Garrett Grayson: Breaking Down The 2015 NFL Draft’s Dark Horse Quarterback

Garrett Grayson was a top-10 Quarterback in passing yards, efficiency, and touchdowns his seniior season at Colorado State. Will that translate to NFL success?
Garrett Grayson was a top-10 Quarterback in passing yards, efficiency, and touchdowns his seniior season at Colorado State. Will that translate to NFL success?

Garrett Grayson comes into the 2015 draft as the forgotten man at Quarterback.

Media coverage of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as the top two quarterback prospects in the class and the obsession of whether or not a running back will go in the first round have overshadowed Grayson and his potential to become a quality NFL starting quarterback.

I think that’s a shame.

This isn’t me professing that Grayson is in any way, shape, or form better than Winston or Mariota. What I will say is that if you’re a team looking for a quarterback with a good, accurate arm Grayson may be someone you want to keep in mind in the third round of this draft. Because what he could become is just as good, if not better, than both Mariota and Winston.

I’m looking at you Buffalo, Cleveland, New York (Jets), Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston.

Let’s start with the numbers

Considering Grayson's first two seasons as part of his development, a look at the final two show an accurate passer who minimizes mistakes (4:1 Touchdown to Interception ratio in 2014)
Considering Grayson’s first two seasons as part of his development, a look at the final two show an accurate passer who minimizes mistakes (4:1 Touchdown to Interception ratio in 2014) source

Part of what I try to do is look at the numbers and tell you a story of what a player can be, will be, or is. If there is a writer/blogger/analyst today who eschews numbers I would tell you to avoid giving them your attention because you aren’t getting the complete picture of a player. Conversely, numbers don’t tell the entire story so one has to be careful when using them as their sole method of evaluating players.

The numbers on Grayson tell me two things that I like when judging a quarterback:

First, his 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio present a player capable of limiting mistakes with his passes. Second, the accuracy of those passes (63% 2013-2014) proves the ratio can be taken seriously as he attempted 898 passes and was still able to complete them at well above a 50% clip.

Grayson ranked in the top-10 in passing yards, passing efficiency, and touchdowns while leading Colorado State to a 10-win season. The numbers are there, and fit the expectation of the scheme brought in by then Colorado State coach Jim McElwain: sharp on the short, intermediate passes with the capability of burning a team deep. Numbers, though, have been there for plenty of quarterbacks before, so now we need to see what he has on the field.

On-Field Breakdown

We all know numbers come with questions. Particularly, questions revolving around the level of week-to-week competition. With that, I chose to take a look at Grayson’s Bowl game against Utah in December of 2014. I chose this game because Utah ranked 43rd in the nation in points allowed per game and went 9-4 (5-4 Pac-12), was Grayson’s last collegiate game, and their pass rush posed some of Grayson’s stiffest competition.

I paid particular attention to his pocket presence. In the video below you’ll see overall good footwork as things are collapsing around him, but also how good he is at keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling to his right and hitting his target with good accuracy and velocity. Take a look:

Grayson also showcases a good arm; which, as you know, will come in handy in the NFL. The ball gets to the receiver in a hurry and gives his receivers every opportunity to catch it.

What you see as well is Utah’s pass rush getting more aggressive in going after Grayson. The Rams offensive line is not able to keep up with them physically. While Grayson exhibits good footwork, one thing I would like to see Grayson do more is recognize the space he has when he steps up or outside of the pocket and allows himself time for better throws and bigger play possibility. Take the examples in the screenshots below:

via YouTube
via YouTube

In this first shot I’ve highlighted the space in front of Grayson that could be had. He’s already in his throwing motion here, but had he stepped up and allowed himself time he opens himself up for more options including scrambling for extra yardage or finding a receiver who can create more with extra space.

Via YouTube
via YouTube

Here we see Grayson on his back foot, with clean space in front of him to create more room for a better throw. While this pass went for a first down, defensive backs and safeties are much quicker in the NFL and won’t allow for throws without more on them. (see: Manziel, Johnny)

via YouTube
via YouTube

Lastly, we see Grayson a little more confident in his decision but again leaving opportunity to his right for a cleaner throw. The defender comes right up the middle here and gets a good shot on him, but had he utilized the space the his line gave him he could have hit the receiver (star) who split the defense for a much bigger gain.

Overall, I like Grayson’s pocket presence. I do feel that mastering the utilization of space in the pocket and extending plays will benefit Grayson tremendously at the next level. He has a tendency of getting caught on his back foot which isn’t uncommon of quarterbacks with strong arms (Stafford, Cutler, etc.), but needs to be corrected for Grayson because his arm isn’t in that class. Better movement in the pocket will fix this problem and with better talent at his disposal in the NFL he could be primed as a real Dark Horse for a franchise.

Best Fit(s): Philadelphia Eagles or Buffalo Bills

Nothing to this point has led me to believe that Chip Kelly isn’t still positioning himself to land Marcus Mariota. If that doesn’t happen then Grayson would make an ideal fit. Kelly loves accurate, coach-able passers who can consume information without much of a problem. If he were to get thrown into the Eagles quarterback mix as it stands an argument could be made that he would be the best of the group outside of a healthy Sam Bradford.

Meanwhile the Bills have everything they need to disrupt the AFC East except a quarterback. Greg Roman, the Bills new offensive coordinator, would be a good match with Grayson because apart from running a lot of Pro-Style elements in college he has experience with the Zone Read. If that offense sounds familiar it is the same offense that Colin Kaepernick ran in San Francisco with Greg Roman for a time with success.

Both of these teams have a need and both could use a player like Grayson who is NFL ready or will be within a year.

Mariota and Winston might get all the press, but don’t be surprised if Grayson, in the right situation, is running an offense in the NFL this Fall.

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