Quarterback success is often dependent upon schematic and coaching fit. There are the rare players, such as a Peyton Manning, who would find early success regardless of the offensive system. But for many quarterbacks their landing spot and scheme fit are determinative of their success, or failure, in the NFL.
After looking Tuesday at my QB10-QB6 and finding an ideal landing spot for each of them, today we'll work our way up the board from QB5 to my personal QB1.
QB5 Will Grier — Washington
Washington is in such a curious position when it comes to addressing quarterback this offseason. It acquired Case Keenum via a trade with the Denver Broncos, has longtime backup Colt McCoy on the roster as an insurance policy, and is hopefully awaiting good news on the health of starter Alex Smith after his horrific leg injury. Three options, each with a question mark or two.
So it is not outside the realm of possibility that Washington still addresses the QB position early in this draft cycle — perhaps even in the first round, should a Daniel Jones fall to 15. But should Washington address another position with its first selection, Grier would be a tremendous fit in Round 2.
Consider both Jay Gruden’s offense as well as Washington's recent run of signal callers. Gruden does a very good job at scheming routes open, using mirrored passing concepts and half-field reads to simplify the decision process for his QBs. Now consider Kirk Cousins, as well as the current trio of quarterbacks on the roster. All of these passers have, at times, been considered more on the “conservative” side of the QB aggression scale.
For example, after a loss to the Dallas Cowboys back in 2015, Gruden himself admitted that the offense had chances downfield, but “[Cousins] just didn’t see them.” Smith, despite a stellar final season in Kansas City with the Chiefs, has always been viewed as a safe, conservative quarterback. He did start taking more chances downfield his final year in red and gold, but in their playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, Smith passed on many opportunities in the vertical game and the Chiefs ended up seeing their season come to an early conclusion. Finally there is Keenum, whose time in Denver came to an end with calls for him to stop being so conservative with the football.
Enter Grier, who might be the quarterback to jump-start this offense with his style of “appropriate aggression.” Whether it is challenging a defense over the middle amidst multiple defenders:
Or attempting this throw late to stun Texas:
Grier is more of a gunslinger, willing to take chances that other quarterbacks, including the ones currently on Washington's roster, might shy away from.
With three quarterbacks under contract, it might be unlikely for Washington to address the position in the first round. But if Grier is available when they are on the clock in the second, he might be the quarterback Gruden needs to allow the offense to finally achieve what it is designed to deliver.
QB4 Brett Rypien — New England Patriots
We have reached the point in the draft cycle where everyone around me is probably tired of hearing about Brett Rypien. By now, my children, quite understandably, roll their eyes when I bring up the Boise State quarterback at the dinner table. But as we discussed during the “build a prospect” piece a few weeks ago, I remain high on the ex-Broncos passer, along with many in the draft community.
Whether the NFL community agrees with our assessment remains to be seen.
Looking at Rypien’s strengths as a passer (mental acuity, ability in the pre-snap phase, pocket toughness, accuracy to all levels, manipulation, and processing speed), you can see how he would be a fit in New England and the Patriots’ offense. Yes, the Patriots have the luxury of lining up with one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks calling their signals, but New England does so much before the snap to stress a defense and generate mismatches. This requires a quarterback with the same ability to identify potential mismatches before the play and then exploit them.
In today’s college game, so much of the pre-snap machinations of an offense come from the sideline, with coaches signaling in changes to the play. Only a few quarterbacks each draft cycle enter the league with the experience at handling a team at the line of scrimmage. Rypien is one such quarterback, as this video breakdown illustrates:
On this play against San Diego State, Rypien (#4) identifies the blitz pre-snap and adjusts the protection and the formation accordingly. Even when the offense fails to pick up the blitz — despite his adjustments — Rypien hangs in the pocket knowing the pressure is coming, and delivers a strike to move the chains on third down.
Rypien’s experience and skill set fits well with what the Patriots value at the QB position. With Tom Brady firmly in place, there is no need to draft a quarterback to play right away. But New England has the luxury of drafting a player to groom for the future, and one that has the right foundation for their system. Rypien might just be that player.
QB3 Drew Lock — Los Angeles Chargers
After the expected selection of Kyler Murray by the Arizona Cardinals — more on that in a moment — intrigue begins to build with the two quarterbacks expected off the board next, Lock and Dwayne Haskins. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that Lock might find his way to Denver, where the Broncos hold the tenth selection in this draft. Denver may have traded for Joe Flacco, but John Elway traveled to scout Lock personally in the senior’s final regular-season game and also traveled to Mobile to scout him at the Senior Bowl.
