Top
image description

Insert Title

Just insights and opinions.

NFL 2017 Mock Draft 1.0: Two Months In the Books

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

1.1, Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M - New management in Cleveland is clearly taking a long term approach towards rebuilding this franchise, and I don't think their quite ready to give up on third rounder Cody Kessler, especially after the relatively solid performances he turned in replacing Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown this season. Myles Garrett has separated himself with his play as the best defensive player in the country this season, and if the Browns are really trying to build a franchise through the draft based on talent, not need, then Garrett is no doubt the pick for a team that has struggled this season to generate pressure on passers this season (23rd ranked pass rush per FootballOutsiders).

1.2, San Francisco 49ers - DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame - It's tough to envision a quarterback who nearly lost his job midseason on a losing team would be the likely top passing prospect in the upcoming draft. But DeShone Kizer has managed to transcend the issues magically, combining a tremendous dual-threat physical repetoire reminiscent of Cam Newton with exceptional arm talent. Chip Kelly has done his best with the limited talent he has in San Francisco, but no question Colin Kaepernick's restructured contract is forboding of a change come April. Kizer isn't a perfect prospect, and at just 20 years old, he's got a long way to go, but he looks like the most likely to become a franchise passer of those available in 2017. 

1.3, Chicago Bears - DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson - After losing Brian Hoyer for the season, HC John Fox expressed his deep displeasure at having to play once-starter Jay Cutler once again this season. Clearly, a shakeup is in store, and drafting someone like Deshaun Watson to develop as the Bears next franchise passer seems like a rational decision. Watson hasn't played at nearly the same level this season as he did last year, as his decision making is noticeably worse, but he's still been a highly accurate intermediate passer with nice rushing ability as well. It'll be interesting to see if he draws comparisons to rookie sensation Dak Prescott, but I think a solid College Football Playoff performance would solidify him as a first round prospect. 

1.4, Carolina Panthers - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama - Alabama has made a living manufacturing NFL talent over the past decade, and Humphreys should be no different. At 6'1 198lbs, Humphrey has the size and length of a prototypical outside corner, and he has speed for days. The real question is whether scouts will overlook his lack of real technical refinement evident in many blue chip Alabama defensive backs before (Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick). He's turned in a couple of subpar performances this season after a stellar opener against USC, but that shouldn't stop the Panthers from taking him in the top ten if they get the chance, especially considering their lack of success covering WRs following the departure of Josh Norman. 

1.5, New York Jets - Derek Barnett, OLB, Tennessee - The Jets have really struggled this season offensively because of poor play from their quarterbacks, but I think GM Mike Maccagnan stays the course with 2016 2nd rounder Christian Hackenberg and looks elsewhere. With no real blue-chip offensive linemen available, Barnett looks to be the best player available. Just three sacks away from surpassing Reggie White as the Vols alltime sack leader, Barnett is as disruptive a player in this draft as you'll find; a player who brings intensity, consistency, and productivity to the game. The Jets, for all the hype surrounding their defensive line, have struggled to bring pressure this season, an area Barnett could prove to be exceptionally valuable. 

1.6, Jacksonville Jaguars - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama - After firing offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the Jaguars are likely no closer towards fixing this offense than they were before. This team needs to establish the running attack, but they have no chance to do that without an effective run blocking unit. Robinson would be a step in the right direction. Robinson has really utilized his 6'6 326lbs to his advantage in the pass came this year, but his real bread and butter is in the ground game, where he has been dominant as a mauler. The Jaguars have played a collection of human subway turnstyles this season, and will look to bring in some fresh talent through to the draft to alleviate their huge issues on the ground (30th ranked run blocking unit).

1.7, New Orleans Saints - Desmond King, CB, Iowa - The Saints have made a pretty big push towards reviving their defensive line this past season, drafting DL Sheldon Rankins and signing disruptive DT Nick Fairley to complement Cam Jordan. However, now it's time to focus their efforts on their secondary, headed currently by rookies Ken Crawley and De'vante Harris. Some fresh talent would be welcome. King has seen quarterbacks shy away from his side of the field this season, but has still been terrific in coverage and has flashed excellent ball skills and instincts. While they might be looking already for a replacement for 2015 first rounder Stephone Anthony (played just 13.1% of snaps this year), I think CB is the biggest need right now. 

