Wait, the Combine matters for quarterbacks?
Yes and no. To a limited degree, athletic testing does make a difference, as that trait is becoming more valuable in quarterback evaluation every year. But functional movement skills in the pocket are still far more important than the ability to run a fast 40, making the workouts less important for the position.
But the on-field throwing drills? Yes, they matter, especially for quarterbacks working on pass drops from under center for the first time. Throwing mechanics, footwork and velocity (the radar gun will be on patrol) will all be measured to a degree, along with the obvious: accuracy and ball placement.
Don't forget about the interview/whiteboard sessions with teams. No position faces as much scrutiny surrounding their personal and football character than quarterback. Teams will want to get a feel for the leadership, charisma and football intelligence of each quarterback they meet with, a process that will likely begin on the whiteboard or in the film room.
So which three quarterbacks from the 17 in Indianapolis have the most to prove to NFL teams? Here are my choices:
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
Murray's social media "all in on football" announcement may have quieted draft pundits doubts for now, but that won't mean jack to NFL teams. How he presents himself in the interview room with key franchise decision-makers will be huge, especially given the way he's come off in the public eye of late: unsure of himself, subdued and reliant upon his father for direction.
Like it or not, teams will want to see Murray conduct himself with authority and decisiveness, especially given the lack of clarity into his sudden switch from pursuing baseball to football. Murray isn't Baker Mayfield as a leader - his own teammates at Oklahoma have told me that - but he doesn't need to be either. What he does need to show teams is that he loves football, he understands football at a high level and that he has the demeanor to lead an NFL franchise in their turnaround. Oh, and throwing the football well will help too.
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
At this point, everyone knows about Jackson's cannon arm, but accuracy and mechanics remain a big concern. As strong showing during the on-field throwing drills will help, especially on the vertical route concepts given the fact that a Coryell-style offense is already believed to be what fits him best. But the athletic testing will be critical for Jackson too, as part of his allure is how athletic he is for quarterback, especially when considering his 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame.
For Jackson, the physical tools will be enough to make teams want to believe and take a chance on him, particularly in this quarterback class. But Jackson will have to finish selling himself by what he does with teams in the interview room and on the whiteboard. Teams have seen the physical and athletic upside, now show them what your mind can do as a passer with the right coaching/scheme around you. Huge week coming for Jackson.
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
If you haven't seen Fitzgerald throw the ball, first of all, you're blessed. Second, you probably don't know that he does not have the skill set of an NFL quarterback. While I appreciate the Combine giving him the chance to work out with his position group, the reality is that his NFL prospects would best be served by showing off his hands and movement skills as a tight end.
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Fitzgerald has the size and physicality of an h-back type of player, and looks like a solid athlete on tape. Testing/weigh-ins will be huge for him, as a position switch is more likely for him than any other quarterback in Indy. He's also had some character concerns in the past, which he'll need to alleviate for NFL teams thinking about taking on a big-time project.
Here's the full list of quarterback participants.
|Ryan Finley||QB||N.C. State||ACC|
|Nick Fitzgerald||QB||Mississippi St.||SEC|
|Will Grier||QB||West Virginia||Big 12|
|Dwayne Haskins||QB||Ohio St.||Big Ten|
|Trace McSorley||QB||Penn St.||Big Ten|
|Gardner Minshew||QB||Washington St.||Pac-12|
|Kyler Murray||QB||Oklahoma||Big 12|
|Brett Rypien||QB||Boise St.||Mountain West|
|Easton Stick||QB||North Dakota St.||Missouri Valley|
|Clayton Thorson||QB||Northwestern||Big Ten|