Late round Quarterbacks of interest, Part II

December 24th, 2011 | Written by Kip Earlywine

Chandler Harnish

Written by Kip Earlywine

Part I

I’m gonna level with you guys, I’ve been a long time skeptic of searching for franchise quarterbacks with late round picks.  I’ve seen numerous studies done, and they inevitably come to the same conclusion:  Quarterbacks may be the riskiest 1st round picks, but the odds of getting a QB anywhere else is far worse.  Here is a chart that tracks pro-bowl quarterbacks taken from 1995 to 2006:

So please understand, this series is not about convincing anyone that a late-round approach is guaranteed to find us the next franchise savior.  However, our front office has to be prepared to do the best they can with the hand they are dealt.  Going the late round route in 2012 is a far inferior option, but it might be the only one.

Now that I’ve gotten all of that out of the way, there is some reason for optimism using this approach.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave, it should be abundantly clear that John Schneider knows a thing or two about identifying value in the later rounds, and Pete Carroll knows a thing or two about developing those players: Chancellor, Wright, Sherman, Browner, Baldwin and even Tate are among them.   We’ve even seen some development with Tarvaris Jackson this year, and while its clear that Whitehurst is on his way out due to his not being very good, he did post the best preseason of his career this year after Carroll tailored a dumbed-down offense to cover Whitehurst’s substantial deficiencies (something he didn’t do for Whitehurst in the regular season, unfortunately).

Seattle is quickly becoming a good landing spot for a young quarterback.  It has an improving offensive line.  It has an improving running game.  It has quality at receiver and tight end.  And it has a serious up and coming defense.  But perhaps best of all, it has a philosophy which asks precious little of it’s quarterback, the same philosophy that made a good starter out of Alex Smith of all people.  In other words, Seattle does not even need to find a quarterback who was a world beater in college, it only needs a coachable player who can learn and has the tools to execute basic plays with ease.

Remember when Michael Vick was a bust who couldn’t throw the ball to save his life?  That changed pretty quickly when he was introduced to Andy Reid’s version of the point guard role.  Just because a guy makes lousy decisions in one offense or appears to have a limited grasp doesn’t mean he would in ours.  Hence, it makes sense that Seattle has generally targeted quarterbacks with a lot of innate talent, but who lacked mental skill.  While I think Jordan Jefferson is far from being a good quarterback, his pros and cons fit nicely with what this front office is trying to accomplish at the position.

Having such low requirements and a good quarterback environment not only increases Seattle’s odds of success, but it also widens the lens and allows Seattle to look at a very large number of potential quarterbacks, including some who may not get drafted by any other team at all, just like Josh Portis last year.

One comment from yesterday was almost incredulous that I seemed to be touting Keenum and Jefferson.  Believe me, I’m not.  The purpose of these posts is NOT to make you guys believe that there are dozens of franchise saviors out there for the taking dirt cheap.  Rather, its to provide some basic information from a Seahawks perspective regarding this late round field of quarterbacks, so that hopefully, when Seattle drafts one (or two) of them next April, it won’t leave us all saying “Who?”  That said, there are a few quarterbacks out there later on that I do actually find a little exciting.  Today I’ll actually cover a couple of them (its not the first one).

So without any further ado:

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Dominique Davis, E. Carolina. Size: 6’3″, 215. Class: Sr.  Age:  22.

Yet another Conference-USA quarterback on this list.  Davis is an athletic quarterback with size and build similar to Robert Griffin, though with perhaps a touch less speed.

Davis began his college career at Boston College as Matt Ryan’s backup.  After losing the battle for the starters job the next season, and also failing to meet academic standards, he transferred to Fort Scott community college, where amazingly enough, he found himself in a playoff game later that year against Cam Newton, and would have won a shootout if not for his team surrendering an 84 yard punt return touchdown with 15 seconds left.

