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Know Your Draft Crush: Patrick Mahomes

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NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Look, let’s not fight about Alex Smith, OK?

You obviously can’t REALLY talk about the Chiefs taking a QB without talking about Smith, but I reviewed every game (with 1 exception) of his last year in extreme detail and gave my final thoughts on him here, in the review following the playoff loss. I’ve said all I can really say on that dude.

In the meantime, the Chiefs have met with several QB’s who are considered 1st round talents, and given Smith’s age and performance it’s absolutely in play that Dorsey and Reid go for a QB in the draft. So let’s talk QB’s, starting with Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes is an interesting prospect who gets interesting reactions from people. When I stated on Twitter I’d be reviewing his film, I got a very positive reaction overall, but there were many (very vocal) voices who told me he was a waste of time. The reasons for this were generally as follows:

  1. He played in an air raid offense
  2. His mechanics are bad
  3. Quality of competition

So I thought I would try to review his film in a way that would tell us whether or not the air raid offense and mechanics (as well as competition level) are real issues that make him a poor prospect. Before I delve too deeply into it, let me explain via gif why many people desperately want Mahomes in Kansas City.

Any time you’re talking about a quarterback who can throw a perfect bomb 40+ yards, you’re going to have fans that want that guy. The upside with Mahomes is glaringly, blatantly obvious within 5 seconds of turning on his film. But we’ll get into that in a bit. First, methodology.

I watched 4 games of Mahomes (Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, and Kansas State) and tracked the following:

  1. Accurate throws: the reason for this is obvious... if Mahomes is able to consistently be accurate, concerns about footwork/mechanics dial way back. Think Phil Rivers and his awful, awful delivery. Doesn’t matter if it works (same thing Andy Reid has said about “wrong” delivery motions)
  2. Inaccurate throws: pretty much the same reason as tracking accurate throws.
  3. Multiple read snaps: I paid attention to snaps where Mahomes visibly went through multiple progressions prior to throwing or scrambling. Being able to go through multiple progressions (particularly across the whole field) is a big, big deal. And no matter what offense a QB is playing in, the ability to go through progressions is a skill that translates to the NFL more than almost any other.
  4. Bad decisions: a big knock on Mahomes is bad decisions, like throwing into double coverage or lofting up a prayer. So I tracked them.
  5. Franchise QB throws: This is a rollover from the Alex Smith film reviews. It’s subjective, but I’m VERY picky about what I call a “franchise QB” throw, and it’s a way of knowing how often a QB makes a throw that most QB’s don’t consistently make.

All right, with all that said, keep in mind that the most important traits for an NFL quarterback, to me, are as follows: accuracy, pocket presence, and ability to go through progressions. If you can do those things, you can play in the NFL. Arm talent is a cherry on top, same with athleticism. Obviously being able to read a defense presnap is a big deal, but that’s not something I can quantify on film.

Here are the numbers for the four games I watched. We’ll talk about them, then talk about Mahomes’s film.

(NOTE- Draft Breakdown, as awesome as it is, does not have all-22 film. So I was not able to ascertain whether every throw was accurate or inaccurate. Also, some throws were throwaways or tipped. As such, not every throw was charted, even though they were all watched)

So a few things to think about...

First of all, I found the concerns about Mahomes’s accuracy to be overblown. He does at times struggle with consistent accuracy (a footwork issue in my opinion), but the number of “inaccurate” throws I charted him as having is in large part a reflection of the types of throws he was constantly asked to make: into intermediate and deep zones, as well as while on the move. All quarterbacks lose accuracy in such situations, and Mahomes is no exception. Overall, I was impressed with the number of tough throws he stuck.

I was also intrigued by the fact that Mahomes didn’t make as many bad decisions as I expected, based on the constant hammering I got on Twitter about how rough this aspect of his game is. Game in and game out, Mahomes was consistently asked to sling the ball all over the field as his defense gave up approximately twenty zillion points. Given that, I was OK with the number of decisions I’d consider “bad” during that time.

His biggest weak spot in that area is trying to squeeze the ball into a tough spot (whether on the run, or falling backwards, or whatever else) rather than simply throwing the ball away. HOWEVER, he didn’t do this nearly as much as he found checkdown receivers or ran for a short gain. Overall, Mahomes did a good job of taking what defenses were giving him rather than forcing it. I was pleasantly surprised by how often Mahomes would calmly survey the field and, seeing nothing open, find the checkdown or take off.

Which brings us to the issue of multiple reads. I understand people have a concern about the air raid offense, but there are two things I’d say in response to this.

First, the simple truth is that watching an air raid offense often feels eerily similar if you’re a Chiefs fan. Andy Reid has incorporated a ton of the quick, easy reads the air raid offense is known for into his attack. Seriously, watch a couple of Mahomes’s games. You’ll see at least 20 play calls that look oddly familiar, I promise. My point is that NFL offenses as a whole (and Andy Reid in particular) aren’t nearly as dissimilar to the air raid offense as they were 10 years ago.

