Publish date:

Cal Football: Can Chase Garbers Become the Zach Wilson of This Season's QB Class?

CBS Sports includes the senior among seven with a chance to command NFL attention.

Neither Cal nor quarterback Chase Garbers has gotten a lot of national media attention in the lead-up to the 2021 football season.

But CBS Sports, in a story this week, projected Garbers as one of seven quarterbacks who can emerge from under the radar to potential high NFL draft pick.

The story is headlined: 2022 NFL Draft: Under-the-radar quarterbacks who can rise to become the next Zach Wilson

Wilson became the flavor of the month with NFL scouts after a breakout season at BYU last fall. He wound up going No. 2 in the draft to the New York Jets.

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports notes that Wilson is the latest in a series of quarterbacks over the past six years who was “ultimately selected within the top three overall picks who was barely on or completely off the radar before his final college season.”

He lists Wilson’s predecessor’s as Joe Burrow (2020 NFL draft), Kyler Murray (2019), Baker Mayfield (2018), Mitchell Trubisky (2017) and Carson Wentz (2016).

His candidates to rise up this season include Garbers and three other quarterbacks the Bears will see this season: Oregon’s Anthony Brown, Washington State’s Jarrett Guarantano and TCU’s Max Duggan.

*** In the video above, recorded last month, Garbers talks about what areas of his game he worked on during the offseason.

Garbers is hardly an obscure player in the Pac-12, set to begin his third season as the Bears’ starter. But on a national scale, Garbers barely moves the needle.

Here’s why Trapasso believes that could change this season:

Garbers has been hovering near the draft radar for some time. After redshirting as a freshman, he took the reins of the offense in 2018. Garbers took a step forward as a sophomore, but like many passers in last year's abbreviated season, his growth screeched to a halt in 2020, which is why you likely haven't heard much about him heading into this draft cycle.

There's quality arm talent to his game, although that won't be characterized as a strength during the pre-draft process. I love how Garbers has a secondary throwing motion, a lightning quick, three-quarter delivery to get it out with zip in a hurry. And his touch at the intermediate level is exquisite.

He regularly steps up into the pocket and often takes off. Garber's lack of hesitation helps to accentuate every ounce of his athleticism as a scrambler. The receiving talent around him is mediocre at best, which could cap his productivity in 2021.

Here’s what Trappasso writes about Oregon’s Brown, who began his career at Boston College:

One of the more experienced passers in this collection of passers, Brown has attempted 703 throws heading into the 2021 season as Oregon's starter.

The 6-foot-3, 225 pounder is a big play waiting to happen on the ground. That was his forte at Boston College. During his time there, he gradually played more confidently as a passer. Brown played extensively for Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl against Iowa State and looked comfortable.

He was blessed with an easy, flick-of-the-wrist release that routinely produces a rifled spiral and has designed-run game athleticism. Oregon will be one of the best teams in the Pac-12 this season. Brown will be in the spotlight, always a positive development for a quarterback to ascend draft rankings. And he fits the mold of a quarterback becoming increasingly popular at the NFL level.

And his thoughts on WSU’s Guarantano, a transfer from Tennessee:

Guarantano was a huge get for the Tennessee program. Why? Well, he chose to be a Volunteer over heading to school in Columbus, Ohio, and nearby Rutgers. He's already thrown 808 passes -- scouts will love that.

And while he never met the lofty expectations set by his recruit ranking at Tennessee, he was hardly an inept passer with the Volunteers. In fact, three of his four seasons there went over 60% completion, but the 2019 campaign featured the best yards-per-attempt average.

He's a mostly poised, pocket passer with a rocket arm. His coverage-reading skills are ... lacking. He has to process quicker, too. At Washington State, he'll be placed in a spread offense that features plenty of downfield strikes. If he makes better decisions and plays more assertively, Guarantano could slowly ascend big boards across the league.

The CBS Sports story also includes one-time USC quarterback Jack Sears of Boise State, West Virginia’s Jarret Boege, formerly of Bowling Green, Notre Dame defector Phil Jurkovec of Boston College, and a player the Bears will face Sept. 11 at Fort Worth.

Here’s Trapasso’s evaluation of TCU’s Duggan:

I'll be honest -- the main memory I have with Duggan materialized while watching Jalen Reagor during the 2020 draft process, and it was not a good one. Duggan, then a true freshman starter, significantly hindered Reagor's production in his final season with the Horned Frogs. It was a Greg Focker meeting Jack Byrnes esque first impression.

But Duggan improved across the board at TCU in 2020. He played with more patience, calmness, and accuracy. He joined the program as a highly touted recruit, indicating the natural talent has long been there. The arm talent is noticeable and it's impossible to watch a Duggan-started contest without being impressed by his wiggle and explosiveness as as runner.

There's not much electricity in the pass-catching contingent at TCU this season, but Duggan's legitimate dual-threat style could generate serious buzz during the 2022 pre-draft process if he decides to declare early after a big junior campaign. 

Cover photo of Chase Garbers by Neville E. Guard, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo