Small school QBs usually have trouble jumping up to the top rounds in the draft over powerhouse school QBs. This is mostly due to the fact that they don’t face the same level of competition on a weekly basis. The Senior Bowl and Combine are often used to get a true grade on those facing questions about their level of competition. The St. Louis Rams will have to keep a close eye on one small school prospect in particular.
Eastern Illinois University product Jimmy Garoppolo is facing an uphill battle against a draft full of prospects from big schools that are big, athletic and face top-flight opponents every time they lace up for a game. All 32 teams have sent scouts to check out Garoppolo this season as he has been one of the top point producers in college.
His statistics have improved in each season under center at EIU. He has displayed accuracy, completing 65 percent of his passes this season, which is a career-high for the senior. Eclipsing 4,400 passing yards to go with 48 TD passes is a surefire way to turn some heads, even for a small school product. Add in his career-low eight interceptions on 492 pass attempts shows that he takes care of the ball with the best of them.
It is believed that Garoppolo has the quickest release of any QB eligible for the draft. The biggest concern for most teams is his hand size and the level of competition in the Ohio Valley Conference. To prove that he is one of the most capable signal callers in the draft, his coach has given him “the keys to the Cadillac.”
Garoppolo is responsible for making the protection calls at the line and the pre/post-snap reads. In other words, he has full control of the offense at EIU. Most college QBs are responsible for the minimal amount of the offense and in many cases, the only option they really have is the read-option or spread offense, which significantly takes away from their decision-making process.
Garoppolo is an extremely confident passer with a deep knowledge of the game, and is about as prepared as any small school QB can be. He utilizes pump fakes to pull defenders where he wants them to be, and can run the read-option when needed. He does come with some issues that need to be worked out such as keeping fluidity when evading pressure in the pocket, not rushing reads/throws, and he still needs to develop his footwork.
He has excelled in the red zone this year, placing the ball where only his receivers can make the play, especially on fades. The quick release allows him to read the cornerbacks leverage pre/post-snap to decide on where to place the ball. That quick release could be extremely effective when it comes to back shoulder throws at the NFL level. His short- to medium-range passing ability is well above average, and he has the arm strength to make those throws with ease.
However, his arm strength is still a bit questionable on deep passes even though he has no trouble forcing the ball downfield. He believes in his arm as a young QB should.
Most mock drafts have him going in the second or third round of the draft, which is the perfect place for St. Louis to pick up a young backup for Sam Bradford. Drafting Garoppolo now gives them time to develop him and save some money that could be spent on other positions of need. Also, they wouldn’t have to re-sign Kellen Clemens, who has earned a raise from his current $900,000 contract.
His short-to-medium passing abilities make him an ideal fit in Brian Schottenheimer‘s offense that is in place in St. Louis now. If he stays willing to test the defense deep, he could be something between Bradford’s excellent short accuracy and Clemens’ grit. It will be interesting to see what Garoppolo does during the Senior Bowl, Combine, and his Pro Day. The fate of his draft stock could rely solely on those performances instead of his senior year accomplishments.