Patrick Mahomes Translates Baseball Skills to the Gridiron

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]To some Patrick Mahomes II is considered the best quarterback in this draft class. Mahomes was the second quarterback off the board Thursday night after the Kansas City Chiefs traded up 17 spots to take him with the 10th overall pick. After some time learning from the sidelines, Mahomes appears to be the eventual successor to Alex Smith. He features some similar traits to quarterbacks Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has coached before, like Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb. The Texas Tech product’s ability to make every throw from any platform with his quick release is rare. And of course, no one can match his arm talent. Mahomes can do things throwing the football that not many quarterbacks can do. Super Bowl champion head coach Jon Gruden learned this when he met with Mahomes during Gruden’s annual QB Camp.

In one particular part of the film room Gruden ran a play of Mahomes against Louisiana Tech rolling to his left and flicking the ball roughly 55 yards in the air for a touchdown. Gruden clamored for Mahomes to tell him how he made that throw and said that it was the “damnedest” throw he’d ever seen. Mahomes explained that it was because he played shortstop his whole life.

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It’s known that Mahomes’s father is Pat Mahomes who was a major-league pitcher for six different teams over 11 seasons. Mahomes himself was drafted in the 37th round of the 2014 draft as a pitcher, but decided to go play football at Texas Tech instead. Mahomes told teams prior to the MLB draft that he wanted to play football in college and that’s why he wasn’t taken in the first three rounds.

But let’s get back to that ridiculous throw and the fact that Mahomes apparently played shortstop. The best baseball players coming out of high school usually play positions up the middle of the field. Meaning they play either catcher, shortstop, and/or centerfield. You can throw pitcher in there as well. Being the superb athlete that he is, Mahomes probably mainly played shortstop, centerfield, and pitcher growing up for his high school and travel teams. Prior to last season Fox Sports did a piece on Mahomes’s off-platform ability.  In the article he’s quoted saying, “I think a lot of is from baseball and how I could sling the ball across the diamond. I played shortstop my whole life. I never had my feet under me. I was always making throws across my body. I always have played a lot of basketball and thrown a lot of ‘no-look’ passes, and this is me using all the stuff I’ve grown up doing.”

There are a lot of similarities on this throw rolling to his left while avoiding the rush and one a shortstop makes on ball hit to his left. I do not have film of Mahomes playing shortstop. Instead we’ll use another Texas shortstop, the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus for example purposes.

As I learned from playing and watching a lot of baseball growing up – on a ball hit far up the middle a shortstop needs to range to his left, gather the baseball, and throw it across the diamond in nearly all one smooth motion. And if the ball rolls too slowly or a speedy runner is hustling down the first-base line then you’ll have to make a throw without being completely squared up like Andrus does on this play. It’s easy to see why this is a transferrable skill for Mahomes and how he’s able to make the throws he makes in the fashion he does.

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Mahomes, like Andrus, has his legs cross each other while going to his left and then throws off one leg while basically being in the air. The motions are essentially identical aside from the arm angles and trajectories. That makes sense considering Mahomes has to throw a football and Andrus a baseball. Which makes this all the more impressive for Mahomes. Andrus’s throw is difficult, but from an arm-strength perspective, the distance he needs to target is a lot shorter and he can throw it a lot harder because of the baseball’s physical properties. For example, Mahomes can throw a football 60 miles per hour, but he was clocked throwing a baseball 95. On this play he has to throw a football about 55 yards on the run with enough velocity to get there on time so a defender can’t knock it away.

The NFL has numerous examples of quarterbacks who also played baseball before sticking to football full time. Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson played second base for the North Carolina State Wolf Pack and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Jameis Winston was a closer/outfielder for Florida State. Playing a variety of sports as a young athlete year round is a smart decision for any player as it allows them to learn translatable skills that are useful in other games that may set them apart from the rest of the field. Mahomes may have some bad habits to work out, but he’s at his best when he’s using his full arsenal of skills.

Check out more of Joseph’s work here, including a look at Kareem Hunt’s superior balanceJames White doing his job in Super Bowl LI, and Chris Godwin’s separation ability.

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