2024 NFL Draft: This Year’s QB Class a Case Study in the Value of College Snaps

We’re closing in on Thursday’s first round, so it’s time for Albert Breer’s annual look at the top prospects, with help from NFL coaches, scouts and execs who have studied them extensively.
An AFC college scouting director on McCarthy: “He’s the one that’s helped himself more from December to now than any of these guys.”
An AFC college scouting director on McCarthy: “He’s the one that’s helped himself more from December to now than any of these guys.” / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As Brock Purdy’s star rose two seasons ago, I started asking around on the emergence of the ex-Iowa State quarterback. And one thing came up continually: How NFL teams value experience at the college level.

  

Purdy, the 262nd and final pick of the 2022 NFL draft, started 46 games at Iowa State. The quarterback himself can tell you the benefit of that experience: Hundreds of reps over what a lot of college quarterbacks get. It’s seeing defensive coordinators for the second and third time as a collegian, giving them a better chance to gameplan against you. It’s the amount of rush packages, coverages and overall defensive looks you’ve had to play against.

 

It's trying and failing. It’s trying and succeeding. And it’s constantly finding different answers.

 

All of it has prepared Purdy, and the other 31 teams who’ve seen Purdy’s success properly value what's been the key to his success over the past two seasons.

 

“There are a lot of experienced guys this year,” says an NFC offensive coordinator about this year’s group of quarterback prospects.

 

Indeed, Michael Penix Jr. played six college seasons, starting 48 games over that time, and graduated high school the same year as Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Bo Nix and Jayden Daniels were three-year starters at Auburn and Arizona State, respectively, and flourished after cross-country transfers. The two combined for 116 starts in college. And then you have Spencer Rattler and Joe Milton III, who won starting jobs at Oklahoma and Michigan, lost them, and wound up finishing up as starters elsewhere.

 

Of course, part of this is an aberration. COVID-19 hit, and gave all of these guys bonus years of eligibility. NIL and the transfer portal have contributed, too, giving guys more chances to assure that they’d be playing, and not sitting while their clock toward the pros ticks. There’s also a chance that could be more heavily regulated in the years to come.

 

For now, though? This year’s class should give us a pretty good case study in the value of college snaps for a prospective NFL quarterback, with the older guys sprinkled in with Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy.

 

So let’s dive in on this year’s prospects …

Caleb Williams, USC

Former USC quarterback Caleb Williams
An AFC exec on Williams: “For all the Mahomes comparisons, he’s probably the superior athlete. He makes everything look easy.” / Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
  • Size: 6'1", 214 pounds
  • Ceiling comp: Faster, shorter, lesser-armed Patrick Mahomes

Williams received the most consistent assessments—and two of those most critical couched their evaluations as “nitpicking.” And you won’t find many evaluators who aren’t seeing a ceiling that, eventually, could land the 2022 Heisman winner among the game’s elite. “He’s outstanding,” says one AFC coordinator. “He has so much talent, can generate so much power on his throws, and he’s a really good athlete, too. He’s as good a prospect as I can remember since I’ve been doing this. There’s some play stuff to improve, not always going for the home run, but that’s fine. He’s clearly 1–1, the top pick in every draft class I’ve evaluated.”

 

What’s truly unique, or maybe unique to anyone outside of Kansas City, is how he can make things happen creatively from bad body positions and under duress. “What’s different is on extended plays, he gets on the perimeter, and he can still generate a ton of velocity falling away when he’s about to get hit, when his arm slot changes,” says an AFC OC. “It almost looks strange because you shouldn’t be able to power the ball from those body positions, and weight distribution. And he does show he can play on time. It’s gonna be, for me, consistently taking what he’s given, while still accessing the special stuff he can do.”

 

I really wanted to put a different comp on him than Mahomes, and thought about Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. But the coaches and scouts I talked to kept leading me right back to the obvious one. “The first thing that sticks out is just how many different throws he has, even touch throws to the back underneath—it’s a special arm,” says an NFC OC. “The Mahomes comparison in terms of what he can do with it, I think that’s very real. The next thing is the instincts. You can see, obviously, he’s got wide field vision. He’s got great instincts. The playmaking ability stands on its own. Those are the main things when you just look at it. It’s arm, instincts, vision, playmaking, just checks the box on all those things.”

