Patrick Mahomes II finally made up his mind on Tuesday, deciding to enter the 2017 NFL Draft and a quarterback class that significantly divides opinion.
The debate continues over who the top quarterback in the class is, with many believing North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky – if he declares – should be the first signal-caller taken.
But a study of film shows that it is Mahomes, who led the NCAA with 5,052 passing yards in 2016 and threw 41 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, who has the best skill set of all of the quarterbacks in the draft.
There is no doubt that Mahomes is raw, having played exclusively out of the shotgun in Texas Tech’s air raid offense, however, he has the physical tools to succeed as an NFL quarterback and – even at the tender age of 21 – has displayed tendencies that suggest his transition from college to the pros will not take as long as perhaps would be anticipated.
At 6’3″ and 219 pounds, Mahomes has the build teams are looking for at the quarterback spot, and the first thing that stands out from his tape is his arm strength, which is unquestionably the best in the draft.
Watching Texas Tech’s offense with Mahomes at the controls has been an exhibition of his magnificent arm talent. Mahomes can gun the ball into tight windows while completing accurate deep passes with consummate ease.
Take this throw against Oklahoma, for example, where Mahomes is able to use his mobility to evade the pressure and fire the ball in between two linebackers for first-down yardage.
But Mahomes does not simply put extreme amounts of zip on every throw. To the contrary, he is an exceptional touch passer, particularly on deep throws. Two examples of this aptitude for the deep touch pass came against two of the Big 12’s established powers in Baylor and Oklahoma.
In this play in the season finale with Baylor, Mahomes takes advantage of the man coverage down the sideline to drop the ball right into the hands of his streaking receiver.
But a more impressive play came earlier in the season in a shootout with Oklahoma.
Mahomes, on 2nd and 25, almost effortlessly lofts the ball over the cornerback who has very good coverage on his receiver and into a tiny window to find his wideout on the right-hand side of the endzone.
These kind of plays were the norm for Mahomes throughout his college career and his arm strength is as such that he can make those passes off his backfoot.
He does so here later in the game against Oklahoma, producing scarcely believable accuracy for a throw that he did not step into to put the ball into a place where he his receiver – who has won the footrace with his defender – only has to make a very minor adjustment to catch it and stroll in for the score.
His arm is not Mahomes’ sole weapon, though. It is the combination of his arm talent and his mobility that makes him such a dynamic threat.
Mahomes uses his legs to buy time and evade pressure – and has the strength to shake off defenders to keep the play alive – and can also make an impact as a runner.
His body type makes Mahomes a difficult player for defenders to bring down and, when in the redzone, he is a factor on read-option plays, as he demonstrated on his touchdown dash against Oklahoma.
What is impressive for a quarterback of Mahomes’ age, however, is that he keeps his eyes downfield when he scrambles and gets outside of the pocket.
Mahomes often looks most at home throwing from outside of the pocket, able to produce stunning throws on the run like this one against Louisiana Tech.
A pass rusher eventually comes free off the edge, forcing Mahomes to roll to his left, yet he is still able to make a perfect throw of over 40 yards off his backfoot to a wide open receiver in the corner of the endzone.
By the same token it would be unfair to suggest Mahomes is not a good pocket passer, particularly when he has regularly shown the ability to climb the pocket and find his receivers.
Here versus Oklahoma, on 3rd and 20, Mahomes is flushed out of the pocket but steps up and fires a slightly high throw into his receiver, who is able to make a fine catch to move the chains.
Mahomes is more accurate on this throw against Baylor, where he again senses and evades the rush and delivers a perfectly thrown deep ball, only for his receiver to drop it in the endzone.
His ability to escape pressure and move around the pocket should help alleviate some of the concerns surrounding the system Mahomes played in at Texas Tech. Additionally, while it would be a stretch to say Mahomes is a quarterback who reads defenses, he has shown a proclivity for scanning the field when given time in the pocket.
Of course, there are legitimate concerns surrounding Mahomes. The footwork is an issue, he will not be able to get away with consistently attempting backfoot passes in the NFL and his tendency to not set his feet has led to mistakes, such as this interception where he sails the ball straight into the arms of an Arizona State defender.
Staring down pre-snap reads that are not open is an also something Mahomes is often guilty of and, though he generally performs well under pressure, he can sometimes hold onto the ball for too long.
On this play in the Arizona State game Mahomes is fortunate not to give up a fumble after he fails to get the ball out with a defender quickly baring down on him.
Those flaws and the system Mahomes is coming from may put some teams off taking him early. But, in terms of pure talent, Mahomes is a first-round pick and the top quarterback in the class.
No other quarterback in the class has his combination of size, arm strength, deep ball accuracy and athleticism. And, with what he has displayed in regard to dealing with pressure and climbing the pocket, this is a player who should be vaulting up the draft boards following his declaration.
Do not be surprised if his name is called much earlier than expected come the first day in Philadelphia.