Time for the QB notes from week five.
Before we get started though, I wanted to briefly return to a topic I discussed last week about the broader 2023 draft class.
Every week I keep adding names of players to my watch-list. Players who stand out and warrant another look down the line. What I’m struggling to find, however, are players who deserve to be considered early first round prospects.
I do think this needs to be highlighted. I appreciate that currently Seattle’s defense is an abomination and Geno Smith is playing well. However, finding blue-chip defenders as an alternative to drafting a quarterback in 2023 is going to be incredibly difficult. Aside from Alabama’s Will Anderson, I just don’t think they’re there.
On the other hand, there are quarterbacks that warrant consideration early in round one. With two first rounders and two second rounders in 2023 — the Seahawks have the potential to be aggressive if they want to be.
Some of the defensive players being touted as top-10 picks, I just can’t see it. Take Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. He’s a good player. He isn’t a game-wrecker though.
So far, in Georgia’s five games, he has:
1 Pass break-up
I think he’s a very capable interior presence you should consider in the second half of round one as a steady, controlling lineman. But he isn’t Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh or even Quinnen Williams.
Increasingly as this college season develops I’m starting to think the 2023 draft will be similar to 2022. There will be a dearth of legit top-10 players but a reasonable amount of depth overall as you go into days 2-3.
What you do have, that we didn’t see this year, are a handful of quarterback prospects you can invest in and have faith in to be an answer. Plus Will Anderson as a blue-chip pass rusher.
Geno Smith turns 32 in seven days and while he admittedly is the man for the present, I don’t think many people see him as the man for the long-term future. Drafting a quarterback has to remain Seattle’s priority.
I’ll have an article on Seattle’s defensive struggles — and how they might be able to fix them — later this week.
DTR proves he’s underrated, reality bites for Penix Jr
Friday’s game between Washington and UCLA validated something that we’ve been pretty consistent with on SDB. The hype surrounding Michael Penix Jr went too far and Dorian Thompson-Robinson remains underrated.
Firstly, Penix Jr.
There’s no doubt that he’s been a fun player to watch so far. I’ve now watched Washington twice and it’s clear they made a good decision in appointing Kalen DeBoer. That said, we also have to embrace what DeBoer brings to UW.
His system is going to produce. It’s wide open, well crafted, multi-faceted and does a lot of the heavy lifting for quarterbacks. It’s why Jake Haener was able to throw for +4000 yards last year at Fresno State.
I would imagine that for as long as DeBoer is with the Huskies, they’ll have a productive quarterback. Offensive production will never be a problem. The key to them having eventual success will be putting a complementary defense on the field that is good enough to really challenge.
Penix Jr picked UW because he worked with DeBoer at Indiana. He knew the scheme and therefore, it’s no big surprise he started the season well against some bad opponents (including Michigan State’s ridiculously awful pass defense which remains among the worst in all of college football).
Yet every week I was getting more and more messages about Penix Jr, with people increasingly touting him as a legit NFL prospect. I hope this UCLA game will add a bit of perspective to the discussion moving forward.
For starters — I wasn’t aware that when Penix Jr was sacked in the second quarter of this game, it was the first sack he’d suffered all season. That’s remarkable, when you consider Will Levis has been sacked 18 times in five games. It took until mid-way through Penix Jr’s fifth game to receive any serious pressure.
It speaks to the environment he’s come into.
The scheme requires very little from its quarterback other than to execute. Everything is set up for him, he receives his instructions from the sideline and very rarely does he ever progress to a second read. He does do it — and did it for a touchdown in this game, coming off his intended target and throwing to a wide open receiver in the end zone. Yet more often than not it’s a case of snap, do what you’re told to do and the well-crafted offense will sort things out for you.
As a consequence, when things go wrong, you have to be able to adjust and improvise. In this game, Penix Jr could not. He threw two horrible interceptions as a consequence.
The first came with 8:08 left in the second quarter. He stares down his intended target, telegraphing the play. The little bit of pressure means he can’t step into his throw so he’s flat-footed on release. The pass has no mustard on it and was an easy takeaway.
On the very next play, DTR throws a touchdown for UCLA — rubbing salt into the wound.
