6.) Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech (6’3, 220)
My favorite sleeper quarterback prospect at this point of the season. Mahomes has possibly the best arm among the QBs on this list, which isn’t surprising as the son of a former MLB pitcher by the same name.
Mahomes plays in a gimmick offense which inflates his stats, but there is no doubt about his physical traits. He’s made some of the most impressive throws in CFB this season and has somehow escaped more sure sacks than any other QB I’ve watched this year. Mahomes combines a powerful arm with a frame thats tough to bring down, and 4.74 speed which has helped him rush for 10 TDs for far this year.
As impressive as some of Mahomes throws have been, he’s also misfired on what should be easy throws for a DI QB. His mechanics and footwork are sound, but for some reason his accruacy is all over the place. Maybe it’s a mental thing, but the fact is Mahomes misses way too many easy throws. He’s got a lot of work to do on his accuracy before he can be a viable NFL QB but the physical skills are there and then some.
Mahomes has natural feet in the pocket, similar to the way Araon Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger subtly move their feet in the pocket to avoid traffic. His natural awareness, footwork, and good speed have allowed him to extend plays. Mahomes can also throws surprisingly accurate lasers on the run, off-balance, and with guys hanging on him. It makes it even more confounding when he overthrowns a wide-open receiver in the flat when there is no pass rush.
Like most spread QBs Mahomes needs experience under center, going through his progressions, and using his eyes to fool safeties, but he also has some serious consistency issues to straighten out. On the plus side, Mahomes is a unique talent, who could be a serious playmaker in the NFL if he can adapt to the pro game.
Mahomes could really use another year in college, but his upside and playmaking ability is so tempting that I doubt he will fall past day two.
Projection: 2nd-3rd round
7.) Brad Kaaya, Miami (6’4, 215)
It’s hard to know what Kaaya can really do, since his offensive line rarely gives him any time to throw. When they do, Kaaya looks like one of the best prospects out there with a quick release, solid footwork, and consistent accuracy on short-to-mid range throws. His accuracy on deep balls is disappointing, but he hits enough of them to think there is a chance to improve.
Kaaya also progresses through his reads better than most QBs in this class, has good size for the position, and enough speed to keep defenses honest. He’s started since day one of his freshman year and has been on the run ever since behind a series of suspect offensive lines, but has managed to be productive despite less than ideal conditions.
He lacks ideal arm strength, but can get plenty of zip on 20-30 yard throws and shows good touch and timing on most of the NFL route tree. His quick release, intermediate accuracy, and ability to progress quickly through his reads should make him a viable west coast QB early in his career.
Kaaya’s trouble under pressure could be an issue, especially if he ends up on the Bears, and he will need to add strength and weight to his 215 pound frame, but has enough natural talent and developed QB skill to be an effective NFL quarterback early in his career. His upside isn’t as high as Watson or Kizer, but he may be closer to being an effective QB than either.
Projection: 2nd-3rd round
8.) Chad Kelly, Mississippi St (6’2, 224)
Unfortunately a torn ligament in his knee ended Kelly’s season early, but he definitely made an impression while healthy. Kelly is the closest thing to Brett Favre I’ve seen in years, which is both a positive and a negative.
Kelly is a true gunslinger, who had moments of brilliance in games which led his team to big leads, but also plenty of terrible decisions which cost his team the lead late in a couple of games.
Physically, Kelly has good enough size and the arm to make every NFL throw with zip. He’s also got good foot speed (4.74) and isn’t afraid to run and even lower his shoulder to gain an extra couple yards if needed. It’s another trait that will be viewed both as a plus and minus depending on the team doing the grading.
He’s proven to be a winner (junior college national championship) and a leader, who his teammates rally around, but there are some serious character concerns as well (was dismissed from Clemson). Kelly is a loose cannon both on and off the field.
Besides concerns over his character and gunslinger mentality, Kelly also has inconsistent footwork and mechanics that will need to be cleaned up at the next level. His recent knee injury is obviously a concern as well, but it’s too early to know when he will be 100% healthy.
Kelly, Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly’s nephew, has a natural talent at QB that will entice a lot of NFL teams. His cannon arm, good speed, a wide frame that can break tackles like a running back, and a knack for completing ridiculous throws will be enough for some NFL team to take a chance on Kelly early. Of all the QBs on this list Kelly probably has the highest chance to bust, but also the best chance to be the next Brett Favre.
Projection: 3rd round