Patrick Mahomes : The Human Resignation Letter
With the combine over and the draft 50 days away, we now enter the part of the draft season where players stock go way up or way down through over analyzing. With pro days going on, there will soon be a lull where teams are bringing in players for visits and we'll be reading report after report on these players. A player that I have no clue why is getting so much love from the big name draft guys, Mayock, Miller and Kiper, is Patrick Mahomes. Not that I dislike the kid, but if someone does indeed draft Mahomes in the first two rounds, I believe they are, in a way, handing in their two weeks notice. Now let me explain.
Ever since passing started becoming the focal point of football, especially in the 2000's, the position of quarterback became much more important. Since the forward pass started, the best to play the position have been players who throw well from the pocket. To this very day, the best quarterbacks in the league all want to be pocket passers first, and based on athleticism, will scramble to buy time to look for a pass down field. Looking at the top 25 quarterbacks in the league every single one plays best when they play from the pocket. Not that they don't play well on rollouts and improvising once in a while, the most successful ones win consistently in the pocket. Of these quarterbacks, Cam Newton is probably the closest thing to what Mahomes was in college, and yet Newton still played mainly from the pocket in college, and his best season which came in 2015 displayed how dominant Cam was as a true quarterback. NFL quarterbacks who play more out of the pocket and aren't comfortable in the pocket such as Tyrod Taylor and Tannehill haven't experienced much NFL success. Even then Tannehill played from the pocket in college. Spread quarterbacks that have learned to excel in the NFL in pro offenses still get their mobility put to use, but in play designs in the offense; plays such as rollouts and RPOs where the quarterback uses fakes while keeping his eyes down field. His athleticism is used to gain more separation from the rush. Playing from the pocket is a vital aspect of being a great QB, let a lone a solid prospect. Mahomes has some of the worst pocket presence I have seen, if he even has any. In the first Gif Mahomes faces pressure decently quick out of a play action fake. Given that, he shows no ability to feel the rush and climb the pocket to his left. There is another linebacker blitzing from the right, but a with the athleticism Mahomes has he should've been able to easily climb the pocket and find a receiver. Instead Mahomes resorts to Cutleresque mechanics. He back pedals and open up his hips to the field so his shoulders aren't pointed down field, and in the NFL this is going to end bad more times than good. The mechanics are something I'll be getting to later, just note the difference of Watson, Trubisky or Peterman in this type of situation. When he throws the ball you can tell he pulls away from the hit as he's releasing. Watch the Baylor tape on youtube, there are replays.
I don't mind the read on this next throw, but again Mahomes doesn't step into the throw, or even point his planting toe towards his target and throws while leaning back from the blitzing defender. Stepping into the face of the rush while throwing a laser is a true signal of a franchise passer. And Mahomes rarely does this.
Throughout Mahomes tape there is a litany of opportunities for him to climb the pocket and he doesn't, and the few times he does it looks extremely forced. Just compare how comfortable Trubisky looks in the pocket. There isn't a top 15 QB in the NFL who is uncomfortable in the pocket. Before Patrick can become a starting a QB he has to be comfy from the pocket, and looking at his college film, he is far from that. Mahomes is still a solid middle round project QB to me though. He does show he can play from the pocket, albeit very rarely. His flashes though are nice, and nowhere near good enough to make him a 1st round pick. The first gif shows Mahomes calmly climb the pocket and then show the awareness to strafe right behind the line of scrimmage and wait for a teammate to leak out of coverage. This is an impressive display of patience by Mahomes, something I wish was more prominent in his game.
This next Gif is one of my favourite throws made by Mahomes. At the end of his dropback he steps up into pocket leaving both ends in the dust and delivers a pin point laser to his receiver running a post. Once again these instances are few and far between. If it weren't for these instances and his arm strength, he'd be in the 6/7th round range for me. If you started your film study of Mahomes with the Baylor tape I feel bad for you, because against Oklahoma, Mahomes displays utterly terrible pocket presence.
Let me address his offense. I know most NFL talent evaluators won't care about the offense he was in and they will care about the traits he possesses. But to clear things about his stats, they are heavily effected by the offense he ran. And by that I mean a lot of his yards and TDs are manufactured through the scheme. These 5 TD games against average competition are possible because most colleges don't have 4-5 corners. So what ends up happening against this offense is that team such as Baylor just line up man to man in off coverage. This gives easy flare screens, easy quick outs a hitches, and free releases at the line so the QB doesn't have to hold the ball that long. Really, this offense should be extremely easy to run and almost impossible to not have a good average yards per throw. Mahomes quick flares get 10 yards easy, and the offense throws many of these per game. Just like Davis Webb and Goff, one of them mastered the offense and made it great (Goff), while the other had it really watered down and easy to run (Webb). Mahomes is more on the side of Webb to me with his offense. Going through his film he rarely makes a 3-5 step drop and fire a laser to a dig or post, with timing and anticipation. When looking for these quick decisions, accurate and decisive throws in the redzone, Mahomes isn't relied upon for them. The offense goes to the read option, or a pre determined throw where Mahomes throws to a certain spot as apposed to making a read and throwing an accurate pass. He struggles in college with this and this will only 10x harder in the NFL when he'll be asked to make reads and take advantage of mismatches. This isn't something you learn in one year. He does show the ability to put a ball in a nice spot for a receiver, but at the end of the day his receivers go after his throws in the redzone more than he throws them open.
