Dissecting and ranking the pro days ahead of the New York Jets’ monumental quarterback decision helps bring clarity to the forefront.
Are you actually attempting to make the argument that pro days mean anything? I mean, come on … a quarterback pro day consists of shorts, Nike Dri-FIT Technology and an immense amount of open grass.
For those who are always cognizant of the “sucker deal,” pro days are about as substantial as the nutrients acquired from Count Chocula. (Not to say Count Chochula doesn’t have its place at the breakfast table, but it won’t help you attain The Rock’s physique any time soon.)
Good ole’ Count does have its place, with the back of the cereal box leading the way. It’s a part of young humanity that allowed (or allows) us all to enjoy the roughest time of the day—mornings before school.
Equate quarterback pro days to this idea. These organized sessions, that usually do everything to showcase a university’s football prowess (see BYU), should never be treated as the end-all, be-all, yet the fun of it all has its place.
With Joe Douglas and the New York Jets on the brink of one of its more monumental decisions in recent memory, sifting through each quarterback’s pro day is step No. 1 during this pandemic scouting world.
The Trevor Lawrence hype is real—to a certain point. This southern kid has been groomed for the spotlight since the dawn of his football career. He’s the quarterback of the class who best understands what professionalism means.
Generational, though? That’s where I pause for a moment.
Lawrence’s height and frame are ideal, but his delivery is something that can look extremely long at times. His long delivery is something you won’t notice when he’s throwing against air, but it’s obvious in-game—especially when a one-read RPO is dialed up.
- General accuracy
- 3-step prowess
Lawrence was the first of the top quarterbacks to put on his pro day, and he delivered in the accuracy department. He also did it while showcasing his mobility in a variety of ways.
- Degree of difficulty
- Taking the safe route
- Quick-release accuracy
- Longer delivery
What stood out most about Lawrence’s pro day was the overall degree of difficulty. As the consensus first pick in the 2021 NFL draft, Lawrence’s script wasn’t overly tough. Much of it featured staples of the Florida offense: 3-step designed pass plays, oftentimes working a one-read RPO.
Also notable was Lawrence’s willingness to make the safe throw. Rather than anticipation, Lawrence waited a touch longer than he should have on many throws.
The following out-route features Lawrence waiting a bit too long to let it go. Watch the receiver’s trek to the sideline; he’s forced to put on the brakes a bit while heading to the sideline.
Perhaps it was a Lawrence strategy, to take the safer route on some of these reps. After all, he’s the soon-to-be top pick. Why risk it?
Lastly, Lawrence’s quick-release accuracy left something to be desired. As previously mentioned, the Clemson product’s release is long at times, but he can also shorten it up. When the script got down into the red zone, Lawrence misfired on several throws.
In the end, we won’t dive too deep into Lawrence’s pro day for obvious reasons. He seems destined for Jacksonville.
Welcome to the main event. Zach Wilson‘s pro day represented one of ultra-importance for the Jets considering where they’re slated to pick.
- Off-platform throws
- A variety of arm angles
- Lighting-quick release
- Touch (especially intermediate)
Unlike Lawrence, Wilson’s pro day featured a much more difficult go of it. There were far more deep shots and high-degree throws in the mix. It showcases an overall attitude and cockiness needed to play the position at the NFL level. It also features a no-fear attitude—something every great quarterback needs to possess in a near-sociopathic way.
The under-the-radar attribute that shined most was his anticipation—yes, even against air. In an environment where quarterbacks often play it safe, Wilson slung it with anticipation. Watch the following quick-out and when the ball is released.
Wilson could have played it safe on these types of throws, but he instead maintained rythym. He threw with anticipation, in rhythm with the break of the route. Unlike many of Lawrence’s reps, Wilson’s timing and trust in his receivers were apparent.
Wilson’s release timing didn’t miss a beat in a safe environment, whereas Lawrence’s routes and timing ensured that the receiver’s head was turned prior to ball flight.
On the other side of the token, his ball placement on quick outs and in the flat wasn’t perfect. The above quick-out featured an inside placement when it should be to the outside—although that’s not a hard and fast rule, depending on defensive leverage.
Also unlike Lawrence, Wilson’s variety allowed him to show off his touch. Not everything was a bullet. The following deep out shows Wilson delivering a beauty on time with the right amount of touch for the receiver to get in and out of his brake with ease.
The next play gets us into the silly realm. Moving to his right, Wilson throws across his body to an in-cut.
This is exactly the type of attribute general managers are looking for in new-age quarterbacks.
While Wilson makes the following play look easy, to deliver this out-route in this specific location with this amount of touch is an incredibly difficult thing to do—even against air.
You just won’t see other quarterbacks doing this at their pro days. His accuracy, placement and touch on anticipation throws jump off the page.
Some of this stuff is just silly. The next play is a fadeaway throw to the opposite corner.
Trevor Lawrence simply cannot do this. It ultimately comes down to how much a football front office values the off-platform/arm-angles attribute.
And, of course, there was the throw that broke Twitter.
