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How evaluators size up the Dolphins’ rookie quarterback options

by / 0 Comments / 4 View / January 4, 2019

The Dolphins haven’t picked a particularly great year to go shopping for a young quarterback in the draft because the supply of potential NFL starters is considered pretty limited. So limited that they likely can be counted on less than one hand.

Miami would need to trade up from No. 13 to land Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, if he turns pro as expected.

The Dolphins probably wouldn’t need to move to land any of the next three highest-rated quarterbacks who will be in this draft: Duke’s Daniel Jones, Missouri’s Drew Lock or West Virginia’s Will Grier, and many analysts have Lock and Grier going in the second round.

Then there’s the wild card – Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray – who would join the first-round discussion if he bypasses his initial plan to join the Oakland A’s to pursue an NFL career instead. Murray also has the option of returning to Oklahoma.

After Haskins, Grier and Lock, Kiper (omitting Murray because of his baseball plans) rates these as the next best draft-eligible quarterbacks: NC State’s Ryan Finley, Stanford’s K.J. Costello (redshirt sophomore could could return to school), Washington State’s Gardner Minshew and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

Among Jones, Lock, Grier and Finley, one AFC executive told me he’s not sure any will become longterm NFL starters. “You’re going to reach on Jones or Lock and have another [Ryan] Tannehill,” that executive said. “And I don’t like Will Grier’s arm.”

That executive does like Haskins, and we will have a lot on Haskins in a future post.

Chatter on the Dolphins’ other draft QB options aside from a trade-up for Haskins:

Jones, who has declared for the draft, was terrific against Temple in Duke’s bowl game (30 for 41, 423 yards, 5 TD, 2 picks) but his overall college stats haven’t been eye-popping (52 TDs, 29 INT, 59.9 completion percentage).

Kiper has him 25th among draft eligible players but he could end up being drafted far sooner.

“The most impressive trait I’ve seen from Jones this season is his ability to buy time in the pocket and use his feet to get square and make a throw,” Kiper said on ESPN.com. “He has thrown [29] interceptions in his three seasons as the starter, and he forces passes at times, but he has mostly cut down on the poor throws this season, as he has only seven picks.”

Murray is the wild card; ESPN’s Todd McShay said he would be a first-rounder. Kiper says he would go in the second because of his height.

“He’s listed at [5-11 though some believe he’s shorter],” Kiper said. “If he were three inches taller, he would be No. 1 pick hands down.”

But McShay disagrees: “I think the league is changing; it’s more about guys who can get the ball out and can move and he does that as well as anyone in the country. I would love to see him give a shot to the NFL, because he has a chance to be a really good starting quarterback at the next level.”

Lock, 6-4, has followed an SEC-record 44-touchdown, 13-interception season in 2017 with a 28-touchdown, 8-interception season.

He threw for fewer yards (3964 to 3498) but completed more of his passes (57.8 to 62.9) than a year ago. There’s no question about his arm strength and he has ideal size (6-4). He has a quick release and can make throws on the run.

Two points of concern: He has struggled when facing a pass rush, which has been an issue with Ryan Tannehill.

Also, he faltered at times against very good competition; in SEC games this season, his TD to interception ratio was 10 to 7. Conversely, he had 12 touchdowns and no picks against Tennessee-Martin, Wyoming and Memphis.

Though he was very good against the Gators, he had one touchdown and three picks – and completed 49 percent of his passes – in losses to Alabama and Georgia this year.

In an SI.com piece, Pete Thamel quotes a scout as saying: “People aren’t seeing the whole picture. He’s got arm strength and accuracy on all levels and he’s tough.”

An NFL evaluator told ESPN’s Mike Sando: “He’s one of the more talented quarterbacks in this class and should go in the first couple rounds. He is capable of looking like an NFL starter but has just been inconsistent in terms of his accuracy and his decision-making. Somebody will like him because he has all the physical tools. Playing in more of a pro-style offense this year will help him. He might need some development, but he has more upside than most of these other guys.”

Grier, 6-2, put up monster numbers in West Virginia’s wide-open offense (37 touchdowns, eight picks, 3864 yards, while completing 67 percent of his passes). He isn’t a runner; he has 147 career carries for 148 yards.

Thamel quoted one scout as saying it’s a “huge curve” from West Virginia’s offense “to an NFL offense” but another scout said: “He’s got a good arm. He runs more to throw and can throw from [the] pocket and on the move.” Another scout told Thamel that Grier and Lock could end up as first-round picks even though scouts don’t give them first-round grades.

Grier has excellent accuracy and a knack for finding the open man in zone defenses. But his arm strength –while good enough – isn’t elite and he gets a lot of his yards on screens. The second round seems likely for him.

An evaluator told ESPN’s Sando: “I think it’s going to be a thin crop of quarterbacks in the end, and so a guy like Grier could go earlier than he should. I think most of the league is going to look at him as a low-end starter or high-end backup.”

As for Finley, the Boise State transfer had 25 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and completed 67.4 percent of his passes at NC State. He has very good downfield touch and is pro-ready in a lot of ways.

A scout told Thamel that Finley is probably a career backup. He threw for 156 yards with two interceptions against Clemson’s defense.

And an NFL evaluator told Sando: “He is accurate, he is smart, but just from a physical standpoint, I think people will see him as a backup, just because of his size, his talent, arm and those things.”

Stidham: Like Lock, he was a disappointment of sorts during the regular season because in some ways, he didn’t match his 2017 production. But the 6-3 Baylor transfer, who’s turning pro, was brilliant in Auburn’s 63-14 bowl annihilation of Purdue, going 15 for 21 for 373 yards and five touchdowns. He closed his junior season with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.

A scout told Thamel: “He’s got a good arm and athleticism but struggles with progressions. Some of it is what Auburn does, but he looks robotic.”

And an evaluator told Sando: “He has a good arm, but his decision-making, anticipation and some of those things you need as a quarterback probably are not where you would like them to be. To me, his ceiling is as a backup. He has been really inconsistent this year.”

Minshew, an East Carolina transfer, put up huge numbers in Washington State’s spread offense (4477 yards passing, 36 TDs, 9 picks, 71 percent completion rate), but so did Dolphins quarterback Luke Falk, and he lasted until the sixth round.

Minshew is on the smallish side at 6-1 and a scout told Thamel that “he’s not super talented. He’s just a guy. Get in a great offense, though, and you’re up for the Heisman.”

One other not on Kiper’s top 10 QB list who will be evaluated closely by teams: Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, who has good size but not very good numbers this season (15 TDs, 14 picks, 60 percent completion percentage.) Thamel cited a scout who said he’s a potential third-rounder but probably an NFL backup.

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