Why Jarrett Stidham is the SEC's most intriguing draft prospect, especially right now
I have no idea what’s next for Jarrett Stidham, and neither do you.
In fact, I doubt that NFL front offices have any idea what’s next for the former Auburn quarterback. Part of me says that he could sneak into the back end of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and another part of me says the dude who couldn’t throw 20 touchdown passes in a college season might slip to the third or fourth round.
The intrigue is off the charts.
On one hand, you have someone who had success in a completely new system and was a 64 percent passer (an adjusted completion percentage of 76 percent when kept clean) with mobility and flashes of that big-time arm. Sit down with Stidham for 15 minutes and I guarantee you’ll walk away saying “that’s an impressive individual.” He handles himself extremely well in how he evaluates himself and talks about others, which will benefit him greatly in the pre-draft process.
And on the other hand, you have someone who was guilty of the “R” word — regression. That’s why Stidham got asked about that repeatedly at the Senior Bowl, where he answered it about as well as one could’ve.
“I think, obviously, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I think, looking back on it, obviously there are a lot of things that I wish I had back, whether it’s throws, decisions that should have or shouldn’t have been made — there’s a lot of things I wish I had back. I think, collectively, if coach (Gus) Malzahn and myself and coach (Chip) Lindsey were to go back and redo it all again, we’d play a lot like we did in the bowl game.”
Ah, yes. That all-important bowl game. The bowl game that I questioned if Stidham was even going to play in.
Well, it’s a good thing he did because it’s the “yeah, but” to this whole thing. Like, “yeah I didn’t have the year I wanted to, but once Malzahn figured out how to use me, well you saw what happened.”
Goodness, that’s intoxicating. And true maybe?
74-yd TD pass from Stidham to Slayton! AU 28 Purdue 7 1st qtr pic.twitter.com/49EgnCZxRt
— Power of Dixieland (@PwrofDixieland) December 28, 2018
It was such a fitting way for Stidham to end his roller-coaster career at Auburn, which I’d still argue had more ups than downs.
We can agree now that he was not the ideal fit in Malzahn’s run-heavy offense. And while the NFL has adopted run-pass option concepts, nobody is going to run something quite like what Malzahn did. Stidham didn’t get the command of the offense he so coveted, and now, he’s forced to explain why an NFL team should do what his college coach didn’t. That is, trust his skill set and let him rip it.
After Stidham’s regular season, that might have looked like an extremely risky proposition. After his Music City Bowl performance and Senior Bowl week (he was voted the top quarterback in Mobile), it seems like everyone is back to being in love with Stidham.
Look at the buzz Stidham generated from industry experts in the last couple months:
There is something about Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham I like. He reminds me of Kirk Cousin at the Senior Bowl. I need to see his film, but he throws WR open and fits it into tight windows.
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) January 24, 2019
Jarrett Stidham. Pure, easy throwing motion with great velocity and touch/accuracy today. Was a surgeon in Red Zone work. I like him. A LOT. ##NFLDraft2019
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) January 25, 2019
David Sills is catching everything. Really like what Jarrett Stidham is showing so far.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2019
Mel Kiper Jr. also added that he believes Stidham is “a bit underrated” and that he could see him being picked in the middle of the second round.
“I think Stidham, when he was at Baylor and then Auburn, it showed that he could — at one point, I thought he could be a first- or second-round pick, so he’s got talent. I don’t think he gets out of the third round. It wouldn’t shock me if he went mid-to-late second, so he’s going to be up there.”
In other words, Kiper would have loved Stidham as a potential first-round guy if he had continued his latter half of 2017 play into 2018. Call it a mix of Malzahn’s system, the shoulder surgery or defenses just simply adjusting to him and yeah, Stidham’s year should have hurt his draft stock. It’d be kind of weird if it didn’t.
Before that bowl game, Stidham threw for multiple touchdown passes against 2 Power 5 teams in 2018, one of which was 5-win Tennessee, which Stidham and the Tigers lost to at home. Nobody was praising Stidham that day.
Instead, they were trying to figure out how a potential first-round pick could make this throw:
Jarrett Stidham’s 2nd interception of the 1st half – Boobee missed his blocking assignment but still a foolish pass and quite frankly I didn’t like the play call after you ran the same exact trick play last week pic.twitter.com/dkgsDT1epw
— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) October 13, 2018
Drew Lock said that Jon Gruden asked him at the Senior Bowl what in the world he was thinking when he threw an awful interception against Alabama. I’d be fascinated to know how many teams have and how many teams will ask Stidham about that throw against Tennessee.
I’d love to know what Stidham has to say about that behind closed doors. Maybe he’d say, “I had a running back miss his block while running the exact same trick play we ran the week before. How did you expect that to end for me?” Or maybe he’d say, “I realized I still had some growing up to do this year. By the end of the season, I learned how to avoid awful reads like that one.”
I don’t know. For all we know, Stidham will do what Christian Hackenberg reportedly did back in 2015 when he threw James Franklin under the bus for his post-freshman season struggles at Penn State. Hackenberg somehow convinced a team he was worth a second-round flyer — that was criticized heavily then and now — and time will tell if Stidham can do the same.
As a neutral observer, I find myself wanting to consume all things Stidham in the pre-draft process. And honestly, if I could follow 1 SEC player in every workout, meeting or event, it’d be Stidham.
Perhaps a couple months from now, the pre-draft evaluation period buzz will have washed away the stench of his flawed 2018 season. Or maybe the buzz will have simmered and the experts will go back to thinking that Stidham is more of a Round 3 dice roll than being one of the first few quarterbacks off the board.
I don’t know, and neither do you. But I’m here for it.