Scouting the Senior Bowl: Jeff Driskel, QB, La Tech

driskelJeff Driskel has experienced one of the more interesting journeys to the Senior Bowl.  Once considered an elite quarterback recruit and the future of the position for the Florida Gators, Driskel’s time in Gainesville was defined by unmet expectations and inconsistent play.  A season-ending leg fracture in 2013 was a large factor in what went wrong for him, as he started 11 games as a sophomore for the Gators.  He came back in 2014 to start only 6 games and eventually decided to transfer for his final season of eligibility.  He chose Louisiana Tech, a decision that has salvaged his draft stock.

Prior to La Tech, Driskel looked like an average (at best) collegiate quarterback.  He totaled 3,411 yards, 23 TDs and 20 INTs between the 2012 to 2014 seasons with 20 total starts.  In 2012, he ran for more than 400 yards and 4 TDs which was consistent with his athletic profile.  This past season, Driskel looked like a different player.  He threw for 4,033 yards, 27 TDs and 8 INTs with another 5 TDs on the ground.  He benefited from a very good rushing attack led by Kenneth Dixon and seemed to be much more comfortable working the system that was in place.

Coming out of high school, Driskel was “the” guy.  He was considered the No. 1 high school quarterback in the country by various outlets and chose the Gators over offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU and many, many others.  It wasn’t until this past season that we finally saw a glimpse of what all the hype was about.

Driskel looks the part of a prototype pro quarterback.  He stands 6’4″ tall and weighs roughly 230 lbs (unofficial numbers).  He looks every bit that size on tape, with a physical make-up that is similar to Jay Cutler (Bears).  He’s also a similar to Cutler athletically in how he can keep plays alive with his legs; he’s not a true running threat, but he’ll catch defenses by surprise with his ability to run away from pass rushers and turn what looks like a negative play into a positive gain.  He has the kind of movement skills needed to survive in the NFL.

As a passer, Driskel is a surprisingly efficient and accurate quarterback.  I say surprisingly because of the three previous years of tape at Florida; he wasn’t the most effective or natural thrower and I wasn’t expecting to see much of a change this year.  But he proved to be much more capable than his previous two-ish years of tape as a Gator suggested.  Driskel is a lot like Blake Bortles (Jaguars) in how he fires the ball down the seam with effective accuracy and velocity and he’s a very good passer on the run.  He keeps his shoulders square and his base under him when on the move; the ball fires out of his hand and reaches a catchable target zone.  He also displayed some nice touch on deep throws, showing pinpoint accuracy at times (aka, dropped it in a bucket.)

All that said, his tape still has some warts.  For every two really nice throws he makes, there’s one that makes you wonder what he was thinking.  I don’t think it’s a mechanics problem, as he’s pretty fundamentally sound. Being that he only played one season at LA Tech, his “misses” (the bad ones) could be attributed to the accelerated rate at which he had to familiarize himself with the system and his receivers.  Regardless of the cause, he’ll have to prove that those misses aren’t inherently part of his game.

Driskel was considered a surprising addition to the Senior Bowl roster, largely because the majority of his resume isn’t all that impressive.  Guys that have big breakout years before turning pro are always risky, especially when there is more average to below average tape in the archives.  But Driskel is unique and potentially an exception to that ‘rule’ because of his pedigree dating back to 2011.  His 2015 season has resuscitated his hope for a NFL career, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t drafted.  In my opinion, he’s a better pure quarterback prospect than Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) and Cody Kessler (USC) because of his natural passing traits.  One can only wonder how highly he’d be ranked if he had three or four years at LA Tech with seasons like 2015 on his resume.  We’d probably be talking about a Day 2 prospect.

And again, we arrive on the beauty of the Senior Bowl.  Driskel can erase his pedestrian history as a Gator and cement his tape as a Bulldog with a dominant week in Mobile, Alabama.  Driskel looks like a mid-Day 3 player, likely to come off the board in round 5.  He could conceivably become a 4th round guy after the Senior Bowl.