The NFL draft is an inexact science, particularly at the quarterback position. We have seen 1st round “can’t miss” prospects with strong arms and prototypical height fall far short of lofty expectations countless times. NFL history is littered with successful quarterbacks who weren’t drafted in the first round because they were deemed “too short” or “lacking the arm strength” to be an NFL signal caller.
The Saints own Drew Brees fell victim to the stereotypes of the so-called experts. Despite being one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history while at Purdue, Brees lasted until the first pick of the second round in the 2000 draft because he was pegged as too short, lacking arm strength, and unable to throw an accurate deep ball.
With Brees entering his 20th and perhaps final NFL season, several mock drafts are projecting the Saints to draft a quarterback. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert will be drafted in the first ten selections, but Jordan Love of Utah State and Washington’s Jacob Eason could both be on the board when New Orleans picks with the 24th overall selection. The Saints have also been linked to Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm of Georgia, who are expected to be Day 2 picks. New Orleans has also shown recent interest in a productive quarterback from a smaller school who might be a late-round steal.
Mason Fine, QB (North Texas) 5’11” 190-Lbs.
Fine attended Locust Grove High School in Locust Grove, OK, where he was the only person to win the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year award twice. Despite this, he was still lightly recruited and would take his talents to the University of North Texas. He started nine games his first season, completing 59% of his throws for 1,572 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Fine was better as a sophomore, throwing for 4,052 yards with 31 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions while completing 63% of his passes and winning the Conference USA Player of the Year. He would repeat as the conference player of the year in 2018 with a 64.6% completion percentage for 3,793 yards and 27 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions. Fine capped off his career with the Mean Green with 3,088 yards, 29 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a 62% completion percentage in 2019. In four years at North Texas, Fine threw for 12,505 yards and 93 touchdowns with 34 interceptions while completing 62.1% of his passes.
Fine’s size will be the primary reason he will be a late round draft choice. Arizona’s Kyler Murray, last season’s top overall pick, is also listed under 6-feet tall, but Fine doesn’t have the athleticism of Murray. There are also some questions about the quarterback’s deep ball accuracy and ability to get his throws to the sideline with velocity. He throws off balance under pressure, and must do a better job manipulating safeties while going through his progressions.
Fine showed a great command of his offense at North Texas and was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country. He has good mobility to escape from pressure and shows nice foot placement in the pocket. Fine has a quick setup and release with accurate placement and nice touch on his throws. He is experienced and confident operating from a fast-paced offense and has shown the football IQ to read and break down defenses.
Mike Detillier, draft analyst for WWL radio and ESPN, had this to say about Mason Fine:
“He was the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year twice at Locust Grove High School. 12,505 yards passing yards, that’s a lot in college and he has the mentality he can put the ball in the tightest of spots on a field. Where he needs work is reading and recognizing different coverages better. He has this “I got it coach mentality out on the field.” There’s some good in that and also a little bad in that.”
“I heard Brees worked out with Mason.... but Sean (Payton) rarely tips his hand on prospects. He did with me on Stephone Anthony (2015) and Alvin Kamara. And he spoke highly about Evan Engram but he’s good keeping things secret. Mason is a gunslinger. A groove type passer, gets hot, gets cold .. but he can sling it . He’s just 5-11.. and played in an offense where they wing it out. I’ve watched him play a lot at North Texas. Late round prospect.”
Get your NFL Draft Guide from Saints News Network's Mike Detillier at www.mikedetillier.com.