I’ve long been fascinated by offensive drives. I would dedicate entire pieces to a single drive and I even wrote a book filled with nothing but drives. I was sitting in the barber’s chair the other morning (shoutout to my man John at Brookville Barber Shop) brainstorming ideas for a piece on this quarterback class when it hit me. Put together a drive using them.
So here is the basic scenario: My team is down five with under four minutes to go. Need a touchdown. All the quarterbacks in this draft class are at my disposal, and I’ve got a playbook much, much bigger than Mike Leach’s scrap of paper. How would I use these quarterbacks? What plays would I call and in what situations would I rely on them?
This exercise allows me to highlight some of the areas where these players excel, and some of the schemes that will fit best with what they do now, and how I project them to develop in the NFL.
Also, you’ll notice that a lot of these plays come from a Steve Spurrier playbook. Why? Because he’s the OBC, that’s why. Also, some of these play calls do not include the protection schemes. Apologies to my friends over at Offensive Line Twitter.
Without further ado, let’s get this drive started.
Situation: 1st and 10, -25
Quarterback: Baker Mayfield
Play: Deuce Left Brown Atlanta Coke
Every drive needs a drive starter, and I’m going to roll with Mr. Confidence, and a design that he runs exceptionally well. This run/pass option is taken from the Clemson Tigers’ playbook, but it’s something that Mayfield has run a ton while at Oklahoma:
Part of my confidence in Mayfield operating a quick-passing, West Coast-based scheme is the processing speed he shows on these designs. Mayfield is very adept at reading his keys and making lightning-quick decisions with the football:
This play is a slightly different design, but I love the processing speed Mayfield shows here as the defense adjusts right at the snap, and then crashes on the run action. Mayfield rides the mesh point as long as he can before pulling the ball and hitting the release for a long catch-and-run touchdown.
To start this drive I’m putting the football in his hands and asking him to make the right decision to get us started, as he did on this example.
Situation: 2nd and 2, -33
Quarterback: Kyle Lauletta
Play: 1 On Sprint 339 Naked
We’ll assume that Mayfield makes a smart decision with the football, and that the good guys pick up a nice chunk of yardage on first down. That gets us into the ideal play-calling situation for an offense: Second and short. I remember reading “Quarterbacking” by Bart Starr as a kid, and he talked in that book about how an offense truly had the world at its fingertips on second-and-short. They could truly take advantage of a defense in that situation.
We’re going to turn to Kyle Lauletta from the University of Richmond and a design from, of course, the New England Patriots’ playbook. This is a basic boot-action design, something that Lauletta ran very well while in college and that he can continue to execute at a high level in the NFL:
Lauletta is a very mechanically-sound quarterback, and his solid throwing structure remains intact when he moves outside the pocket. When Lauletta is on the move, he maintains great eye discipline as well as patience, as we see on this design against William & Mary:
Finally, Lauletta is athletic enough that if the crosser and the flat are both covered, I’m trusting him to get us the short yardage with his legs.
Situation: 1st and 10, -38
Quarterback: Josh Rosen
Play: Tiger Blue Draw Y-6 T-Mills (Mills Concept)
Lauletta gets us the first down, and we’ll take a chance here and be more aggressive. We’ll bring Josh Rosen onto the field for this play, and set up a potential downfield shot with my QB1 using the Mills Concept, out of a Spurrier playbook:
One of the reasons I’m so high on Rosen is because of his schematic diversity. I think he is the most “plug-and-play” quarterback in this group, who can be counted on to run any offense, and who will not need much tinkering to the playbook to suit his skill-set. Here, we set him up with a vertical read on the post, coupled with two underneath throws, and trust that he’ll make the right read based on the coverage:
We’re in fairly good shape should this fall incomplete, and as a play-caller I like the idea of taking a deep shot now after two shorter passing designs.
Situation: 2nd and 10, -38
Quarterback: Mason Rudolph
Play: Bandit Left 63 Semi
So Rosen’s deep shot fell incomplete. Back to the drawing board.
We’re going to stay a bit aggressive here, but with outlets of course. We’re going to use another Spurrier design, similar to concepts that Rudolph ran at Oklahoma State. On this play he’ll get a chance to hit the Z receiver on the post should he see the middle of the field open, but if he gets soft coverage on the boundary, then I’m expecting him to take advantage and throw that out pattern to the best side of the field:
This combines two of Rudolph’s most impressive traits as a passer. He was able to make some impressive throws downfield, often on post routes, to Marcell Ateman and James Washington. But I also loved how Rudolph was able to identify off or soft coverage on the outside and exploit it by making throws like that boundary out pattern with timing, placement and anticipation. By giving him two routes he is comfortable throwing, I’m confident he can deliver in this situation:
There you can see both elements, the downfield post route with the middle of the field open, as well as the boundary throw using timing against off coverage. These are some of the things Rudolph does best.
Situation: 1st and 10, Midfield
Quarterback: Lamar Jackson
Play: Quads Right Blue Slide 5-Semi
Rudolph sees the middle of the field closed but off coverage on the boundary, and takes advantage for a gain of 12 to move the chains.
Having been aggressive in the vertical game the past two plays, I want to dial things back a bit and run a curl/flat, West Coast staple. Something that can keep the drive moving but stretch the defense a bit more horizontally for a play:
This is a nice mirrored passing concept, with a hitch and a flat to each side of the field, with the running back hooking at five yards over the middle.
