The NFL Draft is a crapshoot. No matter how prolific a player was in college, a myriad of his qualities and characteristics must be examined before scouts can determine their final grades. How fast is he, really? Can he read an offense/defense properly? Is he a product of a system, or do his abilities transcend scheme?
For quarterbacks, it gets even muddier. Footwork, mechanics, arm strength, field vision, IQ, identifying coverages—all are factored in to an overall evaluation; and even when you think you’ve found the perfect cocktail of a QB, his career can inexplicably flame out. That’s why the school of thought that believes “the more draft picks the better” has gained prominence in recent years. Team officials want as many opportunities as possible to find players who will impact their franchise for years to come.
Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech’s prolific quarterback who recently declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, is the living embodiment of the draft conundrum. Mahomes ran head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense in college, a system that uses tempo and spreads out the defense with four or five receivers on every down, almost always placing the quarterback in the shotgun. Mahomes threw 50 times per game in 2016, many of them quick screens to his running back or wide receivers on slants—plays that are staples of an Air Raid offense, which rarely uses a playbook and typically employs just 25-30 plays, each with slight variations. All of these things can scare NFL talent evaluators.
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But Mahomes happens to be one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the draft. His father Pat spent 11 years playing Major League Baseball, and the younger Mahomes received every last one of his dad’s athletic genes. He played three sports in high school, excelling at the trifecta of football, basketball and baseball; but he thrived most on the diamond as a pitcher who possessed a 95-mph fastball. Mahomes was so good on the mound that the Detroit Tigers drafted him out of high school. He continued to play baseball as a freshman at Texas Tech before he decided to focus solely on football, where his physical abilities were on breathtaking display every Saturday.
His numbers are amazing. This season, Mahomes passed for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns, then ran for 12 more. He threw for 734 yards in a loss against Oklahoma—no, that’s not a typo. Mahomes’ most tantalizing attribute is his Herculean arm strength, as evidenced by the 65-yard bomb he launched from his knees back in April (see the above video). His deep balls are pristine, even if he’s off-balance when he throws. Look at this dime below.
Or how about this gorgeous throw, in the aforementioned game against Oklahoma? Mahomes was up and down in that game, completing just 52 of a whopping 88 pass attempts, but he found time to throw a couple of frozen ropes.
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Sometimes, Mahomes doesn’t even need to be looking at his receiver to hit him in stride. His “no look” passes in training camp caught the attention of Kingsbury so much that he tweeted out a video of it, comparing his young signal caller to Aaron Rodgers. That’s high praise.
Mahomes has all the tools. After watching the tape, it’s hard to deny it. How his skill set will translate into an NFL offense—where he will have to learn a full playbook, study protections and learn to identify an endless range of defensive coverages—remains to be seen. A few mock drafts have Mahomes being selected on day two of the draft, where he can likely sit behind an already established quarterback. All of it adds up to make Mahomes one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft.