Early deep-dive: 2019 QB class
Everything NFL Draft fans need to know about the 2019 QB class, including early rankings, analysis and profiles of the top QB prospects.
2019 QB class rankings
|1)||Justin Herbert||Top 15||Oregon||6’6||233||JR|
|3)||Will Grier||R2||West Virginia||6’2||215||rSR|
|5)||Brian Lewerke||R3||Michigan State||6’3||220||rJR|
|7)||Ryan Finley||R3||NC State||6’4||212||tGR|
|8)||Dwayne Haskins||Ohio State||6’3||220||rSO|
|9)||Nick Fitzgerald||Miss. State||6’5||230||rSR|
|10)||Trace McSorley||Penn State||6’0||201||rSR|
|12)||Jake Bentley||South Carolina||6’4||224||JR|
*The early “grade” for each QB above is a middle ground between current resume and 2019 projection. It’s possible (likely even) that none of the QB’s here would have been picked in the 1st round last spring if eligible. But It’s projection season, so let’s get right into it!
Best Arm: Lock
Most Accurate: Herbert
Best Release: Stidham / Grier
Best Ball Carrier: Fitzgerald
Most Pocket Poise: McSorley
Highest Upside: Herbert
Greatest Risk: Lock
Sleeper: Lewerke / Haskins
“My Guys”: Herbert, Stidham, Lewerke, Haskins, McSorley
Depleted 2019 QB class
There was a ton of QB-talent available at the top of the last draft, which may come at the expense of the 2019 QB class. Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson all declared early, depleting this year’s group of Seniors.
Leaving what exactly? Missouri’s Drew Lock, West Virginia’s Will Grier and N.C. State’s Ryan Finley head up most lists of the top Senior prospects in the country. Whether any of them profile as future franchise quarterbacks is up in the air though. And the Senior class drops off precipitously after them.
Take the importance of physical traits out of the question, and Finley might currently be the best QB in college. He wins with footwork, timing, a quick release, downfield touch and a smart processor. Yet he’s also a game manager type with limited upside. He’s got a light frame with average-at-best arm strength and mobility, and he’ll be 24 in December.
Lock and Grier offer a more enticing combination of early production and potential, but they may profile as day-two types (2nd-3rd round) who rise in a weak class. Grier’s flags are that he’s only 6’2, has questions to answer about an early-career PED-suspension & transfer, and he’ll also be 24 years old on draft weekend. He has impressive ability though, and I like how well he performed vs. quality defenses in 2017.
Lock was the opposite – mostly struggling vs. strong SEC defenses and feasting vs. poor competition. He possesses all the physical tools you look for, including size, mechanics, functional mobility and a huge arm. But he’s got concerning accuracy/touch issues, and Missouri’s gimmicky offense has left him far behind in learning the position.
Perhaps Grier, Lock, and/or a late-blooming Senior can rise to the first round this year, though it’s far from a guarantee this far out.
Promising underclassmen have plenty to prove
Let’s get real for a second. Any excitement over the 2019 QB class is going to stem from the underclassmen. It looks like a weak year overall for quarterbacks right now, but the Juniors could have something to say about that. Several players flash theoretical early-round upside, led by Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke, and Michigan’s Shea Patterson.
Herbert is the early leader in the race to QB1, and with good reason. He’s among the most physically impressive and accurate quarterbacks in the country, and he won’t turn 21 until next March. Stidham is another one of my personal favorites and has a great opportunity to rise over this season. Lewerke and Patterson are the wildcards in the north, but they’re a few clicks behind the other two entering this fall.
Lastly, keep an eye on Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. A redshirt sophomore with only 57 career pass attempts to his name, Haskins is no lock to emerge as a legit 2019 prospect. But he would with a big year, which is entirely possible in that Buckeyes’ offense. He’s naturally gifted and flashed hints of major upside in his cup of coffee behind J.T. Barrett last year.
2019 QB class – player profiles
Justin Herbert | Oregon, JR | 6’6, 233 lbs | grade: Top-15
- Great frame at 6’6, 233 lbs. Could still stand to get a bit stronger to better withstand contact. Won’t turn 21 until a month before the 2019 Draft.
