2017 Late-Round Quarterback Review
The third day of the NFL draft is largely reserved for backup players, special teamers, and athletic projects. A handful of them from each draft turn into legitimate impact players, but by and large, the third day is for bolstering the back end of a roster. For quarterbacks, the third day of the draft means backups and developmental types who have the “tools” to become starters in the future. Below is a review of the quarterbacks drafted on Day 3 (click here for my first round recap and here for my Day 2 recap).
Joshua Dobbs (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Steelers quarterback situation is delicate. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger flirted with the idea of retirement, though that did not feel like something that was actually going to happen. Behind Roethlisberger on the depth chart is Landry Jones and Zach Mettenberger, neither of whom have proven to be starting quality quarterbacks at any point. Even having them as a QB2 would feel uncomfortable. Mettenberger has struggled to hold a roster spot anywhere around the league, while Jones has nuked the Steelers offense almost every time he’s been asked to play. It was the right move to bring in a quarterback.
Josh Dobbs fits what the Steelers need behind Roethlisberger. Dobbs is a mobile, intelligent quarterback who has the arm talent to make any throw. His efficiency in the short game needs work, but Dobbs is a nice passer to the intermediate and deep parts of the field. Dobbs can hang in muddied pockets to make tough throws, both over the middle of the field and to the boundary. If need be, Dobbs can bail out of the pocket and scurry away for chunks of yardage at a time. Dobbs is a true rushing threat at quarterback, not just a scrambler outside of the pocket.
When asked to play, it is likely the Steelers would heavily incorporate his athleticism into the game plan, both with designed runs and rollouts, boots, and play-action. The Steelers took a similar approach when Michael Vick was the backup in Pittsburgh, and Dobbs has a similar skill set to the aged version of Vick that was in Pittsburgh recently.
Dobbs won’t develop into more than a serviceable starter, but if that is what the Steelers get out of a fourth-round pick, that is a hit. Dobbs will need to clean up his mechanics in the quick game, as well as find a way to compose himself in critical situations, but he has the tools, intelligence, and built up experience to be able to handle a backup role right away. With Roethlisberger being as injury prone as he is, it is quite possible Dobbs sees the field in 2017.
Nathan Peterman (Buffalo Bills)
Nathan Peterman’s tumble was a bit of a surprise. After a solid week of Senior Bowl practice and continuous hype throughout the draft cycle, it felt like Peterman could crack the top-100 picks. Instead, Peterman dropped all the way to the middle of the fifth round at pick 171, where the Bills decided to add another quarterback to their depth chart.
The selection of Peterman is interesting because he is nothing like the quarterback drafted just a year ago in Cardale Jones. Jones is a big, athletic pocket passer with a booming arm. Jones is better down the field than he is up close and he has no fear in fitting the windows that he thinks he can fit. Peterman, on the other hand, has a middling arm and projects more as a West Coast quarterback than a deep-dropback pocket passer.
The dichotomy between the two is healthy, especially when considering starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a little bit of both quarterbacks in him. Taylor can be a West Coast passer who throws quick game concepts and gets put on the move often, though he is also a lethal vertical passer. If Tyrod goes down, Jones is there if the Bills want to lean toward the vertical attack and Peterman is there if the Bills opt to play it safe.
GM Doug Whaley seems perpetually uncomfortable with the quarterback position in Buffalo. He has drafted and brought in a boat-load of quarterbacks over the past few years. Although he has a legitimate starter in Taylor, Whaley continues to load up at the quarterback position and hope for the best. It’s not a bad strategy considering the market for quarterbacks, but it reeks of a discomfort with Taylor. The Bills need to find an identity that they are comfortable with at quarterback.
Brad Kaaya (Detroit Lions)
As the roster stands now, there are only two quarterbacks on the Lions roster other than Brad Kaaya. Matthew Stafford is, of course, still in Detroit as the starter, while 2016 day three pick Jake Rudock is the current backup. Rudock was one of the surprise quarterback selections last year. He has a middling arm and inconsistent accuracy, but his experience in an under-center offense and a year under Jim Harbaugh were enough to get him drafted.
Kaaya, however, was well worth a draft pick. Kaaya is a three-year starter from Miami (FL). Over the course of his career, Kaaya had to learn and execute a new offense each year, making it tough for him to settle in and truly develop his game. Kaaya was constantly being put back to square one, hence why he showed little improvement from his freshman year to his junior year.
For a team that has moved towards screens, West Coast concepts, and possession-centric football, Kaaya fits the mold. Kaaya is a brilliant passer in the 1-10 yard range. His pre-snap reads are proficient and he is an accurate thrower in the short game. He can keep the offense afloat by winning in the short range and occasionally slinging it down the field. However, Kaaya is robotic. Kaaya short-circuits when forced to drop deeper and read more of the field. His internal clock versus pressure runs a tick late and he does not have the bravado to confidently navigate around pressure.
As a low-ceiling backup, Kaaya will be just fine. He can execute all of the short game concepts that the Lions run and keep the offense on schedule, if need be. Kaaya should be able to push Rudock out of the QB2 spot and assert himself as the backup.
Chad Kelly (Denver Broncos)
The Broncos love to swing on quarterbacks in the seventh-round. Zac Dysert was a seventh-round pick for them in 2013, Trevor Siemian was a seventh-round pick in 2015, and now the Broncos used the final pick of the draft to get Chad Kelly.
Dysert did not work out, though that had less to do with his skill set and more to do with how he felt about football. However, Siemian was a competent starter for the Broncos last year. Siemian clearly is not the future for Denver, but he did enough to show he can be a journeyman backup/spot starter in this league. The Broncos are hoping for the same from Kelly.
Kelly is a different player than Siemian, though. Siemian has average tools and athletic ability, and tends to be more of a conservative passer than one who wants to make crazy plays. He’ll get aggressive when he needs to, but he normally plays rather tamed. Kelly is a gunslinger. He will attack tight windows and toss it down the field, so much so that it is more of a fault than it is a benefit. Kelly likely won’t be able to play early and is going to need to settle himself down.
The tools are there for Kelly to be valuable. He will have time to sit behind Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian. Whether or not Kelly will turn out well is a mystery, but he was worth taking a chance on as Mr. Irrelevant.