(To see the original top 3 QB article, click here)
When evaluating tape and building biomechanical profiles, there generally comes a point when the profile “clicks”- when predicting the outcome of a play changes from a matter of mystery to a matter of mechanics. While I reached this point with Drew Lock several weeks ago, I never truly reached this point with Dwayne Haskins- when continuing to review his tape, I would still find myself surprised with the outcome of certain plays. Given that I had carefully mapped 5 out his 6 major areas (anterior cervical/ thoracic/ lumbar and posterior thoracic/ lumbar), it was therefore clear that I had to focus my attention on Haskins’ posterior cervical area if I were to reach a satisfying biomechanical catharsis.
The problem with studying cervical areas of football players (and the reason I hadn’t previously fully mapped Haskins’) is that these areas are almost entirely obscured by the shoulder pads and helmets (and in the case of posterior cervical areas these areas are completely covered). So a surface-level analysis becomes impossible, which means that a profile must be built using only very slight movement cues. It is slow, difficult work. And in the case of posterior cervical analysis, requires constant focus on that one area. But by focusing specifically on how the head “locks on” (moves in concert with) the thoracic area before/ during a throw, it is possible to indirectly deduce some very important traits in a QB. Specifically, there is a very strong correlation between a specific type of posterior cervical/ thoracic efficiency, and depth-based throwing accuracy (found by studying the movement of two junctions (one mid-cervical, one mid-thoracic), and how well they sync up during a throw).
The QBs I’ve studied who show high levels of this type of efficiency show consistent ability to hit precise downfield targets, as well as the ability to lead their receivers downfield and hit them in stride. QBs who don’t show this type of efficiency generally struggle hitting precise depth-based targets, and are less able to lead their receivers down the field, relying more on straight-line accuracy.
Dwayne Haskins does not show this type of efficiency. Although I had originally attributed Haskins’ tendency towards throwing bullet passes to his medial thoracic leanings, it now appears far more likely that Haskins throws on a line because his ability to accurately throw to a specific depth of target is subpar. He throws very accurate straight-line passes on a longitudinal scale, and is very good at leading receivers right-to-left/ left-to-right, but his ability to “drop a dime” down the field, or to lead a receiver in stride downfield, is apparently lacking. And from previous study, it appears that this type of efficiency is very hard to generate as an adult- I have a very hard time seeing Haskins improving notably in this regard.
So what does this mean for Haskins’ NFL prospects? That is a hard question for me to answer- this type of efficiency has been studied extensively elsewhere, but is extremely time-consuming to study in football players- my NFL sample size is small. Drew Lock does show this efficiency, as does Baker Mayfield (and none of the other 2018 drafted QBs do). Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning do/ did. Kurt Cousins does, as do Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers. Dak Prescott does (up to a depth of about 20 yds).
Ultimately, this seems like an extremely important trait in an NFL QB, and if Haskins is going to succeed without it, he will need superlative accuracy in all other respects, and a system tailored to his strengths. To put it another way, can you think of a long-term successful pocket-passing NFL QB who only threw passes on a line? The only recent QB I can recall to throw this way is Ryan Tannehill, and it’s hard to argue that he’s been successful.
Drew Lock may be a much less refined prospect than Dwayne Haskins overall, but assuming continued improvement in his areas of weakness (areas which are far more likely to improve than Haskins’), his upside is beginning to look much higher. In combination with his seemingly perfect fit in Denver (both schematically, and for being able to sit behind Flacco for 1-2 years), I think I would now choose Lock over Haskins if both were available at #10. Haskins is a great pocket-passing prospect in almost all areas, but this one deficiency may prove crippling to his NFL chances.