The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, QBs

Updated: May 18th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

In today’s installment of my Spring Scouting series we’re going to take a closer look at three quarterbacks: Trey Lance, Jamie Newman and Kyle Trask. These three signal callers may not get the headlines of stars like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields but each has a shot at being drafted next spring so they deserve a deeper look now.

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

  • Measurables: 6030/224
  • 2019 Stats: 16 games, 192-287, 66.9% comp percentage, 2,786 pass yards, 9.7 ypa, 28 pass TDs, 0 INTs, 180.6 rating; 169 rush att, 1,100 rush yards, 6.5 ypa, 14 rush TDs

I’m going to start this piece with a bold prediction: Trey Lance will be the most talked about quarterback on #DraftTwitter this season. It has been assumed for two years already that Trevor Lawrence will be the top quarterback drafted in 2021, but who comes in at QB2 will be the subject of intense debate. You could easily make the case for Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Or you just may fall in love with Bison signal caller Trey Lance. Lance won the Walter Payton Award in 2019, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman, and was the first (redshirt) freshman to ever win the honor.

Let’s start by taking a look at Lance’s numbers. His measurables certainly stack up at 6030/224 (think Joe Burrow’s size). DraftScout.com predicts Lance would run in the 4.67 range which would make him one of the fastest passers in the last three classes who measure 6020 or taller. As far as his stats go, his 28:0 touchdown to interception ratio speaks for itself, as does his 1,100-14 rushing line.

Since I didn’t watch any of him in 2019 I watched a lengthy Trey Lance highlight package featuring each of NDSU’s playoff games. Lance has the ability to uncork the ball with placement. The reel had two plays where he launched the ball fifty yards downfield to hit a streaking receiver. As his stats would suggest, he does not make mistakes with the ball and he uses his speed and elusiveness well. This clip illustrates all three points succinctly and shows how dangerous Lance can be for defenses. He evades the rush, first to his left then to his right, and isn’t brought down by any of three potential tacklers. As he’s rolling to his right he chucks the ball 30+ yards to a wide open receiver who is able to score. Sure, it would have been nice to lead the receiver on his way to the end zone but let’s not get greedy. The fact that Lance was still upright and able to find his receiver while delivering an accurate off-structure throw is impressive.

Coaches, avert your eyes. This second clip is not the type of play you want to see your quarterback making but as a casual fan I loved it. Lance is not afraid to take a hit or fight for extra yards. This dogpile turns into a rugby scrum that lands beyond the first down marker.

As if you needed another reason to get excited for Lance, I’ll remind you that he stars for FCS darling North Dakota State, and is following in the footsteps of recent NFL draftees Carson Wentz and Easton Stick. He’s only a redshirt sophomore so we don’t know that Lance will be joining the 2021 draft class but if he does he’ll be a priority study.

 

Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

  • Measurables: 6040/230
  • 2018 Stats (Wake Forest): 6 games, 84-141, 59.6% comp percentage, 1,083 pass yards, 7.7 ypa, 9 pass TDs, 4 INTs, 139.5 rating; 64 rush att, 247 rush yards, 3.9 ypa, 4 rush TDs
  • 2019 Stats (Wake Forest): 12 games, 220-361, 60.9% comp percentage, 2,868 pass yards, 7.9 ypa, 26 pass TDs, 11 INTs, 145.3 rating; 180 rush att, 574 rush yards, 3.2 ypa, 6 rush TDs

Jamie Newman arrives in Athens, GA as a grad transfer from Wake Forest. Newman was the starter for the Demon Deacons last season and put up respectable numbers and a 7-5 record. The Georgia quarterback room was once a strength, with the high-potential trio of Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and Justin Fields, however times have changed. Newman is penciled in on most depth charts as the presumptive starter even without spring ball because the Bulldogs’ other options are unproven.

On the Cover 3 podcast, Tom Fornelli shared some advanced stats about Newman’s play last season at Wake. One of them was that his on-target percentage was one of the lowest of returning Power 5 quarterbacks. On the other hand, PFF had high grades on Newman and included him on one of its top 2021 prospects lists. (Worth noting, PFF did state that Newman’s game grades were significantly higher with standout WR Sage Surratt in the lineup versus without him.) To make sense of these competing ideals I watched Newman’s film against UNC from 2019. I did take note of some inconsistent placement and touch on Newman’s passes, which led to some overthrows and a bad interception. Newman has eyes for the deep ball and that impressed me more than the overthrows worried me. He keeps the ball high and cocked, ready to unleash it effortlessly downfield. On this sample play Newman takes advantage of three defenders reading the flat pass and lofts one deep for Surratt. The throw is maybe a yard underthrown but Surratt is able to keep enough momentum to score what would ultimately be the deciding touchdown.

With all the talk about his arm I did not expect to see Newman playing in a zone read offense but nearly half his touches in that game were runs. He was productive too, gaining 78 yards and punching it in twice. I don’t think he’s enough of a dual-threat for that to make or break his draft stock but it’s surely a bonus. If Newman can helm a reloading Georgia squad to another SEC East title we’ll be talking about his NFL potential come January.

 

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

  • Measurables: 6050/239
  • 2018 Stats: 3 games, 14-22, 63.6% comp percentage, 162 pass yards, 7.4 ypa, 1 pass TD, 0 INT, 140.5 rating; 5 rush att, -4 rush yards, 1 rush TD
  • 2019 Stats: 12 games, 237-354, 66.9% comp percentage, 2.941 pass yards, 8.3 ypa, 25 pass TDs, 7 INTs, 156.1 rating; 63 rush att, 8 rush yards, 4 rush TDs

Kyle Trask is a familiar face in Gainesville as he enters his redshirt senior season for the Gators. Trask battled injuries and the depth chart during his first four campaigns and only saw starter’s reps a few games into 2019 when incumbent Feleipe Franks dislocated his ankle. Trask seized his opportunity and led Florida to the Orange Bowl and a 6th ranked finish. Franks has moved on to Arkansas but Trask may still need to fend off the highly touted redshirt sophomore Emory Jones (4-star, 0.9587 composite score per 247Sports). I’ll venture a guess that Trask keeps the starting job but don’t be surprised to see Jones continue to get sub-package touches which may detract from Trask’s final tallies.

The first thing you’ll notice about Trask is his size. I thought for sure his listed weight of 239 must have been a typo so I checked it on the Florida roster itself. Sure enough, 6050/239 it is. Since 2010, only ten quarterbacks have measured as tall and as hefty as Trask’s listed numbers. Ironically that group spans a wide gamut from first overall pick (Cam Newton) to high draft capital busts (Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler) to undrafted projects (Tyree Jackson). To help place him within that rubric, let’s see what some film can tell us.

I watched Trask’s 2019 outing against South Carolina. His final stat line in that game (200 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT) belies what really was a mediocre, at best, performance. Trask’s anticipation, accuracy and touch were inconsistent and tended toward the negative. On the positive side, he is a towering presence in the pocket and isn’t afraid to step into pressure to deliver his throw. He uses his frame well as a short yardage runner and throws accurately on the move. I watched a full-season highlight package to see if those positives stood up over the course of more games and they did. The bottomline: he’s big, has good pocket mobility and somehow makes big plays happen. Here he is embodying that on a key 4th down late against South Carolina where the Gators convert then score the go-ahead touchdown on the next play:

Circle October 31st on your calendar — not for Halloween, but for the Georgia vs Florida matchup in Jacksonville that’s likely to serve as the de facto SEC East championship game. It’ll be a great showcase for both Trask and the aforementioned Jamie Newman to show off their talents in the national spotlight.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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