In my last post, we took a detailed look at the top two quarterbacks in this upcoming draft class, and compared and contrasted them while projecting their fits in PML. But what about the other guys? Those two quarterbacks will likely go one and two, but what about teams that pick later? Who can they look at? These later-projected players all have some talent but aren’t surefire franchise quarterbacks like the top two. They all do certain things well but have some flaws that need to be ironed out. Perhaps one of these guys could go to a playoff team and sit for a year, or even come in and start.
Mac Jones, Alabama
After taking over for Miami Dolphin Tua Tagovailoa last year, Mac Jones has defied all expectations. Many assumed he would be a stopgap player to hold the Tide over while they brought in five-star dual-threat Bryce Young this year. However, Jones has looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the country through four games, carrying over momentum from a good finish to last season. Throwing for 400 yards in a game is a difficult feat for any quarterback to accomplish. It took Trevor Lawrence three full years as a starter to do it once. Mac Jones has done it for three straight games against three very good SEC defenses, highlighted by his 417 yard, 4 touchdown game against likely the best defense in the country: the Georgia Bulldogs. He has thrown the ball at a very high level, with a 78.3% completion percentage which is amazing.
Mechanically sound, Jones has looked the part of an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t have any physical traits that pop out to you, but he just plays very, very well. Yes, he is throwing to some of the best receivers in the country, but he is throwing them beautiful passes with perfect placement. He isn’t particularly fast, but he can make some plays outside of the pocket when he needs to. He does a great job standing strong against pressure and making throws, as well as putting nice touch on his throws. He identifies coverages well and seems to always make the right read. Two of his interceptions this year have come off of tipped passes and were not his fault.
So where could he fit? He’s probably a late first round pick at best, but will likely go in the middle rounds.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brady likely won’t be around for much longer, so the Bucs need to start looking for his replacement as soon as possible. That replacement could be a free agent, but why not save money and draft Mac Jones in the middle rounds? I don’t see many teams itching to take him since he likely won’t have stellar throw power or physical traits, but the guy is a quarterback. In a sense, he could be a similar player to Brady. He doesn’t blow you away physically, but could learn to always find the open receiver and methodically drive the offense down the field. Obviously, Tom Brady is a future first ballot Hall of Famer and will be very difficult to replicate, but Jones could learn a thing or two from him and be a solid starter in Tampa Bay.
Mac Jones fits what the Steelers do offensively to a T. He would do very well in their under center offense that isn’t too demanding of their quarterback. Their primary goal is to run the ball and passing is a complement to the ground game rather than a focal point. The Steelers could ease him into the NFL and could even have Big Ben show him the ropes for a year or so. With some strong receivers, Jones could easily slide into this offense without skipping a beat.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
This is a difficult prospect to project to PML. He was dominant in his lone year as a starter for the Bison but didn’t play against the same competition of these other quarterback prospects. Scoring 48 total touchdowns, Lance gained just over 4000 combined yards through the air and on the ground. However, his team dominated even when he didn’t. His offensive line was phenomenal, as he was only sacked 12 times through 16 games which is an incredibly low number. He also has only thrown more than 25 times in a game twice in a career, with a large number of games with less than 15 attempts.
When watching him play, you do see some good things that you may not see when looking at the stats. He has a good arm and is able to make some very good throws both in the pocket and out of it. Lance keeps his eyes downfield when scrambling and found the open receiver on the run quite a few times. His biggest strength is his ability as a runner. With a running style that can be best described as a more graceful Sam Ehlinger, Trey Lance reads his blocks well and is willing to lower his shoulder and push forward when he needs to. This is the kind of player that needs an offense catered to his ability and will be a great player if given the right opportunities. If not used properly, things could get ugly. He played with a great team and didn’t always have to do much. This is not a slight against him, as we have seen plenty of players succeed in the NFL after playing with a loaded college team.
New England Patriots
This fit couldn’t be any better. The Patriots have one of the most innovative and creative coaches in the league, and there is no question that they would utilize Lance to the best of his abilities. Though he is not the same player as Cam Newton, he has a somewhat similar skill set and could benefit greatly from his mentorship. Being in a system that would slowly ease him into the gameplan would be best for him, and the Patriots would slowly open up the offense and make use of all of his skills. There would be a great amount of resources allocated into his development, and Lance could easily develop into an MVP candidate in this offense. Though they don’t have the best offensive weapons in the league, someone will probably trade them to New England. Trey Lance is probably a late first-round or second-round prospect, so the Patriots would have to trade up to get him. The investment would be worth it.
The Lions’ head coach has shown through the years that he can improvise and adapt to the skillset of his quarterback. They can run a simple offense that helps the passer grow as a player before opening up the game and allowing him full control. They have competed well in a tough division, and will most likely find themselves picking towards the end of the draft. With the 2nd ranked passing offense, this team is extremely one-dimensional with the 32nd ranked rushing offense. Lance could be an equalizer. He doesn’t have Matthew Stafford’s arm but is far better as an athlete. Being able to incorporate the quarterback into the running game is a huge boost to an offense, and it would be exciting to watch Lance play with guys like Kenny Golladay and D’Andre Swift.
