Jared Goff may have to sit and watch for a year or two before he gets a real chance.
Get all of Doug Farrar’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
With the 2016 NFL draft just weeks away, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to finish the process of getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. To that end, Doug Farrar has assembled his own Big Board, with his top 50 players.
We continue with a quarterback who will likely be drafted in the single digits, but who may have to sit a year or two before he gets his chance.
Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Height: 6' 4" Weight: 215
Bio: Jerry Goff was a catcher for the Expos, Pirates, and Astros from 1990 through ’96. His son Jared followed a different sporting path, first as a high school football legend in the Bay Area, and then as Cal’s starting quarterback beginning in his true freshman in 2013. The Golden Bears went 1–11 that season, but Goff set himself apart, completing 60.8% of his passes for 3,508 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Through his three years as a starter, Cal continued to move up in the Pac-12, going 8–5 in 2015 and winning the Armed Forces Bowl over Air Force. Last season was Goff’s best, as he completed 341 of 529 passes for 4,714 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Moreover, five of those picks came in a single game, an uncharacteristically sloppy performance against Utah last October. Goff's career stats—977 completions in 1,568 attempts for 12,195 yards, 96 touchdowns and 30 picks—seem to portend NFL success.
Those who are reserved about Goff’s future will say that Cal’s “Bear-Raid” spread-style offense, led by head coach Sonny Dykes, provided Goff with too many easy openings and stressed college defenses to their breaking points in ways NFL defenses have mastered. But Goff was eager to insist at the combine that the transitional issues are overblown.
“There's obviously going to be a transition and I think it happens, but there’s a transition with every quarterback coming from college to the NFL,” he said. “So I’m excited for it, honestly. I think I did a lot of stuff in college that does translate well and again there’s a lot of stuff I need to improve on. ... All the dropback pass stuff we did is included in the NFL. The third-down stuff is a lot of shotgun nowadays. You see teams move more towards shotgun, and I’ve been doing that for a while. But at the same time, I’ve been training under center for a while. About six weeks, not a while, but enough where I feel comfortable with it.”
It’s true that in today’s NFL, teams generally run more shotgun and spread-style concepts than they ever have before. And it’s true that Goff’s offense had more advanced route concepts than your standard Spread 101 scheme. The real question for teams is how Goff will best advance his obvious attributes in the NFL as he works to clean up the things that could derail him if he’s asked to start right away.
Strengths: For the most part, Goff plays and throws with consistent mechanics, whether throwing deep or short, on the run or in the pocket. Has the arm to make most throws, including the cross-body boundary timing pass and the deep post if he’s not under too much pressure. Efficient motion allows him to get the ball downfield with a flick of the wrist. Has a natural way with shifting his weight in time with his throwing motion so he’s not limited to throwing with his upper body, even on short passes, and this promotes consistency from throw to throw. Full-field reader who seems perfectly comfortable going through multiple progressions in a short time and throwing to his second and third options. Has the height and throwing arc to get the ball over linemen and linebackers to the middle of the field. Throws with excellent anticipation at times, and has the potential to throw his receivers open more often than he does. When he plays on time, Goff looks like a pro.
Can quickly discern the open man and pulls the trigger to half a field from multiple route concepts. Keeps his head downfield when rolling out. Steps up in the pocket to evade side pressure and make the throw with proper mechanics. Mobile enough to keep the play alive for several extra seconds, though he’s not a running quarterback per se. Has no problem sticking in the pocket and moving around bodies; he has a good sense of when to stay and when to bail, and he’ll make the deep pass even when he knows he’s about to get plowed. Runs to throw and doesn’t let things fall apart when he’s moving out of the pocket. He stays poised with his eyes downfield, and stays in a ready stance to throw with his shoulders set. Made plays consistently and kept things together with a sub-par offensive line. Excellent with play action; will sell it well and bring defenders forward to create openings. Took control of Cal’s audibles for the 2015 season.
Weaknesses: Timing and accuracy are Goff’s two main issues, and they’re fairly glaring issues at times. Even on quick, easy slants and timing routes, he throws to the receiver’s back shoulder too often, misses the window, and throws his receivers into far too much danger in the middle of the field. Goff’s clock speeds up under pressure, and he’s more inclined to throw the ball away than he is to reset and make the open throw. Processing speed under pressure needs to be developed. A “see it and throw it” player who makes too many pre-determined reads and can’t always adjust—tends to throw wildly off-rhythm when this happens. Has a target in mind from the snap and isn’t flexible enough to adjust when receivers slip, slow down or are jammed at the line of scrimmage. Throws wild and high when his mechanics get off-kilter and is prone to throw multiple interceptions when this happens (see the 2015 Utah game).
Needs to keep an eye on his lower body when dropping back out of pressure; he’ll throw lobs from this position once in a while. Roll-out motion is good, but he is just as apt to throw it away as he is to complete a pass out of structure. Not smooth when he’s rolling to his left and throwing against his own momentum. Still learning how much to take off his velocity on deep arc passes—at times, he’ll miss by several yards downfield. Will need to learn to diagnose more complex defenses, as he faced a ton of base stuff with little in the way of disguises and late-presnap twists. Played almost entirely out of Pistol and shotgun, though this is less of a problem now than it was in the NFL even just five years ago. Wasn’t injury-affected, but his slight frame could be a concern. Responsible for 81 sacks and 24 fumbles over three seasons.
Conclusion: Goff has been mocked to the Browns with the No. 2 pick, and to the 49ers with the No. 7 pick, and to the Eagles with the No. 8 pick... really, given the number of teams in the top 10 of this draft and the constant need for franchise quarterbacks, it’s very easy to project that whether he’s NFL-ready or not, Goff will go in the single digits. Then will come the obvious question: How soon does Goff’s NFL team throw him into the fire? Goff said at the combine that he’d be O.K. with sitting for a year or two (what else is he going to say?), and while that is probably best for his NFL future, his skill set may have his next team rushing to see what he can do.
Pro Comparison: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (first round, 2012, Texas A&M)