His second interception again happened when Penix Jr stared down his intended target. The defender is watching him all the way. It’s a slightly later throw and completely telegraphed. Easy pickings.
At one point Andre Ware, who was commentating, congratulated Penix Jr for throwing accurately into triple coverage. For me it just highlighted the problem. If the scheme tells Penix Jr to go to this receiver, he will do. Regardless if it’s triple coverage. And sure — it looks nice when it comes off. Try doing that in the NFL though.
Even at the college level, you need to be able to come off that look and make progressions to find the better option. In the NFL you don’t get to look at three arts-and-crafts boards being held up on the sideline giving you instructions on everything to do.
Aside from all of this, I thought Penix Jr just looked mostly unspectacular. When the easy, well-designed plays weren’t there — there were inaccurate passes to go with the nicely thrown balls. His throwing motion is elongated and problematic. He’s not particularly elusive or dynamic as a runner.
And that’s before we go into his injury history which is extensive.
I don’t want to piss on anyone’s bonfire here. Washington are much more fun to watch than they’ve been in years. Kalen DeBoer gives the team hope for the future. But Penix Jr should generally be an afterthought for the draft. And that’ll largely be the case throughout this year, even as he continues to put up big numbers in this uber-friendly quarterback system.
Thompson-Robinson also receives a lot of the same benefits. His scheme doesn’t demand too much from him. He doesn’t need to progress through numerous reads. In this game, he also benefitted from the brilliance of Zach Charbonnet and Jake Bobo’s knack of getting open.
That said, he just executed better. When key conversions were needed, he delivered. He was accurate and decisive. He didn’t give Washington a sniff of a turnover. He also provided much more of a threat as a runner — including one electrifying hurdle over a defender.
I’ve liked DTR for a long time. I appreciate he doesn’t have the traits of the bigger name QB’s eligible for 2023 and as a consequence, his stock will be somewhat limited. By all accounts he’s probably looking at round four as a ceiling. I still think he has a playmaking quality that many other players — who get a lot more publicity — simply don’t possess. If you need more convincing, check out his 68-yard touchdown scramble against Bowling Green.
He deserves more attention than he gets.
Same old story for Kentucky’s O-line
In many ways, Will Levis should probably be grateful. His offensive line is giving NFL scouts a good look at how he battles adversity week-to-week.
C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young can only dream of such an environment.
I’m only half-joking. Part of the problem with analysing quarterbacks at Ohio State and Alabama is the sheer mismatch in talent they benefit from, playing for the teams they play for. Then you throw in how much the Ohio State system holds Stroud’s hand and it creates an extra layer of suspicion.
Then you watch Levis. He takes snaps under center. He reads the defense without needing to look at cards on the sideline or hand signals. He’s playing in a pro-style offense.
And he’s getting hammered every week.
It’s like he’s already in the league.
Levis was sacked three more times against Ole Miss in a game Kentucky should’ve won. One of those sacks was a safety that led to his finger being broken or dislocated on his non-throwing hand. The third sack led to a fumble that ended the game.
He’s now been sacked 18 times in five games.
The Wildcats also surrendered nine TFL’s in this game alone.
Yet, as mentioned, they still should’ve won.
The kicker missed a field goal and an extra point in a three-point loss. They were all set to score on a brilliant kick-return, until the runner was tripped up by a team mate.
Levis had another fumble in the game on a QB-keeper where a defender lowered his head and levelled him at the crown of his helmet. They didn’t even review whether it was targeting.
The quarterback himself wasn’t blameless. The sequence at the end was a bit of a mess. A potential game-winning touchdown was taken off the board because Levis rushed the play in the red zone with less than a minute to go. He spotted a 1v1 matchup he wanted, rushed to get the snap off and a different receiver wasn’t lined up properly. False start (called an illegal shift). It was a shame — his fade pass was caught well and he ID’d the right situation, he just needed to let everyone get set.
Overall though, I saw enough in this game to feel comfortable with my projection as Levis as a high pick, perhaps even the highest in 2023.
He moved the ball well at the end with some top-level pro-throws and processing. When he had time in the pocket, he was surgical. Indeed the way he commands this pro-style offense, makes reads and goes through progressions is a world apart from any other draft-eligible quarterback.
