Summary: Finley started out his collegiate career at Boise State. In 2015, he won the competition to be the Broncos' starting quarterback, but after two starts, he broke an ankle and was out for the season. Brett Rypien excelled in his place, taking and keeping the starting quarterback job. That led to Finley transferring to N.C. State to be reunited with his Boise State quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. In 2016 for the Wolfpack, Finley completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,055 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
During a 9-4 2017 season, a lot of attention was paid to N.C. State. Part of that was because the Wolfpack had a NFL defensive line with perhaps the best defender in college football with end Bradley Chubb, but going under the radar was a potent offense that consistently produced big point totals. In fact, the Wolfpack had only four games during the entire season in which they didn't score 30 points or more. Finley was the steady commander of that offense, guiding the team up and down the field. He completed 65 percent of his passes on the season for 3,518 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.
In 2018, Finley completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,928 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was an accurate game-manager for N.C. State, doing a good job of protecting the football and leading an efficient passing offense.
There is a lot to like about Finley translating to the NFL. The most important trait for any quarterback is accuracy, which Finley has. Consistently, he demonstrates good ball placement to complete passes and keep the ball away from the defense. Finley makes good decisions and shows impressive ball security. He is adept at avoiding interceptions and rarely makes mistakes from being overly aggressive. Finley is very good at throwing slants, digs and crosses - the staple routes of a West Coast offense. With his timing and precision, Finley has very good ball placement to help throw his receivers open. He would be an excellent fit for a NFL West Coast offense.
Finley improved his deep-ball passing as a junior and made some beautiful throws downfield. With loft underneath a lot of his passes, Finley throws a very catchable ball, and his timing can be excellent to hit receivers in stride to lead them to yards after the catch. Finley has a quality arm that should be adequate for the NFL. It does not jump out as an elite cannon or rare arm strength, but in the right system, Finley's arm should not be a liability.
While Finley is not a true running threat, he does have some athleticism and a sneaky ability to pick up yards on the ground. Finley caught defenses by surprise on a lot of zone-read runs, as he is not expected to be a danger with his feet, but he has more quickness and agility than one would think. In the NFL, Finley's running ability will be reduced because of the speed of the defenders. However, he is capable of picking up a yards with his feet when nothing is open, and it will help him to avoid some sacks.
Finley was a good college quarterback, but he is more of a game manager than a play-maker. He is not a dynamic thrower of the football. His arm strength and skill set lead to him having some limitations as a player. Thus, Finley could become a starter in the NFL, but he does not have a special skill set to be a top-10 starting quarterback as a pro.
Because of Finley's strengths and weaknesses, he is more of a second-day pick for the 2019 NFL Draft. He may not become an elite starter, but he should at least be a good backup quarterback.
Player Comparison: Alex Smith. During the 2018 season, Finley repeatedly reminded me of a less athletic version of Smith. Finley does not have Smith's athleticism and running ability, but they have a similar style of play as passers. In the NFL, I could see Finley being a quarterback like Smith who is a slightly above-average starter, but not elite or special.
NFL Matches: New York Giants, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Denver, Cincinnati, Miami, Washington, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Chargers, New England
Obviously, free agency will have a big impact on the quarterback market because some teams will acquire veterans and won't consider taking a signal-caller with a first-round pick. The first quarterback-needy team selecting in Round 1 is the New York Giants. They have an aging and declining Eli Manning, but passed on a potential franchise quarterback last year. If they do that again in the first round, New York could consider Finley on Day 2.
The Jaguars could move on from the inept Blake Bortles and get a new franchise quarterback this offseason. They could sign a veteran in free agency and draft a quarterback like Finley on Day 2 or in the mid-rounds to serve as a backup.
Staying in the state of Florida, Tampa Bay could take Finley as a backup to Jameis Winston. If Winston isn't re-signed, Finley could be an in-house replacement option for the Buccaneers.
Denver needs a quarterback of the future due to Case Keenum just being a stop-gap veteran. If the Broncos address a different need in Round 1, they could look at Finley later on.
Cincinnati could decide to move on or bring in competition for Andy Dalton with its new head coach. Ditto for Miami with Ryan Tannehill. Thus, Finley could be in play for the Bengals or the Dolphins on Day 2 or in the mid-rounds.
The Redskins could consider taking a quarterback because Alex Smith may miss the 2019 season due to his leg injury. Even if he comes back, he is aging and limited, so Washington could easily select a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. Finley could be a fit for one of the Redskins' three selections on Day 2.
The Steelers, Chargers and Patriots are all teams that could consider a quarterback as their aging signal-callers have a limited number of years left.