This year, eight talented passers will be on display down in Mobile, Alabama for the 69th Senior Bowl. With a number of teams picking in the Top 10 that might consider drafting a quarterback this year, the signal-callers will be the focus of attention in the coming week. Mark Schofield has studied all of them in depth and here is his Senior Bowl QB Preview.
The Denver Broncos will be coaching the North Squad this year, and given the questions that organization faces at the quarterback position, it is widely assumed that Denver will be in on a quarterback this offseason. They’ll get a chance to see two of the top passers in this class, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, up close.
Josh Allen, University of Wyoming
Every draft is filled with polarizing prospects, and Allen is chief among them this season. Recently, Mel Kiper Jr. mocked him to the Cleveland Browns with the first overall selection, a move that was met with some derision in the football media world. At first blush, Allen has all of the raw talent and tools NFL scouts and coaches love. He has ideal size, impressive athletic ability and probably the best arm talent in this class. When you dig deeper, however, you see erratic decisions on tape, a tendency to rely on his arm too much, and an inability to display the finer aspects of playing the position, such as touch, anticipation and situational awareness. But he will certainly look great in drills this week, and it might solidify his place in the first round.
Luke Falk, Washington State University
Falk comes from Mike Leach’s Air Raid system, and might get dinged in the minds of scouts given the questions over how quarterbacks from that coaching tree transition to the NFL game. Falk shows an ability to attack coverages and is usually good in the pre-snap phase at identifying coverages and knowing how to best attack them on the given play structure. One area of concern with him is “quicksand.” When he makes a mistake, it sometimes takes a few drives for him to get back on track and into rhythm.
Resources: Processing Speed
Tanner Lee, University of Nebraska
Lee was a surprise entrant into both the draft, after Scott Frost was named the new head coach of the Cornhuskers, and then into the Senior Bowl when he replaced the injured Mason Rudolph. Lee is basically Josh Allen-lite. He has a decent arm, some athleticism, and can make accurate throws to all levels of the field. But there are aspects to his game that will need serious development as he looks at a professional career. He was slow with reads last season, which led to both sacks and interceptions, he tended to lock onto receivers in the pocket which also led to turnovers, and his ball placement was spotty when facing pressure. But given the tools he has, teams might find him an intriguing Day 3 option.
Baker Mayfield, University of Oklahoma
With both Mayfield and Allen on the same squad, all eyes will be on the North team quarterbacks during each practice session. Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy this past season and has been one of the most dynamic college quarterbacks over the past few seasons, but faces questions about how his game and style of play will translate to the NFL. For me, I think Mayfield can be a highly effective quarterback in the league, in an offensive structure that caters to his strengths rather than forcing him into an incompatible system. He can be effective inside and outside of the pocket, displays good processing speed, particularly on RPO plays, and can make strong and accurate throws to all levels. A lingering issue I have with him is the idea of chaos, and how Mayfield seems to seek it, rather than avoid it, while operating in and out of the pocket.
While the North Squad might have more firepower, the South Squad might be the more intriguing team to watch this week, as it contains a few lesser known quarterbacks who could really improve their draft stock over the course of the next few days.
Kurt Benkert, University of Virginia
You could make the case that Benkert’s first half against the University of Miami was the best tape any of the prospective draft quarterbacks put together over the past season. Benkert was masterful against a talented and opportunistic defense early in that game, but made one critical mistake where he bird-dogged a route that led to a pick six. He is good at maintaining aggression, shows sufficient velocity in the short and intermediate areas of the field (particularly on in-breaking routes) and displays good feel for underneath routes and defenders. However, in his bowl game against Navy, Benkert struggled and some of the weaknesses in his game, such as processing speed and upper-level velocity, were factors in the blowout loss.
Resources: Maintaining Aggression
Kyle Lauletta, University of Richmond
Lauletta is the sole quarterback from the FCS, but a worthy representative from that division of play. Lauletta is active in the pre-snap phase, and does a good job of identifying leverage advantages before the snap. He is primarily a shotgun and pistol quarterback but was effective working under center and in the play-action, boot game one might associate with Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He can slide and move around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, making him a weapon in scramble drill situations, and he also was adept at the back shoulder throw. Areas of concern for him include situational awareness, ball-placement and the ability to make anticipation throws consistently.
Brandon Silvers, Troy University
Silvers was a favorite of mine last summer when I watched him, and his competitive toughness and his ability to manipulate defenders stood out on film. This year he added some additional traits of note, including the ability to speed up his process, particularly against the blitz, and he was better in terms of feeling routes and showing the ability to make anticipation throws. He’s adept at staying and fighting in crowded pockets, and his tape is filled with some examples of NFL throws, including the “checkmark” type of throws from one hashmark to the opposite sideline. Like some other QBs in this group, he does tend to lock onto his first read, and threw some interceptions and near-interceptions as a result. Silvers also can struggle with placement when under pressure, and his throwing motion has a bit of a dip and loop to it.
Mike White, Western Kentucky University
If you don’t recognize the name Mike White, you will by the end of the week. White took over for Brandon Doughty last season, and has posted impressive numbers as the starting quarterback the past two seasons for the Hilltoppers. He shows good footwork on his drops in both the three and the five-step game, and is pretty solid mechanically. White can stick and climb in the pocket, and shows an ability to slide around in the pocket to extend plays. He can make off-platform throws while maintaining both his accuracy and his velocity. He operates in a system that gives him a number of deep ball opportunities, and he displays patience to let those route concepts come open. Situational awareness and accuracy on anticipation throws were two areas of concern coming out of his 2016 tape, and he also bird-dogs routes. He was impressive against Middle Tennessee in his final regular season game, as that defense showed him a number of exotic looks pre-snap and he was able to work through those effectively.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State University
Rudolph suffered a foot injury and withdrew from the Senior Bowl. He had the potential to solidify himself as one of the best quarterbacks in this class behind the premier group of Allen, Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson, but he’ll need to wait until the combine to put his full talents on display. He is very effective in the downfield passing game, particularly relying on touch on deeper throws. He is also very adept at attacking off coverage along the boundary, particularly on hitches, curls and comeback routes, and can make those throws with anticipation. His accuracy can dip, particularly when attacking the middle of the field, and he leaves those throws high. Personally, I often felt underwhelmed watching him as I think there’s an even greater quarterback locked inside of him, ready to come out, but I do think he has one of the higher floors in this quarterback class.
Resources: Interception Series