Back to Mahomes accuracy. His 65% career number is tantalizing until you read what I just wrote above. Take this Baylor game for example, most of his completions were on screens, flares, quick outs and hitches. Besides that, Baylor was play man coverage all game and receivers were getting wide open. Yes Mahomes was hitting them, but he wasn't even close to leading them. In the next few Gifs are throws where had these throws been made in the NFL they wouldn't even be completions. They would be interceptions going the other way. When watching these throws don't be impressed. The placement on these throws are alarmingly bad. These are WIDE OPEN by NFL standards.
The next aspect I want to cover on Mahomes is his mechanics. And Mahomes has some of the worst mechanics I have seen, and can easily be attributed to any of the bad throws I have placed in this article so far. From a talent standpoint I think Mahomes is a perfect mix of Jay Cutler and Derek Carr. He has the footwork of Cutler and the easy throwing ability of Carr. Where Mahomes gets sloppy playing quarterback is his footwork. He doesn't subscribe to regular footwork mechanics where you cross your feet parallel with your toes pointed to the sideline and then point your planting foots toe in the direction you want the throw to go, opening up your body as you uncork the pass. Mahomes does none of this. He back pedals often, plants both feet while pointing them up field and throws with his body open to the field through his whole motion. This leads to arm throws, which lead to very spotty placement and possible injury to the throwing arm. When you don't lead your arm with a strong base and an open body, your arm follows through across your whole body and aims the throws itself. This is what you never want, and proof of bad quarterbacking with this style is Jay Cutler. The next two plays are perfect examples of this.
The last point I want to make is about Mahomes decision making and ability to read defenses. His offense makes his reads extremely easy to make. A lot of his TDs are 9 routes he throws when he gets a 1 on 1, and looking at that, you can't translate that to future NFL success. Against Kansas Mahomes threw two interceptions, and they're decisions that are easy to erase if there was an argument he was trying to make something happen. In this case Mahomes is up 7-0 and 14-0 I believe on each throw and decides to put it up for grabs. What I hate about these throws is that 1) they're both late 2) his upper body mechanics are terrible on each throw 3) he puts no zip on either throw. These throws look like more a product of Mahomes not being sure of what he is seeing. And what I mean by this is that it is pretty obvious a safety is rolling to the deep middle third of the field. That means Mahomes has to make sure the corner covering the left third is pulled by the far left WR and then throw this vertical pass more to the sideline. But he throws it late, with tons of air underneath and to the middle of the field right to the safety.
On this next play Mahomes does the same thing except with his signature side arm throwing motion, off his back foot and with plenty of air under it. These are game changing turnover prone type throws. I forgot to mention how he gets hoppy with his feet at the bottom of his drop and once again shies away from contact.
I don't want to load this article up with too many gifs, but in general I wanted to point out that Mahomes struggles on third down when he has to play within passing concepts. He gets lost in progressions fairly easily and will take unnecessary sacks instead of throwing the ball away. Once again, it scares me he can't execute the deeper more complex parts of his college offense, which is built upon very simple designs. On this next play Mahomes displays poor vision and decision making. On a third and three he assumes it is man coverage and doesn't see the corner sit on the quick throw to the flat. Against an NFL corner this is an easy pick six.
This last play is just another example of Mahomes looking flustered in the pocket and making a terrible read forcing a pass to his receiver with a linebacker right underneath. If this is thrown in the NFL this is an interception all day.
At the end of the day Patrick Mahomes will give a team and elite arm, with an NFL ready build. I will never deny that Mahomes brings tremendous physical tools to the table. Where I think Mahomes lacks is in the finer physical and mental details of the quarterback position. Where top 1st and 2nd round quarterbacks have consistent tape with a bad game here or there, you get the really good and really bad in EVERY game from Mahomes. Mahomes brings nothing with him into the NFL in terms of being a pro quarterback. He will need to be taught drops, footwork, upper body mechanics, progressions, defensive and offensive concepts and on top of this develop a comfort within the pocket. What scares me is his lack of comfort in the pocket. Better movement and training can help you get better in the pocket if you're already comfy in it, but you can't coach someone to play in the pocket. Pocket presence is more innate much like accuracy. Which brings up another point. Mahomes can be taught footwork, but he can't be taught accuracy. Sure, better footwork will help him become more consistent, but in general his placement is extremely spotty for how easy some of his throws are. Now you want to draft him in the first two round knowing he has to make much more accurate throws?
Don't get me wrong, I like Mahomes. But I would be scared as hell to draft him with any of my first three picks. Any NFL looking to draft him in rounds 1-2 should hand in their resignation letter along with his draft card. Drafting Mahomes is drafting a bark yard baller like Manziel with a better arm and off field history. He needs to go to a team with a great QB coach or head coach and learn from a solid veteran. Even then, you don't see many qbs with Mahomes struggles translate to the NFL. A perfect team for him would be the Saints. They have Brees, who is a master in the pocket and Sean Payton who is an offensive guru. Another team would be the Cardinals. They have another QB is very solid from the pocket and a coach who covets passers with arm talent. If Mahomes goes to a QB needy team and is expected to play day 1 or year 2, there will be a massive disappointment and many people will be losing jobs. Mahomes is a toolsy quarterback with one dream tool and almost nothing else. I really hope all this round 1 and 2 hype is just the media and that NFL teams know what they're looking at. Please, I ask you quarterback needy teams, just look at the tape. Patrick Mahomes is more likely to become an average big armed back up then a cerebral big time passer. Pick him early at your own risk.