Nearly one week away from the draft and there has been the normal chatter expected this time of the year. A hot topic amongst the Bills community is whether Buffalo should take Paxton Lynch with their pick in the first round. Lynch is one of a few polarizing players in this draft. Coaches, scouts and fans either love him or hate him. He compares to some well known players.
Keep in mind, those are just his measureables. His production at Memphis was very good. He had 22 career wins, while going 758/1,205 with a 63% completion percentage, 8,863 passing yards, 59 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
With the recent trade by Philly up to the #2 slot Lynch’s stock is rising. There is a chance he may not even be there if Whaley wanted to pull the trigger on him. But let’s take a look at why so many teams are infatuated with his skills.
The offensive system in place didn’t ask Lynch to make many reads. Memphis was a team that utilized a lot of 3×1 wide receiver sets to spread the defense thin, making the reads easier. Like on this play, with a possible single high safety look he needs to find the flats defender. The outside linebacker goes with the RB to the flats, so he throws the three step slant. He identified the coverage, read his key and delivered to the proper receiver.
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There were times that he had to work through his reads and deliver passes. It didn’t happen as frequently as most scouts would like to have seen but they also know that the system has something to do with that. The system in place in Memphis is very similar to what is in Buffalo. A simple passing scheme aimed at getting the ball to the play-makers, relying on those guys to move the chains. Tyrod had struggles in the passing game and fans labeled him a “one read and run” type QB. But if you go back and study the film, that issue wasn’t all on Tyrod, the system put him in those situations. You could say the same about Lynch, he often was asked to take one step, make one read which is why many scouts think he is still a couple years away. But that isn’t to say that he can’t scan the field. His height allows him to stand in the pocket and scan the field, unlike Tyrod who often had to leave the pocket.
On this play Memphis sends out their 21 personnel in a 2×2 WR set to the field. Paxton looks to the out route at the boundary but that player is bracketed high and low. Lynch then looks to the middle deep route but post snap the coverage changes from a two high safety structure to a single high safety look therefore the middle of the field is closed. QBs are taught to not throw the post route vs. a closed middle. The post also isn’t open because the footwork doesn’t correlate with the depth of the route. Sound familiar? So when Lynch hits the top of his drop the WR isn’t looking because the route hasn’t developed. He remains calm and throws a dart to his check-down, the running back. I slowed down the play to show you his posture in the pocket, how he scanned the field and most importantly his mechanics. Look closely as he throws to the back, his feet and shoulders are not even pointing at his target. The throw is still on point but there are a lot of things he needs to work on, mechanics being first on the list.
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Many media outlets when evaluating Lynch will ding him for playing in a system that was primarily in the shotgun which asked the QB to take one step drops. But what they won’t tell you is that offenses in college are getting simpler. They are asking less and less of QBs at that level, and Lynch was no different than the other QBs in this draft. Thanks to Derrik Klassen and Optimum Scouting, both MUST follows on Twitter. Klassen analyzed a six game sample for some of the top QBs in this draft. He charted them to get an idea of what kind of player each were and what system they played in. Take a look at what Klassen found:
As you can see Lynch took one step drops just as much as Goff and Wentz, players that will be going #1 and #2 overall. Wentz and even Connor Cook are the only players that didn’t take most of their snaps out of the shotgun formation. But what I found even more interesting is Lynch’s accuracy percentages. As I mentioned in the last clip, he has some mechanical flaws and it often leads to him under throwing or throwing the ball high on some routine throws. Of the top three QBs in this class he was just behind Wentz but in front of Goff. According to Klassen, “true accuracy” is a weighted accuracy system that accounts for drops, throw distance, receiver adjustments and more. For example, a completed screen pass is less valuable than a completion beyond 25 yards. So with all of the screens Memphis ran those were weighted less and he still finished with a solid percentage.
Check out the accuracy on the following throw. Lynch immediately gets pressure from the left side, but he keeps his eyes down field, stays in a good throwing posture while climbing the pocket. The slot defender does a great job of carrying the out and up route up the sideline. Paxton places the ball over the top of the defender and doesn’t lead him too far up-field, as to keep it away from the corner possibly peeling off his assignment and making a play on the ball. Unfortunately, the ball is dropped but still a very good sequence and piece of film to breakdown.
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When you read scouting reports on the big guy you will often see that he is a project quarterback. A lot of that has to do with the system he played in, but was that system in place because of his inability to read coverages? Only coaches, scouts and Bills front office have an idea to those answers. It isn’t black and white of course but look at the following play and get a glimpse at Lynch’s decision making on the play, and why it led to a sack…
I would put the sack on Lynch in the prior play. Memphis put him in a 5 wide formation. That kind of formation is supposed to dictate the defenses coverage making the reads quick and easy. Give credit to the Temple defense, they were a veteran group. They knew the down and distance-2nd and 15 so Matakevich knew that he could drop a little deeper, that allowed him to take the play away.
But on this next clip, I would say that the system limited him on this 3rd and 8 play. Here’s why:
Paxton Lynch has the ability to throw outside of the pocket and on the run. Lynch threw 23% (Goff 9%) of his passes outside of the pocket, 29% (Goff 16%) on the run. He had a 63% completion percentage while on the move (Goff 58%), 10 touchdowns (Goff 11), 0 interceptions (Goff 1) and 1,164 yards (Goff 501). On this designed roll-out he uses his 4.86 forty speed to break contain, then delivers a perfect pass to the wide receiver.
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He has the unique combination of mobility and arm strength that teams covet. Especially run heavy teams that use the run game to set up their passing game. Lynch’s mobility allowed him to extend plays and yes, scan the entire field on select plays. He rushed for 687 yards and 17 TDs in his collegiate career.
Lynch has the skills to run the Greg Roman offense. In 2015 the Bills ran a lot of deep comeback routes to the sideline. That throw is his best throw. He was routinely asked to make that throw from the opposite hash, especially on money downs. Take a look:
The motion leaves the outside receiver one on one and Lynch again delivers a rope to the receiver on 3rd and 8. You’re either born with that arm talent or not.
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I like many scouts are infatuated with the raw skills he has. He is a year away or so from being a starter but he does things that make your jaw drop. On the next play he turns his back to the secondary on the play fake, half rolls to his left, plants his feet and unleashes a PERFECT pass to the front pylon. When quarterbacks carry out play-action fakes and turn their back to the defense often their post snap picture is blurry. Lynch has no trouble reading the coverage from pre-snap to post snap, he gets the single high safety look and trusts his wide receiver to bring in the pass.
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As I mentioned, with the recent trades Lynch’s stock is soaring. Teams realize that in order to win consistently the quarterback position needs to be solidifed. I believe that the Bills are in that boat and that Lynch offers the same skills that Tyrod does, but with a stronger arm and the size to stand in the pocket and deliver passes.
Where Tyrod is ahead of him of course is in experience and speed of the game. Greg Roman didn’t ask much of Tyrod last year but what he did ask of him, Taylor delivered. The question is can he improve upon that each and every year or was his performance is who he is? I can’t answer that question yet, but I see why Whaley is supposedly entertaining the idea of drafting this kid. Bringing in Lynch would allow the Bills to sit him, play Tyrod for at least this year and keep their options open in 2017.
What worries me is that Lynch won’t even be available at 19 now. I think that with the recent trends, he will be taken off the board earlier. Teams know he isn’t ready to start next season. I am a huge Tyrod Taylor fan but I don’t think he has shown enough YET, to say he is “the guy” for the next 5-10 years.