With all the chaos that has impacted the 2014 NFL Draft quarterback class this year, including Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray tearing ACLs, Marcus Mariota going back to school and serious questions rising about Tajh Boyd‘s ability to succeed in the NFL, one player who stands to significantly benefit is Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school as he didn’t start playing quarterback until his sophomore year and rebuilt his delivery throughout high school. But with the increasing amount of success he has had each season, most significantly marked by two spectacular early-season performances against San Diego State and Northern Illinois this fall, Garoppolo has been able to develop himself into a legitimate pro prospect.
He has incredible throwing ability, and it’s very possible that he may have the strongest arm of any quarterback in this draft class. It’s displayed on a weekly basis through EIU’s offensive play-calling, the majority of which is based off long throws downfield.
On top of all this, Garoppolo has a leg up on two other quarterbacks from less-esteemed schools, Derek Carr and Blake Bortles, in that he gets his deep throws off without moving the ball far behind his head or throwing off his back foot.
Garoppolo has huge raw ability, and if that was the only thing that draft evaluators considered, he would be a good candidate to be selected with the draft’s first pick. The reality, though, is that the small-school prospect still has a lot to work on before he’s ready to start in the NFL.
He doesn’t seem to have a good sense of when to get rid of the ball, and he is affected too often by the pass rush. This could become a significant concern when he becomes a pro. Garoppolo is a player who would have benefited from an older NFL which still included high-contact practices and the NFL Europe developmental league. In today’s NFL, he’ll simply have to learn to adjust to a pro rush through preseason games and during practices.
In addition, he needs to improve as a decision-maker. Too often, when he is under pressure, he throws the ball toward a receiver who is heavily covered. Garoppolo will need to exercise better judgement to avoid getting picked off frequently as a pro.
Overall, Garoppolo may have the most potential of any quarterback in this draft class. It’s just a matter of how much opportunity he’ll have to develop into a solid starter in a league which only has two regular starting quarterbacks from FCS schools — Joe Flacco and Tony Romo.
He’s not someone who would be a sensible early-round gamble, but for a team that is willing to take him in the middle rounds, he’s a nice project who could be a top-of-the-line starter in a few years if correctly developed.
- Smooth, rapid release
- Very strong arm
- Great downfield accuracy
- In limited opportunities, has displayed good accuracy on passes behind the line of scrimmage
- Good balance when making throws
- Nearly four full years of starting experience
- Has some experience working in a pro-style offense under Bob Spoo, EIU’s head coach for his freshman and sophomore years
- Pocket awareness leaves something to be desired; a bit stiff and struggles to sense a rush coming
- Decision-making skills need to be greatly improved; too often throws at receivers that aren’t open
- Though he’s had success with designed run plays, he likely is not fast enough for that success to translate to the NFL
- Has a tendency to overthrow receivers
- Footwork on dropbacks is a bit too choppy
- Questions about hand size
- Low standard of competition in the FCS Ohio Valley Conference; only team from a BCS automatic qualifier conference he has faced was 6-7 Northwestern in 2011
- Plays in an offense which is not very comparable to a professional one; a high majority of his throws are on streak routes 30-plus yards downfield
Garoppolo has had his best season yet for an EIU team that he has once again led to the FCS playoffs. Through 13 games, he’s gone 337-for-518 (65.1 percent) while throwing 51 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
2014 Draft Projection: Fifth round
Film Watched: vs. Tennessee State (2013), vs. UT Martin (2013), vs. Eastern Kentucky (2013), vs. Jacksonville State (2013), vs. Northern Illinois (2013)