Discovering Devys: Quarterbacks Part III

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By Alex Kurpeski, Oz Jones, & Tzali Nislick

Before we get around to the intro for this piece I’d just like to thank Jesse Reeves @JesseReevesFF for inspiring this series and supplying us with some of his own data and research for future sections. If you haven’t checked out Jesse’s work then you’re missing out on some of the best insight there is. – Alex

Finding the right devy is arguably the toughest task imaginable in fantasy football, as your choice must depend on some combination of a player’s measurables, level of competition, college production, high school production, flexibility, floor, ceiling, median, injury history, off-field issues, athletic pedigree, etc, etc. It’s a tall task to determine all of these things accurately without the tools and advanced access allowed to NFL scouts (who are prone to making mistakes even with their resources). At a certain point, gut feeling needs to be placed on the back burner, replaced by the data-driven lizard brain that lives deep inside of our pink, squishy command center. Today, we here at 3CoSports are looking to provide you with a small sample size of devy prospect analysis, with fingers crossed that our self-scouting is as accurate as we believe it to be. There will be some aspects of this analysis that are a bit arbitrary, but we feel as though these parts are warranted. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at our finite list of devy targets for 2020 and beyond. 

Rubric for Devy Analysis Grade 

  • Level of Competition → 1 (Big 10, SEC), 2 (ACC, Pac-12, Big 12), 3 (American, C-USA, MWC), 4 (other FBS conferences), 5 (Non-Div 1A)
  • Athlete Scale →  1 (elite athlete), 2 (above average athlete), 3 (average), 4 (below average), 5 (poor athlete – rare)
  • Production → 1 (elite-level production), 2 (above average production), 3 (average production), 4 (below-average production), 5 (poor production)
  • Experience →  1 (played in > 75% of eligible games), 2 (75-65%), 3 (50-64%), 4 (25-50%), 5 (<25%)
  • “Fit” (how well a player’s skill set translates to the NFL) → 1 (fits in any system), 2 (fits in the majority of systems), 3 (fits in certain systems), 4 (fits in few systems), 5 (fits in almost no system)
  • Breakout Age (using Jesse Reeves data) → 1 (18), 2 (19), 3 (20-21), 4 (22), 5 (23+)
  • “Help” (strength of team around them) → 1 (top tier team + coaching staff in all relevant areas related to player), 2 (above average), 3 (average), 4 (below average), 5 (poor)
  • Grade Scale: (1-1.99 = A+ to A-), (2-2.99 = B+ to B-), (3-3.99 = C+ to C-), (4-5 = D+ to D-)

QB Rankings 

A+ Tier

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Bryce Young, Alabama

A Tier

D.J Uiagalelei, Clemson

Kedon Slovis, USC

Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

A- Tier

Justin Fields, Ohio State

Sam Howell, North Carolina

Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

B+ Tier

Brock Purdy, Iowa State

B Tier

J.T Daniels, Georgia

Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Sam Ehlinger, Texas

D’Eriq King, Miami

Michael Penix Jr., Indiana

B- Tier

Mac Jones, Alabama

Jamie Newman, Georgia

C+ Tier

K.J Costello, Mississippi State

Ian Book, Notre Dame

Today’s installment of this series will be a rather dense one, with five passers (Sam Ehlinger, D’Eriq King, Tanner Morgan, J.T Daniels, & Michael Penix Jr.) being profiled in this tier.

J.T Daniels, Georgia (ETA: 2022/2023)

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It’s already been a winding road for Daniels, who entered USC in 2018 ranked as the 6th overall prospect in the nation coming out of high school. He was an early-enrollee as well; when he walked on campus he was still only 17. And at that age, talented though he was, there were, predictably, some growing pains. The Trojans went 5-6 overall, losing their last three in a row. In those losses, Daniels had a 6:8 ratio; for the season he had a completion percentage of just 59.5. But 2019 rolled around, a new OC appeared in the form of Graham Harrell, and for the first half of their 2019 opener against Fresno State, Daniels looked in command, displaying poise and maturity. He’d miss the second half of the game, however, with an ACL/meniscus injury, which would go on to keep him out for the rest of 2019. Enter Kedon Slovis…and the rest is history. 

Daniels has since transferred to UGA, and been granted immediate eligibility. But does he start immediately? Probably not, given that grad-transfer Jamie Newman is also in the fold, coming over from Wake Forest. Assuming Daniels takes the QB2 role, the earliest he’ll be the starter – still, however, with two years of eligibility – is 2021. That would put him almost two full years removed from the last time he walked on the field as a full-time starting college QB. Moreover, 2021 will see 5-star QB recruit Brock Vandagriff enter Athens, not to mention 4-star QB Carson Beck who has already arrived this year. Simply, Daniels is a hold. The talent is there, and he can get the ball out quick. But the situation? Dicey at best.

Regardless, Daniels is an incredibly talented pocket passer who will most likely overcome his circumstances due to his pure talent. While Newman was excellent for the Demon Deacons last season, there’s no guarantee that he can hold off Daniels for the starting position this season, especially if he struggles against the better defenses in the SEC. 