1.8, Baltimore Ravens - Jabrill Peppers, OLB/S, Michigan - Jabrill Peppers has been sensational this season for the Wolverines as a do-it-all wunderkind under HC Jim Harbaugh. While he's been effective as a KR and RB, Peppers is most likely going to be an attacking outside linebacker in the NFL. His terrific closing speed and pop behind the pads has helped him become one the best tacklers for loss in the nation this season (T-9th), and his freak athleticism gives him versatility in coverage. The Ravens have one of the most talented linebacking corps in the league with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, but the team will likely be looking for a long term replacement for one of the two given their age (32 and 34 respectively). 

1.9, Indianapolis Colts - Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama - The Colts have been bad in a wide variety of aspects of their game, but nothing has been quite as bad as the team's defensive line, which hasn't been stop much of anything in 2016. GM Ryan Grigson, if he's not looking for a new job come April, will be looking primarily for some help likely from the University of Alabama, where DL Jonathan Allen is having a Heisman-level defensive season. The clear anchor of one of the top defenses in football, Allen has the size, technique, nastiness, and power to dominate similarly at the next level. Protecting Andrew Luck should be a big priority for this team, but with all of the draft picks dedicated to OL last year, it's time to look elsewhere. 

1.10, Tennessee Titans - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida - Florida has been making talented defensive backs like clockwork over the past few years (Joe Haden, Reggie Nelson, Vernon Hargreaves) and they look to have another talented collection of players in their secondary this year. While it's tough to say who's the best, the case could be made for Jalon "Teez" Tabor. As a press man corner, Tabor is among the best around. He's got the size, speed, and swagger to play the position really well, but his lack of discipline becomes apparent when he is forced to diagnose plays. He bites on the occasional pump and sometimes gets caught stumbling, but he's not doubt exactly the premiere type of corner the Titans are looking for at 6 feet 210lbs. 

1.11, Miami Dolphins - Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt - Why more hasn't been said about Cunningham is beyond me. Combine a 6'4 230lbs frame with college football's 6th most tackles for loss and 8th most total tackles and you have a top level talent in my book. The Dolphins are fairly middle of the line against the run this season by most metrics under new HC Adam Gase, but have struggled mightily at the second level thanks to a collection of subpar run stoppers led by recent trade piece Kiko Alonso.  While some might call for a replacement for QB Ryan Tannehill, there's no prospect ready to immediately replace him, at least at this stage in the draft, and GM Mike Tannenbaum needs to finally address this defenses' woes with a top pick. 

1.12, Tennessee Titans - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson - With the retirement of Andre Johnson, who was already way over the hill, the Titans have pretty much zero reliable pass catchers on the depth chart. HC Mike Mularkey wants a run based offense, but he needs a reliable vertical threat to keep defenses honest. Mike Williams is that threat. Despite a quite performance against the Seminoles this Saturday, Williams is a premiere talent with the size, body control, and hands to be a top level performer at the NFL like fellow Tigers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, to name a few. Concerns linger about his 2015 neck issue, but Williams is a first round talent who could provide the consistency Mariota has needed the past two seasons. 

1.13, Cincinnati Bengals - Marcus Maye, S, Florida - After losing playmaking free safety Reggie Nelson this offseason to the Raiders, the Bengals have dropped from 1st in DVOA against deep passes to 30th per FootballOutsiders. That's a huge dropoff that could be alleviated by the addition of another Florida Gator. The quiet leader of arguably the best secondary in football, Maye has maximized his prototypical size and speed to make plays all over the field for the Gators, standing out on a defense laded with NFL level talent. The Bengals probably believe their top need is along the offensive line, allowing Andy Dalton to get thrown around at an alarming rate, but I think defense remains the key to unlocking postseason success for the Bengals. 