Unfortunately, for all the positives Davis possess, he is the definition of a project.  Davis completed 67.6% of his passes, but also threw a whopping 19 interceptions this year.  He has a great deep ball, but could only muster a 6.53 YPA.  His 2010 numbers were similar.  Its hard to say anything of substance regarding Davis since I don’t have access to game tape, but everything I read about him paints the picture of a quarterback with mental deficiencies.  Davis fits the profile Seattle is seeking, but I don’t know if they would actually spend a draft pick on him.  Josh Portis looks like the better 3rd quarterback between the two, and Seattle didn’t spend a pick on Portis.  That said, would it shock me if Dominique Davis was a member of this roster next August?  Not in the slightest.

Expected draft trajectory:  Late rounds, possible UDFA.

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Chandler Harnish, N. Illinois. Size: 6’2″, 220. Class: Sr.  Age:  23.

While I am trying my best to not paint too positive a picture for any of these late round prospects, Harnish has presented maybe the greatest challenge so far.  I haven’t seen much, but what I’ve seen, I like.

Harnish is very close to prototypical NFL height and size.  Coming from the MAC, Harnish didn’t exactly play the world’s toughest schedule, but he did lead his team to eight straight regular season victories to end is NIU career.  His 2011 stat line was very impressive:  62.9% completion rate, 8.45 YPA, and 26/5 TD/INT, and his 2010 stat-line was almost identical.  Harnish also had a Kaepernick-esque 1,382 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns last year.  In 2010, he had 836 rushing yards and 7 rushing scores.

In the link above, there is a compilation video from his game against Army.  Unfortunately, its not comprehensive and only includes positive plays, but its enough to see the kind of ability Harnish has.

Harnish has been accused of having an “average arm,” but I don’t see it that way.  Harnish is capable of making some great downfield throws with zip, but often deliberately chooses to take a lot off the ball to ensure accuracy and touch on certain throws.  Keith Price had the same “problem” early on in 2011, but as the season went along, he learned how to blend touch and zip to perfection.  As I recall, Tarvaris Jackson had a bit of a touch/zip balancing issue in the preseason and for years with the Vikings before ironing out the creases during the regular season this year.  Harnish hardly looks like a weakling either, as you might have guessed based on his weight/height.  With his pads off, he almost looks like a lesser Jake Locker in terms of bulk.  From what I’ve seen, I’d “sell” any notion that Harnish doesn’t have a good arm.

His dropback is pretty seemless, and his footwork is above average.  His release point could be better, but its not horrible, and the ball gets out of his hand very quickly- except when he’s lofting to add touch.  He executes plays in a crisp manner.  He doesn’t appear to make a ton of reads, but based on the front office’s history, that probably won’t be a sticking point- especially for a late rounder.  I can’t be definitive from so little data, but it does appear that he has above average pocket awareness and is highly elusive.  Its not surprising that he’s only been sacked 9 times this year.  And obviously, he possesses impressive mobility, like a shiftier Ryan Tannehill.

Another positive for Harnish is as a multi-sport player and great athlete, he could contribute at another position if he doesn’t make it at quarterback.

We’ll get a better look at Harnish when he plays in the GoDaddy Bowl (January 8th) against Arkansas State.

Expected draft trajectory:  Mid-to-Late rounds.

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Russell Wilson, Wisconsin. Size: 5’11″, 201. Class: Sr.  Age:  23.

Note:  Some sites list Wilson’s height as 5’10″.

Russell Wilson probably deserves a writeup all to himself, but for now just let me say that Wilson’s college career was so tantalizing that its causing me to rethink my stance on sub-six-foot quarterbacks.  If you follow college football even a little, you probably already know what Wilson has done at Wisconsin this year, which is dominate one of the better conferences in college football and help Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl berth.  Wisconsin lost on the road to two tough teams by margins of six and four points (and one of those losses was successfully avenged in the conference championship game), but won every other game by an average margin of 33.5 points.  That’s some seriously dominant football.

Wilson was (yet another) transfer quarterback, having been a star at NC State before transferring to Wisconsin just this year.  The recent success of transfer quarterbacks is slowly changing the way major programs look at recruiting the quarterback position, and Wilson is just the latest example of that.

