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Vikings QB Draft Prospect: Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR)

Former UCLA quarterback could be worth a Day Three pick

NCAA Football: UCLA at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings have been doing their homework on quarterbacks available in this month’s draft, and one prospect they had a formal interview with at the Combine was Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) out of UCLA. Darren Wolfson also reported the Vikings are ‘doing good work’ on him. He’s not one of the top four QBs in this year’s draft, and currently has a Day Three draft grade, which isn’t likely to generate much excitement, and yet there are some positive and intriguing aspects of his game that caused some scouts and QB analysts to rank him 5th or 6th among this year’s QB draft class. He’s been trending from a 6th or 7th round pick early in the draft process to a 4th or 5th round as he’s moved through the draft process and went through more scrutiny.

Dual-Threat Quarterback that can Create Off-Schedule Plays

Ever since Patrick Mahomes hit the field for the Chiefs, he’s become the ideal modern NFL quarterback. In addition to the more traditional desired traits of accuracy, good decision-making, and poise/pocket presence/awareness, Mahomes has the more modern traits of being a dual threat that can run for a first-down if a play breaks down and can also use that mobility along with his overall athleticism and creativity to be an off-schedule playmaker. DTR has these qualities too.

But comparing him to Mahomes in the lead-up to the 2017 draft, a fair assessment of DTR is that he has all of the question marks/weaknesses of Mahomes, but only some of the strengths.

For example, while both DTR and Mahomes are dual-threats and have the creativity and athleticism to make off-schedule plays, Mahomes had a cannon of an arm while DTR’s is considered just above average. Both QBs are 6’2”, but Mahomes was 20 pounds heavier. DTR has more of a slight build at just over 200 pounds. Mahomes has longer arms while DTR has bigger hands. Mahomes had elite agility scores while DTR has elite speed/acceleration scores.

The knocks on Mahomes at Texas Tech were that he didn’t always have good footwork and mechanics, his decision-making wasn’t good at times, he would sail his throws on occasion, and would sometimes escape the pocket when he didn’t need to. DTR has all those issues too. But for Mahomes, his arm strength would often make up for poor footwork/mechanics- even some bad decisions- while DTR’s doesn’t. Mahomes was near the top of college football in PFF’s Big-Time Throw and Turnover Worthy Play metrics at Texas Tech, DTR is middle-of-the-pack on both. Again, some of that with Mahomes was due to the Air Raid offense at Texas Tech- but clearly also part of who Mahomes is as a QB. I would also add that DTR doesn’t always see the field as well as Mahomes, which has led to turnover-worthy plays.

Mahomes was also knocked for defaulting to playground style hero ball too often- part of which may have been encouraged by the Texas Tech Air Raid scheme- but also praised as being a tough and fearless competitor. DTR shares the criticism for moving too quickly off-schedule, although not necessarily hero ball. DTR is also described as a very tough, high character guy, although not necessarily fearless or with as much swagger as Mahomes.

Mahomes was also a first round draft pick, with a first round grade, was MVP his first season as a starter, consensus best quarterback in the league since then, 2x Super Bowl winner, and All-Everything. It’s fair to say he uses his considerable strengths to his advantage, while working to minimize his weak points. And he was drafted by a good team with a great offensive supporting cast and head coach. DTR, by contrast, is likely to be a Day 3 pick, with a Day 3 grade, and everything to prove.

The biggest questions with DTR, as he transitions to the NFL, is whether he can correct his deficiencies, particularly in footwork/mechanics, seeing the field (and defenders) better, and improving his decision-making, while still building on his strengths. He has shown improvement over his five seasons at UCLA, but its been gradual, leading some to wonder if he’s near his ceiling.

Film Study

One of the things I like about DTR’s college film from an evaluation standpoint is his playing conditions more resemble the NFL than many other quarterbacks. By that I mean he plays in a scheme you see in the NFL, requiring quarterbacks to do the same things they need to do in the NFL, his surrounding cast- OL and receivers- are not dominant, and the level of competition (Pac-12) is decent too. This is more like conditions in the NFL. Other QBs you watch the film and say this is great, but having a clean pocket for 3+ seconds nearly every drop-back, with receivers consistently 3+ yards open, or playing in a non-NFL scheme- often simplified for the quarterback, or against D-II or D-III competition, makes it difficult to translate into how he’ll play in the NFL. Below are videos of every DTR pass or run play from games in the 2022 season, as opposed to just highlights which are not so representative.

Overall, all these game films give you a pretty good idea of the pros and cons of DTR’s game right now- much of which I outlined above. Perhaps a better comparison for DTR is a smaller, more athletic Jalen Hurts, or a little smaller Justin Fields with a quicker release and better pocket awareness. Or a bit taller but less accurate Bryce Young, with not as good field vision but more of a run threat.