1.14, San Diego Chargers - Jamal Adams, S, LSU - The Chargers secondary has been hit hard this season by the off-season departure of longtime safety Eric Weddle and the loss of Jason Verrett to an ACL injury. Don't let their solid pass rush fool you; this defense needs help if it wants to close out games. Few playmakers are quite as electric as Jamal Adams. Blessed with all of the instincts and physical tools a coach could ever want, Adams has proven he's solid in coverage against most tight ends and is at his best when he let's plays develop in front of him. Another playmaker at wide receiver would help, considering Keenan Allen has now missed significant portions of consecutive seasons to injuries, but a replacement for Weddle would be ideal. 

1.15, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC - While Mike Evans has now established himself as one of the best receivers in the league, Jameis Winston has struggled with consistency thanks to a lack of depth behind Evans. It would go a long way in Winston's development if he were given another player to spread out the targets. After a slow start under Max Browne, Schuster has turned it on in recent weeks, averaging 106.4 yards per game while flashing all the same ball skills, route running, and speed that he showed during his sophomore season. Schuster's combination of size, speed, and terrific ball tracking make him a likely Day One candidate and a great fit for the young Buccaneers offense. 

1.16, Arizona Cardinals - Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU - The Cardinals don't seem like a team in need of a wideout, but considering the age of Larry Fitzgerald, the concussion history of John Brown, and the general ineffectiveness of former first rounder Michael Floyd, Carson Palmer could benefit from a consistent outside weapon. Sutton has put up impressive numbers for the Mustangs as a redshirt sophomore, and while he certainly hasn't mastered a full route tree, he's a big play threat with serious size and speed that the Cardinals love on the outside. An offensive linemen couldn't hurt, considering the vast injuries sustained at the position, but Bruce Arians loves his wideouts, and few have the upside of Sutton. 

1.17, Buffalo Bills - Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech - A third wideout in a row? Seems improbably, except when you consider the fact that the Bills are so thin at the position that they had to bring Percy Harvin out of retirement just to add some depth. Ford is a three year starter who has been a model for consistent production, currently on pace for over 1200 yards. Ford is an exceptional vertical talent with off-the charts speed, and he brings above average size to the position at 6'2. He doesn't have great hands, and probably will need to bulk up to avoid getting pushed off his routes, but Tyrod Taylor throws an excellent deep ball, and with Sammy Watkins on IR, Ford is a player who could be a solid downfield complement as a #2 option. 

1.18, Detroit Lions - Adoree Jackson, CB/KR/WR, USC - Few cornerbacks have been as effective as Jackson this year, as the junior has notched two interceptions, five passes defended, and 34 solo tackles through just eight games. In addition to terrific production and physical tools, Jackson is an excellent special teamer who brings additional value in the return game. Jackson has shown excellent skills as a cover corner, but his technique needs serious refinement. That should be of little concern for the Lions, who aside from Darius Slay, sport one of the least talented secondaries in the league. In desperate need of talent like Jackson, the Lions should have no gripes pulling the trigger at this spot on such a versatile and capable player. 

1.19, Washington Redskins - Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State - The Spartans have been a massive disappointment this season following up on a College Football Playoffs appearance, but one of the few stable pieces of this 2-6 team has been it's defensive line, thanks in great part to Malik McDowell. While not quite as dominant as DeForest Buckner of Oregon, McDowell is a similarly versatile player with tremendous size and power, checking in at over 6'6 275lbs. McDowell has seen more double teams this year, which has hindered his production slightly, but he's only begun to scratch the surface of his true potential. The Redskins are struggling to address their defensive line, and would seriously improve their playoff odds with upgrades there. 

1.20, New York Giants - Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama - The Giants spent significantly this offseason on their defensive, and they have seen some tangible results, particularly against the run, but they still rank as one of the worst pass rushing units in football. Tim Williams figures to be a player who can change that. Already blessed with a prototypical body and elite-level speed, Williams has flashed immense upside as one of the best pass rushers in the nation this season. While the Giants linebackers have performed commendably against the rush this season, Williams could benefit from a season as a situational pass rusher while he works on improving his angles of attack and consistency against the run game. 

