After going through a few of the top quarterback prospects of the 2017 class, it is finally time to discuss my favorite of the bunch. Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech is my top signal caller in the upcoming NFL Draft. Here’s why.
What His Numbers Say
Here are Mahomes’ career statistics courtesy of Sports Reference:
I also compiled his final year game log, and included the rank of the opposing pass defense based on Football Outsiders S&P+:
|Stephen F. Austin||-||30||43||69.8||483||4||0||194.8||10||57||2|
Statistically, Mahomes is the most impressive prospect studied so far. He ranks first among the “Big Five” in final year passing yards, passing touchdowns, adjusted yards per attempt, and rushing touchdowns. He took a tremendous step forward from his sophomore year to junior year, bumping his AYA by a full yard, throwing five more touchdowns, and five less interceptions.
It should not be thought of as a coincidence that Mahomes’ massive improvement came after he stopped playing baseball. Mahomes’ father played professional baseball, and it was also a passion of his own. As a result, he never had a full offseason to focus on football until prior to this season. Considering what Mahomes was able to do in just one offseason, it is scary to think about what he could do once football becomes his career.
Mahomes’ career at Texas Tech was one of the most prolific of the last decade and a half. Since 2000, there have only been four instances where a Division I quarterback had at least 4,500 yards passing and eight rushing touchdowns. Mahomes has done it twice.
The other two quarterbacks to accomplish the feat are Deshaun Watson and Paul Smith, who did it at Tulsa in 2007. Smith went undrafted, and did not play at a Power Five school, so I don’t think he is of the same class as Mahomes and Watson. It’s a big reason why I think Watson is loaded with upside and that Mahomes is the best signalcaller in this class.
Typically, there is some skepticism around quarterbacks out of the Big 12 due to the perception that many of the conference’s defenses are not good. That does not seem to be the case here. Based on average S&P+ pass defense, Mahomes falls right in the middle of the top-five quarterbacks in terms of schedule. Watson and Mitch Trubisky played tougher schedules, while Brad Kaaya and DeShone Kizer played easier ones.
Player Comparison: Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott is coming off of what is probably the greatest season ever for a rookie quarterback. I am NOT suggesting Mahomes is going to have a similar rookie year impact. The reality is that Mahomes is incredibly difficult to compare to any other prospect because he is so unique, but I think Prescott comes closest.
You can already see why it’s so hard to compare Mahomes to any other signal caller. His pass volume is remarkably high for someone who is also a frequent contributor on the ground. Mahomes is clearly a great athlete with his duel-sport pedigree, but probably does not possess the top-end speed of a Cam Newton. Instead, I expect him to be a frequent contributor in short-yardage and on the goal line like Prescott was this season.
Mahomes is similar in efficiency and accuracy to Prescott, but again, he did it on a lot more attempts. This is what makes him so impressive. His touchdown rate is actually almost a full percent better than Prescott’s, which is remarkable with the difference in volume. As a prospect, I would consider Mahomes a better version of Prescott, which could make him scary-good.
Ideal Landing Spot: Browns
Yes, I already used this landing spot for Watson, but Mahomes and the Browns would be amazing to watch. Cleveland has a great offensive line, excellent receivers, and a great pass-catching running back. Hue Jackson is a coach that loves to push the ball down the field, which should fit Mahomes’ skill-set perfectly. The team could even use him as their primary goal-line runner with Isaiah Crowell now a free agent, and Duke Johnson having limited NFL experience in that area. I don’t think Mahomes is realistically an option with the first pick, but Cleveland also picks 12th, and I could see them taking him there.
Current 2QB Fantasy Rookie Draft Projection: Mid-Late First (Mid-Second Round in 1QB Leagues)
Mahomes probably doesn’t get the hype of Watson unless he completely blows away the Combine and gets drafted ahead of him in April. There is an outside chance that happens, and he ends up being one of the top few picks in rookie drafts. However, I’d imagine most have Mahomes somewhere in the three to five range at the position. That makes him a mid-to-late first round pick in 2QB leagues. In 1QB leagues, the rushing upside makes him worth a grab, though it is probably after the first 16 picks or so overall.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Mahomes and I look forward to tracking him throughout the rest of the draft process. He has posted some unbelievable numbers while at Texas Tech and should continue to grow rapidly as a player now that his full focus is on football. Mahomes is a top-notch athlete that should shred the Combine and we should start to see him rise after that process is complete. There is no better quarterback prospect this season.