Because of this, what is much more important to me is whether the quarterback in question (in this case, Mahomes) can go through reads when the first read isn’t open or when pressure strikes. The great news? This might be the area Mahomes impressed me the most.

Mahomes saw a LOT of pressure in the games I watched, which is a good thing, as it allowed me to see how he would deal with it. Mahomes does a better job keeping his eyes down the field as he buys time in the pocket than most NFL quarterbacks I’ve watched. He’s truly exceptional at it, and is tough for a pass rush to reach and bring down. If I had been counting “saves” (when a QB makes a play happen despite quick pressure), it would have been in double digits every single game I watched. Genuinely impressive.

Speaking of impressive, let’s talk about arm talent. Mahomes has a fantastic arm. He’s able to change his style of delivery depending on the situation and can still chuck the ball down the field with a flick of his wrist. He also isn’t purely a “power thrower” (think Jeff George) either. He knows how to vary the speed and trajectory of the ball in order to give his receiver the best chance at making a play, and is more than capable of throwing players open using this ability (which reflects anticipation as well).

These throws occur every single game. When I charted 31 throws I considered “franchise QB throws,” I was not grading on a curve at all. They were throws I would have been impressed with whether it was a college or NFL quarterback.

Those types of throws have nothing to do with being in a certain type of offense or facing poor competition. Making a pinpoint pass 30 yards down the field is something most NFL quarterbacks don’t do regardless of a clean pocket. It’s a tough thing to do. Additionally, Mahomes did that kind of thing WHILE under pressure quite often, which is incredibly rare at any level.

Being under pressure is being under pressure, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey or the team you’re facing. If your offensive line is worse than the competition, and your receivers aren’t great, it doesn’t matter THAT much that your competition is poor. Because your poor supporting cast doesn’t allow you to take advantage of it by placing you in advantageous situations. Hopefully you follow that line of thought, because it’s important to this overall thought: the quality of competition Mahomes faced had very little to the things he did as an individual that impressed me. The same is true regarding the offense he played in.

As I said in the tweet, that’s not an air raid offense play. Nothing about that was easy for Mahomes. He faced instant pressure, evaded it, and made a tough throw while about to get hit which traveled ON A ROPE to a well-covered receiver in the only place it could go. Most NFL quarterbacks don’t make that play.

So what are Mahomes’s negative qualities? Well, teams are going to question his ability to do this stuff at the pro level for the same reasons fans do, regardless of whether I think those are legitimate concerns. And then there’s the elephant in the room: mechanics.

Mahomes quite often has legitimately horrific footwork. It’s so bad. So, so bad. Now, is this ALL the time? Absolutely not. There are times his footwork and delivery look great. You just never know what you’re going to get from snap to snap. A lot of fans will see throws made off a back foot or off-balance or with a dropped elbow and instantly think “bad throw.” And to an extent, I can understand that. Sometimes using poor mechanics hurt Mahomes.

Mahomes leans on his arm more heavily than any recent QB I’ve watched except Aaron Rodgers, and the problem with that is there’s only one Aaron Rodgers. Not many guys can rely solely on their arm talent to carry them through throw after throw, and there are plays where passes look less accurate than they could be because Mahomes doesn’t bother to take care of his feet. That’s a legitimate concern that makes people wonder if his accuracy will ever be consistently high enough (compare his inaccurate pass numbers to Alex Smith, for example. Alex throws 2-4 inaccurate passes a game because he’s pretty consistent with his mechanics).

Do I worry about that? A little. But I’m a practical guy, and for me I don’t care what something looks like if it works consistently. And, well...

Mahomes is the rare player with the arm talent to get away with poor mechanics the majority of the time. Because of that, I’m not too hung up on such things.

As I said at the beginning, what matters to me with a QB first is pocket presence, accuracy, and progressions.

Mahomes demonstrates occasional happy feet, but his pocket presence is by and large fantastic. He escaped more sacks and made more plays than I could count in just fourt games. His accuracy isn’t great, but down the field and in intermediate zones it’s generally very good, and he usually stuck shorter throws as well (footwork being the sole issue here). And progressions? I repeatedly saw Mahomes go from one side of the field to the other as plays broke down, something many pro QB’s don’t do.

Toss in exceptional arm talent and decent scrambling ability and Mahomes checks the boxes I need to see before I’m willing to take a chance on a quarterback in the first round. His “red flags” are, in my opinion, vastly overrated when one considers the situation he’d find himself in with Andy Reid’s coaching and scheme. I think he’d be a marvelous pick at 27, and would even be thrilled if the Chiefs moved up to grab him. He was that impressive.

I’ll be reviewing Trubisky next, then follow up with Watson and Kizer. I’ll use the same “stats” when reviewing each, as well as discuss their pocket presence, accuracy and progressions. I genuinely have a hard time believing one of them could impress me more than Mahomes, but would love to be wrong, as it would mean the Chiefs have options at quarterback. In the meantime, though, count me in on the Mahomes bandwagon.