1.21, Atlanta Falcons - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama - If Tim Williams has an antithesis on this Roll Tide defense, it's inside linebacker Reuben Foster. The most recent successor in a long line of successful Alabama linebackers, Foster is an athletic, hardhitting enforcer who has earned a reputation as one of the biggest hitters in college football. Far more active than predecessor Reggie Ragand, Foster has stepped up as a senior leader on clearly a very talented Alabama team that has yet to lose a ball game this season. The Falcons made some serious upgrades defensively this offseason, but are still in desperate need for an authority figure up the middle to command Dan Quinn's reincarnation of the Legion of Boom. After tasting success tapping into the deep pipeline of SEC talent in the first round last year, why not come back for more in 2017? 

1.22, Houston Texans - Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame - While McGlinchey has stated he intends to return as a fifth year senior, I'll bet that some friendly advice from the NFL Draft Advisory Board changes his mind. A three year starter for a productive offense that has produced it's fair share of NFL talent (Nick Martin, C.J. Prosise, Ronnie Stanley), McGlinchey is a big, physical player who has shown versatility and sound technique despite a shift from the right side to the left side this season. The Texans have suffered a rash of injuries along their offensive line this season, and have already fallen in love with former teammate Nick Martin, leaving me to believe that they'll finally find a long term solution at tackle with this pick. 

1.23, Pittsburgh Steelers - Carl Lawson, DE, Clemson - After flashing potential for years behind players like Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, Lawson is finally coming into his own as a productive starter for this Clemson defense. While lacking the size to play defensive end at the next level, Lawson is a talented pass rusher who uses his hands and speed effectively in tandem to get after quarterbacks consistently. He's not as complete as a run stuffer yet, but the Steelers have shown a desperate need for consistent pass rushers on defense this year, ranking dead last in adjusted sack rate per FootballOutsiders. Another cornerback would be nice, but the Steelers should give time to develop Artie Burns and instead focus on pressure up front. 

1.24, Cleveland Browns - Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami - Despite the relative lack of success of first round quarterbacks not taken in the top ten, Kaaya is a perfect developmental passer for Hue Jackson to take in the late stages of Day One. While Kaaya has fallen out of favor as the top passer in this draft with scouts, he's still a tremendously talented player with similar skills and build to other top rated passers like Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota. He's probably not ready to handle an NFL offense at just 21 years old, and will need to add bulk to his frame to make up for the athleticism he lacks, but he's shown the ability to read defenses as well as deliver a highly accurate pass without a clean pocket. An interesting player to watch for the rest of the year.

1.25, Kansas City Chiefs - Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU - After a terrific sophomore campaign, White sort of disappeared as a first round lock last season, but has since bounced back in fine fashion. While not the fastest corner available, White is a fluid athlete with good dexterity and foot quickness NFL scouts love in press-corners. He struggles at times with larger receivers, partially due to his lack of strength inside a 5'11 frame, but he has thrived as a nickel corner this year. While the Chiefs are likely looking to replace Phillip Gaines with a more prototypically sized outside corner, they should really be looking to replace slot corner Steven Nelson, who has struggled mightily this year despite being surrounded by terrific playmakers up front. 

1.26, Green Bay Packers - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State - Eddie Lacy received a lot of attention this offseason for his renewed focus and weight loss, but is now out for the year with yet another ankle injury following a fairly meh campaign. The Packers are now struggling to find consistent playmakers out of the backfield, and would have no problem bringing in a Jamaal Charles type of running-receiving threat like Dalvin Cook. One of the best backs in football for almost three years now, Cook followed a slow start with a slew of fantastic games against big teams like Clemson and North Carolina. While perhaps not as complete as someone like Leonard Fournette, Cook is a premiere talent who could easily replace Lacy next season. 

