With the NFL draft approaching, players and fans alike wait excitedly and apprehensively to hear the right name get called by right team. Many of the country’s best signal-callers will don the snapback hat of the team that fate has brought them to.
With five quarterbacks expected to go in the first round, this year’s draft offers a rich quarterback class. Naturally, as round one eventually turns into round seven, the names called become less and less familiar to fans. Regardless of the unfamiliarity, these late round draft picks typically find their way onto NFL rosters. But for the undrafted free agents that inevitably find themselves ostracized from the exclusive club of NFL quarterbacking, what’s next?
Armed with a skillset once worth upwards of a million dollars to their respective universities’ football program, these quarterbacks should be able to find a place to play (if they still want to). Hopefully, they will do what many men in their unique position have done before. They will board planes, trains, and automobiles in search of the international second chance that legends such as Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, and Kurt Warner have used as the foundation for the construction of their legacies.
So what college stars should/could find themselves overseas in the coming years? Being arguably the second best football league in the world and close to home, it’s safe to assume that the Canadian Football League will likely be their best option. That’s not to say that we won’t see these college stars commanding offenses in the highly competitive European leagues. But for now, let’s work under the assumption that the passing-friendly rules of the CFL will be too attractive for this crop of QB’s to pass up.
1. JT Barret IV- Ohio State University
One of the most decorated quarterbacks in Ohio State history, the former National Champion and three-time captain boasts some incredible statistics. Over four years, Barrett IV amassed 12,697 total yards and 147 total touchdowns (Big Ten Conference Records). With a resume as impressive as Barrett IV’s, it would seem like a pipe dream for any international team to get their hands on this record-breaking QB. However, NFL.com projects him to go undrafted. Here’s why. Barrett IV had arguably one of the best supporting casts of any quarterback in college football over the last four years. From 2014 to 2016 (Barrett’s first three years as the starter), Ohio State’s offense produced eleven NFL draft picks. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include draft prospects from this year’s draft, nor does it include the vaunted horde of talented underclassmen that load OSU’s championship-caliber roster. Granted, being called a product of one’s environment is a largely subjective and abstract criticism. Fact: Barrett IV completed 63.5% of his passes over four years. Not that bad right? However, that is due largely to the healthy portions of short and intermediate routes that Head Coach Urban Meyer uses to coddle and protect his quarterbacks. On throws 21 yards down the field or further, just 28% of them fell into the talented hands of an Ohio State player. With a passing game frontloaded with check-downs, screens and slants; Barrett IV was able to salvage his completion percentage and rely on the talent around him. The 65-yard (59.4 m) fields of the CFL should allow him to hide his deep-ball inaccuracy behind a slew of swing passes and other short, out-breaking routes.
Verdict: JT Barrett IV will most likely be invited to an NFL training camp this summer. He may even get drafted. He possesses arguably one of the highest football IQs in this year’s draft. However, unless he can improve his down the field accuracy, which is unlikely, the OSU alumni won’t last very long. Look for him buckling his chinstrap as he dodges snowflakes in Montreal or Saskatchewan.
2. Quinton Flowers- University of South Florida
Quinton Flowers is going away the most prolific runner in this draft. In his last three seasons as the starter, he compiled 3,599 of his 3,672 rushing yards. In those three seasons, Flowers rushed for 41 touchdowns, which is two shy of the 43 touchdowns that JT Barrett IV scored in four. After watching highlight reels inundated with long, ankle-breaking touchdown runs, it’s easy to see why USF’s all-time touchdowns leader never passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season. He was too busy using his feet. His career completion percentage of 57.7% might also have something to do with it. Standing at 5 feet 10 inches, he is the poster child for “too short to play quarterback”. But at 210 pounds, he is the ideal size for an NFL running back. My personal opinion is that he should pursue this. Perhaps even more so than Barrett IV, Quinton Flowers will benefit from the wider CFL field. He will continue to dominate with his legs, breaking contain and blowing past QB spies.