 

What separates the two might be that Mahomes has a little more size and more arm strength. Conversely, Williams is probably the better runner, with the ability to break long runs. “We’re in meetings right now, watching a bunch of players at all different positions, and it dawned on me I forgot how good Caleb is,” says an AFC exec. “He’s got a super strong arm, and he’s a lot faster than people give him credit for. He’s not as explosive as Kyler [Murray] or Lamar [Jackson] or even Jayden [Daniels], but he’s fast. For all the Mahomes comparisons, he’s probably the superior athlete. He makes everything look easy.”

 

Now, for the nitpicking. Turnovers were, indeed, an issue last year, as was his propensity for hero ball. “My concern is his tape was not very good this year,” says an NFC quarterbacks coach. “The ’22 tape is very good. This year, the team is terrible, the offense is brutal. You can see the talent. He can move, but a lot of the off-schedule stuff, he’s careless with the football. He’s not Mahomes—this guy is not a slam dunk. He makes bad decisions. He’s not very big. … Jayden’s tape this year was far better.”

 

As this coach conceded he was nitpicking Williams’s decisions to make throws against his body, and expose the ball, there was an element of doing what he had to do on a team that didn’t have near the talent it did the year before. And striking the balance between the routine and spectacular will be, in all these guys’ opinions, the key. “The minuses, there’s a lot to clean up, as far as playing within the offense,” says an AFC college scouting director. “They give him easy options, he doesn’t always throw it, he doesn’t settle. But that offense is a free-for-all, and that’s kind of his play style. When the play seems dead, this guy can score a touchdown. He knows that. That’s just what it is.”

 

Finally, there’s the off-field element—Williams’s interest in the business of football, and his dad’s involvement in his career. Kliff Kingsbury, who was with Williams last year at USC, assured the Chicago Bears in January that Carl Williams wasn’t involved in the football side of things, telling them he saw the dad at the practice facility just once in 2023. But Carl Williams, a successful businessman in his own right, is helping his son with the off-field stuff, for sure. “I do worry about that, to an extent,” says another AFC college scouting director. “If he doesn’t reach full potential at the next level, it’d be unrelated to anything physically or athletically. But the [USC] coaches paint a rosy picture. Everyone likes him.”

 

That goes for NFL folks, too, which is why his wait Thursday will last less than 10 minutes.

 

Jayden Daniels, LSU

Former LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels
An NFC quarterbacks coach on Daniels: “Good feet. Good base. Based on the tape, I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft.” / SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network / USA
  • Size: 6'3 5/8", 210 pounds
  • Ceiling comp: Lamar Jackson, with a little less as a runner, and a little more as a passer.

 

A very clear-cut No. 2 among the coaches I spoke with, including one saying he’d seriously consider taking him over Williams. “I think he’s a superstar,” the NFC quarterbacks coach says. “I’m not alone on that. He’s a special athlete, he’s a special thrower of the football, he plays on time. So there’s the issue he doesn’t throw over the middle as much, but you watch him throw, it’s where it needs to be. Good feet. Good base. Based on the tape, I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft.”

 

An NFC pass-game coordinator adds, “I love this kid, I think he’s really special. … This guy plays fast, he’s a problem in the run game, and he has the arm to rip it down the field. His accuracy will improve as he keeps working on his base. The debate between him and Drake Maye to me is not a debate. He’s so much better.”

 

We can start with the easy part—Daniels, who rushed for 2,019 yards and 21 touchdowns over two years at LSU—is electric in the run game, both on the designed stuff, and as a scrambler. “You see him as a runner; he is dynamic,” says an NFC OC. “He’s outrunning angles. It looks different. It looks like he’s running at a different speed than everybody else on the field. He’ll be able to use that to his advantage, especially early on.” An AFC exec adds, “It’s really hard for me, because I know it’s sacrilegious to say, but he’s really good, and Lamar is the comp for me.”

