[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Quarterback dominos began to fall this week, as the Cleveland Browns became active participants in the trade market. John Dorsey made a flurry of moves late last week, including trading for wide receiver Jarvis Landry as well as quarterback Tyrod Taylor. In this installment of Check With Me I’ll dive into that trade, look at a potential dark horse quarterback prospect and address some reader questions.
The trade for Taylor brings, in my mind, some portions of the quarterback picture in Cleveland into focus. Now, not everyone loved this move for the Browns, as we’ll dive into. But here are the three biggest parts of this move, as I see them.
The Value Question
The first question this move raises is the idea of value. The Browns gave up a third-round selection, Pick 65 (the first pick of the third round) to acquire Taylor. In a vacuum, is this too much to give up for Taylor? Joe Ferraiola from Inside the Pylon, a very wise scholar of the game believes so. In a debate that played out over the course of two days, from the virtual Battle of Verdun over a spirited night of Battlefield 1 to the ITP slack channel, Joe continued to press that a third-round pick was too much to give up for Taylor. He has a very good point, as he’s reminded me over the past few days in true “iron sharpens iron” fashion. (As an aside, one of the great benefits at writing at a site line ITP is having your arguments dunked on before you go to print. It really helps refine your focus. It does remind me of a painful night my senior year in college defending my proposed honors thesis, a night from which I never fully recovered, but let’s get back to the point…)
My position on the Taylor acquisition is this. In a vacuum, perhaps a third-round pick is too much for Taylor. I’d still disagree with that because to me, Taylor is a middle-tier quarterback who in the right scheme can creep up to the top of that tier. He does not make many mistakes with the football, perhaps due to the fact that he is more of a see-it, throw-it passer who is usually very sure of the outcome before pulling the trigger, which might lead to some schematic limitations. But I digress.
To me, the value in making this trade is two-fold. First, the Browns acquire a starting quarterback who can fit with what Todd Haley wants to do offensively (more on that below) and can be Cleveland’s starter for the duration of 2018, provided he avoids injury. So in a sense, Cleveland is getting not only a starter for this season, but they’re also putting their next quarterback on a more development-friendly glidepath. Taylor’s presence means the quarterback they draft won’t be rushed onto the field. Again, more on that in a minute.
Also to the idea of value, despite surrendering the 65th overall pick, the Browns still have five picks in the first two rounds. That is also a ton of value, as noted by Warren Sharp in this article. The Browns were looking to the future when they amassed all of this draft capital, and acquiring Taylor is just one part of how they are going to use that wealth. Maybe they miss out on acquiring a nice piece with that third-round pick, but when you view the trade through the lens of ensuring a better developmental path for their incoming rookie QB, as I do, it makes more sense.
The Scheme Fit
Next, what does this move tell us about Cleveland’s offensive scheme plans? There have been some that argue this move points to a scheme built around what Taylor brings to the table as a quarterback. So… what is that scheme, if that’s the reasoning for the trade?
I think it might give us an angle or window into Cleveland’s thinking, but perhaps in a way that one might not expect. Todd Haley has stated that he will build an offense designed around the talent on offense, however, as Hue Jackson said himself Haley is a believer in the vertical passing game. Numbers bear that out as well. Last season only Deshaun Watson attempted more throws over 20 yards as a percentage of his total passes than Ben Roethlisberger.
You might be surprised to learn that despite playing in a more West Coast-based offense, Taylor attempted 11.7 percent of his throws more than 20 yards downfield, which was above the league average. On those throws, Taylor completed 14 of 29 passes for 468 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, for a QB rating of 117.4. Taylor was just a hair better in the 10-20 range of the field, completing 37 of 65 passes for 601 yards and seven touchdowns, with just one interception, for a QB rating of 117.5. This is something I’ve noticed both on film and in the numbers: Taylor is a better vertical passer than he gets credit before. In 2016 he completed 16 of 53 passes for 633 yards and six touchdowns (against four interceptions) on his throws over 20 yards, good for a QB rating of 83.3. Not great at first blush, but he was an impressive 4 of 8 for 237 yards and two touchdowns on throws of 40 yards or more, good for a QB rating of 135.4.