1.27, Denver Broncos - Jake Butt, TE, Michigan - Butt has slide across draft boards recently because of scouts complaints about his blocking, but he should still be regarded as the best tight end in this draft. Well known as a reliable receiver with soft hands and good route running abilities, Butt is a four year letterman with a solid pedigree in a pro-style offense under HC Jim Harbaugh. The Broncos have two great receiving weapons out wide, but have struggled to field a consistent weapon up the seam for Trevor Siemian. While Butt probably doesn't have the upside of an OJ Howard, he's a high floor pick who should immediately step in for a fairly conservative Broncos offense looking to keep things simple for their quarterback. 

1.28, Seattle Seahawks - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State -  The Seahawks have struggled the past two season with depth at the cornerback position behind Richard Sherman, ranking 24th in DVOA against #2 receivers this season. As a redshirt sophomore starter for the Buckeyes, Lattimore has been as productive as anyone in college football, using his prototypical size and athleticism to consistently lockdown corners outside, holding a very explosive Sooners offense that includes Dede Westbrook to under 50 yards receiving. While it's possible he returns for his junior season, the Seahawks would be wise to take him at this spot if he is available given most in the scouting community regard him as a #1 corner type of talent. 

1.29, Oakland Raiders - Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida - Despite a 6-2 record, the Raiders are still defensively in the same hole that they were in last year, and despite the addition of Bruce Irvin, still need additional bodies at linebacker to become a legitimate contender. Jarrad Davis is one of my personal favorites. A highly athletic player with tremendous instincts and explosiveness, Davis really is one of those players that jumps off the tape because of his skills. He has both the cover skills and speed to matchup with runningbacks and tight ends and the strength to become an impact player in the run game. Even better, Davis returned from a severe ankle injury after missing just two weeks to make the game ending tackle against Georgia last week. 

1.30, Dallas Cowboys - Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois - Trade talks with the New York Jets prove that the Cowboys, despite their 6-1 record, know they need massive help on their defensive line. Smoot is the high-motor, explosive type of pass rusher that can energize this front opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, who seems to the be the only one able to generate pressure consistently. While slightly undersized, as an edge rusher, Smoot is second to almost none in his combination of burst and violent hand usage, leading me to believe he should provide exactly the pressure the Cowboys have so badly needed this season. Dallas might be looking at a replacement for Terrance Williams, but defense has to be Jerry Jones' first concern. 

1.31, Philadelphia Eagles - Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan - Jim Schwartz has done a fantastic job with a talented unit up front for the Eagles, but the holes in the secondary have been exposed on a fairly regular basis by competent passing offenses. The team will likely be looking at a replacement for Nolan Carroll, and who better than ProFootballFocus' top graded cornerback in 2015, senior Jourdan Lewis? While slightly undersized for a #1 cornerback, Lewis has unprecedented ball skills and shadow ability, and while he may struggle with physical receivers like Dez Bryant, in theory, he's the perfect counter to smaller receivers like Odell Beckham. Lewis doesn't check all of the boxes for size and height, but NFL teams play production, not potential. 

1.32, New England Patriots - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford - Wouldn't this be a match made in heaven? While not as productive as his sophomore season, McCaffrey is turning in a solid year despite a far worse supporting cast at Stanford. He's easily this class's best pass catcher out of the backfield, and unlike most scat backs, McCaffrey has great vision and decent size to hold up at the next level. He'll probably never be a workhorse rusher, and will likely add bulk to his frame to address concerns about his lack of tackle breaking ability, but McCaffrey is a great playmaker with the ball in his hands who would be perfect as a combo rusher in a New England offense that has made James White and Dion Lewis into household names. 

Blaine Gabbert is poised for a breakout season

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Quick thought experiment; how is it that 25 year old Brock Osweiler despite 7 career starts received a $72 million dollar contract from the Texans while 26 year old Blaine Gabbert, who is eerily similar to Osweiler, remains mired in a QB battle on the 49ers? 

Sure, you're answer might include how Osweiler is younger (albeit not by much) has far more upside (highly questionable) and  is more physically gifted (yes, but not by that wide of a margin). But a quick peek at both players numbers in their 8 games played last year reveal that there isn't as much of a statistical gap between the two as many would think. 

