Questions about off-the-field maturity, professionalism
Summary: The NFL is a passing-driven league with a lot of teams that are desperate for a franchise quarterback. Thus, a prospect like Paxton Lynch gets elevated on draft boards and has a shot at going in the top half of the first round. Lynch has a great skill set with size, athleticism and a strong arm. However, he is a developmental project for the NFL as he is raw prospect coming out of college.
As a freshman, Lynch saw the field for Memphis and completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In his sophomore year, he really used his legs to make plays as he ran for 321 yards with 13 touchdowns while also completing 63 percent of his passes for 3,031 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Lynch showed progress in becoming a passer during 2015 rather than being a dual-threat quarterback who set up the pass from running. For the year, the redshirt junior completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,778 yards with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions. He put his draft stock on the map by leading an upset win over Ole Miss. Lynch also had superb games against Tulsa and SMU. Conversely, he showed that he needs development for the NFL with how he played against Houston and Auburn.
There is no doubt that Lynch has the physical tools to be a good NFL starting quarterback. He has great size with a powerful arm and the athleticism to make plays with his feet. Lynch can throw a beautiful deep ball with good placement and accuracy. He also has an off-and-on ability to fit passes into tight windows and beat good coverage with his passes.
With his athleticism, Lynch can use his feet to pick up yards and escape sacks. He throws well on the run and is capable of making some big plays when he breaks out of the pocket. As a pocket passer, Lynch has flashed the ability to throw accurately and work through his progressions. However, he wasn't consistent with his accuracy. Lynch would sometimes stare down receivers and get in ruts where he would take off to run when his first read was covered.
There are a lot of areas that Lynch will need to improve to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL. First, his college offense featured a lot of gimmicky bubble-screen, slip-screen and spread-option plays. Lynch will need to learn how to work under center. As a passer, his accuracy and field vision can be streaky. He needs to quicken the process of getting his eyes to move faster while scanning the defense and working through his progressions. His slowed-down process can lead to him taking some unnecessary hits and sacks. The bowl game against Auburn illustrated that Lynch can get rattled by a steady pass rush, which then negatively impacts his field vision and accuracy.
Sources have said that in going through Memphis, head coach Justin Fuente told NFL evaluators that Lynch was not as developed right now as Andy Dalton was as a senior at TCU (Fuente was Dalton's offensive coordinator). Fuente has told scouts that on the field from a football IQ and execution perspective, Lynch needs development. He said off the field, Lynch needs guidance for maturing into a professional and handling the status of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Thus, Lynch is raw in a variety of ways.
There is no doubt that from a skill-set perspective, Lynch is a worth taking the chance on in the first round. Because of need, he will go in the top 25, but if you took need out of the equation, he would be more of a very late-first-round or second-round prospect. Sources from some teams have said they graded Lynch in the second round.
Lynch isn't a legitimate "top of the draft" quarterback prospect like Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Considering that Lynch needs a lot of development but could be forced onto the field too soon because of his draft status, it wouldn't surprise me if Lynch is a bust. I don't feel that he is a safe quarterback prospect. I ran that by a general manager of a team that is among the best at scouting and developing quarterbacks, and he said that was a perfect description.
Player Comparison: Blake Bortles/Brock Osweiler. As a player, Lynch reminds me of a mix of Bortles and Osweiler. His build is similar to Osweiler's, while the style of play is similar to Bortles. Both Bortles and Osweiler were projects entering the NFL, and Lynch falls into that mold. Bortles wasn't a quarterback prospect who graded out in the top five, but he went there out of need. The exact same scenario could play out for Lynch. If Lynch lands in the right situation with good coaches, I could see him being a quarterback on a par with Bortles in the early going of his career.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Dallas, San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Houston, New York Jets and Buffalo
There are a lot of teams in the NFL that are in need of a franchise quarterback. The Browns need a quarterback, but it doesn't sound like Lynch is getting as much consideration for the pick as Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are.
The Cowboys could consider taking Lynch with the fourth-overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. That would be a great situation for Lynch to learn behind Tony Romo for a year or two while being developed by Jason Garrett. However, it sounds like Dallas is more likely to grab a young veteran in free agency while using its first-rounder on an instant contributor who can help the team make a playoff run in 2016 with Romo and Dez Bryant back from injury.
The 49ers are in the market for a starting quarterback. Lynch would be a nice fit in Chip Kelly's offense, and in Kelly's kind of system, he feels he doesn't need a quarterback who is super accurate. St. Louis could be ready to give up on Nick Foles, and the Rams continue to have a big need at quarterback.
Philadelphia is a wild card. The new regime won't be locked in to Sam Bradford and could consider making a move to find a better starter.
The lack of a quarterback is holding back the Texans, Bills and Jets from seriously challenging in the AFC. All three teams may have to trade up to land Lynch. They have rosters capable of contending but need a long-term answers at quarterback, so any of those three could be aggressive with giving up multiple picks to go get a player who their respective staff believes can be the team's franchise quarterback.