Thor Nystrom

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2019 NFL Draft offensive ranks

Friday, May 25, 2018


This list is a meant to be a far-too-early snapshot of the 2019 NFL Draft class. Emphasis on “far-too-early.” I have watched and followed every player listed below over the past few years in my work as a college football/NFL Draft writer for Rotoworld, but I have not yet watched each of their film packages. Much will change between now and next April, but it’s never too early to get a grasp on where we stand right now. At this moment, this is how I see next year’s class.

 

Better in 2019: WR, TE, OT, DE, DT, LB

Worse in 2019: QB, RB, OG, C, CB, S

 

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Quarterback

1. Justin Herbert (Oregon)

2. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)

3. Will Grier (West Virginia) 

4. Drew Lock (Missouri)

5. Easton Stick (North Dakota State)

6. Shea Patterson (Michigan)

7. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern)

8. Tyree Jackson (Buffalo)

9. Ryan Finley (NC State)

10. Jake Bentley (South Carolina)

11. Trace McSorley (Penn State)

12. Daniel Jones (Duke)

13. Nathan Stanley (Iowa)

14. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State)

15. Brett Rypien (Boise State)

 

Potential riser: Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)

2020 prospect to monitor: Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)

 

  • Note: Jacob Eason (Washington) isn’t eligible to play this coming season due to the NCAA’s transfer policy. Eason will spend this coming season on the bench before replacing Jake Browning as the starter in 2019. Browning narrowly missed this list. Browning doesn’t look like much, and he’s got a noodle for an arm, but he’s accurate, tough and a good leader. He’ll be coming to a seventh-round near you next spring, at which time he’ll begin what could be a surprisingly long career as a clipboard toter.

 

  • Justin Herbert is something of a mystery box, in that he’s a young prospect (20) who missed a huge chunk of last season with an injury. He’s everything you look for in the size (6’6) and athleticism categories, with a strong arm and plus mobility. We’ll find out just how much progress he’s made this fall. He could lock down a top-10 slot next spring with a big year.

 

  • Jarrett Stidham is the quarterback I predict will make the biggest leap in the fall. The five-star prospect flashed in a big way as a true freshman at Baylor in 2015. He transferred out after the Art Briles fiasco and regained eligibility last year, posting an 18/6 TD/INT ratio on 66.5% passing in the SEC. Those numbers are even more impressive than they seem—Briles’ offense shares few similarities with Gus Malzahn’s. Stidham is a pocket passer with great mechanics (he came into college with those) and more athletic chops than your typical dropback passer. He has two years of eligibility left if he wants them.

 

  • Will Grier is a small rhythm thrower (listed at 6’2/214 but almost assuredly not that big). He averaged 9.0 YPA last year, though some of that, ala Mason Rudolph in this past class, can be attributed to scheme. Grier is flammable when he’s cooking, but he needs to work on his consistency. When things go south for him, they really go south (he threw four interceptions in last year’s Oklahoma State game, for instance). Grier, along with Trace McSorley, has benefited the most from the Baker Mayfield phenomenon, drawing hyperbolic “the next Baker Mayfield” moniker from some around the media. That’s overstating it, but Grier does possess the potential to become a starting NFL quarterback.

 

  • I’ve seen some rank Lock as QB1, but I just don’t see it. He didn’t even complete 58% of his passes last year in Mizzou’s gimmicky offense (career: 53.8%), which included a dose of freebie throws. And a statistical breakdown of his 2017 performance reveals a few troubling trends. In his eight games against Missouri State, Kentucky, Idaho, UConn, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas (only 7-6 Kentucky finished with a winning record), Lock went 160-for-261 (61.3%) for 2,848 yards (356.0 yards per game) and a 36/6 TD/INT ratio (4.5 TD per game). In his four games against South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Texas, Lock went 67-for-133 (50.4%) for 863 yards (215.7 ypg) and a 4/6 TD/INT rate (1.0 TD per game). He had only one good game against a good defense last year, going 15-for-25 (60%) for 253 yards and a 4/1 TD/INT rate against Georgia (he threw a pair of 63-yard touchdowns to Emanuel Hall in that game... outside of those two throws, Lock went 13-for-23 for 127 yards). The year before, his only good game against a good defense was also against Georgia (he did, however, throw three interceptions in that game). Lock’s star receiver (J’Mon Moore) and star OC (Josh Heupel) are both gone, and the schedule is about to get a heck of a lot harder. If he excels in 2018, he will have earned it. Seems like a pocket-passer who’s being overrated due a lack of context surrounding his early evaluation. Accuracy is a big, big issue here, and nearly all of his production has come against poor defenses, which Missouri’s old offense was adept at shredding (by taking advantage of 1-on-1 matchups against inferior talent in the deep sector of the field). Lock has the tools to prove me wrong—I do rank him QB4, after all—but he’s got further to go than many realize.