Gabbert vs. Osweiler (2015)

Record

Cmp%

Yards

TD

INT

RATE

QBR

Gabbert

3-5

63.1

2031

10

7

86.2

42.59

Osweiler

5-2

61.8

1967

10

6

86.4

48.78

(Just as a note, Osweiler is listed as a 5-2 record because he started, but did not finish, his eighth game against the Chargers; that game was eventually won)

Let me point out a couple of things. Number one is the record. This number is basically irrelevant. Osweiler won five games on a team that would go on to win the Super Bowl (without him playing a single game in the playoffs mind you) and that would lead the league in virtually every defensive metric there is. Osweiler's Broncos allowed 5.7 points less per game during the regular season than Gabbert's 49ers. Osweiler won five games on a team that won twelve total, with seven of those going to Peyton Manning, who threw just nine touchdowns to seventeen interceptions during that period. Gabbert, meanwhile, won 3 of his teams 5 total wins despite an offensive line that ranked 31st according to footballoutsiders, a defense that allowed the fourth most total yards, and an offense that faced the league's third hardest schedule according to DVOA compared to Denver's sixteenth easiest schedule. 

Another thing worth mentioning is the surrounding talent on this offense. With Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush already down with injuries, rushing duties were left to a combination of subpar replacements like Shaun Draughn, Mike Davis, and DuJuan Harris, none of whom managed a single hundred yard performance during this time. Gabbert's receivers included veterans Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, who managed to both place outside the top 30 in DYAR (defensive adjusted yards above replacement). TE and career 49er Vernon Davis was traded ironically to the Broncos before Gabbert took over. Brock Osweiller meanwhile had a dearth of talented players on his offense. They included one of the league's most efficient rushers after Week 8 in C.J. Anderson (6.35 yards per carry), two receivers who would go on to post over 1100 yards and 6 touchdowns a piece in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. And by the time Osweiller took over, Denver's offensive line had significantly improved it's chemistry and play to the point that it ranked in the top half of the league in run blocking and pass protection by season's end. 

But in the end, what does all of this mean? Almost nobody is expecting even a top 15 year from Brock Osweiler, so even if Gabbert is better, what exactly would be a "successful" year for him?

First, let's understand a little bit about Gabbert and break some assumptions about him. 

Gabbert was widely regarded as one of the top passers in the 2011 draft class, a class that was loaded with premiere passing talents and thought to be one of the deepest classes in recent memory. An undercurrent in the draft community believed that teams desperate for passers would reach in the first round for a quarterback, and while they proved to be correct, the prevailing feeling at the time was that most passers had solid potential to become good players in the league. Gabbert was one of four passers taken in the first round: top choice Cam Newton of Auburn, Jake Locker of Washington, and Christian Ponder of Florida State. Newton went to Carolina, where he'd make a Pro-Bowl and win RotY, Locker flamed out after just three injury riddled seasons in Tennessee, and Ponder would flop after just one season as the full time starter and be replaced by Teddy Bridgewater in 2014. 

Coming out of Missouri, Gabbert had a lot of support to be the top choice in the draft. He was a 6'5, 234lbs passer who had terrific arm talent and athleticism for the position, flashing mobility and impressive accuracy on short and intermediate passes. He was a tad raw, however, and most expected him to take some time to accustom to the speed of the NFL coming from a spread offense in Missouri that didn't require him to go through progressions or read defenses pre-snap. The Jaguars took him tenth, and he proceeded to start 14 games for the Jags that year despite being just 22. He was sacked the third most times in the league, and struggled with a weak receiving corps and tough schedule. He improved slightly the next season, but was injured, and after an 0-3 start in 2013, Gabbert was replaced, released, and found a role as a backup to Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Most never expected to hear from him again. 

Which leaves us here. Gabbert is back atop the quarterback depth chart, albeit now in a new city, and will begin the season as the starter for the first time since 2013. He's performed modestly so far this preseason, and will once again deal with a weak defense, thin offensive line, and inexperienced and talentless receiving corps. The only notable upgrades for Gabbert come in the form of 25 year old rusher Carlos Hyde, who looks poised for a breakout year himself, and a new coach: Chip Kelly. Here's where things get interesting. 

