The ideal NFL destination for each of the SEC's draft-hopeful quarterbacks
Fire up the photoshops. It’s time to picture NFL destinations for SEC quarterbacks.
I’m not good enough to pull that off. Fortunately, it seems like everyone on NFL Draft Twitter already has mastered that skill, so you shouldn’t ever have a problem picturing a quarterback in a specific uniform.
Instead of visualizing the literal look of it, I’ll break down the ideal fit for each SEC quarterback heading to the NFL. Part of that is scheme, part of that is depth chart and part of that is the circumstances surrounding the franchise.
And just so we’re clear, the goal is to match up realistic destinations. Obviously, it would be ideal to go play for the Kansas City Chiefs and become a starter in Andy Reid’s offense. Putting a potential first-round prospect like Mac Jones in Kansas City doesn’t make sense, though. And if a guy is projected as a late-round flier, we can’t assume a quarterback-needy team like Carolina would draft him to be the starter.
With that in mind, here’s where I’d like to see each SEC quarterback end up.
Mac Jones, Alabama
Ideal team — Steelers
As a Bears fan, it pains me to say this. But this is about the ideal destination for the prospect, not the desperate fan of a franchise that hasn’t drafted and developed a quality quarterback since I’ve been alive.
Is Ben Roethlisberger coming back? I couldn’t tell you. If he is, he’ll be 39 and, based on his injury history, I wouldn’t bank on Tom Brady-like longevity. Jones could step into either situation and succeed. Jones could be the new quarterback of the future for a franchise that needs some offensive life. It isn’t lacking playmakers, either. Even with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s future up in the air, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are early into what look like long NFL careers.
Jones could go to a place that, like Alabama, prides itself on its culture. Mike Tomlin still hasn’t had a losing season in his 14 years in Pittsburgh. There’s no doubt that someone like Jones, who worked his way from being a 3-star recruit buried on the depth chart into a Heisman finalist, would be embraced in a place like Pittsburgh.
And like Roethlisberger, Jones’ pocket awareness is on a different level. His ability to scramble is the thing preventing him from being in the same class as Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, but Jones can still buy time and go through his progressions with the best of them. Going to the place that just allowed the season-low in sacks would be a nice transition after operating behind the Joe Moore Award-winning Alabama offensive line. He’d be a steal for the Steelers at No. 24.
Kyle Trask, Florida
Ideal team — Rams
I’ve been a Trask believer since he was competing with Feleipe Franks for the starting job going into Dan Mullen’s first season in 2018. I also defended his late-season struggles to a certain extent. I say that because sending him to a place like Los Angeles, which just made a blockbuster deal to acquire Matthew Stafford, might seem like I’m expecting him to hold a clipboard forever. I’m not. Sort of.
Stafford is 33 and entering Year 13 in the NFL. The Rams invested too much in him to not see it through for at least 2 years. But like Trask did at Florida, where he had to learn a new system and thrived after sitting for 3-plus years, he would be best suited to master Sean McVay’s offense before being asked to lead it. Trask is all about those anticipation throws, and he truly relies on being on the same page as his receivers. That’s why he was such a disaster in the Cotton Bowl when Florida’s top 4 pass-catchers were out.
The Rams are expected to have a couple of compensatory picks at the end of Round 3. I’m guessing that would be a more likely scenario than going after Trask late in Round 2 because the Rams don’t have a first-round pick. Someone could scoop Trask up earlier than the end of Round 3, but the Rams would be such a perfect landing spot for Trask after he thrived with Mullen scheming guys open left and right. McVay does the same, though unlike with Jared Goff, he could trust Trask to work through his progressions.
I thought Trask really missed a prime opportunity by not being able to compete at the Senior Bowl. But if that results in him slipping to the Rams late on night 2, that could be a blessing in disguise.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Ideal team — Cowboys
I promise this isn’t just the local connection, and it’s not entirely because we’ve already seen Mond shine at AT&T Stadium:
— #BTHOoffseason (@TamuHighlights) September 23, 2017
Dak Prescott’s future in Dallas is unknown. Will they franchise tag him? Will he get a long-term deal? In all likelihood, the former MSU star will be the franchise quarterback. Mond, even after a Senior Bowl MVP performance, isn’t getting drafted to be a starter. At best, he’s a mid-round guy like Prescott was.
That’s OK. Prescott is still a free agent coming off a major injury and Andy Dalton is also free agent, which suggests Dallas will draft a quarterback at some point. You could do worse than Mond, who has 4 years of starts against SEC competition, the last 3 of which were spent in Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style system.
Plus, Prescott would be a fantastic person to learn from. And if Mond ever did get an opportunity, he’d go to work for a franchise that has heavily invested in its offensive line and running back. Last I checked, that worked out pretty well for Mond at A&M. With the Cowboys, Mond wouldn’t be asked to be a statue. Prescott is a proven threat with his legs.
Perhaps most importantly, Mond already showed he could be a cowboy:
Kellen Mond in a cowboy hat that’s it that’s the tweet pic.twitter.com/aKOGEJDkQv
— Julia (@CatFan97) September 26, 2020
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
Ideal team — Eagles
Franks is the perfect example of a late-round flier. You can’t teach that size and arm strength. All reports out of Arkansas were extremely positive regarding his maturation, which allowed the Hogs to rise above some pedestrian expectations. He’s a guy who has had proven success operating in Mullen’s system and Kendal Briles’ system.
So why the Eagles? Two reasons. The first is Brian Johnson, AKA the Florida offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach who just left to take the Eagles quarterbacks coach job. It was Johnson who helped Franks develop into a better fit in Mullen’s offense in 2018. Even after Franks went to Arkansas, he kept in touch with Johnson. They caught up once a week or so, and Johnson said a few months ago that “Feleipe is like family to me.”
With Carson Wentz off to Indianapolis, Jalen Hurts is now the guy in Philadelphia. Hurts, even if he’s the franchise starter for a decade, would be a terrific mentor for Franks at the next level. Go ask Jones about that. Franks lacked that presence early in his career when he was thrust into being the starter as a redshirt freshman during Florida’s disastrous 2017 season.
For a late-round guy like Franks, the situation he lands in to develop will determine how long his NFL career lasts. Reuniting with Johnson and watching Hurts’ no-nonsense approach would be a dream start.
And in case you were interested, I’d like to see Justin Fields go to the …
Hey, Joe Brady already helped turn one former Ohio State quarterback into a legend. Why not another? That’s certainly a major reason the Panthers could trade up to land Fields. The Panthers seem like the obvious team to work out a trade with the Jets or the Dolphins, who have the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively.
Incumbent starter Teddy Bridgewater reportedly has been in trade talks, though even if he isn’t dealt, he wouldn’t be the worst person for Fields to wait behind. Bridgewater is under contract for 2 more years with a potential 2021 opt-out, which seems like this is perfect timing to draft a quarterback in the top 10.
As great as Fields was for most of his 2 years at Ohio State, he’s another guy who could be better suited to wait a year. He struggled at times against drop-8 coverages, and like Tua Tagovailoa in his rookie year, Fields might have to learn about his receivers being “NFL open” vs. “college open.” He could get that opportunity with Carolina, as well as with a team like the Falcons, who are a popular Fields destination given his Georgia roots.
Something tells me that would make things just a bit awkward for those UGA/Falcons fans.