With the chances of a top quarterback falling to pick 8 looking grim, and the cost of trading up looking like a desperate move that jeopardizes the future, it is interesting to continue scouting prospects who could fall to the Vikings in rounds 2-4. For my first ever fan post, I want to highlight a few quarterbacks who are playing for their football lives in this week's East-West Shrine Game with my amateur scouting report. I am not at the practices, so much of the research is from either what I've seen previously from two quarterbacks I have been watching for two years (Garoppolo and Lynch), and from what I found on film today from Mathews:
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois: One player deserving attention is Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. A native of Arlington Heights, IL, Garoppolo didn't start playing quarterback till midway through his high school career after the football coaches recruited him over from his star success on the baseball team. Despite a few successful years in high school, the 6'3 signal caller wasn't heavily drafted due to the impression that he would be a project. His learning curve proved to be a quick one, as he crushed the school records of both Sean Payton (former EIU QB) and Tony Romo with 13,156 passing yards, a 62% career completion rate and a 118:51 TD:INT ratio. Scarily, he continued to get better throughout his college career with a fantastic senior season. He threw for 5,050 yards 8.9 Y/A with 53 TDs and only 9 ints in 14 games. He created enough of a buzz to have all 32 teams send scouts to his games, with two General Managers reportedly wanting to see him in person (unclear if Rick Spielman was among them).
Some scouts will be concerned with Garoppolo's smaller hand size, and his arm strength isn't off the charts. His greatest strength is in short and intermediate routes, where he sets his receivers up well for production withs yards after the catch. He is nowhere near as refined as Teddy Bridgewater in that arena, and he will clearly have a learning curve in a pro offense. His greatest strength is in his quick release, which Urban Meyer called "one of the fastest he had ever seen". He throws a beautiful short pass and is a quarterback who is more likely to work his way down the field with poise than rely on deep bombs. Apart from throwing mechanics, Garoppolo is a traditional pocket passer that will rarely scramble. He is decently fast, but rarely chooses to run and tends to throw the ball away. Despite questions about his deep ball accuracy, he throws a nice arch and can hit his receivers in stride: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F000kQ_T2U#t=388
Garoppolo has looked great in this year's East-West Shrine practices. It took him a bit of time to warm up to his new crew of receivers, but his adaptability is impressive. With an air of leadership and his fantastic upside, it would not suprise me at all of Garoppolo is picked up early in the second round of the draft. He is not a day one starter that will benefit from sitting for a year, but he has enough upside that he could be that quarterback is on an ESPN list a decade from now for "greatest draft steals of all time".
A good video covering Garoppolo's background coming in to his role at EIU: http://youtu.be/K-H-7mA-Odo
And more scouting notes on Garoppolo from (one of my least favorite) Bleacher Report writer Michael Schottey: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1922241-east-west-shrine-game-2014-observations-from-mondays-practice
Jeff Mathews, Cornell University: The most impressive quarterback from Day 1 of the East-West Shrine practices was Senior quarterback Jeff Mathews. Standing tall at 6'4, Jeff Mathews has great size that seems larger than 6'4. Looking like Zeus throwing thunderbolts from Mount Olympus , Jeff Mathews definitely has a pocket presence that will draw interest from NFL teams. Mathews is the all time leading passer at Cornell with 11,284 yards, 62.3% completion and 72:42 TD:INT. He missed games in his Junior and Senior season due to injuries, but proved through his 2012 season that he had the toughness to play through injuries that would end most quarterbacks seasons.
Mathews greatest strength is his poise when throwing a deep ball. His dropback is a bit slow, but he uses his hips well to put some power in to his deep throws: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=M4EKDk5eEYc#t=160
His great weakness appears to be when the pocket breaks down. Mathews runs like a moose who got loose in a shopping mall, flailing his long legs around without seeming to know where he wants to go. On 261 career rushing attempts, Mathews ran for -515 yards. However, he did have 9 rushing touchdowns in four years, most likely from his sheer size (and the weakness of his Ivy League opponents). Here, you can see how Mathews upright running style can make him susceptible to injuries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeqahH1z6vY#t=264
In the right situation, Mathews will look like Joe Flacco picking apart opposing defenses. As a prospect, an established team might want to take a late round flyer on Mathews as a backup or third string project behind a developed quarterback. That being said, I don't see the Vikings being a great fit for Mathews.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois University: As a graduate student at Northern Illinois University the past two years (lived in MN my entire life prior), I've had the opportunity to see every game Lynch has played in-- many in person. While he has brought me great pride and enjoyment watching him take the NIU Huskies in to the national spotlight, there are concerns about how his game can translate to the pro-game.
In essentially two seasons, Lynch threw for 6,209 yards with 61.8% comp%, 51 touchdowns to 14 ints to lead the Huskies 12-2 in both seasons and the first and last ever MAC appearance in a BCS game. His forte is his incredible running ability. At 6'0 and 215lbs, Jordan Lynch looks like a linebacker playing under center. Growing in a blue collar area of Chicago, Lynch got his start playing QB in street games with other kids much older than himself. He is as hard nosed and as tough as they come. He broke the NCAA record in two consecutive seasons for rushing yards with 1,815 yards in 2012 and 1,920 in 2013 for a career average of 6.6 yards on 662 carries. He had two games with over 300 rushing yards, and multiple games with three touchdowns. His record breaking 316 yard game against Western Michigan in the snow shows his abilities as a runner, showing balance, awareness, and power: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAJSnG0NoRM
Lynch's arm is better than many critics claim, but his consistency isn't always there. Watch this deep bomb he throws against Iowa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=M4EKDk5eEYc#t=160
Lynch's greatest weakness has been his productivity when in high pressure games. In front of a national audience, an underrated Florida State team exposed Jordan Lynch's game in the 2013 Orange Bowl. Playing against the likes of Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes, Purifoy, and Timmy Jernigan gave scouts a chance to see what a pro-game could be like, and it was extremely disappointing. Likewise, Lynch looked unstoppable this season until he looked awful against Bowling Green in the MAC Championship and then Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Scouts watching the Shrine game will want to see Lynch under center as a passer, but that just is not his game. They also may want him to convert to another position like Julian Edelman did, but Lynch doesn't have the speed of Edelman as a receiver. He could be used in a fullback role, but the transition is not always guaranteed to be easy for a running back, much less for a quarterback. Unless a team takes a late round flier on Lynch, he will most likely end up as an undrafted free agent on practice squads while teams utilize his skills on the scout team to practice for read option games. I could see Lynch making a name for himself in another league, whether it is the IFL or Arena Football and eventually making a come back.
I wanted to get to an analysis of Keith Wenning, but I already spent way to much time today on this write up. Hopefully I will get to an analysis of Wenning later this week, but the West team already looks much weaker than the interesting options on the East Team.
Let me know what you think about these later round prospects.