After three years in Philadelphia, it's pretty clear to me that Kelly does a nice job turning down on their luck former first and second rounders into consistent weekly starters at quarterback. Say what you will about his abilities as a talent evaluator, but Kelly clearly knows a thing or two about actual coaching. He managed to make Nick Foles into a Pro-Bowler, Sam Bradford into a reliable starter, and Mark Sanchez into a valuable trade asset. 

While it's a fairly small sample size, I decided to make a table showing the difference in play between Foles, Bradford, and Sanchez under Kelly and their stats without Kelly. Because all have varying years of experience without them, I add their totals and extrapolated them onto a per game basis. Here's what it looks like.


With Kelly vs. Without Kelly

Cmp%

Yards/G

TD/G

INT/G

RATE

QBR

Foles (PHI, '13-'14)

61.6

240.7

1.90

.57

100.3

68.28

Foles (STL, '15)

56.4

186.5

.64

.91

69.0

30.01

Bradford (PHI, '15)

65.0

266.1

1.36

1.0

86.4

41.83

Bradford (STL, '10-'14)

58.6

225.8

1.20

.78

79.3

40.85

Sanchez (PHI, '14-'15)

64.3

233.4

1.39

1.15

86.6

49.12

Sanchez (NYJ, '09-'12)

55.1

195.0

1.09

1.11

71.7

32.26

Let me address a couple of things first. In no way am I saying that Chip Kelly has instantly made these players better. Far from it. Obviously, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez might have turned a leaf because they had been stuck in run heavy offenses in their early years and transitioned to more pass happy attacks in their more mature, later years. Nick Foles might have seen a boost in his numbers because he took the league by surprise in 2013 and was promptly dissected by defensive coordinators in the years to follow. Any one or combination of these possibilities could explain the boost that quarterbacks under Chip Kelly have seen.

But to my point, why can't Blaine Gabbert do exactly what the other passers have done? Like Sanchez and Bradford, Gabbert was once a highly touted top ten selection in the prime of his career. He was mired in run heavy attacks early in his career and was forced to play almost immediately out of college. He still has all the physical tools draft experts drooled over coming out of Missouri. And now, like Sanchez and Bradford, he finds himself in a spread offense that will create space in open field and take advantage of his superior mobility and decisive short passes. 

It won't be all roses. Bradford struggled early in the year in Kelly's offense and Foles fell off a cliff following his spectacular Pro-Bowl performance. But history and the numbers tell us that Blaine Gabbert will have every opportunity to finally prove he's a starting quarterback in this league and will have the chance to surpass the fairly low expectations that experts and analysts have set for him. 

Is Petty Ready to Pass Smith on Depth Chart?

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It's always important to take every preseason performance with a grain of salt. Most teams, the Jets included, don't go into most preseason games with a definitive gameplan or strategy for their starting units, and almost never is a set plan established for the second and third stringers. In addition to which, as last nights performance proves, most players are looking to escape the preseason and training camp without sustaining an injury, because, as many a player will tell you, you can't make the club in the tub. 

But putting all that aside for a little while, last night's performance by Bryce Petty against a fairly pedestrian Washington Redskins defense was nothing short of an excellent performance by the 25 year old. Petty found open receivers, threw some nice passes, and, most importantly, looked like a marked improvement over incumbent backup Geno Smith. We'll have to wait a few days to see what the ultimate impact of Petty's performance has on his spot on the roster, but it was a clear step in the right direction for a player with a lot of talent and little experience. 

But, suppose Petty does make the roster and the Jets do keep four quarterbacks on the team for the 2016 season. What is Petty's role with the organization this season? And what's his role on this team going forward? 