- Good athlete as well – very mobile in space outside the pocket.
- Throws an accurate football, keeping balanced in the pocket with proper footwork and delivering the ball with feet & shoulders square to target.
- Imperfect release – a little flat, short-arming throws from time to time.
- Easy arm strength, but it doesn’t appear as spectacular as it could be – is his release holding back the velocity a little?
- Solid production & efficiency, though still a limited sample size. Collarbone injury in 2017 (non-throwing shoulder). Played well as a true freshman in 2016 as well.
- Oregon’s spread offense makes things extremely easy for him. Especially with all the time his OL provided him last year. He rarely dealt with pressure and didn’t show much awareness or aptitude for it from the pocket (when protection did break down).
- Too comfortable in the pocket, as he’s used to having so much time & space to work with. Holds the ball too long and doesn’t always react to rushers he could avoid with basic movement.
- Pistol-system coming in 2018?
- Some scouts question his toughness after he reportedly cried in the huddle after a practice as a freshman.
- Terrific tools to work with, but still a lot to prove. If he’d been eligible for the 2018 draft, I don’t think he’d have gone in R1. But there’s no upper limit to how high he could rise for 2019.
Jarrett Stidham | Auburn, tJR | 6’3, 215 lbs | grade: R1
- Big-time recruit who burst onto the scene as a true FR at Baylor when starter Seth Russell went down with injury. Transferred to Auburn after Bears gave Russell his job back. Posted solid/not spectacular numbers in 2017, with lots of inconsistency. Exceptional performances vs. elite Alabama & Georgia defenses, and struggled vs. LSU & especially Clemson.
- Average size, yet he seems to play bigger than listed measurements (toughness). Could stand to slide more often, though he either avoids hits or bounces right back up from them. 2-3 injuries in brief college career is a bit concerning, though nothing lingering.
- Excellent set of tools to work with. Delivers the ball smoothly from multiple platforms, with touch, accuracy, and zip. Throws a gorgeous deep ball & knows what velocity to use on short-intermediate routes.
- Better than functional mobility in all facets – escapes, scrambles & throws on the run. Decent movement in the pocket, though tends to drop eyes too often once he steps up.
- Auburn also primarily runs a shotgun-spread offense and a very simple one at that. Wasn’t asked to do whole lot, yet he made it work. I thought Stidham demonstrated superior processing ability than a lot of the other hyped 2019 prospects. Read the field well (albeit without much complexity) and made good decisions with the football.
- Like Herbert, needs to prove it in 2018. Managed a very run-heavy offense last year, which certainly took the pressure off. A smidge behind Herbert/Lock/Grier for R1 consideration based off 2017 tape, but he could easily rise to the overall QB1. Flashes everything you look for besides elite size and has a huge opportunity to shine in 2018.
Will Grier | West Virginia, rSR | 6’2, 223 lbs | grade: R2
- Prolific production dating back to high school. Excelled as rFR for Florida before PED suspension & transfer to WVU. Sat out a year before his big 2017 season.
- Lacks prototypical size at 6’2, 223 lbs – wins with functional pocket movement and mobility/shiftiness in space however. Good thrower on the move.
- Plus arm talent – very smooth delivery with plenty of zip when called for. No cannon, but he makes throws others can’t with his combo of a quick release, zip, placement & anticipation.
- Sometimes sloppy in connecting feet, hips and upper body into a balanced base throughout the rep, resulting in some inaccuracy. That’s mostly nitpicking though – generally drops back smoothly and throws accurately. Changes speeds with solid touch on the ball.
- Aggressive downfield thrower (in part due to WVU’s super-spread), with some erratic decision making. Trusts his strong WR core but could stand to take better care of the ball.
- Same system questions as Herbert, Stidham and Lock – WVU’s offense is so different from even the most spread-out NFL schemes. SG-only with fantastic pass protection – he does show some comfort/potential manipulating coverages, evading rushers and stepping up in the pocket.