 

Now, with that established, there are strings attached in the run game.

 

The first is how his run style has a little Robert Griffin III to it, in that he, too, often opens himself up to hits, and gets into car-crash collisions. That he has a wiry, basketball-player frame, only enhances the comparison. When Daniels checked in at 210 pounds at his pro day, an AFC college scouting director said, “I’m pleased with the progress. He was 180 pounds at one point, but I think he’s about maxed out. He’s got a slender physique, and he’s done what he can. He’s gonna have to learn to get down. He took violent hits. Guys get square on him, and he’s going the wrong way. … There are specific games where it’s like, Oh my god, how did he not see him coming? Did he think he was gonna run through that guy? It’s gotta be fixed.”

 

Second, there’s the fact that some of these hits come in scramble situations, where Daniels is almost always running. “When he scrambles, he runs, he doesn’t extend plays to throw,” says an AFC coordinator. “So when he pulls the ball down and moves, you know he’s going to go. He had 16 pass attempts off scrambles all year. You’d just like for him to keep his eyes downfield more. Now, he rushed for 1,200 yards, so it’s tough to argue the results. … But it’s the combination of he doesn’t have the frame and he’s getting f---ing rocked that worries you.” An NFC OC adds, “If you watch 20 scramble plays of Caleb Williams and 20 of Jayden Daniels, they’re polar opposites. Caleb’s going to throw it 15 out of the 20 times, and Jayden’s going to run it 15 out of the 20 times.”

 

As a passer, it’s a bit more complicated, but this isn’t—Daniels has improved by leaps and bounds. “I wasn’t sure what type of player I was about to watch,” says an AFC OC. “I saw discipline with his feet, an ability to distribute the ball and make good decisions. I knew he was an athlete, but when I flipped it on, I saw a quarterback who happens to make plays with his legs.” If there is a criticism in that realm, it came from the aforementioned AFC coordinator, who adds, “My concern is he doesn’t ever throw over the middle of the field; they’re mostly pick-and-stick throws. So does he see it? Is he processing it?” That said, his downfield accuracy, and throws to the sideline, show his talent as a passer.

 

The key here might be what Daniels has already done, and that’s consistently improve. He may not be the world’s most outward leader, but his teammates see the work he puts in, and the fact that he’s taken such huge steps are a nod to the work he’s put in. “He’s one of a couple where if you go back early in his career, they’d be lucky to be undrafted free agents,” the aforementioned AFC college scouting director says. “This guy’s done a lot for him to put himself in this position. If I’m betting on someone to get better, he’s on the right trajectory.”

 

Drake Maye, North Carolina

Former North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye
An NFC offensive coordinator on Maye: “That’s the guy that most people think boom or bust.” / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Size: 6'4⅜", 223 pounds
  • Ceiling comp: Justin Herbert skill set with a Josh Allen playstyle

 

Here’s where the arguing begins. Maye was the overwhelming favorite to be the second pick going into the 2023 college season, but an up-and-down campaign has split NFL folks on him.

 

“That’s the guy that most people think boom or bust,” says an NFC OC. “Makes some really great throws, and some wild throws, some really head-scratching throws, like Damn, where’d that ball land? You love the size. You love the big lower body, the frame. You love the fact that he has a couple professional athletes in the family. You talk about a good arm, [but] not anywhere near Caleb Williams. There are just inconsistencies with his game.”

 

We can start with the bright side, which is, as the OC says, the stuff you can’t coach that Maye brings to the table. “Tools through the roof,” says an AFC OC. “Size, athleticism, arm strength. The hard thing is getting a sense for where he’s at from a processing standpoint. Coming from that offense doesn’t do a ton of favors for him. He’ll rip some throws, and miss stuff he should make. But he’s got everything in his body you’d ever want.” An AFC exec adds, “Drake, to me, is so underappreciated. He was on a bad team, in a bad offense, no offensive line, super average receivers. I’m not sure what people expected this year.”