Increasingly I think Levis is going to be the guy teams want. I think there’s going to be a real clamour for him at the top of round one, with teams believing he is best equipped to start early. He is the best combination of pro-style experience, extreme athletic and physical traits, character and performance.
The fact he’s doing what he’s doing with a non-ideal supporting cast too — which is likely what he’ll get early in his NFL career if he’s a high pick — is another feather in his cap.
Bryce Young injures his shoulder
It was a really strange sequence that led to the injury. Young was on the field, seemingly OK, threw a standard pass and immediately his arm went limp. He left the field, threw his helmet to the ground in frustration and entered the medical tent.
Young’s reaction was alarming — it was as if he knew something serious had happened.
Yet later in the game he was back on the sideline, all smiles, cheering his team mates on. He was only considered ‘questionable’ to return — suggesting it wasn’t a serious problem. And yet how many non-serious injuries leave your arm limp?
TV footage also showed an earlier play where he was tackled, and briefly clutched at his shoulder.
Gary Danielson, commentating for CBS, said the following:
“I tore my rotator cuff on a play exactly like that. You don’t know it’s hurt until your next throw.”
Details on Young’s injury are limited at the moment. It does speak, however, to some of the concerns relating to his NFL future.
Despite being listed at 6-0 and 194lbs by Alabama, it’s well established by now that this isn’t accurate. As Todd McShay noted last week, he’s been measured by NFL people at a shade above 5-10 and around the 185lbs mark.
At Alabama, Young faces very little adversity. He plays behind a bunch of all-star offensive linemen who typically overmatch opponents and he’s supported by 5-star talent at the skill positions. Unlike Will Levis — he rarely faces a battering in the pocket. He doesn’t take a lot of damage.
At the next level, he won’t have that luxury. He’s going to get hit. He’s going to be moving around a lot more. Can a player who is this small last the distance? Because there simply isn’t anyone his size doing it in the league.
Young is a good player but there’s no getting away from the fact this is a question NFL teams will have to ask ahead of the 2023 draft.
In terms of what he showed against Arkansas, his first drive ended with an interception. The receiver was hit in his route and it prevented him from being in the right place at the right time. The ball hit his fingertips and deflected straight to a defender.
Alabama were messy to start. One of the receivers had a horrendous drop to start the second series. Then Young fumbled a snap, nearly leading to a turnover. He then threw wild and high on a pass into the flat. But, with this being Alabama, he then hit a slot receiver down the middle who simply out-ran everyone for an easy touchdown.
His next touchdown was a similar cakewalk. A receiver released downfield and was so wide open, it’s as if he was fielding a punt. Young executed the pass to set up a walk-in touchdown on the next play for the quarterback.
On the play where he scrambled to initially possibly injure his shoulder — he had no reason to bail on the pocket. He scrambled his way into bother by running towards the sideline, just because Arkansas blitzed. The protection was fine and yet he bailed on the pocket. He has a tendency to do this — probably because of his height. One of his egregious interceptions earlier this season came on an unnecessary scramble, followed by an ugly heave downfield.
The talent is there. It’s a quandary projecting a 5-10 (ish), 185lbs quarterback to the next level though. That’s just the reality.
As for his opposite number in this game — K.J. Jefferson — I’ve never felt particularly excited about his pro-potential and nothing about this game changed that. I just think he’s limited in terms of mobility and processing. He has the arm to make some pretty throws at times but I’ve never once watched him and felt like I was watching an eventual NFL starter.
C.J. Stroud has another one of ‘those’ games
I want to love Stroud but I simply can’t go there. He has too many games like this where he’s just off.
Stroud is capable of throwing the most impressive passes I’ve seen at the college level, since I started this blog in 2008. I keep saying this.
Yet too often this is offset by the basics just not being good enough. Intermediate accuracy, timing, making the right reads.
And then there are plays like this:
Avery Young picks off CJ Stroud 👀
CFB Live Blog: https://t.co/LXPH5piOFM
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 1, 2022
What on earth is that?
What is he seeing?
He has one receiver, blanketed by four defenders. He stares down his intended target, telegraphing the pass. He should never, ever attempt that throw. He tries to fit it in there anyway and quite deservedly, is picked off.
