day of practice, was in fine form on Wednesday, and then looked shaky again on Thursday and in the game itself.

Thus, the Steelers quarterback position remains in a bit of an uncertain state. Roethlisberger is clearly the starter as long as he is wearing the black and gold, but how much longer will that be? And in Dobbs, what is Pittsburgh getting? The polished QB who can shine at moments, or the other guy? Only time will tell.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Russ Hanneman: “Anyway, next thing you know, we IPO, stock triples in a day and AOL gobbles us up. All of a sudden, I’m 22 years young and I’m worth $1.2 billion. Now a couple decades later, I’m worth $1.4. You do the math.”

Richard: “Okay. Well, that’s a gain of $200 million over 20 years. Um, 16.66 repeating. Uh, that’s less than 1% return. Inflation is, like, 1.7. I think CDs are 2%. So that’s less than a CD.”

Nathan Peterman – Buffalo Bills – 171st Overall Selection

Perhaps no quarterback saw his stock fall during this draft process more than Nathan Peterman. Except for maybe the next QB we will discuss. But heading into Senior Bowl week Peterman was the talk of Mobile. There were indications that with a strong week of practice, he would solidify himself as QB5 in this class. Peterman lived up to the hype going into the week, and was one of the standouts during the practices at Ladd-Peebles.

But then the hype … died. From the end of the Senior Bowl through the Combine and into the draft, other QBs such as Webb, Dobbs and even Chad Kelly started to get more attention. Peterman went from a quarterback getting day one starter hype from Mel Kiper and some second round buzz, to a player coming off the board in the fifth round to a team with both Tyrod Taylor and Cardale Jones already in place on the depth chart.

However, it might just be an ideal situation for Peterman. The Bills recently hired Rick Dennison as their offensive coordinator, and he comes from the Gary Kubiak branch of the West Coast offensive tree. If he looks to install a similar offense in Buffalo, you can expect lots of play-action, designed rollouts, and the use of boot action to get the quarterback on the move to try and confuse the defense. That is right in line with what Peterman was doing at Pittsburgh, and he had success on those types of designs. So while his stock may have strangely fallen, it may end up to Peterman’s benefit.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Gilfoyle: “That was pretty badass Richard … until it wasn’t.”

Brad Kaaya – Detroit Lions – 215th Overall Selection

Here we find a QB whose stock really dropped over the past year.

In the days after the draft you will start seeing “way too early” mock drafts, looking ahead to 2018. Now, these rarely have true predictive value, but they are beneficial in that they provide a snapshot of how scouts and evaluators view the talent in the upcoming draft class at this early point in time. Look back to last year’s “way too early” mock drafts, and you would see Kaaya as a top five selection. However, as players like Webb, Mahomes, and Trubisky rose up boards – seemingly from nowhere in some cases – Kaaya’s stock continued to drop. While he had some believers, myself included, he fell to the seventh round before the Lions called his name.

I still think Kaaya can be a successful quarterback in the NFL, and when he is on time and in rhythm, his tape is up there with the best of the QBs in this class. His fall is cause for concern going forward, but in Detroit he can learn from both Jim Caldwell and Matthew Stafford, and should push Jake Rudock for the backup quarterback job. Kaaya is a long way from his freshman year, when he nearly outdueled Jameis Winston in a prime time game and truly established himself, but in Detroit he’ll have a chance to get back to the QB he can be.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Jared Dunn: “We were bros. We were bros.”

Chad Kelly – Denver Broncos – 253rd Overall Selection

Like Beathard, Chad Kelly was the other quarterback I highlighted in March as having the potential to be a late-round sleeper. Part of that is when Matt Waldman is a believer in a quarterback, he makes a believer in me. What Matt identified in Kelly is what many see in him, a gunslinger who can make accurate throws into small windows, can throw from any platform, is not afraid to challenge the narrowest throwing lane, and can make some impressive plays both in and out of the pocket.

Now, Kelly comes with a number of red flags, all of which have been identified and discussed. From his off-the-field history to his medical issues, Kelly is by no means a sure thing. As some have discussed, there is a severe history of ADD present, and while that in no way excuses his behavior, it adds some context to the full picture. I advocated for Kelly to be brought into a strong and stable organization, and in Denver, he’ll get some of that, from the ownership group and the front office on down.

In the end, it might have been a phone call between two rivals that sealed the selection, when GM John Elway called Kelly’s uncle, former Bills’ QB Jim Kelly, to ask about the Mississippi quarterback. As the GM stated, “I called his uncle, and he said, ‘He’s a good kid.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s all I need.’ I trust Jim with that.” So in the end, it helps when your uncle is bros with your future GM.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this lighter attempt at grading this draft class of quarterbacks. If you’re from HBO and are appreciative of the promotional work that I’ve done on your behalf, business opportunities can be forwarded to staff@insidethepylon.com. Unless you’re from HBO’s legal department, in which case just remember: “Anyone who tells you their platform is faster than ours better have good lawyers.”

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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