The quarterback class for the 2014 NFL Draft has certainly seen its ups and downs since last August. Then, it was thought to have the potential to be one of the more talented classes we’ve seen in a long time, with not only elite talent at the top but deep throughout as well. Nowadays, it’s known more for its depth than talent at the top. Make no mistake, however, there’s a lot of talented signal callers to be had outside of the top tier of prospects. One who’s still flying relatively under the radar is South Carolina QB Connor Shaw.
Shaw has been projected as a 7th rounder, if he’s drafted at all. Why? Largely because he’s only a smidgeon over 6-feet tall, has only average arm strength and a lengthy history of injuries. I get that, which is why I’m not lobbying for him to go in the top ten. But he’s a very intriguing late-round prospect, one who’d certainly be worth a 5th or 6th round flyer.
From a tangible perspective, he’s everything you want in both a QB and a leader. A coaches son, he’s always the first one in the building and the last one to leave, and instills his own fiery competitive demeanor on those around him. He’s a natural born winner (27-5 as a starter, winningest QB in Gamecock history) who lives to play ball, practice, watch film and workout. He’s known for his intelligence, both on the field making his progressions and reads, as well as off it, mastering a complex offensive playbook.
It’s not like he’s totally lacking physical talent either. He ran an impressive 4.66 40-yard dash at the Combine (Johnny Manziel ran a 4.68), and uses that speed well (ran for 1,683 yards and 17 TDs in college). Despite his speed, he’s still a pocket first passer, but knows when to cut and run. His short and intermediate accuracy is strong and he does a good job leading his receivers to put it in stride. Particularly impressive is his accuracy on the run.
His arm strength and mechanics are less than ideal, and he won’t be a fit in every offense or scheme, but he’s got the physical and mental skills to play the position in the NFL.
Look, Shaw probably isn’t going to be selected in the first, second or even third round. And I won’t be surprised. A lack of size and arm strength will do that to a prospects’ stock. But he’s still got the athleticism, mindset and character to make it at the next level. Maybe not as a franchise QB, but he’ll find a role on whichever team he lands on.
At best, he’ll be a diamond in the rough in the mode of Tom Brady (6th rounder in 2000). At worst, he’ll be a wasted late-round draft choice, one of thousands over the years, and one who won’t affect the team financially if cut. More than likely, he’ll be a solid backup QB who can rally the troops if called upon late, potentially one with some trade value.
Not a bad deal for a late-round pick, at least in these humble eyes.