 

  • Easton Stick (6’2/220) is a personal favorite. He’s no Carson Wentz, but he’s coming out of the same pro style offense and has displayed exciting developmental traits. He's 34-3 as a starter, has an NFL-caliber arm, plus accuracy, strong footwork, and fluid mobility inside and outside of the pocket. I’ve seen him referred to as a sleeper, but even some of those that deem him as such are treating him like a novelty. He’s not. Stick is a legitimate potential Day 2 prospect if he takes another step forward developmentally.

 

  • A former No. 1 quarterback recruit, “Sugar” Shea Patterson has a strong arm and a comedian's improv skills. He’s outstanding outside of structure, which is why he’s long been compared to Johnny Manziel. I think he could be better. I want to emphasize that again—“could” be better. Patterson is far from a finished product. He’s appeared in only 10 collegiate games, and he’s about to learn his fourth offensive system in the past four years. A knee injury wiped out the end of his 2017 campaign at Ole Miss, and that’s something to monitor as he competes for Michigan’s starting quarterback gig this summer (if he’s healthy, he’s by far the most talented competitor). Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton will get to work on Patterson’s footwork, which is currently quite poor. Patterson throws with an extremely wide base (the opposite problem that Lamar Jackson had), the positive of which gives him more arm strength (as he loads up on that back foot and really drives the ball) but the negative of which is that he doesn’t repeat his delivery and he gives himself less options when bullets are flying around him. When pressured—which happened often at Ole Miss with a surprisingly porous OL—he would bail out of the pocket quickly and sometimes makes questionable decisions with the ball. And when the pocket is clean, Patterson has a bad habit of really loading up for the fastball and driving the ball high, curiously not stepping fully into his throw (he loves to throw off his back foot, a quirk he needs to knock off). Patterson’s throwing motion could also use some work. It would be nice if he could start to employ more of an over-the-top motion as opposed to the low-elbow flick he often defers to. Between his natural arm strength and his power-generating lower body mechanics, I think he developed a throwing motion that would get the ball out a little quicker. If he narrowed that base, the time he’d save in cocking the gun could be used to add a split second of arm action, which would improve his overall consistency. In theory, anyway. He’s not there yet, but I’m bullish because Patterson’s issues are all fixable, and he picked an ideal situation to get to work on those. Sometimes, you’ll see elements of Baker Mayfield in his game. Mayfield labored to improve his mechanics when he transferred from Texas Tech to Norman. Now that Patterson is in Ann Arbor, he better get to work doing the same.

 

  • We may have seen Clayton Thorson in the 2018 draft had he not torn his ACL in January. A big pocket passer, Thorson is an intriguing talent who remains unrefined. He’s got the arm, but will need to improve his decision-making and ball placement (terrible 44/30 career TD/INT rate, 57.3% completion percentage that’s in the Lamar Jackson range and only a percentage point higher than Josh Allen’s career number). Thorson doesn’t have Jackson’s or Allen’s athletic traits, so he better improve his pocket game post-haste.

 

  • Tyree Jackson (6’7/235) is huge and rapidly gaining experience. He remains raw—extremely so. The Cam Newton comps are premature (and absurd). But that isn’t to take anything away from Jackson, who is an exciting developmental prospect with a big arm and strong athleticism. In eight games last year—he missed four with injury—Jackson completed a tick over 60% of his passes with a nifty 12/3 TD/INT rate and 8.8 YPA average. He and Anthony Johnson are absolute must-see MACtion TV this fall.

 

  • Finley has the height (6’4) and accuracy the NFL will like. He needs to add weight. Unfortunately, arm strength may cap his ceiling to long-term NFL backup.

 

  • Nate Stanley and Daniel Jones are both guys with NFL frames and games who haven’t yet put it all together. Each are developmental prospects to monitor in 2018. I’m tentatively bullish on each of them—and so are their coaching staffs, which are both top-notch.

 

  • Nick Fitzgerald has a long, long way to go as a passer, but he’s got a huge frame and he’s an outstanding runner. He’s been compared to a bigger, right-handed version of Tim Tebow. If anybody can help him make leaps as a passer, it’s new Bulldogs HC Joe Moorhead, the guy who turned around Penn State’s offense and molded Trace McSorley from a replacement-level, noodle-armed QB into one of the Big 10’s best signal callers.

 

  • Haskins is athletic and has a big arm, but he’s largely unproven. I’ll wager this: Ohio State will upgrade at QB in 2018 with Haskins taking over JT Barrett’s old post. Haskins has three years of eligibility left to work with.

 


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Thor Nystrom is a former MLB.com associate reporter whose writing has been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to Rotoworld's college football writer on Twitter @thorku.
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