- V-Tech, TCU, Iowa State: 76/123 (61.8%), 1053 yards (8.6 ypa), 8 TD, 3 INT – 100.8 rating.
- Will be 24 by draft day, with potential concerns over size and suspension. Enough pedigree & talent to rise to R1 despite those questions.
Drew Lock | Missouri, SR | 6’4, 225 lbs | grade: R2
- NFL-ready size at 6’4, 225 lbs. Solid mobility with enough strength to bounce up from hard shots. Can escape the pocket and run with the ball in spurts, but not a run-game weapon.
- Outstanding arm talent – quick release & powerful arm to rocket the ball all over the field.
- Too reliant on the fastball, lacks great touch – drops on short throws are somewhat on Lock.
- Completion % leaves a lot to be desired. Inaccurate when he doesn’t fire it, especially on deep shots that could use a little more air. Big red flag if not improved in 2018.
- Timing and decision-making can be hit-or-miss.
- Simple system under outgoing Mizzou OC. Wide open spread with lots of screens & deep shots. Ball comes out very quick to 1st or 2nd read. Struggles to process additional reads.
- No noticeable issues in footwork, balance or technique delivering from the pocket.
- A bit statuesque in the pocket when initial reads aren’t open. Like Herbert – little experience or ability to create space to launch when structure breaks down.
- Feasted vs. poor competition with a significant drop-off in production vs. quality defenses.
- New offensive system coming in 2018 with more pro-style concepts – needs to better cope with pressure, hit the middle of the field, and make more complex reads. Some under-center would be nice too.
Brian Lewerke | Michigan State, rJR | 6’3, 220 lbs | grade: R3
- A guy you hope is still in the early stages of his development. Flashes all the physical traits & abilities you look for in a top-flight QB prospect, yet he was so inconsistent in his first year as a starter. Mediocre 2017 stats reflect how far away he still is from earning that status.
- NFL arm talent. Multi-platform passer with pace & touch to all areas of the field. Maintains zip & accuracy on the run.
- The most intriguing element to his profile is mental processing (despite several instances of Kamikaze decision-making). Quickly works through progressions, reads the whole field and throws with anticipation, all while remaining calm & composed back in the pocket. In just one season he has more experience making high-level reads of pro-style concepts than the other top guys have.
- Dual-threat playmaker who rushed for 559 yards (4.5 ypc) and 5 TD’s last year. Natural escapability – senses pressure and flushes the pocket with eyes up looking to pass. Able to reset his feet and throw on balance outside the pocket. Good athlete. Used as a designed running threat on draws and options.
- Bad combination of highly-erratic decision-making and uneven accuracy. Not all that precise with a lot of his passes, and he throws up complete prayers into hotly-contested spots downfield. Would have had more INT’s if not for dropped picks last season. Can’t project him to the early rounds (1-2) yet without showing improvement in those areas, despite apparent upside.
Shea Patterson | Michigan, JR | 6’2, 205 lbs | grade: R3
- 5-star recruit with close to 1 full season of starting experience over 2 years in the SEC. Transferred to Michigan this offseason and granted immediate eligibility.
- Undersized – lacks desired height & build. Tore PCL in 2017, missing half of Ole Miss’ season.
- Natural playmaker with the ball in his hands. Not incredibly fast, but exceptionally quick & elusive. Evades pressure and buys time outside the pocket, making some superb throws.
- Poor decision-maker at this point – doesn’t see underneath/help defenders and takes unnecessary risks trying to make hero-throws into non-existent windows. Sometimes avoids the easy throw instead of taking what’s there & living for another down.
- Playmaking talent extends to passing, with a quick multi-platform release and plenty of arm. Shows nice downfield accuracy, though a little hit-or-miss on short & intermediate throws.
- Feasted vs. S. Alabama, Tenn-Martin & Vandy, while struggling mightily vs. Cal, Bama & LSU.
- Huge opportunity to boost his stock in Michigan’s pro style offense, but first-round hype might be excessive (or at least premature) given his size and inconsistency to this point.
