Players with vast potential and a high ceiling will always get drafted early. If you ask most people if they’d be willing to select LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers in round one, they’ll respond in a positive manner. The Seahawks need a three-technique who can play every down and maintain the ‘stop-the-run’ logic of this defense. Brockers is far from the finished article and may go through a learning curve that limits his rookie-impact.
This is no different to Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who has undoubted physical talent and a ceiling as high as most quarterbacks that have entered the league in recent years. Teams are willing to reach for potential in the NFL and the rookie wage scale encourages a lower financial gamble on the position. If the Seahawks ever want to draft a player who could be ‘the one’ without actually owning a top-five pick, they’ll need to take the plunge on a player like this.
I’ve previously gone through Osweiler’s tape against USC, Utah and Boise State. Today we’ll take a look at his performance against Oregon (courtesy of MarioClp) and there are several examples that prove he has the kind of potential to be a high pick:
0:08 – Looks down the middle of the field and then back to the deep right with a receiver going downfield in single coverage. Osweiler’s forced to throw off his back foot because there’s pressure, but he delivers a pass with the right velocity into an area for the receiver to make a play. Not many quarterbacks can generate that much punch on a throw off the back-foot.
0:34 – Evidence of a willingness to make progressions as he originally looks to his right before coming back to the underneath crossing route. Smart play.
1:04 – Although this isn’t a completed pass, it’s further evidence of how Osweiler is adjustable and will improvise. Due to the blitz and pressure, he changes the angle of his delivery in order to get the ball quickly to the receiver before taking the hit. A side-arm release is never ideal even on a 6-8 quarterback, but Osweiler is not a robotic passer restricted to one delivery. Being able to improvise is an underrated quality for quarterbacks.
1:41 – Terrific pass to the right inside corner of the end zone. He waits for the route to develop, scans the field and spots an open receiver running to the end zone. It’s still a tight window he has to throw in and it’s only due to his arm strength that he’s able to make that pass. Some quarterbacks will hesitate to make such a throw, others will just be incapable of completing it. This is why we need to start talking about Osweiler as a round one option.
2:24 – Standard inside slant, spots the receiver making a good break and delivers a perfect ball for the first down.
3:02 & 3:42 – Two more slants, but evidence that Osweiler is comfortable in the pocket and taking what the defense gives. He’s not just about forcing big plays downfield, he can make good, accurate plays in the pocket.
4:27 – A similar touchdown pass to the first at 1:41, this is all on Osweiler’s arm strength. He shows an ability to exploit single coverage and put the ball in an area for his receiver to make a big play. Again, this is a tremendously difficult throw that most quarterbacks simply won’t be able to make, but it’s a perfect spiral with good height and velocity. There’s such a short window for the defensive back to react due to the speed in which the ball reaches the target.
5:55 – Good decision to throw the ball away, but he allowed the play to develop before making that choice and didn’t get impatient and make a rash judgement.
6:06 – Quick slant that dissects two defenders for a short gain, a precise delivery.
6:32 – Scans the field and anticipates the developing route to make a throw down the middle for a first down – good, quick decision and execution.
8:27 – Visibly moves between targets but can’t spot an open receiver, so he runs to the edge and makes a nice gain on the ground. Unique mobility for a 6-8 quarterback and flashes the ability to make plays on the run.
9:09 – Stands tall in the pocket and delivers a strong throw down the middle before taking a hit. Again, in that situation a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t be able to generate that level of velocity. Osweiler can. The receiver makes a dumb decision after the catch leading to a big penalty, pushing ASU back approaching half time. This ultimately leads to an interception.
11:32 – Osweiler handles a difficult snap before making a big throw downfield despite getting hit by a defensive end. The play is called back for offensive pass interference, but it’s still an impressive completion.
12:25 – Elite footwork to move away from pressure and extend the play, before firing a perfect strike to the receiver who breaks off a big run. This is the kind of play the NFL wants its quarterbacks to make.
14:30 – Further evidence of patience in the pocket, allowing the route to develop and finding an open receiver for the first down.
15:16 – First down throw on 4th and 9 where he runs through multiple progressions to make the completion. Intelligent quarterback play and field vision.
15:54 – A second interception, but it has nothing to do with Osweiler. This is top-end quarterback play of the highest order. He looks very deliberately to his left to allow the developing route to his right. He snaps back across and fires a perfectly executed throw into the end zone, which is fumbled by the receiver and caught by a defensive back. This was actually one of the most impressive plays in the tape, but it goes down as a pick.
Osweiler essentially kept Arizona State competitive in a game where they had no legitimate running game and got most of their yards on the ground using laterals and extended hand offs. The play calling after the first pick became strangely conservative given the quarterbacks performance up until that point. Of course, it wasn’t all positive – at 7:17 he fails to spot the open receiver down the middle and forces a throw into single coverage instead. Although he was pressured from the interior, it’s a mist opportunity on third down to make a big gain. On the first interception at 9:53, although the receiver appears to slip, Osweiler puts too much juice on the throw leading to a pick and substantial return. Having said that, he maybe needed to force things a little after a dumb personal foul penalty on one of the receivers and with half-time drawing near.
Apart from one bad interception against Boise State that led to a 100-yard pick-six, I’ve been impressed by Osweiler’s decision making. Considering he is a player who naturally will take chances with his arm, there aren’t many ‘close calls’ and the turnovers he’s had are not as concerning as they could be. While Ryan Tannehill is currently being talked up as a potential top-15 pick, he’s much more prone to mental errors and doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket. Osweiler - despite having comparable starting experience – looks like a much more natural passer.
The offensive scheme at ASU uses a lot of flare passes, extended hand offs and screens to open up deeper routes. People will highlight this, but it’s difficult to criticise the quarterback too much when this is just part of the sytem. He’s shown on varying levels an ability to make difficult completions, a wide range of complex passes, extend plays and get the ball downfield for big gains. He’ll be capable of scoring quick points at the next level, but I’ve seen enough to believe he can also manage a ball control offense and limit turnovers. If you take away the short stuff at the next level, I still firmly believe Osweiler will be capable of making tough downfield throws. Working in an offense with a solid ground-game could have a similar impact, creating a lot of single coverage situations and opening up play action.
Physically, Osweiler is a unique player with a ceiling higher than most quarterbacks entering the draft. He’s far from the finished product, but I’m starting to believe he’s going to eventually enter the first round discussion. If you can draft him at any point after the first round you’re getting a potential steal. An exciting prospect who will be part of my next first-round mock draft on Wednesday.