A very common comparison for Wilson is Troy Smith, who was roughly the same height and also dominated while playing in the same conference.  Troy Smith won a Heisman, but he never had a season quite like the one Wilson is having this year.  Consider these unreal numbers and remember that Wilson wasn’t playing a cakewalk schedule:  72.5% completion rate, 10.14 YPA, 31 TD, 3 INT.  Obviously, stats never tell the whole story for evaluating college prospects, but HOLY CRAP!  In 2011, Russell Wilson was basically a five foot eleven inch version of Cam Newton (albeit less explosive).  If Russell were the exact same player in a 6’3″ body (assuming weight scaled with his height), he’d be a serious candidate to go #1 overall in most drafts.  He’s that good (not to mention, a perfect fit in the point guard quarterback role).

Wilson has a great throwing motion.  The ball gets out fast enough and comes out very high.  Its enough to make me legitimately wonder if he can overcome his height issue in the NFL because I just don’t see a lot of batted balls with that throwing motion.  Sure, he’s going to have trouble seeing targets on 3 step drops, but on 5 step drops, 7 step drops, and shotgun snaps, I have yet to see him “tiptoe” before making a pass.  His mobility is not elite but scores as solidly above average.  His dropbacks are smooth and his footwork is solid with some room for further improvement.  As you might expect for a short and mobile quarterback, Wilson really shines on rollouts and bootlegs.  He executes plays well, is extremely accurate, and has a pretty deep ball.  He’s also a great leader on the field and gives good interviews off of it.  There is so much to like about this guy.

But alas, height is a major sticking point for NFL front offices, and durability could be a big concern as well (he’s barely 200 lbs without much room for growth).  If Wilson becomes a dominant NFL quarterback, it wouldn’t just be an amazing achievement, he’d literally be the first great quarterback of his kind.  Still, if there ever is a sub-six-foot quarterback who can pull it off some day, I can hardly imagine that player being any better of a college quarterback than Russell Wilson.

Expected draft trajectory:  Late rounds / UDFA.

To be continued…

26 Responses to “Late round Quarterbacks of interest, Part II”

  1. TJ says:

    If you are going to include Wilson as a sub-6 footer, you had better include Kellen Moore too. I have watched him play every game for the past 4 years. If the goal is to find a QB later in the draft who can run Carroll’s offense, hand the ball off to Lynch, run effective play action, throw accurate passes WITHOUT MAKING MISTAKES, there is no one better in college football than Kellen Moore. If he was 2 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he would be a 1st round pick. I’m not saying that he is the next Joe Montana, I’m not even saying that he will be a full time starter in the NFL. But with the dire need for QBs that the Hawks currently have, if Moore is sitting there in round 4 or 5 and Seattle passes on him, I will be upset.

  2. Rugby Lock says:

    Brilliant stuff Kip!! Keep it up!!! Nice to see who they might take a flier on considering they have no shot at Luck and RGIII would be extremely expensive…

  3. Rob says:

    TJ – there are many, many technical issues with Kellen Moore that don’t get emphasised due to the situation he’s in. No other quarterback was sacked less than Moore in 2011. He’s not nearly as accurate as people assume. The physical problems are always there, but the technical issues exist too.

  4. TJ says:

    Rob – I understand the technical issues. I also know that he rarely gets sacked, however he deserves a lot of the credit for that statistic. His ability to identify the blitz and either check to a better play or find the hot receiver that the blitz creates is amazing. His football IQ is off the charts and and although there may be physical and technical issues, don’t underestimate the importance of the mental part of the game. With this being a discussion of “late round” QBs, his name simply has to be mentioned. I’m not advocating using a 1st or 2nd round pick on him. Just about every player picked in the later rounds will have technical and physical issues to be concerned about – size, speed, strength, technique, etc. We will just have to agree to disagree.

