QB – West Virginia
Height: 6’2 3/8
Hands: 9 3/8
Ok, go ahead. Name the QB’s who should be selected ahead of Will Grier in the 2019 NFL Draft. Let me stop you after you’ve said Kyler Murray. Now, I know there will be other QB’s selected ahead of Will Grier, but there shouldn’t be. That might come as a surprise to many who have followed along with the so-called QB gurus this offseason. With them, he’s ranging between 6th and 8th on their boards. The truth of the matter is that there are only two QB’s who are deserving of a high 1st round grade in this class and the 2nd one is Will Grier. How was this missed? The arm, it isn’t impressive. His athleticism, is not very good. However, there is more going on here than a skim of an eye test can explain. A lot more, including a trio of traits that tops all challengers. No, not just in the 2019 QB class. Tops all challengers in the last decade. You might know him as Touchdown Jesus (because he has that Charlie Whitehurst look going on) but to me, he’s Will “Dark Magic” Grier.
Let’s get right to it.
His arm is not good. It just isn’t. He has a level of arm talent that puts him teetering on the edge of NFL success/failure. It’s borderline, and it’s a trait that has to be overcome. Mechanically he is fairly sound, although not ideal. He releases from a low ¾ arm slot. He operates in a wider than desired base and has a short step into his throw. The load drops a blip lower than you would like but his load and release are quick and easy. Throughout the entire throwing motion, it lacks torque. His weight shift is adequate and his hip rotation is below adequate. He generates most of his torque from his shoulder and wrist with a moderate amount of tax put on his arm. To top that all off, his arm has a cap on it. Grier has about a 40 yard range on his throws unless he is on the move towards his target. After that, the ball opens up (nose parachutes into an open-tipped wobble) on him and hangs in the air like a Frisbee thrown upwards into the wind. When he is running left, he will fall off platform to whip his arm across his body to compensate for not being able to open his hips to the field.
I know, awe inspiring stuff! I’m not even done with the cons.
Mobility: Enough? I mean really that’s what it boils down to. Grier is a modest athlete even by QB standards. His hips are very tight and if you see him try to whirl out of the pocket pivoting off his left leg you’ll see what I mean. He’s stiff, clunky and defenses will shake their head in disgust if they let him run for a 1st down. Unfortunately, Grier thinks he’s a far better athlete than this and will run himself into trouble trying to make something out of a play. Chalk it up as youthful exuberance. He is by no means a standing target, and he can escape into space, but it’s far (FAR) from graceful or athletic.
At this point, it’s fair to assume that you aren’t pleased by what you see. “Experts” had Josh Allen as the #1 QB prospect for a large part of last draft season simply due to the fact that he had a big arm and was athletic. In their defense, he went 7th overall and Grier has neither of those plus traits. To those people: You need to realize there is a lot more that goes into being an NFL QB than that. There are traits that can tip the scales back in your favor. They are traits that most QBs’ (even NFL QB’s) don’t possess. Dark Magic has those rare traits.
What makes Will Grier special? The fact that he is elite in the next three areas. Elite. Not great, elite. It’s fairly uncommon to see college QB’s releasing the ball before their WR is exiting their break. There isn’t a QB in this class who regularly does that, aside from Grier who is often releasing the ball as the WR enters the break and even letting a solid percentage go before the break. The rhythm, timing and connection he has with his WR’s is approaching a Brady/Brees level. You simply do not see that level of maturity in college and the level at which Grier is operating at is rare at the pro level. This trait, and this trait alone, goes a long way in alleviating his lack of arm strength. You will hear the same spiel every year that a certain college QB needs to speed up their eyes and get the ball out sooner. (Allen) It’s said as if it’s easy to achieve. It’s not, but with Grier, that’s done. He has it. This master class level anticipation is happening on all routes. His 40 yard throwing cap would be a big hindrance on the vertical passing game, but the anticipation he possesses remedies that as well. Turn on Texas, to start the 2nd quarter WVU runs a post out-up combo. The CB jumps the out and jostles Sills throwing off the timing of the play. He sticks with Sills on the up and Grier throws it out of reach to the boundary. The next play is what professionals do. 3rd and 6, stop route fade combo. Sills is basically running the same route but gives the CB less of a chance to knock him off stride and gives Sills a little more boundary to work with. They are on the 18 yard line and Grier releases the ball when Sills hits the 12. Sills had not started the fade. Sills had not evened up on the CB. Grier threw it to a spot and while Sills was covered perfectly the ball dropped in stride a shade to the boundary side of Sills for a TD 4 yards into the end zone. That is impossible to cover when it is executed that well. At any level. Vertical routes are released at 6 yards vs a press and 12 vs off coverage. Truly, treat yourself to watching it. All you have to do is put on Grier’s highlights and push pause as Grier starts his release. Look where his WR is vs coverage. Regularly, they are not open nor do they have leverage. Grier is throwing it to where they will be open and despite letting it go before he sees separation, he’s right. Do the same for Haskins. You’ll notice it’s night and day.