This past season, Taylor was forced into an offensive scheme, heavy on West Coast concepts, that might not have been the best schematic fit. That offense requires quick reads, decisions and throws, whereas Taylor is at his best on longer, slower developing plays downfield. He seems to be a good fit for what Haley wants his offense to look like. To me, that is another critical component of this decision, and helps point the way to what Cleveland might do regarding the first overall selection.
The Browns’ Plans
Finally, what can this move tell us about Cleveland’s future plans at quarterback? I’ve seen some argue that the trade for Taylor tells us about the QB prototype that Dorsey and company are looking for, and equating that with perhaps Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson. I’ve also seen others argue that Taylor might be their longer-term answer at the position.
I come down again on the developmental side, and look at Sam Darnold and yes, Josh Allen. To me, those guys need a bit more time and seasoning to unlock the quarterback they can develop into. Darnold does need time to refine and fix his lower body, as I’ve discussed in various places. Given his relative inexperience at playing the position (he just started playing quarterback as a sophomore in high school, first pointed out to my by Nick Martin, more from him in a second) so I believe he can clean up his mechanical inconsistencies and become an even better QB with time. As for Allen, my thoughts on him are well-documented but I do believe a slow introduction to life in the NFL would favor his development.
So in the end, I think that this move by Cleveland gives us a window into their future ideas at quarterback. Josh Rosen and Mayfield are closer to Day One ready in my mind. You could even make a case that Jackson could be playing early in the right offensive system. Moving for Taylor gives Cleveland a QB they can rely on to play at a sufficiently high level that they won’t need to rush a rookie into action. Therefore, I think this move does mean you can expect Darnold or Allen to be in the Browns’ plans with the first overall pick.
What About Kizer
An interesting undercurrent of this draft season was the presence of second-year quarterback DeShone Kizer on Cleveland’s roster. It has been widely assumed – and confirmed on Friday – that the former Notre Dame QB was not in their future plans. There’s an argument to be made the Kizer, similar to Jared Goff a season ago, should be given the opportunity to develop with a new offensive-minded coach (Todd Haley) and with some improved weapons around him (Saquon Barkley?). But with the trade on Friday, Kizer is now a Green Bay Packer.
This is a chance for new life for Kizer, who despite his rookie struggles still showed some signs of potential during the 2017 season. I’m not sure Hue Jackson did Kizer a ton of favors during his rookie year, and benching him at halftime of a three-point game against the New York Jets stands out as a poor way of handling a young quarterback. Sure, Kizer had just thrown a horrific interception in the red zone, but benching him in that situation just sends the absolute worst message to him: “We/I don’t trust you to win a three-point game.” In Green Bay, he’ll get a chance to learn from Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, and in their offense he’ll be forced to hone his processing speed and quick decision making. If Kizer can develop into the quarterback many thought he was coming out of college, this is perhaps the best environment for him.
“That’s a fake name.”
Here at ITP we are putting the finishing touches and the final reports into our system in anticipation of our 2018 Draft Guide. In our quest to make sure we get at least one set of eyes on every potential prospect, we put together a final list of quarterbacks to watch. “That’s a fake name” was my reaction at seeing the name Peter Pujals on the list. As someone who watched over 40 prospects for this draft last summer, the shame I felt when I finally got around to watching Pujals was palpable.
I already put together a video of some plays that stood out watching Pujals:
Pujals is a very interesting prospect. A five-year starter, who lost nearly a full season with a broken leg, but because the injury occurred early enough in the season, he was able to return for a final year. He is the first four-year starter in school history, and his play earned him an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where he played with other draftable prospects including Logan Woodside and Austin Allen, who were in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.
He does some things very well on the field and from the pocket, and as the above video highlights, he shows good processing speed on some route concepts such as the Go/Flat Concept. The second play highlighted in that video is very impressive, as he makes the split-second decision to throw the go route when he sees the cornerback trapping the flat route, something that is often extremely difficult to decipher during the play. He remains a long-shot to be drafted, but with processing speed like this he’s likely on a roster for training camp with a shot to stick as a third quarterback.
Mark, curious what your thought were on Mike White
— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) March 11, 2018
Here’s more from the previously-mentioned Nick Martin, who is definitely a good follow on Twitter. I have not written much about Mike White, which should not be interpreted as a sort of knock on the Western Kentucky quarterback. He does have some fans in the draft community, most notably Eric Galko from Optimum Scouting, who is a true believer and was among the first on White.