 

Indeed, Maye—the son of a UNC quarterback, and brother of Power 5 basketball, football and baseball players—leveled off last year after losing his OC, Phil Longo, and a raft of veteran players, including Colts receiver Josh Downs. Fans of his, like the exec above, like that he had to experience carrying a team. Others saw it differently. “He’s an enigma for me,” says an NFC quarterbacks coach. “He’s big, he has decent athleticism. But as a thrower, I think he’s average. He plays on his toes when he doesn’t have to, he does not have a good base, he turns the ball over. … He’s jumpy, he looks off-schedule in the pocket, he doesn’t play with any rhythm.”

 

And in a way, the experience that Maye had his final year at UNC meshes with things being said about Herbert his last year at Oregon. The two guys went opposite ways in the aftermath. While he didn’t play poorly, the spectacular plays vanished for Herbert. With Maye, the spectacular was still there, but there was a good amount of bad tape, too, with bad habits cropping up. “I kept wanting him, when I was watching these games, like, Hey, you’re the guy. Go take over this game,” says an NFC OC. “At his peak, is he going to be a top-eight quarterback? I have a harder time seeing that right now. I think he’s more in that 10–15 range at his very best. It’s going to take some time to get there.”

 

Maye doesn’t turn 22 until this summer. Like Williams and McCarthy, he was a freshman when Michael Penix Jr. graduated high school. And there is a little growing up that teams are hoping for—one coach referred to him as a “puppy,” and a nervous energy has come across to some. That could explain an up-and-down start to his pro day throwing session. “You watch the pro day, he gets really down on himself in those first 10 throws,” says a second AFC OC. “Pleaser is the right way to describe him,” adds the aforementioned AFC exec. “He’s a good kid, wants to do well, wants to be coached, knows he doesn’t have all the answers. … And he’s really smart, really cerebral about football.”

 

In the end, if you put together the bad habits developed last year, the youth, and the lack of overall experience, most folks I talked to believe a redshirt year would benefit him, and maybe bring out what most saw in 2022. “I think you want to build his foundation and ensure that he’s got the foundation of how to play the position from the ground up, from his footwork to his drop mechanics, to his balance, to his rhythm,” says the NFC OC. “To have the talent that he has, to make some of the decisions that he makes and then some of the throws that he makes or misses, I think it would benefit him to have the ability to sit and watch and develop and then don’t trot him out there, like a Jordan Love, like a Patrick Mahomes. … I don’t know the kid from Adam, but I do think if he got off to a rocky start, that there are some potential confidence issues.”

 

J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Former Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy
An AFC offensive coordinator on McCarthy: “He has a powerful arm, but having a powerful arm and being a good thrower are two different things. I think he’s a backup.” / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Size: 6'2½", 219 pounds
  • Ceiling comp: Souped-up Brock Purdy

 

McCarthy brought about the same sort of divide in opinion that Maye did. But the Michigan star has helped himself a ton through the process. What to make of that is very much in the eye of the beholder.

“He’s the one that’s helped himself more from December to now than any of these guys,” says an AFC college scouting director. “What I’m a little nervous about is history is not kind on this sort of thing. His pro day was exceptional, as good as you’ll have. He’s another guy that’s improved his body. He’s not a huge guy, but he’s done a great job. He looked more sturdy and solid. He tightened up his mechanics; the ball came off his hand with more velocity than you expect. It’s a credit to him. It looks like he’s physically developed his body. But that’s all been done since he was done playing football. Is that all fluff? Has he built himself into an artificial version of himself, or is this what he is now?”

 

The positive with McCarthy is the 27–1 record as a starter, a loose sort of athleticism that’s apparent on tape, a really solid arm, and strong intangibles as a leader and worker. “I think this kid is going to be really good,” says an NFC pass-game coordinator. “In some ways, to me, he might be the surest bet. From an operational standpoint, you can see he has a process and a plan. The intangibles are there. He throws it well, if you look at the miles per hour from the combine. He can run. But he did play behind a fortress of an offensive line. So what does it look like when the pocket’s reduced and he has to deal with some noise?”