If the former-five star recruit can claw his way to the starting role sometime in the near future, he will have the benefit of throwing to one of the top young receivers in College Football (George Pickens) while playing behind a perennially solid offensive line unit. With the talent that Daniels has, his upside is as high as any Devy QB prospect, though he will need a few lucky bounces to achieve that upside.

– Oz & Alex

Devy Analysis Grade: 2.28 (B)

Player Comparison

Ceiling: Matt Ryan

Daniels becomes one of the best pocket passers in the league, finishing as a QB1 in fantasy multiple times. His NFL success stems from the decision to transfer to Georgia where he taps into his full potential, dominating the SEC during his tenure. 

Median: Sam Bradford

Daniels has a mildly successful NFL career but fails to live up to the hype that surrounded him as a collegiate passer. Lack of elite athleticism holds him back from becoming an elite passer. 

Floor: Josh Rosen

Daniels becomes another casualty of the new era of football where pocket passers are a completely outdated model. 

Tanner Morgan, Minnesota (ETA: 2021/2022)

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Morgan took several steps forward in his development last season, taking his game to a whole new level in his second season with the Golden Gophers. While Morgan did have the benefit of throwing to one of the best receiver duos in the nation (Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman) in 2019, his growth as a passer was evident, as the redshirt sophomore improved his completion percentage from 58% in 2018, a year in which he split starting time, up to 66% while throwing 21 more touchdown passes and only one more interception. While Morgan brings savvy and maturity to the position, it’s fair to wonder how high his ceiling is, especially in a Minnesota offense that saw him average just over 16 attempts per game. Then again, he also had an AY/A of 11.1, which speaks to how efficiently he was able to run the offense. Now, in his fourth season at Minnesota — though just his second as a full-time starter, no longer splitting time with Zack Annexstad — Morgan should solidify his position as the second-best QB in the Big 10 behind Justin Fields.

Call him a product of Minnesota’s system if you want, but Morgan has displayed many of the tools that NFL teams covet in a starting quarterback. Fearless and efficient, Morgan may very well find himself coming off of the board as a top QB prospect when he decides to enter the NFL Draft. With a safe floor and a relatively high upside, you could certainly do worse than Morgan as a potential investment in Devy Leagues, though you could also do much better.

– Oz + Alex

Devy Analysis Grade: 2.28 (B)

Player Comparison

Ceiling: Andy Dalton

Morgan becomes a capable NFL starter with some above-average fantasy potential at certain points in his career. If you give him the talent to work with he can be a very high upside passer, though he won’t have the skill to create offense on his own. 

Median: Case Keenum

Morgan finds himself as a fringe starter, often being called into action as a “Band-Aid” for teams in need of a bridge quarterback. 

Floor: Matt Barkley

Morgan’s college success is clearly attributed to the fact that he got to throw to two future NFL wideouts and he maxes out as a third-stringer in the NFL.

Sam Ehlinger, Texas (ETA: 2021)

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Respect? Ehlinger would like a word with both Rodney Dangerfield and Aretha Franklin. Following a position battle between Ehlinger and Shane Buechele that seemed to last the entire 2017 season, Ehlinger was officially handed the keys to the Longhorns’ offense in 2018 (causing Buechele to transfer to Southern Methodist, where he’s since been highly productive). Ehlinger’s numbers improved pretty much across the board from ‘18 to ‘19: last year he threw for almost 282 YPG, an increase of +45 YPG from the previous season, while also improving his completion percentage. Both Ehlinger’s Y/A and ANY/A increased as well, and he finished the year with a 32:10 touchdown to interception ratio, with four of those picks coming in a loss to TCU in what was by far his worst game of the season. Moreover, he’s a beast in the open field, as evidenced by his 663 rushing yards and seven TDs scored on the ground. Simply put, as he goes so goes UT.

So where does Ehlinger go this year? While he’s had little to worth with since taking over as the starter for the Longhorns, his ability to improvise and extend plays has kept the offense afloat. However, it seems like, for every positive play that Ehlinger pulls out of his ass, there’s a play where he sails an easy throw over his receiver’s head. If he can limit his mistakes in 2020, we may be in store for a very special campaign from the young gunslinger. Then, it’s the no-defense-played-here conference play of the Big 12, which should enable him to continue his strong play. If he can show that he’s more than a gunslinger (albeit a big one who can run), it’s highly possible he’ll be drafted higher than expected. But potential NFL star? That’s another question entirely. Draft him if you like the Longhorns, or if you like Ehlinger as a player, or if you want to just roll the dice. 

– Oz

Devy Analysis Grade: 2.42 (B)

Player Comparison

Ceiling: Jake Plummer

Ehlinger’s inconsistencies carry over to the NFL where he mixes dazzling displays of skill with puzzling moments of utter incompetence. However, in this instance, his best days would give him QB1 upside in fantasy football. 

Median: Kevin Kolb

Ehlinger manages to sneak his way into some starting opportunities but fails to deliver upon his potential, proving to be just another toolsy passer with a deficiency in the intangibles department. 