Ryan Finley | N.C. State, tGR | 6’4, 212 lbs | grade: R3
- 6th-year graduate – transferred from Boise State after breaking an ankle & losing starting job. Two years of decent production at NC State. Started out like gangbusters in the first half last season before faltering down the stretch. History also includes a concussion and a misdemeanor charge.
- Wins with timing, precision, good base, quick release, downfield touch and smarts. Game manager type who has great command of the Wolfpack’s relatively pro-style offense.
- Upside limited by age, light frame, mediocre arm strength & mobility.
Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State, rSO | 6’3, 220 lbs
- Backed up J.T. Barrett last season and really impressed in his brief appearances. Highlight of his season was Michigan game where he entered down 20-14 in the 3rd quarter. OSU won 31-20. Also played a full half vs. UNLV: 15/23 for 228 yards, 2 TD’s & 1 INT.
- Solid size, strength and mobility. Not a designed run-game weapon, but he’s a functional scrambler & read/option runner.
- Intriguing arm talent with great release, power and placement. Accuracy seemed to fizzle under pressure in limited reps. Poised in the pocket for someone with his age & experience.
- Obviously has a ton to prove with only 57 career pass attempts, yet he has sky-high potential. Probably best served by starting for 2 years at OSU, though he has QB1 upside in the 2019 draft. Huge NFL-appeal, with the opportunity to show it this year.
Nick Fitzgerald | Mississippi State, rSR | 6’5, 230 lbs
- Coming off severe ankle dislocation to end the 2017 season.
- Prototypical combination of size (6’5, 230 lbs), mobility and arm strength.
- Superb athlete with the size, elusiveness and toughness to consistently be deployed as a weapon in the running game. 2359 rushing yards & 30 TD’s from 2016-2017. Only Cam Newton is at/above his level among NFL QB’s.
- Alarmingly low 55% completion rate over the last two years, especially in a run-heavy spread offense. Inaccuracy stems in part from poor balance & weight transfer upon release of the football. Voluntarily throws off his back-foot way too often. The Bulldog’s weak receiving core is also a factor.
- Weirdly statuesque at times in the pocket, not looking to run unless by design. Could stand to use his athletic ability a bit more to buy time when necessary. The willingness to hang in is a good thing, but you’d like to see more pocket movement to evade rushers.
- I get the sense that he capably processes reads & makes decent decisions, but he’s undone by woeful accuracy all over the field and an inability to adequately cope with pressure.
- Massive role in MSU’s offense. Potential riser with health & improvement.
Trace McSorley | Penn State, rSR | 6’0, 201 lbs
- Woefully undersized at 6’0, 201 lbs, with smallish hands to boot. Mediocre velocity when he guns it, and limited range on downfield shots. Those are hefty red flags in his draft stock of course, but outside of those (vitally important) areas he’s as skilled as any QB in college football.
- Outstanding poise and footwork in the pocket – expertly maneuvers to create space and platforms to deliver the ball. Confidently steps up/through the rush despite size and keeps eyes downfield. Very comfortable working the middle of the field for such a short QB.
- Copes with pressure like a seasoned NFL veteran – no panic in him whatsoever. Buys time with his mobility and feel for the rush, with efficient footwork to re-establish his balance before the throw.
- Terrific athlete – a threat on designed runs and especially scrambles. Sudden & slippery, with the speed to take advantage of the space he creates. Possesses plus balance & body control, with some twitchy explosiveness as well. He’s like a smart undersized-RB in his ability to avoid big hits or unnecessary contact while still maxing out yards available.
- Exceptional touch on intermediate/deep over shoulder throws – makes up for lack of power. Works through progressions.
- Can sail or miss easy throws at times – small hands. Still a 66.5% completion rate in 2017.
- Tremendous consistency – lowest college passer rating was 117.0 in 2017, and never below triple digits over the last two seasons.
- Incredibly difficult to grade given the wide disparity between his tools and ability. His game is kind of a cross between Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, but without anything near Wilson’s arm talent, Brees’ precision, or either’s bulk & hand-size. I think he can be a good backup for a long time.