Ball placement instinct, spatial awareness: It’s always a positive when a QB can throw with touch. Grier has all the angles figured out and throws with touch effortlessly. However, there is an advanced level to throwing with touch which is ball placement instinct. There is a difference between throwing a ball where it is supposed to go, and throwing a ball where it needs to go. Some QB’s are robots who do the former, (Rosen) others are capable of instinctively placing a ball in a spot where only the WR can make a play on it. Grier is the latter. Throwing at a blanketed WR’s ankles, to the body of a WR with positioning back-shoulder, off the turned CB’s up field hip, high-point, over the top of the boundary shoulder. Grier does them all. These throws allow a covered WR to go to work and make a play for you. They take routes that are covered and turn them into TD’s. It isn’t as simple as a pass dropped in a bucket, Grier can pick the region of the bucket. When you combined that trait with anticipation and an elite arm, you get Aaron Rodgers. Grier is not an elite arm talent, but neither is Drew Brees who also wins with anticipation and ball placement instinct. On top of that Grier is also gifted in spatial awareness. It is common for spread QB’s to throw to open space rather than to where the route is specifically drawn to go. Lead the WR to the open space in the defense. This is a trait that allowed Mahomes to unleash on the league with ridiculous success. Grier sees the defense much the same and you can see this very clearly in the senior bowl. First throw for Grier is a broken play where he buys time rolling left. He tosses a ball up the boundary over the defensive backs who are closing in on Renfrow. It harmlessly falls to the ground. The announcer smugly chuckles at the throw and calls it a bad throw that almost ended up being a TD. Sir, that was exactly what he intended. That was no error. Renfrow is running across the field and is nearing the sideline. The S over the top has jumped the route to the sideline and the only place for Renfrow to continue his route is to turn vertical. Grier sees that the CB and S can not reverse course and make a play on the ball up field. That is exactly where he places it. If Renfrow turns up field a half second earlier it’s a sensational broken play TD. If not, incomplete thrown away. That’s creative genius, not a bad throw. If Renfrow and Grier had longer than a week to get on the same page, that’s a TD. It has a small chance of working but comes at zero risk. He finds Renfrow with 5:30 to go in the quarter on another spatially savvy, yet dangerous throw. Dangerous, if you don’t factor in that the throw was to the 11 yard line and it was 3rd down. On 3rd down it becomes theatrics or the interception version of a punt. We are dealing with a very smart QB here.
Once again we have a spread QB and there are people convinced that he is not making reads. Just like Kyler this is not true. Grier is fantastic pre-snap with his reads and is doing quality work during the play. He’s scanning a combo as the play requires and getting his head back over to the other side of the field if the routes are smothered. It seems as if he wants to go to his pre-snap primary reads but he can and will move on from them. He finds his flares, rb wheels and hot routes quickly. Blitzing him when he has a RB wheel outlet is a defensive disaster waiting to happen. He is adept at dropping a ball over the rush to a RB in stride. His anticipation and timing could actually benefit from a more traditional progression based offense once he has mastered it. He will master it. Grier appears more equipped to handle a traditional NFL system than Haskins, Lock, Jones and Murray.