Scouting Reports

STRENGTHS: Quick, twitchy release, regardless if he is stationary or on the move … above-average arm strength and spins lasers with proper weight transfer … naturally accurate in the short-to-intermediate game … displays playmaking instincts with his legs and arm … terrific skill as a runner and shows a timely understanding for when to keep passing plays alive or take off as a ball carrier … has elusive qualities once he reaches the open field and is a true dual-threat (one of only two FBS quarterbacks with 25-plus passing touchdowns and 11-plus rushing touchdowns in 2022) … boasts the toughness, both physical and mental, to power through adversity (head coach Chip Kelly: “He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever been around.”) … plays through minor injuries and set the UCLA record for quarterback starts (48), finishing with a winning record (25-23) as a starter.

WEAKNESSES: Slight frame, thin torso and lacks ideal body mass … gets tunnel vision as a passer and doesn’t see all 11 defenders on the field … plays frenetic in the pocket and will lose his bearings … more comfortable escaping the pocket instead of climbing/sliding … guilty of unnecessarily speeding up his process and dropping his eyes too quickly … confused footwork creates uneven platforms, making throws more difficult than they should be … puts too much air on his deep balls with inconsistent downfield placement … his ball security must improve (10 fumbles in 2022, 39 fumbles in his career) … despite staying on the field in college, his body type will lead to durability concerns with teams; missed one game as a sophomore because of a leg injury (September 2019); missed one game after injuring the thumb on his throwing hand (November 2021).

SUMMARY: A five-year starter at UCLA, Thompson-Robinson showed steady improvements each season in Chip Kelly’s balanced offensive attack and had his best season as a “super senior” with a school-record 69.6 percent completions. He departs Westwood as the school’s all-time leader in several categories, including total offense (12,537), completions (860), touchdown passes (88) and total touchdowns (116). With his live, accurate arm, the ball spins clean off his hand and his dualthreat skills allow him to create off-schedule plays. Thompson-Robinson handled quite a bit in Kelly’s offense (checks at the line, multiple play options based on presnap reads, etc.), but he is still prone to youthful mistakes, especially when things get hectic. Overall, Thompson-Robinson plays panicked at times and must take better care of the football, but he has an NFL-quality arm with the toughness and ability to create that will appeal to pro teams. His veteran presence will help him compete for a backup role very early in his NFL career. - Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Dorian Thompson-Robinson Evaluation

2022 Games Watched: California, Arizona State, USC, Pittsburgh

Thompson-Robinson’s Credentials

The first thing that jumps out immediately in Thompson-Robinson’s background is his five years as the starting quarterback at UCLA, with a fifth year granted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thompson-Robinson is the only opening-day starter at quarterback UCLA head coach Chip Kelly has had in his tenure at UCLA, going 26-23 in his 49 career starts. One important positive takeaway is the steady improvement the Bruins showed during Thompson-Robinson’s time at UCLA. After going 10-21 during the first three years of Kelly’s tenure, they’ve gone 17-8 since, with Thompson-Robinson’s improvement as one of the catalysts.

I watched four games from 2022, and Thompson-Robinson looked well-coached and comfortable in the offense. While Kelly’s offense often is thought of as a pure spread attack, there are a number of NFL concepts, including option routes, quick-timing throws, and running-back flare-control passes as third options.

Thompson-Robinson steadily has improved his statistical accuracy over the years. Across the first four years of his career, he completed 60.8 percent of his passes, with percentages below 60 in his first two seasons. In 2022, however, he ranked sixth in the FBS after completing 69.6 percent of his passes. And while his 7.1-yard average depth of target is low, that arguably is due to the UCLA play-calling, not a lack of arm strength.

Arm Talent, Accuracy

After taking the shotgun snap, Thompson-Robinson again looks well-coached from a fundamentals perspective, staging the tip of the ball at the “V” of the neck tight to the sternum, keeping balance with a strong base and showing clean footwork in his drops.

While his throwing motion at times is a bit more elongated than some of the other top quarterbacks in this class, he still manages to get the ball up and out quickly. With his staging, footwork, balance, and quick release, he looks very confident in his ability to make all the throws.

When releasing the ball, Thompson-Robinson shows the ability to throw with multiple arm angles. The ball often explodes out of his hand, as evidenced by his tying Josh Allen‘s velocity record of 62 mph at this year’s combine. For comparison’s sake, this year Anthony Richardson clocked a top velocity of 60 mph, while C.J. Stroud managed 59 mph. Meanwhile, Justin Herbert previously clocked 60 mph in 2020, while Patrick Mahomes hit 55 mph in 2017.

This is not to say that Thompson-Robinson has a bigger arm than Allen, Herbert or Mahomes, but he clearly has explosive arm talent.