Right now, all we know about Petty definitively is that he's not nearly experienced enough to be the starting quarterback for this team, or any team. Coming out of the 2015 draft, Petty was similar to a lot of passers who were taken in the middle to late rounds; blessed with a lot of talent and ability, but with little familiarity calling plays in a huddle or running a pro-style offense. Petty joined a class of quarterbacks that, aside from top pick Jameis Winston, included almost no true pro-ready passers, including #2 overall pick Marcus Mariota (just two career snaps under center at Oregon), 3rd rounders Garrett Grayson and Sean Mannion, 5th rounder Brett Hundley, and 7th rounder Trevor Siemian. Petty was productive in two seasons as a starter at Baylor, showing impressive arm talent and playmaking skills, but was universally regarded as a project 24 year old who had no experience calling plays, truly breaking down defenses, or going through proper progressions. Mike Maccagnan knew this, took a fourth round flyer on Petty, gave him 45 preseason pass attempts, sat him the whole regular season, and basically gave the message that the team would be comfortable waiting at least another year before making a proper evaluation.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

So, with all that in mind, let's get back to the first question: what is Bryce Petty's role in the organization right now? Well, here's my take.

Despite last night's impressive performance, it really isn't going to change much as far the depth chart is concerned. No doubt, last night showed that Petty has probably earned a roster spot. The Jets clearly just don't know enough about Petty to accurately evaluate him right now, considering he's spent his entire professional career throwing passings against second and third team defenses in the preseason. Because of the unknowns surrounding Petty, the Jets will likely reserve him a spot on the team this year. But while some might think that the knowns about Geno Smith are what's going to lead to his eventual replacement by Petty, it's actually the knowns that are going to help him hang on to that backup job. Smith has thrown 852 more times than Petty has, logged over 5836 more yards than Petty has, and scored 27 more touchdowns than Petty has. Most importantly, Smith has 31 more games under his belt than Petty. All of these are true because Petty has yet to record a stat of any kind in the regular season. Smith has the experience. Smith is going to retain the backup job, at least this season, because the Jets aren't comfortable giving a spread-offense quarterback with just one full season holding clipboards on his resume any kind of legitimate responsibilities. It would take probably a four interception performance for Smith to lose the backup job, and on top of that, it's important to take Petty and Smith's performance with a grain of salt. Petty, despite being a third stringer himself, is playing against practice squad and bubble players for the most part. He had a nice performance in week two of the preseason last year as well if you can remember against the Atlanta Falcons, and while yesterday's performance is a positive sign, it's important to remember this is still the same quarterback who has had just about as lukewarm an offseason as you could imagine. Nothing against Petty, but even after a year in the NFL, he's probably just not ready to handle the best defenses the NFL has to offer.

Well, if he isn't ready to backup Ryan Fitzpatrick this year, what is his place going forward for next year? The answer to that question is far less certain. Petty is not expected to start this year, and probably won't even be expected to start next year if Ryan Fitzpatrick remains with the team. The pressure will really be amped up on Petty if he hasn't secured the backup position over second rounder Christian Hackenberg by the beginning of next season, but with Geno Smith's contract expired, there shouldn't be much reason why Petty can't lock down the backup job by then. In 2018, unless the team signs Fitzpatrick to a long term extension (unlikely given he'll be 35 by that point), that would mean Petty, after his fourth offseason of work at age 27 would finally have the opportunity he so desperately wants to finally compete for the starting job with the only other quarterback still under contract by that point, Christian Hackenberg, who, now 23, will sadly be the favorite to take over the job if Mike Maccagnan is still around. Long term, Petty projects nothing more as a career backup for the Jets, because Mike Maccagnan clearly invested far too much draft capital and personal credibility into Hackenberg for him not to want him to start over a 27 year old former fourth rounder. Sorry Bryce, but it would take a spectacular offseason next year or some brilliant performances as a spot starter for him to have any kind of future as a starter in New York. 

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

But perhaps we are reading too much into this. And perhaps it's just too early to tell for Petty, who has only played in parts of five preseason games in his career. But what is clear for now is that Petty's roster spot is at least somewhat secure, and he certainly will get another shot to takeover the backup job and run with it. 

Load