 

This is where the critics come in. And two things that came up consistently, even with those who like him—every throw is a fastball (“He’s more of a thrower than a passer,” says one coach), and he really has to throw his body into throws, and delivers the ball from an overly wide base, indicating he needs time and space to throw, which he was routinely afforded playing on a stacked Michigan team. “People talk about Drake’s motion, but I think J.J.’s has to be cleaned up a lot more,” says an AFC exec. “He puts his whole damn body into it, his feet are wide, there’s a lot to work through.”

 

Also, where there are tight-window throws, there are bouts with inaccuracy that some have trouble getting past. “I’m just watching the running backs and receivers, and the inaccuracy is incredible,” says an AFC OC. “Maybe it’s because the other guys are so good, but they’re stopping on routes, digging the ball out of the dirt. You see his feet are split, and everything is a fastball. You have these fireballs as checkdowns. He’s not for me.” And an offense that’s so reliant on the run game makes it tough to project McCarthy. “Everything is play-action. There’s no drop-back. It’s just hard,” says an NFC quarterbacks coach. “Their four biggest games, he didn’t do much special. He was just a guy. He’s not accurate, he’s an overstrider in the pocket, and he plays with happy feet. He has a powerful arm, but having a powerful arm and being a good thrower are two different things. I think he’s a backup.”

 

The QBs coach continued, “Last drive of the game against Alabama, the receiver [Roman] Wilson runs a deep cross, and J.J. has him open, but he overstrides and the ball sails on him. It’s gonna be a pick and Michigan’s gonna lose. The Alabama DB thinks he’s got it, and Wilson makes a ridiculous catch. And that’s an easy throw. S--t like that, I worry about.”

 

But with all that established, the win–loss record is the win–loss record, McCarthy’s clearly improved over his three years, and he’s the youngest of the group—having just turned 21 in January. “Love the person, love the winner, love the swag, love all that stuff,” says an NFC OC. “This guy’s won more than anybody. At the end of the day, the moment will not be too big for him, whereas I’m not sure for a guy like Drake Maye. The biggest question for him is his arm talent. How good is his arm?” Another NFC OC adds, “The intangibles are off the charts. Just pure ability-wise, I know he’s young and he’s still developing and growing, but it doesn’t look like a top-10 quarterback where you’re like, Boom, here we go. Could he develop into that? With all these guys, you know how hard it is. It’s harder to see that with him.”

  

Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Former Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
An NFC offensive coordinator on Penix: “I just think as far as a thrower, coming in, he’ll be a top-five pure arm talent in the NFL. When you look at some of the other guys, it’s obviously Josh Allen, Mahomes, Herbert, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers. I think he’s kind of that next guy, in terms of what he can do with his arm.” / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Size: 6'2¼", 216 pounds
  • Ceiling comp: Philip Rivers

 

Like Daniels, and Bo Nix, Penix was a multi-year starter at another school (Indiana) and made a huge jump after transferring. Washington was his only offer when he hit the portal after the 2021 season, and even that was a result of his old Hoosiers OC, Kalen DeBoer, being the new head coach. He lit the Pac-12 ablaze, piloting one of college football’s most dangerous and feared offensive attacks. And since NFL coaches have gotten involved in the draft process, his draft prospects have improved accordingly.

 

“To be honest, I see it as Caleb and then 2A, 2B between Jayden and Penix,” an NFC OC says. “I just think as far as a thrower, coming in, he’ll be a top-five pure arm talent in the NFL. When you look at some of the other guys, it’s obviously Josh Allen, Mahomes, Herbert, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers. I think he’s kind of that next guy, in terms of what he can do with his arm. It’s quick. It’s powerful. There’s not a part of the field that he can’t touch. I think from a pure arm standpoint, it is pretty special with what he can do.”

