The Summer months are best spent by many relaxing on their back patios, taking in the sun with a beer in hand, a spatula in the other with burgers on the grill. Odds are, most football junkies are crossing days off the calendar until football season – both NCAA and NFL – is back. Here at Cover 1, we have been previewing some of the more intriguing teams 2019 NFL draft prospects to follow this year to see what each major conference has to offer. This week, I’ll dive into quarterbacks from the Pac-12, a conference that routinely churns out top-tier passers. Since 2005, 28 quarterbacks have been selected in the NFL draft out of the Pac-12.
From 2012’s No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, back to Aaron Rodgers’ infamous slide to NO. 24 in the 2005 Draft. 10 of those 28 signal-callers have been taken in the first round. Just last year, three Pac-12 passers heard their names called: USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Washington State’s Luke Falk.
By having those three quarterbacks drafted from the Pac-12 Conference, it was the most for any conference in college football this past season. Meanwhile, there’s a chance that it doesn’t change and the Pac-12 Conference dominates the quarterback discussion again. As most of you know, a full on scouting report at this point in time is asinine but it’s not impossible. Each evaluator goes about the draft process in a different way.
At this time, I don’t want to pinpoint what each quarterback does right but I want to pinpoint what the Pac-12 Conference has to offer at the position. As I’ve mentioned, they could very well have the most draft eligible quarterbacks in the the 2019 NFL Draft. Each player on the list below are draft-eligible quarterbacks for the 2019 NFL Draft but there’s a chance that a few of them stay for another college season.
Justin Herbert, Oregon Ducks
Justin Herbert is the cream of the crop when it comes to Pac-12 quarterback prospects. He has all of the tools requisite of a top quarterback prospect, but has enough correctable flaws that he’s earned the ‘project’ label. His arm strength is questionable and the further down the field Herbert throws the ball, the more inaccurate his passes become. His footwork is sloppy at times and has a tendency to stare down his receivers while failing to manipulate the safety consistently. Herbert is tough, having returned to the field after a nasty collarbone injury.
However, his natural throwing motion, quick and compact release is a sight to see. There’s a lot to like out of the Oregon Ducks’ passer that’s already accumulated over 3,900 passing yards, tossing 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
While he doesn’t have the arm talent to push the ball deep downfield, he can absolutely shred a defense in the quick game. He’ll fire the ball on time, methodically moving the chains with quick, accurate passes in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. He shows solid poise and confidence in the pocket, but has the mobility to extend plays with his legs. If there’s any pre-season quarterback that should move up your rankings, Herbert has the ability to become that guy. You can’t miss him on the football field with his 6’6 and 230 pound frame. Expect big things from him this year and if anything, expect this Oregon offense to be successful behind his arm
Khalil Tate, Arizona
Are you ready for the Lamar Jackson comparisons? If you’re not, you better get ready, they’re going to happen. Statistically, it’s not even close but Khalil Tate could completely take off like a rocket, this season. Furthermore, they’re not that close on the field. But of course, Lance Zierlien has wrote about how scouts view him as a receiver at the next level. Insert the eye-rolling emoji, immediately.
This past season, Tate had 1,400 rushing yards and over 1,500 passing yards. Let’s keep in mind, he’s only 19-years old so he’s got plenty of time to grow. With Kevin Sumlin as the new head coach, that growth could be monumental.
Tate is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback. From his ability to throw in short and intermediate areas to taking off with the ball and running. He develops quickly in the pocket and does a good job with his hips and transferring his weight from his back foot to his front foot when throwing. His throwing motion is natural and his release is quick but as of right now, he’s a one-read quarterback. He can develop with more coaching and should get better at scanning the field. With that being said, he’ll be relatively low on the consensus lists but he’s got the most potential to sky rocket this year.
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
When watching all of these quarterbacks, the one that shocked me the most was Manny Wilkins. He has one of the best receivers in college football, K’Neal Harry. But following the departure of star running back Kalen Ballage, a fourth-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins and Blake Barnett transferring to USF, the offense will be running through Wilkins.
In two seasons with the Sun Devils, Wilkins has thrown for roughly 5,600 yards and 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 63.4-percent of his passes. Wilkins has a beautiful deep ball that’s thrown with ease. He can drop the ball into a bucket but it’s hard to gauge where exactly to rank the young, inexperienced Sun Devil just yet. There’s no questioning his upside and the success of this Sun Devil’s offense is behind his arm.
Jake Browning, Washington
Entering his senior season, Jake Browning has done nothing but win for the Huskies. Through three seasons, he’s 29-11 and even won the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. Don’t get me wrong, I was all aboard the Browning hype train after watching him play during the 2016 season. He launched himself in the conversation for being one of the best quarterbacks in the country. With over 3400 passing yards, 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016, Browning finished sixth in the Heisman trophy voting.
After playing Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Browning had surgery done on his throwing shoulder and that’s led to a serious decline in production. During the 2017 season, he barely threw over 2700 yards but did a good job limiting turnovers. With only 291 passing attempts on this past season, that’s 100 less passing attempts compared to the season before. However, he completed just over 69 percent of his passes so efficiency within the short areas of the field shouldn’t worry anyone.
Pushing the ball down the field is where he struggles so there will be questions about his arm strength. Meanwhile, he holds onto the ball too long and makes questionable decisions when throwing into tight windows. Not all is bad for him though. He looks natural in the pocket, his delivery is smooth and he hits the throws you need from him at the sidelines. That’s positive when driving down the field and you know your quarterback has the ability to move the sticks, like that.
The thing with Browning is that we all know how good he once was but how good can he be again? Personally, I don’t know if it’ll happen. The bigger question I have for this offense is what wide receiver emerges as the “go-to” guy. Two years ago, Browning had John Ross. This past year, he had Dante Pettis. Who will be the guy this year? Or will Jake Browning have to improvise his way to a final successful season for the Huskies?
Tyler Huntley, Utah
This will be the sleeper of the group and the final one we discuss. When talking about inexperience amongst the five quarterbacks listed, the first one that comes to mind is Huntley. And it certainly shows when you put on the tape.
Starting with his footwork, there’s plenty of question marks there. He does this bouncing on his toes but at times, it prevents him from transferring his body weight from back to front. This will either make him push the ball too far down the field or prevent the ball from not getting far enough down the field and to the receiver.
But it doesn’t end there. He has a tendency to get tunnel vision when staring down the field and even if he’s supposed to read a safety, he doesn’t provide the safety anything to bite. If he did a better job scanning the field, it would move the safeties around more and it would open more chances for him to push the ball down the field. With only 319 career passing attempts, there’s plenty of room to grow for Huntley. He threw 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this past season while compiling for over 2400 passing yards.
It’s clear when you watch him under center or out of shotgun, he has the ability to tuck the ball and run. With over 500 rushing yards on 168 rushing attempts, he can make defenders miss in the open field. That ability is certainly a strength to his game and it makes him more dynamic.
His arm strength is more than ideal for a player of his size at 6’1 and 190 pounds. He’ll need to get better with his ball placement but his ability to throw on the run and make defenders miss in the pocket is a special trait he possesses. With Darren Carrington going undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft and Raelon Singleton transferring to Houston, the door opens for another receiver to emerge. Who it’ll be is a good question? At this point, I’d expect this offense to run behind their running back, Zack Moss and their quarterback, Tyler Huntley.