That is just rubbish, I’m afraid. It speaks to a player who has his reads made for him at the LOS, perhaps trusts his arm too much and doesn’t have the ability to sense the obvious danger there, come away from his target and do something else.
He finished 13/22 for 154 yards, two touchdowns and the pick.
His first score was an easy seam throw thanks to the massive separation from the receiver. His second was a simple red zone slant.
Ohio State leaned on their running game in this one and dominated, so Stroud’s iffy game didn’t matter. Yet all a performance like this does is validate some of the concerns I’ve voiced in the past. Not just about Stroud — but about quarterbacks from Ohio State in general.
You can have all the talent in the world. If your college experience is to play with 5-star players on your O-line and skill positions, have your reads made for you to the point you’re told what to do — and all you have to do is execute — how is this preparation for the next level?
A consistent run of Ohio State QB’s — some very high picks with a lot of physical talent — have come into the league and they just haven’t been able to adjust to life outside of the comfortable college bubble they play within.
Stroud is more talented than Justin Fields, Dwayne Haskins, Cardale Jones and others. But it’s impossible not to have some concern about his ability to fair any better at the next level. I think he’s going to need time — possibly even a redshirt year — to really get to grips with the challenge he’s going to face. The extreme arm talent could get him through some growing pains — but we’ve also seen that sometimes, it isn’t enough.
I’m not sure what to make of Max Duggan
What is he? He’s playing very well. But he also lost his job at TCU and is only starting now because the other QB injured his knee in the opening game.
His first touchdown for TCU against Oklahoma was a complete duck — thrown too high, with a wobbly spiral that hung in the air for an age. The receiver did a good job tracking it to complete the catch. At the next level, it would’ve been batted down at best — picked off at worst.
For Duggan’s second score, it’s a complete busted coverage and the receiver is stood downfield completely on his own.
Admittedly his third touchdown — a 67-yard run — was impressive. And he can run — no doubt about it. He gets the legs pumping and he can move. He’s a strong straight-line runner rather than an exciting, elusive pressure avoider.
He had another strong run later in the game and threw some nice passes over the middle with ample velocity. Duggan had another long coverage-bust touchdown before running in a final TD.
I can’t get a feel for his upside and some of these scores were classic Big-12 (bad defense). I’ll continue to monitor him.
Yep, I still can’t quit Anthony Richardson
The physical upside is completely off the charts and he continues to show enough technical quality to want to believe in him — warts and all. It might take two years of pain in the NFL but the end-game could be an elite quarterback.
I appreciate he was only facing Eastern Washington on Sunday but here’s how his day started.
On Florida’s first offensive snap, Richardson throws it from his own 18-yard line with minimal effort, reaching a receiver at Eastern Washington’s 25-yard line. It was freakishly easy for him to lob the ball that far. Big touchdown.
Then on their second offensive snap, he dodges and weaves through defenders on a 45-yard scramble.
Later, Richardson threw an incredible pass to the right sideline with a defender clinging onto his ankles. Somehow he stayed on his feet and armed it out to the sideline with velocity and accuracy.
His second touchdown was a beautiful loft following play-action. Lovely touch on the pass to drop it in over the defender.
I appreciate there are also problems to acknowledge. He had an interception that was a lazy lob downfield, underthrown into good coverage. It’s a big mistake and he should never have thrown that pass. I think he got too comfortable with the score being 35-3 and thought he’d throw it anyway.
And that’s part of the issue. He has a lack of playing time and he’s going to have to work through some issues.
But again — so did Josh Allen. So did Patrick Mahomes. So did Lamar Jackson.
I would put him in the Allen-level range as a physical freak of nature who needs to work on the technical side of the game, cut out mistakes and then the world’s his oyster.
Richardson’s physical talent is that good. It doesn’t mean he’ll deliver on his potential because the game requires more than just physical traits. Yet he has so much to offer — I can’t help but secretly hope the Seahawks will draft and develop him because he definitely could be a star in the making.
If they win too many games to be in the hunt for Levis, Stroud and maybe even Young — it wouldn’t be the worst situation to select Richardson with the objective of developing him, creating the chance to use your other high picks to address other areas of the team.
That plan would only be feasible, however, if Richardson turns pro. That’s unclear given his inconsistent start to the season.
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