However, the Broncos’ expected offensive system might not be the best fit for Lock. Denver, after courting former head coach Gary Kubiak, hired former San Francisco 49ers’ QB coach Rich Scangarello as their offensive coordinator. The model is the approach used under Kubiak and Mike Shanahan: A run-first offense relying heavily on outside zone concepts in the running game and boot-action designs off of that, and a system that Kubiak and Flacco ran with great effect in Baltimore.
That means we will look elsewhere for a home for Lock, but we will not stray outside of the AFC West. The Los Angeles Chargers are one of a handful of teams in this draft that could entertain drafting a quarterback, and maybe even earlier than expected. Yes, Philip Rivers is coming off one of his best seasons in years, and the Chargers signed Tyrod Taylor for some depth at the position. But the Chargers could look to the future in this draft, and pick a potential replacement for Rivers.
In Los Angeles, Lock would get a chance to run an offense that focuses on quick game concepts — which at first blush might not make sense for someone with his arm — while scheming vertical shots downfield. If you look through Lock’s past, you will find that this match could make a great deal of sense. Prior to Derek Dooley arriving at Missouri, Lock was running an uptempo offense that focused on quick concepts to the boundaries, with deep routes along the sidelines mixed in. Stretching the field horizontally was something the Tigers would do, and it is a core component of Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive philosophy. This past season under Dooley, some of those elements remained for Lock, allowing him to execute on designs such as this:
Here Lock runs a Levels concept with three in-breaking routes from the right side of the formation. He makes a very quick read and decision, throwing the inside shallow cut because the middle linebacker drops deep under the deeper route from the inside receiver to the trips. Lock’s ability on these designs, coupled with his execution in the vertical passing game makes him a good fit for Whisenhunt.
However, if there is a dark horse team to watch, keep an eye on Tampa Bay. If Bruce Arians wants to hedge a bit on the QB spot, similar to the situation we discussed with Jon Gruden and Daniel Jones, Lock would be a great player in an Arians system as well.
QB2 Dwayne Haskins — New York Giants
We do not know for sure what is in Dave Gettleman’s head. The trade of Odell Beckham Jr, the continued support for Eli Manning and the organizational insistence that Manning could be the team’s quarterback for even the 2020 season have raised some eyebrows. However, if it were me, I would address the QB position this year. Yes, there is a chance that some of the prospects in next year’s draft could be more talented, with players such as Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert expected to be near the top of most boards. But development is not linear, and Tagovailoa might choose to remain in school another year. It is always better to address the QB position a year ahead of schedule.
Haskins would be in a perfect spot with the Giants to develop and would be in a great offensive system for him. Say what you want about Gettleman’s vision, but they are starting to piece together an offensive line, they have some weapons in the passing game with Golden Tate, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley might be the kind of foundational running back (not generational, for those members of the “running backs don’t matter” contingent) that you can design an offense around. Haskins plays the game in a similar manner to Manning: A prototypical pocket passer who wins with his arm and mind, and not with his legs.
With Barkley in place, coupled with Pat Shurmur's penchant for scheming deep throws off of play-action, the Giants would need a passer who can execute on such designs. Haskins would be a wise selection:
On this play against Oregon State, the Buckeyes run four verticals out of a 3x1 formation, with Haskins using a run fake with his running back to set the play up. You can just see the Giants using the same concept with Engram/Shepard/Tate, with Manning or Haskins making this throw up the seam to one of the receivers while the defense collapses on the run fake to Barkley and the potential crosser to Engram.
So, perhaps the Giants do have a plan after all.
QB1 Kyler Murray — Arizona Cardinals
This does seem to be where this is heading, right?
After all, newly minted head coach Kliff Kingsbury brings to Arizona a wide-open, spread system rooted in Air Raid concepts. The system that he recruited Kyler Murray to run at Texas Tech. The system that Murray ran a facsimile of this past season under Lincoln Riley in Oklahoma.
Let’s take a moment to remember the name of the game in today’s NFL: Getting the rookie quarterback in place and running an offense that makes him competent enough. Then, the organization can take advantage of the opportunities that a cheap quarterback provides, and build around him and fill in the rest of the roster with talent. Think the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, or more recently the Los Angeles Rams/Philadelphia Eagles/Kansas City Chiefs/Chicago Bears. This is the new economy in the NFL. Perhaps you read a piece I wrote about this in the PFW Draft Magazine. (Shameless plug alert).
If you are Kingsbury and the Cardinals, you have the system in place that is QB-friendly and designed to maximize the abilities of an incoming rookie quarterback. Now, you need the guy to run that system. Murray might be the ideal fit, over even the incumbent starter Josh Rosen.
There is Murray, doing what he does in an Air Raid design.
It might be the easiest fit of all to project.