On tape, it’s evident that Thompson-Robinson has the confidence to make impressive throws into tight spaces over the middle. And while he’s adept at throwing the fastball, he’s also instinctively able to modify the trajectory and speed of his passes when necessary.

Thompson-Robinson’s accuracy has steadily improved, and he is consistent, throwing with location and touch to the short and intermediate areas of the field. However, he will overthrow receivers at times. I saw very few outside-lane go routes in the four-game sample, but notwithstanding, Thompson-Robinson showed the ability to make a wide variety of throws, validating his explosive arm talent and touch. The continued vetting of his career will be necessary to evaluate him in this area.

Athleticism, Escapability

Thompson-Robinson is a dual-threat quarterback with explosive rushing ability to complement his passing ability. He is not Lamar Jackson or Justin Fields, but he is on the level of some of the NFL’s better running quarterbacks. Let me be clear, though, Thompson-Robinson is a passer first with the ability to extend a play outside of the pocket and make accurate throws on the move or run.

He showed high-level ability as a runner on designed quarterback runs and in scrambling situations, with the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and surprising contact balance for a player with a slighter frame. His ability as a runner forces defenses to have to account for all 11 on each play.

Within the pocket, Thompson-Robinson shows the ability to sense pressure and step up while keeping his eyes upfield. He has good ball security while sliding in the pocket with two hands firmly on the ball, tight to his body, showing courage to stand in and deliver amidst the chaos of pocket pressure.

When he has to maneuver in the pocket, Thompson-Robinson’s flexibility and balance stand out. He can contort his body to avoid contact or keep his balance and break free from pass rushers.

Once he exits the pocket, he shows the creativity to make plays out of structure while moving to his right or left. The ability to make awkward throws, throw on the move and win out of structure gives Thompson-Robinson an added playmaking element that some other top quarterbacks in this class do not possess.

Mental Toughness

One area that immediately jumps out on tape is Thompson-Robinson’s functional intelligence to process quickly, manage chaos in the pocket, slow the game down, and quiet his mind to make good decisions.

His decision-making ability to quickly get the ball up and out in the red zone stands out. He also will finish his progressions when making full-field reads and find the hot receiver when pressured. He shows great anticipation while throwing the ball in deep areas over the middle against zone coverage.

Of all the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Thompson-Robinson might do the best job of understanding where all his receivers will be throughout each play, showing full command of the Bruins system.

So where does he need to improve? The tape is clear that, perhaps due to overconfidence in his arm talent, there are too many instances when he tries to get more out of plays than he needs to, forcing passes or taking unnecessary hits when he should throw the ball away.

In the NFL, a quarterback has two key responsibilities: Take care of the ball and live for the next play. Thompson-Robinson’s future coaches will want to emphasize these objectives.

Another area Thompson-Robinson should improve is his spatial awareness against zone coverage. Of the interceptions he threw late in the season (six overall in two of the last three games), it appeared he did not see linebackers in underneath coverage, which led to unnecessary turnovers.

Overall, Thompson-Robinson is mentally advanced in some areas, but work remains to be done in others.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to be excited about with Thompson-Robinson’s 2022 tape.

He put together several high-end plays that showed his explosive arm talent and quick decision-making. He calmly worked through his progressions, often finding a third option to a running back, unlike most of the top quarterbacks in this class.

Thompson-Robinson does not appear to have a strong frame, and he has been more turnover prone than any of the other quarterbacks I’ve studied leading up to the 2023 draft — as evidenced by his 12 turnovers (seven interceptions, five fumbles) in his final five games at UCLA — yet he has a playmaking ability that others do not possess.

I believe Thompson-Robinson deserves to get a complete evaluation from coaches and personnel throughout the NFL. He has too much experience, arm talent and athletic ability, based on my four-game study, to be overlooked. When looking at the landscape of the top quarterbacks in the draft, Thompson-Robinson may be a dark horse candidate whose upside is worth strong consideration. There is a load of talent that any coach could get excited about. - Marc Trestman, 33rd Team, former NFL OC and HC

The DTR Hype Train

Bottom Line

DTR could be a good value pick at quarterback in this year’s draft, if he reaches the fourth round or later. Of course he would only become a value pick if he turned out to be a quality starting quarterback. Still, as a low-risk, potentially high reward option at quarterback in this year’s draft, the Vikings could do worse than taking a chance on DTR.


In which round will DTR get drafted?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    First round
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    Second round
    (20 votes)
  • 34%
    Third round
    (143 votes)
  • 32%
    Fourth round
    (138 votes)
  • 18%
    Fifth round
    (76 votes)
  • 7%
    Sixth round
    (33 votes)
  • 1%
    Seventh round
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    He won’t be drafted
    (1 vote)
420 votes total Vote Now