Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 NFL Draft Breakdown: Iowa Hawkeyes Quarterback CJ Beathard

CJ Beathard's Iowa career did not end on the most positive note, as Iowa got blown out 30-3, and Beathard suffered an injury in the first half that greatly affected his (abysmal) second half performance. But you can't judge a guy off one bad game, and Beathard had over two years of film for NFL teams to look at and decide whether he can be an NFL quarterback. Without really giving it a close look, I thought he'd be worthy of drafting, mostly because Jake Rudock got drafted and Beathard definitely seemed like the better quarterback of those two. But instead of just using the transitive property, I decided to break down game film. Since I know Beathard fairly well as a player, I knew there was no need to check out the second half of this season, so I took a look at his games against Pittsburgh, Purdue, Minnesota, Stanford, and Michigan State from 2015, and his game against Miami (Ohio) from 2016.

Beathard's mobility seems to be forgotten at this point, but it was a legitimate weapon for the first half of 2015. Then he got hurt and could barely move the rest of the year, and this year, he seemed to forget that he could run. But I don't think he could lost all of his athleticism in a year, and he has shown that he has enough mobility to make some plays with his legs.
I'll admit that I totally forgot that a majority of the yards on the final drive to get Iowa in position to win on a last second field goal against Pitt were gained off of Beathard scrambling for yardage on three separate plays in the last 44 seconds.

Another thing that was much more evident in 2015 was his ability to lead receivers and hit guys in stride. This year, it seemed like nearly everything was difficult once VandeBerg went down, and I think a lot of that was due to Beathard's comfort level with his other receivers. Since so much of Greg Davis's offense is based off option routes, Beathard may have had to wait a beat longer to see what his receiver was going to do instead of trusting that they would make the right break for him to deliver the ball. That lack of timing and chemistry with his receiving corps may have been the biggest factor in his step backwards during his senior year.

The thing that separated Beathard from the quarterback that came before him, Jake Rudock, is arm strength. Here, the flea flicker play does not work out as planned, but he still gets enough distance on this ball despite having to alter his release for an oncoming hit.

Here's an example of him zipping a ball into a tight window.

And on top of that arm strength, he showed that he also had touch in his game as well.

That is a beautiful back shoulder fade, and he did it while knowing he had to absorb a hit. This really hammered home how bad the receivers for Iowa were this season. Because it's not like Beathard needed a ton of space to fit balls in, as he could place balls fairly well, and we still saw it this year with VandeBerg healthy. But having VandeBerg and Tevaun Smith in 2015 let Beathard show his true potential.

The first weakness I want to talk about seems to be the weakness of every Iowa quarterback, pocket awareness. I mean, Drew Tate was the last quarterback to actually feel a rush coming for him for Iowa, and although that doesn't seem that long ago, it's been ten years. For Beathard, his issue seems to be tunnel vision as he literally doesn't see anything out of his direct line of sight coming. This can cost him when locking in on receivers, and also just a total obliviousness to blitzers coming straight up the middle at him as seen in back-to-back pass plays below.

One thing I do worry about with Beathard is his offensive coordinator causing a lot of these issues. It's really tough to judge Beathard without the All-22 and whether there were hot routes for him to throw to or whether he had no options due to poor play calls. I mean, it's not like Greg Davis was ever seen as an infallible genius.

Another issue Beathard is his ability to go through progressions. Like many college quarterbacks, he's fine when he can target one side of the field, but things get extremely shaky when that side is covered well, as he's slow to look to the other side of the field and make decisions. Iowa's offensive line often got beat in games, but Beathard deserves a good amount of blame for slowly going through the motions and giving defenses time to get to him.

And even though the Michigan State game ended in a loss, let us not forget the biggest moment that I had ever seen as an Iowa Hawkeye football fan.
Don't forget the dab.

Because of the unimpressive senior year, I think he falls in the draft. Most projected him as a 3rd-4th rounder going into the season, but I see his value being around 6th-7th round. He's going to need to be drafted into the right situation to reach his potential. He's not good enough to overcome a bad offensive line or poor receiving options. The perfect fit for him would be the Raiders. A lot of Beathard's weaknesses were the same things Carr struggled with at times in college. I could easily see him outplaying Connor Cook to become Carr's backup and giving them a much better chance of winning if Carr gets hurt again.

I'll be honest. 2016 PV (Post VandeBerg) made me forget how good Beathard could be as a quarterback. Now he's not perfect; he's mechanical in scanning the field and his pocket awareness is abysmal. But man, there is a lot of arm talent there. Here's to hoping he gets a chance to show it.

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