Kyle Trask, Florida
To put it simply, Kyle Trask is a gunslinger. He throws the ball without fear, and you will live or die by it. He makes some incredible throws that most quarterbacks wouldn’t even think to take, while other times he tries to force it into coverage and gets picked off. The good thing is that this isn’t anything that can’t be solved with a good coach. Sitting in the film room with a PML coach would help him diagnose his mistakes and fix them the best he can. He has some great arm talent and even has a bit more mobility than you would think. Some would even call him sneaky athletic. His willingness to throw balls that other passers would be apprehensive about is a good trait, it just needs to be refined. He has led one of the most explosive offenses in the country this year, in large part due to his success getting the ball to Kyle Pitts exactly where he needs to. He knows where the ball needs to be in order for his receiver to make the play. Dan Mullen dials up some great plays for him, and I’m sure a PML coach could do the same, given the opportunity to do so.
The Colts need a gunslinger, as we have seen Philip Rivers’ poor arm in his late age cost the team in tight situations. Jacob Eason has done a solid job taking over for Indianapolis, but why not pick an even better passer? He is more accurate than Eason, but may not have the same arm strength. They need someone who can toss some bombs to complement the strong rushing attack, and Trask is just that. Being able to take chances in the passing game will help this offense fully open up as they continue to find their way in PML.
Jamie Newman, Georgia/ Wake Forest
The first word that comes to mind when you think about Newman is: traits. He has a very solid arm, good athleticism, and his highlights stack up well against just about anyone else’s. He will make some throws that will leave your jaw on the floor and has no problem making defenders miss in space to make the flashy play on the ground. The issue with Jamie Newman is consistency. He likely would’ve benefitted greatly from using up his last year of eligibility either at Georgia or Wake Forest, but we don’t know his circumstances or what led him to opt out.
A bit more of a project player than some of the other guys listed, it is going to take some time to get Newman to a point where he’s ready to start games in PML. He is going to need some resources invested in honing his arm talents, but he will come into the league with some favorable physical traits. He has the intangibles you look for in a quarterback and definitely has high upside (the cursed word). Maybe he would be similar to another project passer we saw last year in PML, Emory Jones. Hopefully, Newman would see more success and be on a better team. Not held back by scheme, Jamie Newman has the ability to be slotted into pretty much any offense in the league. There will be an adjusting period, but he will come along over time and be able to play some meaningful snaps in this league.
The Niners have Jimmy Garropolo under contract for three more years, which would give Newman some time to learn the offense and hone in his skills before you ask him to do much. Early on, he could be a gadget player who goes in for a handful of plays every game, adding some nuance to this offense. In PML, the 49ers offense has shown some promise, just lacking consistency. Being able to use the quarterback on the move would help out this offense based around the run and run-pass option game. We’ve seen this team run some exotic plays but we’ve also seen them stick to a short playbook. If they want to succeed in this league, they’ll need to adjust and find more plays to be comfortable with. Coaches in PML are going to catch on to what the 49ers do offensively, and having a guy like Newman to mix things up on occasion would help them keep their opponents on their toes.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins isn’t the franchise guy in Minnesota, but he can be a good stopgap player for the next few years while they develop the man for the future. This team is better than their record shows, and we know what their coach is capable of. If they bring in a guy like Jamie Newman and work on developing him for a few years, they can turn this offense around. Their offense hasn’t performed very well this year, and being able to add a new dimension to this team would help them compete in their tough division. We know they are going to focus on running the ball, but it never hurts to have a mobile quarterback who can make some extra plays for you that Kirk Cousins can’t.
Sam Ehlinger, Texas
A similar talent to Tim Tebow, Ehlinger hasn’t seen the same level of success in Austin. He’s put the Longhorns on his back through his four years as a starter and has shown flashes. He can make some beautiful throws and run through just about any defender. He can do a little bit of everything that you could ask of a quarterback, but some have questions of if his skills will translate to the NFL. In PML, traits are everything and Sam Ehlinger is loaded with traits. He may not be the fastest, but he is a good athlete who is a very strong runner. He doesn’t have a cannon arm like Trevor Lawrence but is still able to sling the ball at a high level. This year we’ve seen him make some poor decisions with the ball, but that’s not anything some good coaching can’t fix. An accurate passer, he shouldn’t require too much work with his arm talent. I believe that he can be a very good player in the PML, he will just need to fall into the right situation. Otherwise, he may be a backup QB. Teams tend to stick with a player who has shown the ability rather than take a flier on someone with underrated potential.
When you think of Sam Ehlinger, you think of his toughness. He has no problem carrying the team to a win, and has shown that he can will his team to victory no matter the circumstances. He will always get right back up after a hit and does not shy away from contact. These skills work in college football, but will he be able to succeed in PML. He won’t have any flashy stats as a player but he will be very solid across the board.
Miami’s head coach shares an alma mater with Ehlinger, making this an easy projection. While he wouldn’t be drafted to come in and start, he would be selected to be a very good backup. Having a strong backup is important when your team has a guy like Tua Tagovailoa under center who has a rough history of injuries. Having a quarterback who can come in and be a bully on short yardage runs would add a new layer to this Dolphins offense that wants to control the ball and keep it out of the other team’s hands.
The Titans have a coach who has gotten very creative in the past when it comes to using the quarterback in the ground attack. Years ago, he turned Cardale Jones into an MVP candidate, throwing for nearly 6000 yards (other leagues). Ehlinger presents a somewhat similar skillset as a sturdy passer who is tough enough to truck linebackers. Ryan Tannehill has played well and plays a little similarly to Ehlinger and could be a mentor for the young player despite being from rival schools. He could ease him into PML and take him under his wing.
Which of the “other guys” do you think has the most potential? Who would be the best PML player? These guys all have talent, but will take dedication and resources to make them great. Maybe one of these passers can turn into this year’s version of Kyle Allen for the New Orleans Saints. (shoutout to Nefarious)