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NFL Draft

Davis Mills: Contextualized Quarterbacking 2021

  • The Draft Network
  • April 7, 2021
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For anyone new to the family here at The Draft Network, Contextualized Quarterbacking is an annual project I put together for TDN Premium subscribers. In Contextualized Quarterbacking, I chart the significant draft-eligible quarterbacks across their final seasons, tagging each dropback with a ton of situational features that allow us to understand their game at more specific and situational levels.

Each throw is graded both for Accuracy and for Ball Placement. Accuracy is a general metric for catchable passes—an accurate pass is a catchable pass—while Placement scores take more details into account: maximizing YAC opportunities, protecting the wide receiver from unnecessary hits, and protecting the ball from being played on by the defensive back. Throws are also charted relative to depth and passing direction, to understand how target distribution affects accuracy scores for each quarterback. It’s harder to throw deep!

Contextualized Quarterbacking helps us understand what each college offense asked of their quarterback, which gives us an additional tool for projecting these passers to the pros. When we understand their college offense, we can better identify those skills that will translate to the pro level, and accordingly, project the ideal scheme fits for each player.

Mills is considered one of the most interesting options after the Big 5 quarterbacks, and it’s easy to understand why. Mills has a pro frame, played in a “pro-style” system at Stanford, and was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school. The league has been carefully following his arc since the day he stepped foot on campus, and with only 11 career starts under his belt, convincing yourself that he can get better with time isn’t hard.

The data bears out that truth: Mills needs to get better. Like, a lot better. Mills does not have an impressive arm in terms of velocity or distance and isn’t much of a runner, so he needs to be deadly accurate to succeed. But Mills’ placement scores reveal a player without pinpoint accuracy, who puts the ball in danger a lot, and doesn’t currently have a healthy response to extra rushers and pressure. Mills needs a lot of time and patience to develop—is a team really willing to give him those necessary in-game reps to grow?


Left Middle Right
20+ 4.3% 6.3% 1.3%
10-19 4.6% 9.3% 5.6%
0-9 14.3% 20.3% 13.0%
<0 10.0% 3.0% 8.0%


Left Middle Right
20+ 6.4% 15.5% 2.6%
10-19 4.4% 13.4% 6.4%
0-9 12.0% 15.4% 10.7%
<0 4.3% 2.2% 6.7%

Despite the residual belief that Stanford has a pro-style offense, the Cardinal used 11-personnel heavily this past season and threw more than its fair share of wide receiver screens—a spread offense hiding in plain sight in a traditionally smashmouth offense. Without the accompanying trappings of a clever RPO game or even a solid rushing attack to open up play-action, Mills was largely a nickel-and-dime passer who did well to pick his side off of pre-snap looks and deliver early in the down.


Left Middle Right
20+ .714 .800 .500
10-19 .571 .933 .889
0-9 .818 .935 .947
<0 1.000 1.000 .846


Left Middle Right
20+ .429 .450 .493
10-19 .643 .467 .667
0-9 .523 .661 .684
<0 .438 .700 .500

Mills has some clear right-handedness in his game, which is unsurprising for a quarterback who so heavily used the quick game off of rhythm drops, as right-handed quarterbacks are already open to the right, and can accordingly throw with imperfect mechanics more easily in that direction. His inconsistency is nowhere better captured than in his struggles throwing behind the line of scrimmage, as he regularly failed to get his throwing hallway set properly to bubble screens, leading to easy misses on what should be routine throws.

Please click here for access to the full data sheet including QB alignment, X-step drops, MOFO/MOFC coverage, first read, beyond first read, pressured vs. unpressured, and much more.

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