 

One thing just about everyone agrees on is Penix is as accurate down the field as anyone that’s come out over the past few years, and it showed in how he empowered a loaded UW receiver corps, and fueled a record year for his offense. “He really grew on me,” says an NFC quarterbacks coach. “I like him a lot. At first, I thought he was more of a pusher of the football, meaning one of those guys who doesn’t have the natural wrist. Those guys struggle short-to-intermediate, and a pusher usually is better down the field. That was Colin Kaepernick. But the more I watched, the more I saw a natural ability to throw.”

 

And that’s where this is some disagreement. I had one exec prior to the national title game call Penix a three-point shooter—in that he was great down the field but lacked a mid-range game. It manifested in a Michigan game plan that took him off his first read, forced checkdowns, and demanded that he go on long, drawn-out drives. It worked for the Wolverines. To some folks, it was confirmation of the rap against Penix. “He’s awesome throwing it downfield,” says an AFC college scouting director. “This guy’s got that. But the short-to-intermediate stuff is scattershot, with the funky release and delivery. It probably is what it is at this point. Maybe you can tighten up his mechanics, but at this stage, I don’t know how much you fix.”

 

Which is the other part of it. There’s a lot of mileage on his body. He’s had significant injuries to both of his shoulders and sustained two torn ACLs. He turns 24 in less than a month. “His issue, to me, it’s durability,” says another AFC college scouting director. “It’s probably why scouts have him lower down [than coaches]. He’s older, he has durability issues and, if you go back, when he didn’t have an all-star team around him, he didn’t look good at Indiana.”

 

As to his durability, Penix’s 40-yard dash times, clocked by scouts in the 4.5s at his pro day, helped. But they don’t eliminate questions with his pocket movement, which have lingered, as well. “Good touch, good accuracy, and can throw the s— out of the ball in that offense, but you might have to cater the most to him,” says an AFC exec. “He doesn’t have the best pocket mobility, he’s a little awkward and gangly. I don’t think he’s a first-round pick … You get in the heat of the moment, and things are falling apart around him, it gives you some pause.”

 

That he went through the journey he did can instill confidence that, whatever the challenge is, Penix will find a way to meet it. “Penix is my No. 2 guy,” says one coordinator. “I love Penix. I think he’s a stud. He’s a born leader, cool, calm and collected in a genuine way. … Everyone we had around him loved him. He was A-plus, smart, crushed it on the board. With his personality, he’s not afraid of the challenge.” An AFC OC adds, “He’s got real confidence in himself. He took Indiana to heights it hadn’t been to, took Washington to the title game. There’s cool s— about this guy. Stuff happens around him. Everyone puts that on McCarthy. This is the guy they should be talking about in that light.”

 

Bo Nix, Oregon

Former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix
An NFC pass-game coordinator on Nix: “He’s a guy. I don’t see how he fails. He may be Kirk Cousins, and have that kind of career where he’s a hard out for a defense.” / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Size: 6'2⅛", 217 pounds
  • Ceiling comp: Tua Tagovailoa 

One AFC exec made this one simple—“He’s a backup; that’s what he is.” And there’s more of that among NFL teams than people might think.

 

But Nix has his fans, too, as a smart, battle-tested, point guard type of quarterback.

 

“I love Bo Nix,” says an NFC quarterbacks coach. “I love the person; he’s really smart. I’m having a hard time figuring out why he’s behind the other guys, because the tape is really good. Maybe through his meetings, he hasn’t caught fire. I don’t know. His Auburn tape was not great, but that offense was no good. What I see in Bo, he barely gets sacked, no picks, he throws accurately to all three levels. He fades away on throws, so maybe that’s part of it, but he’s got good hip flexion, good shoulder turn. He’s a talented thrower. He’s my third quarterback, behind Caleb and Jayden, he and Penix.”

 

Now, like the coach said, he wasn’t great at Auburn, he’s the oldest guy on this list at 24, and he’s not physically overwhelming. But that can be viewed two ways since his age also added up to an NCAA-record 61 starts between his time at Auburn and Oregon.

