Evaluating quarterbacks for an NFL Draft is among the most difficult and most important tasks for the front office of a team.
The factors being evaluated vary from “arm talent” to “measurables” to “intangibles” and more. Each aspect must be evaluated diligently in order to successfully determine the best fit for their respective team. This year’s quarterback class offers a variety of intriguing talent in the consensus top-four prospects. Yet, each has question marks that could alter how quickly they’ll be ready to be a starting quarterback at the NFL level. Beyond that, the class has little to offer. Being one of the highest rated senior quarterbacks, Josh Dobbs has the opportunity to impress a team throughout the draft process and earn a shot at the next level.
Dobbs finished his career at Tennessee with over 9,000 total yards and 85 total touchdowns, which is second only to Peyton Manning on the Tennessee all-time leader board. This past season, he tied Peyton Manning’s single-season total touchdowns record with 39 and finished 12 yards shy of Manning’s single-season record for total yards, finishing with 3,777. In addition, his 63 percent completion percentage was a career best. It was his only season with a completion percentage of 60 or more.
Those numbers don’t reflect the public’s opinion on Dobbs’ season, which is understandable given the some other stats. He also turned the ball over a combined 16 times (12 interceptions and four fumbles), including four games where he coughed it up more than once. Numbers like that speak for the crowd who believes Dobbs has no future at the NFL level.
Opinions on Dobbs as an NFL quarterback range from those that believe Dobbs has starting quarterback upside to those who view him as an undrafted prospect. Both takes are warranted when considering both the good and bad that comes with the former Vol.
Dobbs is a special athlete, evident by his averages of 750 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’s shown the ability to progress through his reads while having a great feel of knowing when to escape the pocket and use his dangerous legs. While it’s often been underutilized and underappreciated, Dobbs has the arm talent to make throws at all levels of the field. In addition to these traits, his intangibles are off the chart. The leadership skills, IQ and overall personality will impress NFL teams during meetings and interviews.
Despite having an impressive arm, his inconsistency with ball placement and decision making hindered his college career. Dobbs has the tendency to try to do too much on third-down plays and on game-tying or game-winning drives and will occasionally choke under pressure. Both of these faults often led to him forcing a throw into tight coverage. He also rarely looks downfield despite displaying the arm talent to exploit that area. Improving his pocket awareness is crucial. In addition, most websites have him listed at 210 pounds, which is a light frame by NFL quarterback standards. This may concern some teams when it comes to the idea of him taking hits from defenders at the professional level.
All in all, Dobbs displays the upside worthy of a draft pick, even if it will most likely be on the third day (rounds No. 4-No. 7). He already took advantage of the Senior Bowl to boost his stock as much as possible. If he can combine that with an impressive showing at the NFL Combine, a team may pull the trigger in round four rather than a later round. If he runs a sub-4.6 40 yard dash, performs well in position drills and wows in the interview process, his stock will certainly increase.
Speaking of the Senior Bowl, the former Vol was fortunate enough to have Cleveland Browns head coach and “QB guru” Hue Jackson as his head coach for the week. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about Hue coming into the week, so to be able to take firsthand coaching from him in the classroom and getting out onto the field — seeing his energy and passion for the game — it’s definitely good,” Dobbs said of his Senior Bowl coach.
The two appeared to hit it off, and Jackson even had some praise for the quarterback. “He throws the ball extremely well,” Jackson said. “I was a little surprised at how well he threw the ball.” According to draft expert Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting, Dobbs took twice as many reps during drills throughout the week compared to the other quarterbacks on the roster.
Named the starter for the Senior Bowl, Dobbs completed 12 of his 15 passes for just over 100 yards. He threw an interception, but the throw was altered after poor offensive line play caused Dobbs to be hit as he released it. Overall, the senior capped off a strong week with an impressive showing.
Since the week of the Senior Bowl, noise has picked up on the potential of a Dobbs-Jackson reunion in Cleveland. The hype and love the Browns have for the former Vol may be a real thing. Check out this tweet from Galko:
— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) February 24, 2017
The insight of one analyst means everything, but this would be an ideal fit for both Dobbs and the Browns. For one, it would allow the current Browns regime to focus on positions besides the quarterback with the five picks they have in the top-65. Given the current state of the roster and the fact Cleveland is in rebuild mode, this would be a wise move.
After that, the Browns can use one of its two fourth-round picks on Dobbs if he impresses them enough and they don’t want to risk someone else taking him.
In this scenario, Cleveland can go into next year with Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler and Josh Dobbs battling it out for the starting quarterback position. None of these are great options, but all of them have upside. Kessler showed promise in limited action during his rookie season in 2016. Griffin may not be the same dude who won Offensive Rookie of the Year five years ago and also ha durability issues, but he performed adequately in his three starts to end the season. Then there’s Dobbs, an interesting rookie the Browns seem to like. Combining his upside and intangibles with Jackson’s coaching, the idea of Dobbs starting at least one game as a Brown next season may not be as farfetched as one might think.
Whether this would work out or not, the Browns aren’t set to compete by next season anyway. With the possibility of another top-5 selection in 2018, Cleveland can find out what they have in Griffin, Kessler and a rookie quarterback such as Dobbs this upcoming season. If they don’t view any of the three as viable long-term options, the 2018 quarterback class is looking pretty strong. Before the whole “people say this every year” comment, just check out a few of the names: Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Allen (Wyoming), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) and Jake Browning (Washington) are all interesting talents.
How is this the perfect fit for Dobbs? He’s already had a week with the Browns staff and has publicly stated his positive impressions they made. Plus, it would be one of the few destinations where he would have a chance to take the starting job, work with a knowledgeable coach known for his ability to adapt his scheme to best fit the talents of his quarterback and be under no pressure to succeed early. Finally, the positive impacts made by his leadership could have a lasting effect on the organization as a whole.
While the Browns are certainly the laughingstock of the league, their offensive personnel is no joke. If it weren’t for a quarterback or two getting hurt every game, Cleveland showed the ability to move the ball with ease on some teams. For once, Dobbs would get to enjoy an offensive line capable of giving him protection. In addition, Terrelle Pryor’s breakout 2016 campaign proved he can be a number one wide receiver. If they re-sign Isiah Crowell, the running back duo of him and Duke Johnson Jr. would provide him a power back in Crowell and a versatile one in Johnson to rely on. This doesn’t even include the potential offensive weapons added either in free agency or the draft.
If he were to earn the starting gig, Dobbs would be put in a situation where he can be asked to do as little as possible as he gradually gains the confidence to run an NFL offense. As a rookie, he would certainly make his fair share of mistakes. Luckily, the Browns will be in a position next year where they can all of their young guys can afford to make mistakes and learn from them. On the other hand, the combination of Dobbs’ upside and the offensive scheme and personnel of the Browns could translate to some promising plays and games, which would bode well for how Cleveland would view him long term. Even if he didn’t earn the full-time job, he could still earn a chance to play in the case of injuries or underwhelming play by the starter.
At the end of the day, no one has a clue where any of these guys end up. Despite that, there is evidence to back up the idea of Dobbs in Cleveland. The former Vol has a long way to go in terms of pocket awareness and decision making, but the Dobbs that Cleveland saw at the Senior Bowl proved to them that he might be closer to being ready than they originally thought. Of course, playing on Sundays is just a bit different than the competition at the Senior Bowl. Yet, out of all the offensive coaches in football, Jackson is one of the few worth trusting to get the most out of Dobbs.
Edited by Quinn Pilkey
Featured image by Ben Proffitt