2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Pat Mahomes
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: In Big XII country, offenses are known for being point-machines with video game-like numbers being produced by their quarterbacks. Among those teams, Texas Tech is one of the best at generating big point totals through its passing attack and playing in high-scoring shutouts on a weekly basis. Mahomes spent the past few seasons as the leader of the Red Raiders' high-powered offense. While some thought to dismiss him as just a college system quarterback, Mahomes showed NFL evaluators that he has a serious skill set with the physical tools to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Mahomes broke onto the field as a freshman and completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,547 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He made a big jump as a sophomore when he was the full-time starter, completing 64 percent for 4,653 yards with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
2016 was the junior's best season. Not only did he produce unreal totals, but he showed an improvement in his field vision, accuracy, ability to throw from the pocket, and ability to run his offense. Mahomes completed 66 percent of his passes in 2016 for 5,052 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 12 touchdowns. His season was highlighted by throwing for 734 yards with five touchdowns passing, two touchdowns rushing, and one interception in a 66-59 loss to Oklahoma.
As a passer, Mahomes can make all the throws that the NFL requires. He has a powerful arm to throw some bullets to the far sideline from across the field. Throwing the deep out is no problem for Mahomes. He can loft the ball deep down the field with a flick of the wrist and rifle fastballs that beat coverage. To further illustrate his arm strength, he sits at a 93 MPH fastball as a baseball pitcher. Mahomes is an accurate passer in the short to intermediate part of the field. He can make some well-placed passes into tight windows to beat quality coverage from the defense. The junior also has the ability to throw soft touch passes, lofting the ball over defenders and leading his receivers to hit them on the run. Mahomes has excellent feel and awareness with where to go with the ball as a passer. He also adjusts his arm angle or his feet to complete passes.
Mahomes also can throw the deep ball, but there were frequently times where his deep ball tended to sail on him too far. Sometimes, he would make perfectly placed deep passes, but he wasn't consistent going deep. If Mahomes has good receiving talent in the NFL, that could help that issue, but Mahomes has room for improvement on his deep accuracy. In college, he demonstrated good decision-making, but there were lots of throws back across the field that he won't be able to do in the NFL. Thus, Mahomes' decision-making will need some adjustments for pro defenses.
Along with accuracy, a key for NFL quarterbacks is working through progressions and reading the field. Mahomes has developed some field vision to work off his primary read and work through progressions. He finds open receivers after his primary read and knows where his check-down receivers are. Mahomes shows some development as he is very good at manipulating coverage with his vision toward safeties and moving defenders with pump fakes.
While Mahomes has the arm to make any throw in the NFL, he also has mobility and athleticism. He moves well in the pocket and has very quick feet to get pointed to where he wants to deliver the football. His sudden feet help him to reset while throwing after he scrambles. Mahomes has the ability to hurt defenses on the ground on designed runs or taking off if nothing is open downfield. He also has a thick build and the toughness to take hits. Mahomes uses his feet and athleticism to set up big plays for his arm as well. Sometimes, however, he can hold the ball too long and wait to scramble around when he needs to get rid of the ball from the pocket.
When plays break down, Mahomes is tremendous at improvising to make a big play for his offense. Similar to Russell Wilson or Brett Favre, Mahomes is great at backyard football by using his feet to run around and then lean on his powerful arm to rifle the ball downfield when receivers break off their routes and run to an open space. All of that combines to make Mahomes a real challenge for defenses.
There are growth issues that Mahomes will need to develop. He has some mechanical problems that need to be fixed, and they are fixable though according to team sources. Mahomes also loves to scramble out of the pocket and make things happen on the run, but in the NFL, some teams will come at him with containment game plans that have frustrated him in the past - see his game against TCU. He is going to need to work more out of the pocket and be comfortable with staying there. Mahomes also is very aggressive with using his big arm to push the ball vertically. He consistently passes up check downs to go downfield. In the NFL, Mahomes will probably need to be more patient and take more check downs to avoid risky throws into coverage.
