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Paxton Lynch and the Art of Projection
Drafting quarterbacks is an art form that is practiced by many, and mastered by none. Bring up an NFL prospect and you’ll get 1,000 opinions, but even NFL scouts, coaches, and general managers have no real consensus on how to select a great one. Since 2011, there have been 14 quarterbacks taken in round one of the draft. Half of those can be counted as good picks, and are starting for their team. Three of those were number one overall selections. The other half of the 14 passers did not pan out, and most of those aren’t even on the teams that drafted them anymore. Picking a franchise quarterback is basically a 50/50 proposition.
This year’s crop of hopefuls doesn’t look to have a sure-fire guy like Andrew Luck was coming out, but there are some talented players to be sure. The problem is figuring out which ones are built to succeed, and which aren’t. As history has shown, this isn’t easy. Enter Paxton Lynch. With many quarterbacks coming out of spread offenses in college, projecting them to the NFL becomes harder and harder. Lynch will thoroughly test teams’ ability to make those projections.
At 6’6″ and 230 pounds, Lynch certainly looks the part of an NFL passer, and he flashes the arm talent to succeed as well. He throws with confidence, and is an accurate thrower, putting very few passes on the ground. He moves around the pocket well, and generally makes smart decisions with the ball. His ability to make big plays with his legs when needed is certainly a plus as well. Physically, he has a lot of translatable traits, but so did lots of quarterbacks that never panned out.
Lynch completed a high percentage of his passes, but a large number of those were short, easy throws, making that completion percentage a little misleading. Down the field throws weren’t the norm, and make projecting his arm more difficult. He also put up terrific numbers against mostly inferior competition, though he did have a terrific game against Mississippi. It should be noted, he struggled against Auburn to close out the season.
Mock drafts have Lynch as high as second overall to the Cleveland Browns. His physical skills are apparent, but will he be able to quickly assimilate to an NFL style of play? He’ll be forced to throw more than screens and slants at the next level, and he hasn’t been consistently asked to do so thus far. His draft stock is almost entirely dependent on projection by scouts. There’s a lot to like, but there’s a high bust factor as well, as he’s unproven as a pocket passer against actual NFL talent. As always, projection will be the key.
Vance Meek covers the NFL Draft for FakePigskin.com, and can be found on Twitter @vancemeek.