The casual observer will point to this play, and the ensuing hype, and look to dismiss. Although it’s true that one play shouldn’t make or break any player, those who fully dissected Wilson’s pro day saw so much more.
- Upper-body concerns
- Placement in the flat
It wasn’t all perfect for Wilson. He misfired on several throws. And when he misfired, he really misfired.
Overall, however, accuracy is not a Wilson concern. Concerns surrounding the BYU stud deal with the stuff that doesn’t show up on pro day.
For one, his frame is slight. Despite the NFL’s new Charmin’ soft attitude—which certainly will make a GM feel better about a Wilson selection—he’s pretty damn small compared to the prototypical guy.
Where the concerns really beef up is when injuries are discussed. Wilson’s mechanics aren’t nearly as bad as Sam Darnold‘s, but very rarely does he generate power from his lower half. Opting for the Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes-type off-platform throws puts a tremendous strain on his upper body (shoulder, elbow).
Wilson’s long-haul durability has to be the chief concern.
Justin Fields enjoyed a solid outing here.
- On-the-run delivery
- Rope throws
- Pressure throws
- Deep-ball accuracy (not timing)
Fields did a great job of showing off his on-the-run ability. The following play features an on-the-run throw to the right in an against-the-grain arm action.
Fields is a little high here with the placement, in the danger zone over the middle, but his accuracy could be described as “solid” in the session.
Credit the Fields camp for challenging him a bit as it relates to pressure. The next play sees Fields on the run to his left while delivering a ball with pressure in his face.
Again, the delivery is a tick late/behind, a prominent Fields pro day feature. It’s that velocity variety and overall feel for certain throws that Fields will have to improve at a later date.
Next, we see Fields roll left and deliver to a vertical.
Again, a bit late/behind the receiver. Everything about this rep other than the timing is tremendous. His pocket escape into an on-the-run throw is what any scout wants to see.
When asked to throw a rope, Fields usually delivered.
His accuracy strength lies in his fastball. For instance, this next play is a rope on a mini-rollout to his right, across the field to the left sideline.
Fields’s other notable positive came via the deep ball (at times). Early on, he struggled with deep-ball timing, often underthrowing guys thanks to too much air.
The following throw, however, is a beauty.
Frozen ropes and the deep ball is where Fields shined most in the accuracy department on this day.
Fields’s undisputed throw of the day came on an over route while rolling to his left.
- Deep-ball timing (not accuracy)
- Lack of touch/velocity variety
- Intermediate touch
- Touch accuracy
When Fields attempted anything with severe touch, matching the appropriate timing, he often misfired. The following play shows a misfire on a touch throw to the tight end towards the sideline.
He at least attempted these higher-degree-of-difficulty throws, like Wilson and unlike Lawrence.
Here, in spite of the contrarian commentary, Fields is late on this deep corner.
Unlike Wilson, Fields uses his lower half much more in every situation—even on the run. He’ll generate power from his legs. It’s something that eases long-term durability concerns yet can also force him to be a tick late when moving.
The Ohio State stud also misfired badly much more than the two previous guys. While I wouldn’t describe Fields as inaccurate as a passer from an overall standpoint, he finished third in that area, on his pro day, when compared to Lawrence and Wilson.
From an overall standpoint, Fields did his job here. Unfortunately for him, his greatest attributes just might fall outside the realm of a pro day. It’s his toughness, competitiveness and big-game nature that currently leads his profile.
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For the sake of time, we’ll not even dive into the Trey Lance and Mac Jones pro days—although both players would finish No. 4 and 5, respectively.
The three men in question rank out in unquestionable fashion:
- Zach Wilson
- Justin Fields
- Trevor Lawrence
Remember, this is not a full scouting report. It’s simply a brief overview of each quarterback’s pro day. Perhaps Lawrence shows up with more authority if his camp heightened the script’s difficulty.
In the end, Wilson gets the nod for a variety of reasons, most notably his throw variety. The veteran-like touch his throws with to the intermediate part of the field is other-worldly for his age. Anticipation was also another attribute that heavily favored Wilson.
Joe Douglas and the New York Jets should rest comfortably right now. No matter how it shakes out, they’ll have one of two excellent quarterbacks to choose from on draft night.
For now, Count Chocula is fun for everybody else who’s not forced to make a decision at No. 2.
Great piece, Robby. I agree, the Saint Trevor hype train is a little much. TL played it very safe at his pro day, whereas Zach and Justin both took risks scripting a higher degree of difficulty. I think back to Greg Louganis’s Olympic medal run where he won not just on execution but by attempting a portfolio of dives that was simply more challenging than what his contenders were willing to try. Wilson is Mr Right Now in terms of readiness to play with a high floor, whereas Fields can use some work on certain mechanics, but possesses athleticism that sends his ceiling off the chart under the right coaching. That athleticism has tremendous application for his position, as he would be the 2nd biggest threat to run in the league behind Lamar, but with arm talent that Lamar (as well as most other QBs) doesn’t possess.