College Football: QB’s to watch out for in 2018 – by Andy Moore

Less than 100 days to go folks! College Gameday Saturdays and NFL Sundays seem just around the corner now and I’m sure you can almost taste those cool Bud Lites… or is that just me?!

With far too early 2019 mock drafts already being published, it seems appropriate to look at the players that are going to be making waves on Saturday afternoon later this year. And we’re going to start with the ever hyped QB position – I’ve picked my top three to watch this season below but we’re interested to hear who you’re touting for big things as well here at ATFP!

Shea Patterson – Michigan Wolverines

It’s fair to say Ole Miss transfer, Shea Patterson, has something to prove. A 5-star recruit coming out of High School, the Ohio native has flashed hot and cold in his short career so far.

It’s also fair to say Patterson has had some serious off the field distractions to contend with, most of them outside of his control. Entering his sophomore season Ole Miss was shrouded in controversy as the NCAA found them lacking institutional control and involved in unseemly recruiting practices. A self enforced bowl ban followed and Hugh Freeze resigned after allegations of improper conduct surfaced.

Despite the noise all around him, Patterson got off to a flyer in his sophomore season – throwing for 918 yards and 9 touchdowns in the opening two games against South Alabama and UT. Then came the cold, Ole Miss won 1 of their next 5 and Shea threw 8 interceptions to offset 8 touchdowns in that spell. Despite playing through it at the time, a PCL tear against LSU then kept the signal caller out for the remainder of the season.

shea
Photo Credit: Matt Bush/USA TODAY Sports

Which brings us to the 2018 season. Patterson has been busy in the off season, in short he’s now a Michigan Wolverine and the NCAA have acted well to make him eligible straight away after Ole Miss were banned from this season’s bowl games.

As Patterson walks into Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh must be rubbing his hands in delight. In his three years with the Wolverines, Harbaugh has lacked real star quality at QB. Patterson provides that and has a style that the veteran coach is more than comfortable getting the best out of. Whilst coaching the 49ers, Michigan’s coach made Colin Kaepernick into a playoff calibre signal caller, exploiting his ability to escape the pocket and use his legs – something Patterson thrives on.

Escapability isn’t the only tool in Patterson armory though. His arm strength is on the money and his pump fake can freeze safeties in their tracks. Basically, despite the Manziel comparisons, this guy has got Russell Wilson written all over him. His downside comes in his gung-ho style, occasionally forcing throws and willing to take risks makes for fun viewing for us, but it also means turnovers for Patterson.

Here’s where I make a big call. With some of Harbaugh’s expertise and weapons such as Tarik Black on offer in Michigan, I think we’ve got a potential #1 overall pick on the cards here.

Trevor Lawrence – Clemson Tigers

Why are you putting a True Freshman on this list Andy? Well, this isn’t just any first year QB guys. Trevor Lawrence is the #1 ranked 2018 recruit according to 247Sports, largely due to the 51 touchdowns he threw for Georgia based high school, Cartersville.

I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure Lawrence starts the year, in fact he probably won’t. The incumbent Kelly Bryant is no slouch – he led Clemson to an ACC title and the College Football Playoffs last season, throwing for 2802 yards and 13 TDs, whilst rushing for 11 more in the process. As such, we wouldn’t normally be discussing Lawrence as a potential superstar for this season.

But, that’s ignoring the fact that Lawrence looks to be an almost perfect prospect. Head Coach, Dabo Swinney, has already made Deshaun Watson comparisons, saying that Lawrence is further in his physical development than Watson was as a Freshman. Then there’s the high school stats, I’m aware these should be taken with a pinch of salt but you simply can’t ignore a 160:21 TD to interception, especially as he only threw 1 interception as a Senior. Lawrence’s strengths lie in his arm strength and accuracy, as demonstrated by his high school highlight reel. And, like Patterson, he has a knack for escaping pressure by rolling to his blind side – something that will undoubtedly become more difficult against College defences.

The Clemson Spring Game did nothing to dampen the excitement about the young prospect, as Lawrence threw for 122 yards and a touchdown in the game. In particular a deep ball thrown on a dime to Tee Higgins for a TD got the media and fans alike out of their seats on the day.

I think we’re in for a really interesting story line in South Carolina this year, and if Lawrence lives up to the hype we’re almost certainly looking a future NFL franchise QB.

Drew Lock – Missouri Tigers

Lock could probably have declared for the NFL draft last year, the Tigers QB threw for 3964 and 44 touchdowns last season, leading the SEC in both categories comfortably.

However, all the advice he received seemed to be to go back to college and develop further under new Offensive Co-ordinator, Derek Dooley, and his pro style offense. Despite the shift in the mindset of some NFL coaches towards nurturing QBs that have come from air raid style offenses, there is still a strong desire from scouts to see their future signal callers taking snaps under centre and using NFL concepts.

Lock will get that experience this year, and he needs to prove several things. Firstly, the Draft Advisory Board wants to see more throws down the centre of the field – watch any of Lock’s highlight tapes and they are pinpoint throws to the sideline or bullet throws into receivers running the slant – there’s no doubt he can do it, he just needs the play calls to support him.

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Photo Credit: Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

Secondly, he’s a risk taker. That’s not a bad thing for me and you as viewers but your average NFL coach doesn’t want to see his main guy under-throwing into coverage all that often. For me, there’s a lot of Jay Cutler in Lock, on his day he can beat anyone but there’s also off days and he needs to iron that out of his game sooner rather than later.

But that’s enough about the negative; Lock has an insane amount of ability in his right arm, ability that can send a ball into the tightest of spaces as demonstrated by his TD pass to Kendall Blanton against the Gators last season. He also gets the ball out of his hands incredibly quickly, an attribute that coaches will be happy to work with in and around the line of scrimmage.

For me though, and this might seem a bit odd, but he has the aura of a winner, there’s a strong confidence in his own ability and that, combined with his current numbers against difficult SEC defences, makes him one that I’m tipping to go high up the board in 2019.

Disagree, or want to add your own shout into the mix – let us know @FantasyPond.

By Andy Moore – @AJMoore21

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