  5. Jarhead says:

    Okay, so I tout myself as the biggest T Jack hater on the Pacific Coast, I have no faith in this guy. BUT to claim that the QB position is a complete loss is a little drastic. Yes he is awful, but not so awful that we need to blow up the entire situation and make a ploy to interject a late round flier. Jackson is capable enough to keep us competitive in most games, we haven’t been blown out since Pittsburgh and I don’t see any rookie out there who could come straight in and do better. So the question I pose: Why would we classify the QB situation as so immediately dire that it must be imminently resolved by inserting a rookie? At best, with a late round prospect we will have a project who can start in a year. But if we have no conceivable, at this point at least, replacement to insert to improve the situation then the situation is static and we will be in the same boat next year. If there was someone to immediately insert and upgrade the position it becomes more important. I mean, in my opinion, we have no realistic access to any QB’s who would be an immediate upgrade to T Jack. So he is the guy for another year. So all we’re doing this year is getting another Josh Portis, a young QB who we can train within the system and see if he pans out. Maybe lightning strikes and we find a guy who knocks our socks off, then hey merry christmas to us, right? But as of right now all we should be hoping for is a smart and eager young QB who is willing to learn and compete every week to maybe prove he is the best player at his position and start. But I highly doubt that given the current set of circumstances our QB woes are immediately resolvable.

  6. Matt says:

    TJ – Agree with you that the lack of sacks has more to do with Moore than people give him credit for. People too often use the sack statistic as their prove that a quarterback’s success is because of his offensive line when much of the time it because the QB has great understanding of his offense, understands the blitz and where his hot reads are, and generally gets rid of the ball quickly.

  7. Jarhead says:

    Some first half thoughts- from all the mocks I’m seeing around the internet, some reality. Dre Kirkpatrick COULD NOT start for this team. We are set at corner. DB should not really be considered as a first round possibility. In fact, I would say that defense is set as a whole. We don’t need much help on defense. There is no explosive Sack artist available, and I believe there are more effective players available in FA at that regard, so I wouldn’t really be focusing on Defense in the first round for Seattle. Offense needs a little help, and Rob is on the right track. We need someone to stretch the defense. I’m noticing our receivers are struggling to achieve separation from DB’s on long pass plays. So we need to go for a playmaker, someone with some real speed. I think that is an element to our O that is sorely missing. For the most part Jackson is playing a good game. He is still being a bit tenetive, and I would like to see him try and make a play using his legs. Come on, guy. Try and run for one for pete’s sake. All in all, a good half, and we are handling the 49ers fairly easily

  8. Kip Earlywine says:

    Given that there isn’t an obvious player in the mid first that would fill a huge need for us, I think it just makes the cause to trade up for Griffin even more justifiable.

    That said, if Seattle stays put and the draft falls like we expect, it might be time to start thinking outside the box. Marshawn Lynch is playing at an pro-bowl level right now, but drafting Miller out of Miami could make a lot of sense despite that. Miller would provide a huge spark as a change of pace back, and also provide a post-Lynch successor. Lynch may be only 25, but given his workload, I think its probably more accurate to give him 3 more years of playing this well, rather than 4 or 5.

  9. Jarhead says:

    I totally agree with that Kip, I’ve been thinking that since Barkley made his decision public. As for Griffin: whom of us wouldn’t want him? He would be an amazing addition. But I don’t see it as a possibility with only Griffin and Luck available as “franchise” guys. Rumor has it that the price of Luck could be as high as 4 first rounders and then some. And Griffin will be costly as well, if by some miracle the Colts don’t get the number one pick, well then that’s one team who will get Luck and get their QB. Now there are potentially 6 other teams who will be vying for the services of Griffin, and every one of them has better draft capital than us. I would love Griffin in Seahawk blue, but it has become, in my eyes, a 99.9% impossibility.

  10. Kip Earlywine says:

    I don’t expect Griffin’s price to be that high. Top picks, especially quarterbacks, get scrutinized to hell, and as good as Griffin is, he might have the most to scrutinize of any top 10 caliber quarterback in recent memory. I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of Griffin falling out of the top 10. Not at all.

    Miami might take Griffin, but their current quarterback (Matt Moore) has actually played very well since taking over. He’s almost up to a 90 passer rating on the season, and the team has been winning a ton of his starts.

    Cleveland and Washington will be suitors, but Griffin isn’t a perfect scheme fit for either one and Holmgren has a long history of avoiding first round QBs.