Verdict: Quinton Flowers has an NFL future… at running back. At the NFL Combine, Flowers smartly participated in both quarterback and running back drills. If for some reason he chooses to go the Tim Tebow route, refusing to ultimately switch from quarterback, he will be welcomed into the opens arms of a CFL Team.
3. Danny Etling- Louisiana State University (Transfer from Purdue)
Introducing the biggest game manager of the 2018 quarterback class: Daniel Patrick Etling. To Etling’s credit, playing in Ed Orgeron’s moshpit of an offense isn’t necessarily ideal if you want to build your resume as a potential NFL quarterback. In one year as the starter, he barely passed for 200 yards per game, only throwing for 11 touchdowns. Like all of the quarterbacks on this list so far, he struggles with accuracy. Over the course of his career with Purdue and LSU, he completed just 57.1% of his passes. Unlike JT Barrett IV and Quinton Flowers, he is not an impressive runner by any stretch of the imagination, nor has he won. He rushed for 5 touchdowns in 24 games played and is the only quarterback on this list to have a losing record as a starter. In spit of this, Etling does have upside. He’s perfect for a ball control offense. At the helm of one of the nations most run-heavy offenses, he rarely turned the ball over. In 669 passing attempts, he has thrown just 16 interceptions. Also, understanding that he lacks the “escapability” that defines many of the quarterbacks on this list, he is not afraid to stay in the pocket and take hits against the nightmare-fuel that are SEC defensive lines. This allows his receivers to complete their vertical and across-the-field routes, giving his team the best chance to execute their limited downfield passing game.
Verdict: He likely won’t be drafted because he lacks the stats and measurables to convince an NFL team to keep him around past training camp. The pass-happy CFL doesn’t seem to suit his skillset perfectly; but he should be able to finding his way onto a preferably run-heavy team. The British Columbia Lions struggled this year, leading the league in turnovers. Etling has proved able to protect the ball and could serve as a steady hand, keeping a turnover-prone offense going in the right direction.
4. Brandon Silvers- Troy
Brandon Silvers is everything you look for in a professional quarterback… on paper. He stands at 6 feet 2 inches, consistently weighing in around 220 pounds. At Troy, he started four years and passed for over 10,677 yards and 71 touchdowns, only throwing 29 interceptions. Snubbed from the NFL Combine, Silvers isn’t on many teams’ radars as he is projected to go undrafted. I believe that this is a classic case of small school prejudice. Troy is a quality program, but they aren’t often tested against the best competition. In four years, he played against just six schools from a Power 5 conference. In those games, he passed for only three touchdowns. This will scare many general managers that are seeking confirmation that when the level of competition increases, so does the level of his play. They just haven’t seen much of that out of Brandon Silvers. Most of his struggles came against the blitz. Consequently, the better of the Power 5 conferences further exploited that weakness. His slow, looping release left him unable to get the ball to his receivers when the pressure was on. I personally think that Brandon Silvers has the best chance to get drafted out of all the projected “undrafteds.” But working under the assumption that the scouts are right, let’s talk about why he is the perfect fit for the CFL. Like JT Barrett IV, he’s willing to find and throw to his check-downs, taking the easy yards when they’re there. Unlike Barrett IV, he doesn’t lean too heavily on them. He can push the ball down the field, throwing the deep ball with above-average success. Considering the fact that he’ll only have three downs to move the chains, he’ll be asked to throw more.
Verdict: Any CFL team would be lucky to get their hands on Silvers. Out of all the quarterbacks on this list, I am most confident in his ability to take advantage of this opportunity.
In my opinion, JT Barrett IV and Brandon Silvers deserve to and will be on NFL rosters. But NFL scouts don’t expect them to last, so I am going based off that. The four quarterbacks on this list are not necessarily the four best quarterbacks in the draft, nor are they the four worst. I just believe that these are four quarterbacks most likely to find more success in Canada or Europe for one reason or another.
**Originally published at American Football International.