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Know your Chiefs draft crush: Memphis QB Paxton Lynch

Sorry for my extended absence, folks. I've been a little busy lately.

Lucas Elijah Keysor was born Saturday morning after an extended period of labor for Mrs. MNchiefsfan. He's doing fantastic, the four other kiddos were thrilled to meet him, and they are now home. Mrs. MNchiefsfan is on bed rest for a couple of weeks, so keep her in your thoughts (it wasn't any easy time for her).

Anyway, life is good, I'm thrilled, we're all happy, and the draft is right around the corner. What a time to be alive.

It's high time we talked about draft prospects. Last year, I wrote quite a bit about various players the Chiefs may or may not want to draft (or who I wanted them to draft. I'm still sore about Tyler Lockett, in case you're interested). This year, I'm starting on a bit of a different track.

I don't think there's much of a chance the Chiefs are looking for a QB early in the draft this year. They've committed themselves to Alex Smith financially and seem happy with his play. I'm not here to fight about whether they SHOULD take a QB early. I don't think they WILL.

My problem is the idea of taking a guy on the hope he improves so drastically in such a wildly important area. That's an iffy proposition for me.

That said, many people have brought up Paxton Lynch's name, and because I'm a guy who likes to satisfy his curiosity I thought I'd take a look at his available game tape via Draft Breakdown (the GIF maker wasn't working, so those of you who love GIFs... well, I understand if you've already stopped reading the words I am currently typing).

Now, one thing to clarify going into this; I don't follow college football. I also made sure not to look at scouting reports or anything like that until AFTER I'd watched some of Lynch's tape. That way, I could avoid the groupthink that sometimes invades fans during the pre-draft process and could instead focus on what I like and don't like about Lynch's film. Once I'd formed an opinion, I then took a look at what others were saying to try and see if I was missing anything.

Before we get moving, I'd like to pose a question to those of you who love Lynch as a QB prospect. Picture Lynch's play on the field, exactly as it currently is. Now imagine a guy who is 6'3 instead of a guy who is 6'7. Do you still love him?

The only reason I ask is that after watching his film, I took some time to read the good things people have to say about him. And invariably, they begin with a reference to his size. As though being 6'7, in and of itself, is some kind of strength. Look, I'm not opposed to a tall quarterback. I think that's great. But it doesn't really affect my analysis of a player. Either a guy can see the field and go through reads or he can't. I don't care if he's 5'11 or 7'11, if he's going through progressions and finding open receivers, I'm good.

But that's all an aside. Let's talk about Paxton Lynch's tape. If you want to watch the same thing I did, click here (Draft Breakdown's page for Lynch. Seriously, Draft Breakdown is the best).

There's a lot to like about Lynch. To be perfectly honest, I didn't care for him much the first few games I watched. Then he kinda grew on me. I don't know if that's a result of me getting soft as I went along or just seeing a little more of his overall skill set.

For starters, Lynch has a good arm. Now, I'm not really buying into the narrative that Lynch has a cannon. He's not Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton. He's got a strong arm, not a rocket from outer space. That said, his arm strength allows him to put good zip on the ball, effortlessly make throws all over the field, and get the ball where it needs to go regardless of his footwork or throwing motion. That's a major plus.

Lynch's arm helps him throw on the run as well as any QB I've watched recently. He doesn't seem to lose any accuracy when he's moving to his right, and can even consistently make decent throws when he's running left and needs to twist his body. That's incredibly rare. Lynch uses that ability to make a lot of plays that appear dead go for big gains.

Of course, being able to throw on the move is useless if you aren't moving properly. Still another strong suit for Lynch is his pocket presence. While it isn't on the level that Teddy Bridgewater's was coming out (that was my favorite part of Teddy's game when he was entering the draft, and a big reason I was advocating for the Chiefs to take him if he fell), Lynch pretty consistently slides around the pocket to avoid pressure. While he tucks and runs in those situations more than I'd like, he's well above most college QB's in that area. I would assume it's because he knows he can stick throws on the move.

Lynch's throws on the move are not his only option when plays break down. He's a decent athlete who can chew up yardage with his legs when things go wrong. He doesn't look as fast as Alex Smith, but I'd peg him at just a notch below, just enough to make defenses pay for ignoring him when things break down. I do have to say I'm not as enamored of this aspect of his game as some. He just doesn't look THAT fast to me on tape (to the point that he makes defenders miss on their angles).

So to sum up, Lynch has one of the three most valuable traits a quarterback can possess (pocket presence), and complements that with decent athleticism, a strong arm, and the ability to throw very well on the run. So why aren't I screaming for the Chiefs to draft this guy?

Well... just like it's important to gauge what a player CAN do, a lot of this involves what a player CAN'T do, or at least hasn't shown he can do.

The first and most concerning issue I have with Lynch is his accuracy. Despite the fact that at LEAST half of Lynch's throws (or more) were behind or at the line of scrimmage, I saw way too many throws in the dirt (or, you know, grass). I also saw quite a few throws that forced receivers into attempting awkward catches or prevented from gaining any YAC because of poor ball placement.

That's concerning. It's one thing to struggle with deep ball accuracy; most players do. But to consistently struggle with short and intermediate passes is another thing entirely. If you can't count on your QB to put the ball in the right place (or at least close to the right place) on the gimme throws, you've got problems. Part of this issue seems to come when Lynch throws off-balance without need (something he does far too often), likely because he trusts his arm to do the work for him. But even at times when he's set up well, the ball just seems to get away from him, especially when he tries to fire it.

One of the only traits as important as pocket presence is accuracy. If a QB can't put the ball where he intends on a consistent basis, nothing else matters. Now, is this a fixable problem for Lynch? Maybe. After a rookie year when his accuracy stunk, Derek Carr improved in this area (aided by an offensive line that did a great job early. As the protection faded, his accuracy dropped off somewhat). So it can be done, especially considering that it's at least partly a footwork issue.

My problem is the idea of taking a guy on the hope he improves so drastically in such a wildly important area. That's an iffy proposition for me.

He doesn't look as fast as Alex Smith, but I'd peg him at just a notch below, just enough to make defenses pay for ignoring him when things break down.

That iffy proposition becomes even more iffy when you look at Lynch's ability to go through progressions across the field. This is something I don't know he CAN'T do. It's just something he never had to do at Memphis. Sure, there were plays in which Lynch would go from one to two to three, and did so calmly. But those plays weren't often, and I'm not sure I remember a time when those reads spanned more than a third of the field. Usually, the routes he was looking at were very close together.

Like I said, I can't say with certainty Lynch can't make reads on a consistent basis. But the fact that he was never asked to do it makes me wonder. And, of course, the ability to quickly process through reads would be number three of what I (at this point) view as the three big traits a quarterback needs.

Paxton Lynch has some really good qualities, for sure. But he has some big question marks that people seem to overlook when they gush about his arm, his height, and his athleticism. Would I be infuriated if he fell to the Chiefs and Dorsey pulled the trigger? No. But he's not at the same level of prospect as a Marcus Mariota, let alone an Andrew Luck.

He does have a great QB name, though. So we'll see. It's well known the name is half the battle. We'll look at another quarterback soon as I try and crank out as many of these as possible before the draft.

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