    Also, while Indy might be asking for four 1st rounders, that’s because they badly need a quarterback and they want to be sure they’re not screwing themselves in any deal down the road. There are currently a lot of teams that pick ahead of Washington and Miami who just want to move down in a gradual talent draft class.

    If Seattle decides they want Griffin, I don’t think it would be that hard to get him. I really don’t.

  11. Jarhead says:

    I absolutely hope you are right about that. I mean have a skill set as dynamic as Griffin’s just waiting in our wings would be very exciting. I guess everyone has made it seem so dire that JAX, CLE, TB, MIA, WAS, and KC were all looking QB, it’s kind of reflexive to think that Griffin will be as good as gold. I see your point about scheme fit, and any team taking a shot to move up the board for a QB when they have many other needs (essentially every team NOT Seattle) is certainly very risky. So there is certainly a chance, but it still seems like a long shot. And by the way, if Seattle ever puts together an entire 60 minutes of football, gee whiz. It’s a crummy first half and dynamite second half one week, and the opposite the next. I know that’s just the by-product of youth but we should’ve beat the 49ers today. They better enjoy this now, because it will be a different story next year. We’re pretty stuck with T Jack for all intents and purposes, so may as well beat some damn teams, I say.

  12. Kip Earlywine says:

    I view it as a longshot too but for different reasons. What if Seattle just doesn’t grade Griffin as highly as we do? Remember how high we were on Mallett last year? They didn’t even have Mallett on their board at all.

    I’m already hearing critiques of Griffin as a less than ideal possession QB. One anonymous NFL exec pointed out that Griffin can make big plays, but isn’t as good on 3rd and 6 as Luck or Barkley. Obviously, being good on 3rd and 6 is a major emphasis for a would-be Seahawks QB.

    It could just be that they give Griffin a mid-1st or even late 1st grade, and basically feel that “if he’s there, then sure we’ll draft him.” Nobody here is a mind-reader, which is exactly why we have to stay open-minded about this. While I would be stunned if Griffin fell to our pick and we passed, I wouldn’t be shocked if a team picking early is desperate to move down and dangling Griffin, and Seattle couldn’t care less.

    I guess we’ll find out, won’t we? Hopefully Griffin gives us the chance by declaring.

  13. Kip Earlywine says:

    Merry Christmas everybody!

  14. Jim J says:

    Kip – Griffin won’t make it out of the top five. Those executives you hear talking about him are all trying to hide the fact that they are going to pick him. But aside from that.

    Don’t you think that if we have a point guard quarterback and intend to run more often, height is not as much an issue? Maybe Wilson would be a great late round pick and good enough to start after a year. I think it would be fun to have a bunch of late round QBs / UDFA competing for a spot. Maybe we should sign up for a reality show.

  15. Nate Dogg says:

    Here’s another video on Harnish. It’s more of a highlight video but still decent (minus the music).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFFB5m6Jvbc&feature=related

    I like him quite a bit, I’ll definitely be track his stock throughout the offseason.

  16. JC says:

    Isn’t Harnish out of the same school and system Tony Romo came out of? Not that prior success of another QB means anything.

  17. Tom says:

    “I’m already hearing critiques of Griffin as a less than ideal possession QB. One anonymous NFL exec pointed out that Griffin can make big plays, but isn’t as good on 3rd and 6 as Luck or Barkley. Obviously, being good on 3rd and 6 is a major emphasis for a would-be Seahawks QB”

    Kip, this anonymous NFL exec probably thought Alex Smith was the ideal possession QB and downplayed Aaron Rodgers big play ability or thought Matt Leinart was the ideal possession QB and was better than the big play ability of Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez…..

    Besides, the statistics say otherwise. Let’s take a look for educational purposes.

    Matt Barkley on 3rd and 6+ was 26 for 49 = 53.1% = Not good.
    Matt Barkley on 3rd and 8-10 was 6 for 17 = 35% = Not good.
    Matt Barkley on 3rd or 4th down and between 3-8 yds to go was 31 for 53 = 58% = O.K.