Entering this season, for me White had the chance to move himself clearly into the Day 2 discussion. He did take some leaps forward this season as a passer, but for me a combination of other players moving on the board, as well as some lingering questions about his play, have me more in the “early Day 3” camp on him.
Coming into the season, one of my knocks on him was his processing speed and situational awareness, which I felt needed to be improved. To White’s credit he took some steps forward in that area, and his game against Middle Tennessee State was one of the more enjoyable ones for me to study. Here’s some of my work on that game:
Despite White’s development this season, a few players have moved above him in a sense, which keeps him more in the Day 3 discussion for me. Particularly Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, who might have some (perhaps overblown in my mind) lingering questions about arm strength but is a very quick processor and someone who throws with great anticipation. White has the potential to be a schematically-diverse quarterback and with some refinement and consistency on downfield throws he could fit almost any offense, which is a benefit when grading him out. He’s definitely worthy of an early Day 3 pick, and someone who could flourish in the right environment and with the right coaching.
Thanks to Jim for the question here, who is one of the most loyal listeners to the Locked On Patriots podcast.
As discussed in the section on Pujalas, we are fully into the part of draft season where we really dive deep for prospects. That brings us to the above tweet, and the idea of Princeton University quarterback Chad Kanoff. ESPN’s Mike Reiss, who does tremendous work covering the New England Patriots, suggested that Kanoff was worth keeping an eye on, in part because of his representation (he’s represented by Don Yee, who notably represents both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo) and also because of his hand size. Kanoff checks in at 10 ¼ inches, which as Reiss notes fits in line with what Scott Pioli once mentioned about quarterbacks and the importance of their hand size when playing in New England’s tougher weather.
Having studied Kanoff, I can say that there is another reason to keep him in mind for New England: The potential scheme fit. When watching Kanoff operate Princeton’s offense you can see that the experienced quarterback is perhaps at his best when throwing on time and in rhythm, elements that mesh well with New England’s core offensive elements. Kanoff loved throwing the deep out route, particularly off of Flood or Sail Concepts, and while he does not have the overpowering arm of a Josh Allen, he makes those throws with anticipation and great ball-placement, on time and in rhythm. I think he’d be a good fit for what New England looks to do on offense.
Here’s some of what I mean:
I still think the Patriots look to address quarterback earlier in the draft, perhaps as early as the second round, but the Patriots do have a bit of a cushion, given the fact that Tom Brady is playing at such a high level still and they do have Brian Hoyer in case of an emergency. So they could wait another year to address QB early in the draft, and decide to wait a bit. If they do, Woodside and perhaps Kanoff come into the picture.
Help Me Help You
On Friday I sent around this tweet:
Hello friends. On this fine draft szn Friday I’d like to do something I do from time to time. If you’ve got some content you’d like to see boosted/shared, link me and I’ll give it a boost. Got some questions/need some help? DMs always open. Help me help you.
— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) March 9, 2018
I’ve long maintained that the support of so many in and around the football media world has truly meant the world to me. It’s a big reason why I’m able to do something I love and not, well, something that was driving me insane. So from time to time I’ll put out the call to everyone and see if I can help in any way. If you’ve got some content you’d like to see shared, something you’d like me to read, or if you’re looking for advice of your own, hit me up. DMs are always open.
Sunday evening Tyler Steege put out this tweet:
Twitter, my family needs your help..
My nephew was diagnosed with leukemia – his parents are struggling to afford the chemotherapy, traveling to the hospital, and other unfortunate expenses.
If you can’t donate, sharing/praying would be appreciated.https://t.co/Fy2nuZA75n
— Tyler Steege (@TSteegeNFL) March 11, 2018
As you can see, Tyler’s nephew has been diagnosed with leukemia and they are raising money to help cover the associated expenses. Anything you can do to help, even if it’s just giving the above tweet a boost, can make a difference.
Related content you may like:
- Check With Me March 8 – The Velocity Question by Mark Schofield
- Check With Me NFL Scouting Combine Quarterback Recap by Mark Schofield
- Defendant’s Reply Brief: Big Draft vs Lamar Jackson by Mark Schofield