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What the Top 3 Quarterbacks are Best At

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Scouting Notes

What the Top 3 Quarterbacks are Best At

In my opinion there are three quarterbacks in this class who are legitimate first round talents. Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, and Patrick Mahomes display the qualities of a quarterback you would want to build your team around. Below the big three, DeShone Kizer flashes big time upside, but is far too inconsistent; Nathan Peterman can be a solid NFL starter with limited upside; and the rest of the QB draft class I think are unlikely to succeed in the NFL.

While Watson, Trubisky, and Mahomes can all be very successful quarterbacks, they have different traits that make them stand out prospects. I wanted to explore which prospect was best at different aspects of the quarterback position.

Arm Strength: Patrick Mahomes

This category is a runaway for Patrick Mahomes. As he showed in his pro day, he has the arm strength to throw the ball 80 yards. He also shows the ability in games to put the ball on the money from 60 yards away. His arm talent will be top 5 in the NFL from the day he gets drafted. Trubisky and Watson don’t have arm strength issues on tape, despite too low radar gun for Watson. However, their arm strength cannot compete with Mahomes.

Accuracy: Mitchell Trubisky

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Trubisky has the most consistent accuracy of the big three. While at times he does leave the ball short when throwing on the move, he throws crisp passes to all three levels. Watson is inconsistent with his accuracy; he has stretches of excellent play, but he will also hit the wrong shoulder and over throw deep balls at times. Mahomes’ accuracy can be erratic, due to his ever-changing mechanics.

Mechanics: Deshaun Watson

All three quarterbacks come from a shotgun system and will have work to do to get comfortable under center. At the combine, Watson showed good footwork in his drops and seemed most comfortable early in the transition process. Watson has an easy release, holding the ball high and tight and squaring his shoulders when he throws. He has good footwork as well, rarely throwing off his back foot, or mis-planting and causing issues with the throw.

Trubisky needs to improve his footwork, while Mahomes mechanics can be all over the place.

Pocket Presence: Deshaun Watson

Watson has a good feel for the pocket. He can slide to avoid defenders and keep his eyes down field. At times he will bail the pocket, but this is not a consistent issue. Watson also shows comfort in the face of pressure, willing to take a big hit and not throw off his back foot. He also shows a good knowledge of where his check down is, and a comfort throwing to him in the face of pressure.

Trubisky isn’t far behind Watson in this area, although he can however hold the ball too long and take unneeded sacks which ultimately gives Watson the edge. Mahomes is a tough guy to bring down and is always looking to extend plays. Often when pressure comes, playground football follows.

Attacking Zone: Mitchell Trubisky

Trubisky does a good job recognizing zone coverage. He will throw guys open by anticipating their leaving a zone, and he consistently attacks the whole field in a Cover 2 defense. A lot of Watson’s interceptions came versus zone coverage where he misread or was fooled by a defense disguising their zone coverage.

Attacking Man: Deshaun Watson

Watson is often slandered as a quarterback who was bailed out by Mike Williams throwing 50/50 balls. This was part of play design. The way Clemson’s offense worked was the big receivers created lanes for the quarterback to attack versus man coverage, and Watson would exploit them. He would also attack man by throwing back shoulder balls on the money.

Pre-Snap: Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson is often criticized for his decision making and rightfully so. He threw 17 interceptions, including a few unacceptable ones that left you scratching your head.

What he does incredibly well is read the defense pre-snap. He is good at understanding where his receivers are going and understanding what alignments defenses are in. This is crucial to his success in a quick strike, quick read offense. His ability to decipher the defense before the play begins allowed him to have so much success at the college level.

Going through progressions: Mitchell Trubisky

All three quarterbacks show the ability to work through progressions, but Trubisky does this the best. He is able to work his way quickly through progressions and shows an excellent ability to use his eyes. He freezes safeties and linebackers and attacks the holes in the defense his eyes have created.

Improvisational skills: Patrick Mahomes

This is a no brainer for who wins in this category. Mahomes makes plays that draw comparisons to Aaron Rodgers, and rightfully so. He is great in a scramble drill and throws the ball incredibly well on the run. He is good at buying time and had great chemistry with his receivers to make big plays down the field when the initial play isn’t there. This is something he won’t want to rely on at the next level, but it is something that can be a good weapon to have in his arsenal.

Decision Making: Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes can make decisions that other quarterbacks cannot because of his arm strength. He makes some throws that are possible interceptions for others, but are relatively safe throws for him and result in big plays.

Despite all of the big plays, down field throws, and chances he took, he only threw 10 interceptions on 591 passes. His 1.6% interception rate was only slightly higher than Trubisky’s 1.3%. Mahomes took more vertical shots and had a higher degree of difficulty on his throws, so I will give him the edge.

Clutch: Deshaun Watson

This one is almost as big of a no brainer as Patrick Mahomes with his arm strength.  Wins are not a quarterback stat, they are a team stat. How you play in the 4th quarter with the game on the line — now that is a QB stat. In all of team sports, there is no position where it is more important to come through in the clutch. Joe Flacco and Eli Manning have turned average careers into Super Bowl wins for how they perform down the stretch of games.

Time and time again Watson answered the bell, staying calm and driving his team down the field when it mattered most. He drove his team against the best team in the country and threw a game-winning touchdown with one second left.  It doesn’t get more big time than

Eliot Crist

Eliot Crist is a National Scout for NDT Scouting Services. He also works for Pro Football Focus as an analyst. He has experience in draft breakdowns, tendency scouting reports, and player evaluations. Eliot is passionate about breaking down film, showing the good and bad of players explaining what he sees in a player. He frequently appears as a guest analyst on football podcasts.

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