 

But, again, there are things to like. “Bo’s an interesting prospect,” says an NFC pass-game coordinator. “He’s a guy; I don’t see how he fails. He may be Kirk Cousins, and have that kind of career, where he’s a hard out for a defense. He has the best process of any of these guys, he always has a plan. The question will be if he can still extend plays and get outside the pocket like he did in college, because pure arm talent-wise, he’s middle of the back end of starters in the league.” An AFC OC adds, “Sixty starts in multiple systems, that’s a big deal. As a preparer, you hear great things. He doesn’t have high-end arm talent, but he’s got enough to be a distributor.”

 

He's also another one who emphatically checks the boxes on intangibles. The son of a coach, Nix has done great on the board with teams, and his position as the battleship commander for the launch of Dan Lanning’s program in Eugene is well established. So, really, the questions here are the tangibles. “He’s a natural thrower,” says an AFC OC. “I thought his pro day was the best of the group. What he showed was the capability to respond. They challenged him, Bo wanted that, and they let him do it. It wasn’t just drop back and throw. There was movement, there was adjustment. They were trying to simulate a game.”

 

All of which tells you that Nix probably has a long NFL career ahead of him. Whether it’s as a starter or a backup remains to be seen.

 

“There are some starter traits to him,” says the AFC OC. “His arm's really good. It’s in the McCarthy-ish, kind of more of a thrower and not a passer. You like the overall makeup of the kid. He’s athletic. There are some in the pocket concerns and overall how he sees the game that I think are holding him back a little bit. I think he's a good, solid backup, and maybe he can develop into a spot starter.”

 

“I think he’s a middle-of-the-road starter, where the players around him will dictate how good he is, rather than him elevating the group,” says another AFC coordinator. “Maybe for a guy like Sean [Payton], it’s a little more than that—he would fit them, in how he gets guys lined up, plays with urgency and tempo. He’ll run it like he’s coached to. Either way, he’ll hang around in the league. He knows ball.”

 

The rest of the QB class

 

And as for the rest of the class, it drops off pretty quickly. Nonetheless, here’s what we have on players who’ll probably wait a little longer than the above six …

Former South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler
An NFC offensive coodinator on Rattler: “I don't see him being a starter.” / Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

• Spencer Rattler seems relatively well positioned to be the next one off the board, following these six (and some feel like he’s pretty close to Penix and Nix). Rattler brings natural passing ability to the table. He’s just small, and not a great athlete. “I don't see him being a starter,” says an NFC OC. “There’s enough skill set there that you like. Arm-wise, he’s talented. He’s got a good feel for the game. He’s got some natural field vision that you like. I know he’s grown up as a guy, too.” That should give him a shot, at the very least, to hang around in the league for a long time.

• Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman is another highly experienced prospect—he started games in six different seasons, and played in 60 games, starting 57 of them, over the course of his career. He played in a funky offense at Wake Forest, then assimilated nicely to a more pro-style attack last year at Notre Dame. “I thought Sam Hartman had some stuff to him,” says an NFC OC. “The Wake Forest thing didn’t help him because they barely have a passing game. It was that slow read-option thing that they did. It certainly didn’t help his production numbers. And he doesn’t have good size. That’s the other thing." But, the coach continued, because of his know-how and battle-tested career, he could carve out a nice career in the NFL, at some level, for himself.

• Kedon Slovis is of interest based on the road he took here alone—starting as a true freshman at USC, and finishing with 42 starts over five years at three schools. “I didn’t love his tape,” says an NFC quarterbacks coach. “But he’s a natural thrower, he plays with good hip flexion and shoulder turn. … He’s good off-schedule; you see some accuracy. But he does make some bad decisions, where he thinks his arm is better than it is.” In other words, he’ll be an interesting project for someone.

• Tennessee’s Joe Milton III is interesting based on the physical traits alone. And I’ll be interested to see if he gets drafted just on those (his play didn’t do a lot to guarantee that, so we’ll see).


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Albert Breer

ALBERT BREER