Adaptable mechanics, pocket mobility, pocket awareness:
There are rigid mechanics that fall to pieces when a QB is forced to go on the move and adaptable mechanics that do not show any issues with altered platforms or arm angles. Mahomes is the top of the spectrum on the positive side. Mason Rudolph was one of the worst I’ve seen on the rigid side. Grier’s mechanics are natural to him and fall into positive territory for adaptability. It’s a big plus while still avoiding an elite grade. Off platform moving to his left he is very prone to fall off his throw which lessens his range but holds an acceptable degree of accuracy. Skip throws running right or stepping up in the pocket and throws off his back foot are just as accurate as when he has his base set. Grier operates off his back foot often, and when paired with an early release it makes it very hard on a defense to affect the throw. When the play takes longer to develop, Grier shows fantastic pocket mobility and pocket awareness. He is not an athlete but he slides in the pocket as well as Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold did last year. The first rusher through will not bring Grier down unless that rusher gets a clear path at him. The first rusher who beats his man will flush Grier out of the pocket or force him to slide in the pocket but it’s typically the second rusher in a decaying pocket who puts Grier on the ground. He buys a lot of time with very subtle movements because he feels pressure very well. His pocket awareness and mobility are traits that continue to separate him from Haskins, Lock and Jones.
This is a section that I usually ignore unless there is a clear issue or plus. There is a plus. Grier is a leader. A leader with“put the women and children to bed and go lookin’ for ****in’ dinner” flare. He’s gritty, nasty and tough. Stone sharpens the blade. When WVU (or Florida) is up against the wall, whether in chase mode or in need of an answer, WVU’s offense finds another level and that comes from Grier. Thus, Will “Dark Magic” Grier. Grier has completed 27 games in his collegiate career. His team is 21-6 with him and 4-8 without him. Their biggest two losses with him were by 16 to Iowa St in 2018 and 11 to Oklahoma St in 2017. In the 8 games without him 6 loses were by 14 points or more. WVU was 0-4 without Grier. Florida was undefeated and 8th in the nation before Grier was suspended. He elevates the talent around him. He is a coach’s kid, and plays like one. Yes, he thinks he walks on water and is arrogant as hell. His teammates seem to believe it, why shouldn’t he. He stated he is the best QB in the 2019 draft class and would have been the best QB in the 2018 draft class. That is not how I see it but honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him.
Prediction: If the QB board doesn’t make a dramatic shuffle as the draft approaches, with the ___ pick the ______ will win the draft by selecting Will Grier. He is the 2nd best QB in this draft and will be an absurd value pick if he doesn’t “fly up” the boards. He might be the 5th, 6th, 7th QB off the board. Everyone in the media seems to hate him. The information being leaked to them has also been overtly negative. That is not what I see on film. It is also not uncommon for a mid-round QB to outperform his 1st round predecessors. In my opinion, this draft is 2011 all over again. Cam at 1 has been Cam, Locker bust, Gabbert bust, Ponder bust. Four top 12 QBs with three complete disasters. Then there’s an early 2nd round pick spent on Andy Dalton that looks very good in comparison. Dak was the 8th QB off the board and after Goff and Wentz, the next five QB’s have amounted to nothing. In 2012 we sucked for Luck, then busted on RG3, Tannehill, Weeden and Osweiler. The 5th 6th and 7th QB’s off the board were Wilson, Foles and Cousins. Murray is the 3rd rated player in this draft. He will go 1st. Grier has to be valued cautiously due to his mediocre arm but he has a rare combination of positive traits. His anticipation and ball placement instinct are top level elite. His spatial awareness and plus adaptable mechanics allow for a lot of creativity when his pocket awareness extends the play. Looking back on draft classes over the years it’s hard to find someone who had all of this at their disposal entering the draft. He’s incredibly well developed for a college QB. Even being cautious he would be a very good pick for the Dolphins at 13. He should not slip past the Titans at 19. This puts him higher on my draft board than Watson, Jackson, Allen and Rosen in the last 2 drafts. Higher than anyone but Murray in this draft. He is my 6th best QB in the last 3 drafts, and some have him rated lower than that in this draft alone. Mark my words, if this league is foolish enough to hand Grier to Bill Belichick or Sean Payton in the 2nd round, they’ll get what they deserve and be treated like the peasants they are.