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NFL Draft

Brock Purdy Wasted Opportunity In QB4 Race

  • The Draft Network
  • September 12, 2020
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The battle for QB4 is not something we always focus on—and certainly not something we focus on this early. Usually, the battle for QB1 is the interesting one, but not only does that battle already feel decided with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the upcoming class, but with Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance behind him, we have three candidates who look like legit QB1 sort of prospects. We’re spoiled like that.

But behind that terrific trio, there aren’t many sure bets. QB4 doesn’t often produce a starter in historic drafts—recently, that player has been Josh Rosen, Drew Lock, and DeShone Kizer—but QB4 does often come in Round 2 and gets an opportunity to win a starting job. Many teams who could be looking for a young quarterback to groom, but may not be picking early in the first round—Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay—will be more interested in the second tier of QBs than the first.

That tier currently includes such players as early declaree Jamie Newman, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Oklahoma State slinger Spencer Sanders, Florida passer Kyle Trask, and Iowa State’s Brock Purdy. Purdy is the only of those five players to participate in Week 2 college football, with a home game against Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Lafayette as a preamble to the Cyclones’ Big 12 slate. This was Purdy’s opportunity to set the tone for the quarterbacks jockeying for position in the 2021 class, and it was an opportunity wasted. Here’s what scout Jordan Reid had to say about his game:

"In front of a national audience and with many excited about the team’s season opener, Brock Purdy had a prime opportunity to grab an early lead on the QB4 spot, but many of his flaws that we saw last season reared their heads again. Despite missing main target in tight end Charlie Kolar (injury), his inability to drive the ball outside of the hashes and impatience in the pocket were the biggest takeaway from the upset loss against Louisiana-Lafayette."

In that cringe-worthy loss to Louisiana in which Iowa State failed to score a second-half point, Purdy was 16-of-35 for 145 yards, with a pick and a sack to boot. Purdy’s completion percentage is a bit of a lie, as transfer wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson endured multiple drops on the day, and the return of Kolar, out for the day with injury, should give Purdy a more reliable middle of the field target going forward. 

But for a day in which Purdy didn’t have much help, he didn’t elevate his team or rise to tough throws. A compact passer who wins with timing on RPOs, Purdy’s arm isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, either. This can become an issue when Purdy attempts to push the ball deep, as he needs to load his base to get enough depth on the ball. With good timing and mechanics in the pocket, Purdy’s deep post ball here still falls behind his receiver. This either needed to be deeper vertical, or pulled more toward the sideline. Here, it’s left interceptable.

Purdy had another deep vertical route to a plodding tight end that he pushed too long. With a better player like Kolar, maybe that’s catchable. But at the edge of his capacity in terms of ball velocity and distance, we can see that his placement starts to wane. That’s the case with most passers, but it is more significant when a player doesn’t have ideal arm talent, as is the case with Purdy.

But a player with Purdy’s processing ability, zip, and placement could be a quality pocket passer—and Purdy is at times. But the biggest issue on his film from my summer watching reared its head again on Saturday, as Purdy regularly bailed from pockets that he didn’t need to abandon. Purdy is a backdoor quarterback who’s constantly gaining depth in the pocket and hates having trash by his feet; when he feels the slightest bit of pressure, he looks to escape out the backdoor and create outside of the pocket, where he can rip off a scamper or two.

Such was the case on this miss from Purdy. He should be throwing the underneath pivot route with a slot receiver on a linebacker with ideal leverage, but because he’s looking elsewhere, he misses the easy read.

Once the interior pressure comes from the outside rusher, Purdy gets off his first read, but he doesn’t reset his feet to the backside and check his routes there. Instead, he just bails as he turns, immediately activating a scramble drill that both affects receiver spacing and invites more pressure from previously blocked defenders. Purdy is accordingly forced into a difficult touch throw on the move that should have been intercepted. 

With the weird offseason considered, the new weapons and lack of Kolar, and the backbreaking drops, there’s reason to believe this will be the worst game of Purdy’s 2021 season—the Cyclones sure hope so. Purdy had far better showings in 2020 and will hopefully settle back into that rhythm with a more familiar weekly schedule.

But as Cole Cubelic shared on the broadcast, Louisiana-Lafayette was content to sit in man coverage and go athlete to athlete with Iowa State, daring Purdy to identify matchups and throw players open through tight windows. Purdy didn’t rise to that challenge, which forces a tough question about the success he’s had against soft Big 12 coverage shells to this point in his career. There’s no reason to get near the panic button yet with Purdy, but for a debut performance in an open quarterback field, he stumbled out of the blocks.

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