Handicapping College Football Teams With NFL-Caliber QBs
I look at college football as the most interesting form of football available. It's just better - certainly more enjoyable than the NFL. But I know that that is not a universal belief. For a lot of people college exists primarily as a farm system for future NFL stars. I don't worry too much about what NFL guys are thinking about college players - for the most part their opinions don't matter much because they aren't very accurate until the Combine and the draft process really gets rolling. But there is one area that is worth paying closer attention to - quarterbacks. Quarterbacks who have a chance to get drafted high get a lot of attention and can be targeted by public bettors more than they might otherwise be. Here is a look at eight guys who are going to get a whole lot of both NFL and betting attention this year:
Justin Herbert, Oregon: Herbert is one of those guys that college football fans find frustrating. The NFL is drooling all over him because he has prototypical NFL size and a big arm. He looks the part of an NFL QB. But he hasn't yet done too much in the college game. He was off to a solid start last year before a broken collarbone derailed him. Now he is playing under his third coaching staff in three years. The upside is definitely there, but I am not at all convinced that he will live up to what is currently some pretty significant hype.
Drew Lock, Missouri: Lock is the Josh Allen or Paxton Lynch of this class at this point, in my mind. He looks and throws like an NFL QB, but he has accuracy issues and plays for a lousy team. There is obviously upside there, but the confidence of some that he will reach it exceeds mine. The amount of betting attention he can get at Missouri is somewhat limited, but a strong early start will increase his NFL standing and increase the attention from bettors.
Shea Patterson, Michigan: Patterson has yet to throw a pass for Michigan, or even to technically be named starter, but that is a given. He did a lot of things right at Ole Miss, and here he has a deeper team and much better coaching around him. He really has a chance to make a huge statement - especially if Michigan can fix their offensive line issues from last year. Patterson has a decent shot at being the top pick in the draft with a strong year. And the better the Wolverines get out of the gate, the more attention he will get.
Ryan Finley, North Carolina State: Finley is built like he would be snapped in half by NFL defenders, so he will be a bit of a project until he can add bulk. But what he lacks in musculature he makes up for in passing touch. Compared to the first two on this list he is a precision laser, and he reads defenses very well. I like the upside here and expect to see him climb up draft boards - though he will be limited to some extent by his age as a redshirt senior.
Will Grier, West Virginia: Grier does not lack confidence at all, but he is a little hampered by what is, in my mind, a pretty incompetent Dana Holgorsen-led coaching staff. He's accurate and productive, and he has some good targets around him. His problem, though, is that he is already a senior, and I still don't feel like we know what he is. Is he a potential first-rounder with a future as an NFL starter? Or is he a late-round pick who will be lucky to be more than practice squad fodder? He has a lot left to prove. I'm not massively optimistic, but if I'm wrong and West Virginia is more of a success than I anticipate then his stock could rise fairly quickly.
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State: Lewerke is a bit of a divisive guy at this point. Some guys think he is the reason Michigan State had a pretty big year last year and that he is going to be one of the top guys in the country this year. Others question his arm strength and the ugliness that his throwing motion can have and wonder where he really stacks up in an uncertain but potentially deep Big Ten at QB. If he can start strong and prove that his critics are wrong then he will get more attention.
Khalil Tate, Arizona: Tate gets some comparisons with Lamar Jackson, and there is some merit to that. He is a more dangerous guy with his feet than his arm right now - he isn't hugely accurate through the air. But Rich Rodriguez hasn't excelled at producing fully-polished quarterbacks. Kevin Sumlin is better at producing top quarterbacks - at least at times - so this coaching change comes at a perfect time for the QB. He is NFL-sized and fast, so he will get a whole lot of attention if he shows that he has learned from Sumlin.
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