Floor: Kyle Allen

Another high profile recruit who fails to develop into the player his college coaches envisioned him becoming, Ehlinger gets a few chances as a UDFA before bouncing out of the league.

D’Eriq King, Miami (ETA: 2021)

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King’s best trait is easily his running ability, as the former Houston standout made his mark as a dual-threat in the University of Houston’s explosive offense. If King brings the game he displayed in 2018 to Coral Gables, huge things can happen. While the four games that King played in 2019 were a different smell from what we had come to expect from him (his YPG dropped 2.6 yards, and his completion percentage dropped by roughly 19% from 63.5% to 52.7%), we have reason to believe that a change of scenery could do wonders for him. Still, even if King’s passing isn’t at ‘18 levels, his legs and mobility still make him the most dangerous weapon Miami has had taking snaps at the position in quite a while. And, in his four games in 2019, he still averaged 5.7 yards per rush, lending him further upside as a playmaker even if his passing is not up to par. Simply put, King is electric on the field and downright fun to watch. And, the good news is that OC Rhett Lashlee’s offense should be much more suited for King’s game than Dana Holgerson’s Air Raid attack, where he was asked to do a bit too much as a passer.

If that’s the case – where QB and OC are simpatico – and if the receiving corps can help King out (having Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory as legitimate TE options is an absolute plus), this could be the year that both King and the “U” return to dominance – or, at least, the ACC Championship Game. While it’s questionable whether his game translates to the NFL in the way that other smaller, more mobile quarterbacks’ games did (thinking specifically of Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray), the upside is certainly there. Even if King fails to become an NFL-level passer, he could still have a role in the league as a convert to RB or WR. 

With his upside as an athlete, taking a shot on King as a devy selection is extremely worthwhile. If he can manage to put everything together you may have an excellent QB on your roster next season.

– Oz & Alex

Devy Analysis Grade: 2.28 (B)

Player Comparison 

Ceiling: Robert Griffin III (pre-injury)

A dynamic runner with just enough skill as a passer to get by, King could be an exotic weapon in the right offensive system, particularly one derived from the Greg Roman-style scheme used by Baltimore last season. With the NFL moving more towards running QB’s, King may be a sought after commodity in the 2021 Draft. 

Median: Greg Ward Jr.

King converts to a receiver role upon entering the league and manages to carve out a role as a middling option on a team’s depth chart, like Ward. 

Floor: Pat White

King proves to be a mobile QB with subpar passing ability. Becomes relegated to a Taysom Hill-like role, which would have been perfectly suited for a player like White.

Michael Penix Jr., Indiana (ETA: 2022/2023)

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A rare left-handed passer, Penix Jr. has earned the praise of various draftniks in recent months after displacing Peyton Ramsay as the Hoosiers starting quarterback. An elite athlete with advanced instincts for his age, Penix had stretches of dominance as a freshman, highlighted by a performance during which he completed 78% of his passes for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns against a ranked Michigan State team. Unphased and unafraid when faced with some of the best defenses in the Big Ten, Penix looked like a future Heisman candidate in the five games that he played in last season. 

Among qualified Big Ten passers, Penix accounted for the fewest percentage of turnover worthy plays with just 1.9%, while throwing the highest rate of accurate passes (59.6%) among the same group. Tremendously mobile without being too overzealous, Penix showed great anticipation and pocket awareness for a player with his athleticism. Quite often we have seen athletes of his caliber develop improper instincts that lead them to scramble before rolling through their progressions properly. Penix is the opposite.

Indiana’s wide-open spread offense is catered precisely to Penix Jr.’s skill set, as the system allows for him to hit open receivers in stride within seconds of the hike more often than not. When presented with the opportunity, Penix can hit every part of the field with high velocity throws that would be deemed “NFL-caliber” by almost any scout. If he can continue to tap into those tools while remaining confident as a pocket passer, Penix Jr. could very well be a future top-five selection, he’s that talented.

 

While we’ve only seen a small sample size from the young lefty, the poise that Penix displayed in his first season of college ball was quite reassuring, giving us hope that he will pick up where he left off this season. In more ways than one, he has the makeup of a future franchise QB and his development will be intriguing to monitor as he looks to put Indiana back on the map. Penix Jr. will definitely be a “wait and see” type of Devy prospect, but that wait could very well be worthwhile for those with patience. 

– Alex

Devy Analysis Grade: 2.71 (B)

Player Comparison

Ceiling: Tua Tagovailoa

Penix builds an impressive college portfolio based around his accuracy and mobility, parlaying those traits into a first-round selection. What lies ahead of him in his NFL career would be determined by the teammates that his organization surrounds him with.

Median: Teddy Bridgewater

Penix becomes a trustworthy game manager at the NFL level, earning the chance to start at some point in his career. While not the most exciting passer, he gets the job done when he’s out there.

Floor: Kellen Moore

Penix proves to be the latest victim of left-handed QB bias, averaging out as a backup. 

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