Updated May 28, 2018
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
In keeping with a series looking ahead to 2019, I caught up with scouts who have done advance work on the 2019 class. While the majority of NFL scouting departments meet in the month of April to finish their draft boards ahead of the impending NFL Draft, some team scouts are on the road traveling to college campuses to start work on the draft that is a year away. These scouts share their player ratings with scouting services like National and Blesto. Almost every team in the NFL is either a member in National or Blesto, with more teams a part of National. In May, the Blesto teams, including the Bills and Steelers, met in Florida to go over 2019 NFL Draft Prospects. In continuing the series, this week's topic is Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham's collegiate career has been a roller coaster ride with highs and lows, yet he is only halfway through his eligible years to play college football. Stidham was a top recruit who intially landed at Baylor. Prior to a season-ending injury, he flashed big-time ability while completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. His accuracy, arm strength, and athleticism stood out immediately. After the scandal that claimed the job of Art Briles, Stidham sat out college football in 2016 while attending community college for a year.
Once again, Stidham was a highly sought after recruit before landing at Auburn. He then had some early-season struggles in 2017, but he steadily improved and led the Tigers to some huge wins over Georgia and Alabama to get Auburn into the SEC Championship. Stidham completed 67 percent of his passes in 2017 for 3,158 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. His strong finish to the season put him firmly on the radar for the NFL. While Stidham could have entered the 2018 NFL Draft, he wisely returned to the Tigers, which puts him in the running to be among the top quarterback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. In speaking to multiple advance scouts, they feel that Stidham is worthy of being viewed as having first-round potential entering his third season of college football.
"It's the tale of two tapes," said one scout. "I think [Stidham] could end up being worthy of a [first-round pick]. He wasn't playing with top bonafide receivers either. They say he is going to have more command of the offense this year. He has that side-arm release, but he's a good player. He's a pretty good athlete, and he has some speed now. There are things for him to work on, but I believe he's worthy of a first-round projection entering the season."
Another NFC scout who was at spring games and attending spring practices was even higher on Stidham's pro potential. He was very effusive in praise for Stidham and thinks he could end up being a high first-round pick. Here is how he summarized Stidham:
"Okay size; growth potential; high football IQ; good, but not great, arm with good mechanics and ability to change arm slot; better touch than power thrower; quick release to beat the rush. He improved his eyes versus pressure over the last nine games [of 2017]. He has a good mental clock; very mobile [with] excellent speed for a quarterback - [a] legitimate threat on the ground. He beat Alabama because he continually broke contain on crucial third downs. Plus, he's got an incredible story of perseverance that defines his mettle as a person. The kid is a legit winner. Those are all the types of positives that will make him grow quickly on general managers and directors as [the 2018] season wears on if he continues his ascent. He's built mentally and skill set wise for the pro landscape and has the makeup and goods to run a franchise."
"Not as physically gifted as Herbert in Oregon, but [Stidham] can throw a good ball. He has very good mobility to execute flexible scheme design, and his football IQ is as good as it gets. He's a pro already in that regard, and it was pretty easy to see. Guys like him acclimate quickly and win locker rooms not just with approach, but he has a good skill set to back it up as a player also."
Entering the 2018 season, Stidham has a good start on creating draft buzz that could turn him into one of the most sought-after prospects in the 2019 draft class.