When studying Lamar Jackson over the past two years I came away impressed with his execution on West Coast concepts when he was tasked with making near-immediate decision in the passing game. Designs such as curl/flat, slant/swing and double slant are all over his film, and he shows on those plays good processing speed and execution. I’m trusting him in this situation to take advantage of the look he sees from the defense and getting the ball out quickly to the right read.
Situation: 2nd and 1, +41
Quarterback: Josh Allen
Play: Split Slot Left 59 Semi
Another 2nd and 1 situation on this drive, and another play-action passing concept. Only this time we’re implementing a drop back concept, and counting on Josh Allen to do what he does best: Deliver the ball downfield in the passing game working off of play-action:
My thoughts on Allen as a quarterback are well-known at this point. I do believe that there is a decent quarterback inside him that can potentially be unlocked. I do expect him to be drafted in the Top 5 of this draft. I hope that the team selecting him has a plan in place for him. If I’m drafting him, especially early, I want a clear plan in place. I want a strong coaching staff with a proven track record of QB development. I want a creative and open coordinator who will build an offense to suit him. I want a bridge-type QB who can start as long as necessary – perhaps the whole year. I want an ownership group that is patient with handling expectations, same for a fan base. If we are investing in him; it needs to be handled the right way. I don’t want to break him.
But concepts like this one are ideal for him to run:
This is Allen at his best. Coming off a play-action fake, climbing the pocket and delivering a downfield throw with velocity. If he is going to unlock the quarterback inside him, it will be in an offense using these designs to cater to his skill-set.
Situation: 3rd and 1, +41
Play: Devil Left Over F17 Naked Pass
Allen’s deep shot falls to the turf, and it’s time to regroup.
On the first 3rd down of the drive I’m turning back to Jackson and getting him out on the edge with the option to run or throw using this design:
If we need a big play in a situation like this, I’m putting Jackson into space by design and trusting him to make the right decision with the football. There’s this idea that Jackson might need to move to a different position to use him in space, but through designs like this you can get him outside the pocket and give him the option to throw or run. I’ll put my chips all in on Jackson making plays like this:
There’s even an example of him executing a throwback against Boston College from his 2016 game against the Eagles. Jackson’s ability to throw on the move, coupled with his athleticism in space, make these designs perfect for him.
Of course, I’m also trusting him to get down and slide if he needs to run, unlike what he did against Kentucky in the above clip. That’s something he will need to learn in the NFL.
Situation: 1st and 10, +28
Quarterback: Luke Falk
Play: Blue Right 92 Mesh Z Post Double Wheel
Jackson delivers on third down, and now the good guys are just outside the red zone.
We’re going to turn to Falk and something right out of his college playbook, the mesh concept. This is the basic design, I’m tagging this with double wheel routes from the backs, and a post from the Z receiver:
Falk has been something of a strange evaluation this draft season. There are some in Big Draft who have gone as far as to bring up the name Tom Brady when discussing Falk. I’m not as confident in the former Cougar, but when I was studying Falk I was often impressed with the processing speed he displayed on some of Mike Leach’s Air Raid concepts, particularly when the defense did not roll their coverage at the snap and he was able to process and diagnose without having to decipher a new look from the defense:
Giving Falk the post route option allows him to attack the middle of the field, should it be open. If the middle of the field is closed, I’m expecting Falk to peek at the best wheel route option, and then bringing his eyes down to the mesh. If nothing is there, Falk better hit someone in the stands with the ball.
Situation: 2nd and 10, +28
Quarterback: Sam Darnold
Play: Tiger Right Blue Draw Corkers Y-7 (Post)
Falk hit someone in the stands when he saw everything covered.
It’s time to turn to Sam Darnold to finish the drive.
I know what you might be thinking. “You’re turning to the guy knocked for turnovers here, in the red zone, to finish the drive?” The answer is yes, for reasons I’m about to explain.
One of the things that Darnold has going for him is the mental aspect of playing the position. His aggressive, gunslinger-esque mentality. It helps him extend plays and thrive off-script. He’s willing to make some throws other quarterbacks won’t attempt, and that will serve him well as he transitions to the NFL. Plus, I like how Darnold can maintain his aggression in the red zone, and also shows the ability to make anticipation throws to all levels of the field, One of the plays I found studying him will serve him well. First, the design:
Now, here’s an example of Darnold running a similar concept in the red zone:
What was impressive about this play was given the situation, and the fact that the checkdown was open, you might expect Darnold to simply flip the ball to his running back and take the three-point field goal try. But the young QB anticipates the play well and delivers a strike for the touchdown. USC is up on the road, and this is a third-down play. Darnold could be praised for taking the easy throw and settling for three points, but he stays aggressive and makes an anticipation throw. I’m expecting him to do the same here.
One concern people might have with this play call is the Smash Concept element, which is a design Darnold struggled with as illustrated in this video breaking down his interceptions. But I’m trusting him to show development on this route concept in this situation, and I believe that he can come through for us.
A final point before we conclude. Should this drive stall at any point and we need a Hail Mary attempt, then of course we’re running Josh Allen out for that final play. Because if there really is a situation where throwing the ball 75 yards downfield can help a team, it is in that moment.
Now, I’m a quarterback guy, and I often develop a fondness for each quarterback class as I work through the prospects. I think this group could be a very solid collection of quarterbacks, and there were some QBs not mentioned in this piece (Mike White, Logan Woodside, Chase Litton and others) that will get opportunities to develop into NFL QBs. For the quarterbacks listed here, these are the kinds of plays, designs and schemes that I anticipate them fitting best with in the NFL. Because after all, it is their landing spot and scheme fit, more than anything I say or write on the outside, that will determine their professional future.