Mahomes is going to need to learn how to work under center, call plays in a huddle, and develop his footwork to make drops from being under center. His college offense featured a lot of quick throws, screens, and designed runs that don't translate to the NFL.
Teams love Mahomes as a kid. They say he is very studious and works hard to learn. Additionally, He has leadership traits, and teams believe he can be a leader of men. Mahomes' father was a pitcher in Major League Baseball, so Mahomes should have an understanding about the work ethic needed, being a good teammate, and the time commitment to excel as a pro athlete.
In this draft analyst's opinion, I would grade Mahomes as a second-round pick. That is the same grade the NFL draft advisory board gave him. A general manger of a NFC team said they had a fourth-round grade on Mahomes, but felt he had some tools to work with. That same team has a third- to fourth-round grade on Deshaun Watson, a fifth-round grade on Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, and a second-round grade on Mitch Trubisky. That team is a tough grader, overall. Another NFC team said they had Mahomes low - into Day 3 - and weren't hot on him as a prospect, but they also have a young franchise quarterback, so they aren't interested in quarterbacks until the late rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Sources from one AFC team said they had a second-round grade on Mahomes and viewed him similarly to Derek Carr coming out of Fresno State. They are very high on Mahomes and think he could become a hot prospect in the leadup to the draft. The scouting director of another AFC team said they liked Mahomes. They graded him in the third round, but don't think he is as good of a prospect as Carr. Another AFC team said they also had a second-day grade on Mahomes.
There are plenty of teams in the NFL that are starved for quarterback talent, so Mahomes could rise in the leadup to the 2017 NFL Draft just because of need and desperation. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Mahomes goes in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Round 2 could be his destination, and he probably won't go any lower than the second round.
Player Comparison: Derek Carr/Jay Cutler. There are a lot of comparisons for Mahomes. On NFL Network, they consistently compare Mahomes to Cutler because they are both big-armed gunslingers who have decision-making issues.
Others have compared Mahomes to Johnny Manziel, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. I can definitely see the comparison to that trio because Mahomes is like them with the ability to ad lib. All of them would take a play with nothing open, move around, and then make a big throw downfield. They also can throw from a variety of platforms. Like Rodgers and Favre, Mahomes has a big arm.
I have heard some scouts compare Mahomes to Carr, and there are a lot of similarities between the two. They both have powerful arms, mobility, accuracy and toughness. Carr also came from a college spread offense at Fresno State similar to the one that Mahomes ran at Texas Tech. Like Carr, Mahomes also grew up with pro athletes in the family. I could see Mahomes being an NFL quarterback comparable to Carr. So much of whether Mahomes pans out, however, will be determined by the team and coaching staff that drafts him. He also will have to work hard to learn his NFL offense coming from a college gimmick offense that won't correlate well to the pros. Carr was able to overcome that issue, and the question is if Mahomes has that ability.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona, Houston, Kansas City, New York Giants and Pittsburgh
There are a lot of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL, and that will help Mahomes' chances of moving up draft boards. Obviously, the Browns are in dire need of a solution to their quarterback quandary. Cleveland also is loaded with draft picks, including two in the first round, two in the second and one in the third. Mahomes could be a candidate for the Browns at pick No. 33.
The 49ers are also desperate for a starting quarterback, and Mahomes could be a target for them atop the second round. Chicago moved on from Jay Cutler while bringing in Mike Glennon to be their temporary starter. Mahomes is worthy of consideration for the Bears in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Even if Tony Romo signs with Houston, the franchise will still need a quarterback of the future and can't count on Romo staying healthy. The Texans could target Mahomes with one of their early picks. Mahomes, a Texas kid, could be a great fit in Houston.
The Saints, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Giants and Steelers all fall into the category of teams that have aging starting quarterbacks. Each one could consider drafting Mahomes on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft and developing him with hopes that he could be their heir apparent.
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