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/splits/_/id/480322/matt-barkley

    Now you take a look at Barkley’s splits and try to come up with a corroborating story that the anonamous NFL exec lacked… ;-)

  18. Tom says:

    Let’s look at RG3′s comparable stats.

    RG3 on 3rd and 6+ was 30 for 45 = 67% = excellent
    RG3 on 3rd and 8-10 was 10 for 15 = 67% = excellent
    RG3 on 3rd or 4th and between 3-8 yds was 22 for 32 = 69% = excellent.

    Looks like it’s time for that NFL exec to quit talking out his 8&$# and watch jmpasq tape and look at the numbers because he’s WRONG and exactly why you can’t trust those bust generating NFL execs.

    ;-)

  19. Kip Earlywine says:

    Tom- Those Barkley numbers are outstanding actually. A 50% 3rd down rate from any distance would be close to tops in the league. Your RG3 numbers do beg the question, what was that exec smokin’? Where did you get those numbers by the way?

    JC- Romo came from Eastern not Northern. Would have been cool though.

    Jim J- I’m trying to be open-minded about Griffin. Just a few months ago very few people would have put Griffin in the first round. His hype is at its zenith right now, and with all the stuff that WILL get picked apart between now and next April, I don’t expect that to hold up. Teams tend to get conservative with top 10 picks, and even the counter-example of that- Cam Newton- was (IMO) a much better prospect than Griffin.

    The more I think about Wilson the more I think he could actually work. Seneca Wallace was roughly the same height, and its not his height that’s held him back- its been his brain. Troy Smith same thing. Wilson is a very intelligent quarterback. Wallace was worth the 4th rounder Seattle paid for him, as he proved to be a good backup. I think a late round pick would be a bargain for a guy like Wilson who gives the team a very good chance to be a quality backup. And who knows, maybe, just maybe he could be more than a good backup.

  20. Colin says:

    It should be noted that RG3 had 92 3rd down throws, and Barkley had 119.

    I also believe numbers should be thrown out the window when evaluating QB’s comes around. Easy to be deceived by numbers.

  21. Tom says:

    Kip, Here are the splits for both Barkley and RG3 that delineated specific passing situations and results.

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/splits/_/id/480322/matt-barkley

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/splits/_/id/378497/robert-griffin-iii

    I critiqued plenty of RG3 and Barkley tape and didn’t see anything from RG3 that corroborated that he didn’t have possession QB ability on 3rd and 6. Those numbers verify that conclusion.

    You have a nice writing style with your use of metaphors.

  22. Tom says:

    Colin,

    I go by the “eye test” and RG3 showed via the eyes that he was still a quality possession QB that could move the chains as well as having big play ability.

    Those splits just corroborated what my eyes were telling me and directly refuted the NFL exec and only time I use stats. They’re never used as a stand alone.

    I was surprised at Barkley’s numbers because he had a 1st team All American WR in Woods and Lee wasn’t chopped liver and could be confused with Woods if you watched jmpasq and they didn’t have jersey numbers on.

  23. Dave says:

    Thanks for putting the series together. Seattle will likely be in the market for a QB with Whitehurst almost certainly moving on this summer. So, even if it isn’t direct competition with Jackson, I’m sure the team will bring in competition for Portis.

    I’d kinda moved on from QB or bust in the first round a couple weeks ago after a buddy of mine who is from SoCal said he thought Barkley might go back. (People forget that the Trojans are for all practical purposes a pro team in the league’s 2nd largest market. Barkley is already a rock star with a shot to be a demi-god. You can’t buy that.)

    Still, Kip makes a great point. I look at the mocks and big boards and I don’t see many names that I think play big minutes for Seattle right away. Kendall Wright, Trent Richardson, and Lamar Miller would see the field right away as rotation players. Maybe Zach Brown and Luke Kuchely. This might be the perfect time to target RG3 and package some picks to move up for him.

  24. [...] looked at some potential later round QB’s last month (here and here), while I highlighted Ryan Lindley and Brandon Weeden game tape. Today I’m going to feature [...]

  25. [...] Christmas, Kip highlighted quarterback Chandler Harnish as a possible option for the Seahawks in April’s draft. I hadn’t had any access to [...]