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Bills Prospect Update

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 14:Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) walks in a touchdown during the game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Boston College Eagles on October 14, 2017 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY.(Photo by Chris Humphrey/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Chris Humphrey/Icon Sportswire)

With the Bills coming off the bye week and college football season in full swing, it seems smart to check in on how some draft prospects the Bills might have their eyes on are doing. So, with the call radio shows blowing up with demands to see Bills rookie QB Nathan Peterman take the reigns, it makes sense to focus on a couple of this year’s quarterbacks. I think Tyrod Taylor has done incredibly well this season, given the circumstances. In fact, I think he has turned in some of his best performances as a Bill. But, all signs have pointed to the Bills strongly considering a QB early in this year’s draft, especially with all the ammo they have for a possible trade. So, let’s dive into games from Sam Darnold (USC) and Lamar Jackson (Louisville), two prospects that may be on the Bills’ board.

Sam Darnold vs Utah

Hmm.

That was my biggest takeaway watching Darnold live against the Utes and then re-watching it a few days later. Hmm. There were some plays on which I got it, the preseason hype, the #SuckForSam, the, you know … everything. But on some plays he just tries to do too much with one throw, especially when faced with pressure, and I felt bad for the young QB, faced with absolutely unreachable preseason expectations.

Darnold was inconsistent throughout this contest, sometimes flashing the ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes and pump fakes at multiple levels of the field, and sometimes totally losing the deep safety, only to chuck up a pass under pressure that should have been a sure-fire INT.

 

Plays like these are bad.

But then there are plays like this, where Darnold, facing a 3rd-and-10 down 14 points in a nationally televised primetime game, hits his receiver in the perfect spot as the play broke down around him for a 17-yard touchdown.

 

Plays like that are good — really good.

So I’m not sure what to make of Darnold at this point. He showed really fast processing speed over the middle of the field and the ability to make incredibly fast plays, even with a bit of an elongated throwing motion. Sometimes, though, the decision making under pressure got ugly. He threw up balls that had no business being thrown, and took unnecessary chances. I’m all for being aggressive with the ball, but only to a point.

Honestly, though, you can see it with Darnold — the placement on short throws, the arm strength, the processing speed and overall charisma. It makes sense. He just needs some time, and I think a return for his junior year is both needed and becoming increasingly likely.

Lamar Jackson vs Boston College

For those who haven’t watched Jackson, do it. He’s got some incredibly electrifying plays to watch, coming from both his arm and his legs. In Louisville’s surprise loss to Boston College, Jackson was the same athlete on the ground that we saw win the Heisman last season. I thought overall it was a solid day for Jackson, albeit nothing out of the ordinary, but Louisville’s loss certainly can’t be blamed on him.

Look, he’s not the best pure drop back pocket passer, but saying he should play receiver in the NFL is ridiculous. If your offensive coordinator can’t find a way to make their system work with Jackson at quarterback, then that’s on the OC, not the QB.

In the run game and on broken passing plays, Jackson shined, as he always does. He looked absolutely outstanding in space and in tight areas with the overall athletic ability, change of direction, and balance to be an absolute weapon with his legs in the NFL. He had 180 yards on the ground, good for an 8.2 yard average, and added 3 scores with his legs.

Passing-wise, I thought it was a bit more of a mixed bag, and not his best (or worst) day overall. He’s got one of the smoothest and most effortless throwing motions I’ve seen while studying QBs at any level. It honestly looks like he can throw it 50 yards downfield with a flick of his wrist.

I thought Jackson showed nice pocket discipline this game, hanging in behind a rather uninspiring offensive line to go through his reads. He’ll stare down his number one guy, and that’s got to get cleaned up moving forward, but he’s able to move through his reads on half and full-field concepts. He makes pretty quick decisions in Louisville’s offense, but won’t force balls that aren’t there, reading the key conflict defender to make his choice.

Accuracy-wise, I thought he was alright in this game. He had a few nice throws vs BC, but a couple where the placement wasn’t quite there, especially early on. He really looked a lot better later in the game when his team needed a comeback, which is huge in a QB evaluation. His accuracy and placement improved, his internal clock sped up, and his decision-making was sound.

He was pretty accurate in the short area, and has lead receivers into YAC well with his placement, at times. His effortless arm strength lets him sling the ball deep, and you can see that here.

A guy is at his feet, he’s moved to his third read, and still, Jackson drops a pass 47 yards to the opposite sideline into the receiver’s arms without really stepping into the throw.  

 

But sure, move him to receiver.

The only glaringly bad play I saw from Jackson was his sole INT. He just totally missed on the inside linebacker waiting underneath, and trying to throw his receiver over the middle on a slant route threw it right into the LB’s gut. This definitely can’t happen in the NFL, and it’s something he needs to work on, as he was watching the receiver right from the snap.

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Ryan is a student-athlete at Haverford College, studying economics and statistics while playing varsity squash. He’s a life-long Bills fan from Buffalo, NY who loves to scout players, schemes and teams in both the NFL and NCAA. He can be found on twitter @DBRyan_Dukarm.

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