It’s Senior Bowl week in the NFL—and we get a chance to look at some future stars coming down the pipeline. The quarterback class for the 2021 NFL Draft is absolutely STACKED. There is no doubt about it. In the Senior Bowl there’ll be a few prospects that NFL teams should be able to select at value, as opposed to paying the first round premium for the top 5 quarterbacks selected this year.
Let’s get down to business and break them down for you, shall we?
We’ll start with the quarterbacks for the NATIONAL TEAM—coached by the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff.
Sam Ehlinger, Texas Longhorns — Sam Ehlinger’s 2021 NFL Draft stock seems to have been met with a mixed bag of reviews and a lot of questions so far.
There were plenty of people that said he should have gone back to Texas after regressing the second half of the 2020 campaign. After coming back to Texas and having a much better 2021 campaign—Ehlinger likely would have been one of the top quarterbacks selected in the 2022 NFL draft class. That’s a TON of money to pass up.
There were plenty of people that said with a new coaching staff and stud QB Casey Thompson breathing down his throat, he was smart to leave. Why risk the idea of winning over the Sarkisian coaching staff and beating out Thompson? Thompson looked nothing short of electrifying against Colorado in the second half of the Alamo Bowl.
Ehlinger has piled up gaudy stats at Texas—but he also had some really bad games in the 2020 season. Let’s keep in mind the Longhorns offensive line did not do him any favors.
Despite his poor games in 2020—there’s no disputing that Ehlinger goes down as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Texas football history. His numbers are pretty ridiculous. Here’s where he ranks in Texas football history in the following stats: 13,299 total yards (2nd all-time), 11,436 passing yards (2nd all- time), 127 total TD (2nd all-time), 94 passing TD (2nd all-time), 33 rushing TD (8th all-time).
Keep in mind in 2019, Ehlinger broke Vince Young’s single season rushing TD record with 15 scores. That’s no small feat. Vince Young is college football immortality. You don’t break one of his rushing touchdown records by rolling out of bed.
For all the prolific numbers Ehlinger has posted during his days, those have not come without paying the steep, physical price of being a dual threat quarterback. Ehlinger’s injury history trails back to his high school days and he’s had a wide array of injuries during his days at Texas.
Football is a game of injuries—we all get that. But Ehlinger’s injuries have continued to pile up over the years. He had to leave the game early in the Alamo Bowl against Colorado due to a shoulder injury. NFL teams will undoubtedly take a deep dive on Ehlinger’s lengthy injury history. That began this week at Senior Bowl practices—where teams are getting a live view of how his shoulder is. I’m sure they will have plenty of other questions about all of his other injuries as well.
The problem with Ehlinger’s lengthy injury histor, is unfair or not, your injury history will follow you. It’s a part of you and will be forever linked to you. It’s inescapable. You can run and hide from it all you want, but there’s no getting around it.
Ehlinger loves to run the football, and why wouldn’t he.
It’s in his DNA as a dynamic dual threat quarterback. The problem with that style for a player like Ehlinger is, in the National Football League, the hits will only get worse. The injuries will only continue to mount.
Frank Gifford once said, “Pro football is like nuclear warfare—there are no winners, only survivors.” Running the football the way that Ehlinger does—let’s just say it will be hard for him to survive for very long. Ask Cam Newton and RGIII.
Can Ehlinger physically survive the NFL and for how long? Those are two very big questions that I have about his injury history if I’m an NFL owner or GM.
My final take on him: Like many others, I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings and am very torn on his profile as he takes the next step towards the NFL. He was really good at Texas and threw a very beautiful, catchable spiral. He was also a very, very good runner of the football. Breaking Vince Young’s single season rushing TD mark is no joke. You don’t put up the numbers that he did at Texas and not warrant at least some mid-round consideration from NFL teams—even in a loaded quarterback class. There’s a lot to like about him and the work that he’s done on the football field over the years.
Everyone loves to say what decision would be the best for Sam Ehlinger. Some people say he should have gone back to Texas. Some people say he was right to decide to go pro. My take is he honestly should have strongly considered quitting the game of football.
It would have been a shocking and surprising decision for many people—but I think that’s the best decision that he could have made for himself personally and his physical future. His injury history is too extensive and terrifies me as he enters the NFL. His shoulder injury is very worrisome. He’s had a number of injuries dating back to high school. As a dual-threat quarterback in the NFL—Ehlinger would need a TON of things to go right for him to be able to survive.
I keep coming back to the play where—in 2017—he absolutely TRUCKED a KSU defender.
He flattened the guy in the open field and while I LOVE to see that type of bruising, punishing running style—you don’t get any extra yards or points in the NFL for a physical running style. Body preservation is essential for survival.
With his running style and his lengthy injury history—adding in the physical rigors of the NFL—you’ve got yourself the recipe of a man that won’t last. People have dreams in this world and Ehlinger is so close to fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. I understand why he’s pursuing it. Giving that up would be an incredibly tough pill for him to swallow.
I don’t see Ehlinger becoming a superstar in the NFL—which is yet another reason why I’d advise him to quit. Unless he was going to achieve total superstardom in the NFL (be one of the top 5-10 QBs) — the physical price that he’s going to pay is not worth it. I don’t see him becoming a superstar in the NFL—but life is full of surprises.
I thought Josh Allen was going to be a MASSIVE bust and look at him. Anything is possible. I’m very interested to see how Ehlinger does this week at the Senior Bowl and throughout his NFL journey.
Ian Book, Notre Dame — With a diverse skillset and tons of big-game experience, Ian Book could be one of the steals of the draft if taken someone where in the middle rounds.
Book delivers a gorgeous spiral with pinpoint accuracy on a routine basis, is excellent at throwing on the run, and is a money player in the red zone.
He’s an excellent improvisor in the pocket and manages to let loose a beautifully thrown ball even in chaotic situations.
Despite the questions surrounding his size, performance in big games, and lack of fluidity at times, he’s definitely a quarterback I’d want on my roster. If I’m targeting a guy in rounds 3-4, Book is my pick. He’s smart, tough, fearless, and has an incredible knack for making plays.
I do think he’ll need to be a bit more judicious about when he decides to take on contact in the open field. Over the years I’ve learned at some point: a player is who he is.
I don’t see that changing from Ian Book. The fearless running style is part of his identity. If you want to know why players like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees lasted so long in the NFL—they didn’t take a lot of unnecessary hits.
Any incoming quarterback prospect would be wise to follow the example of their long lasting predecessors. That advice goes to all the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl and the rest of the quarterbacks in the class.
Book was blessed with playing behind one of the best offensive lines in college football the past few seasons. It’s a privilege that is often overlooked by a lot of people. I don’t have any reservations of Book being able to improvise behind an average offensive line though, he was so good at that at Notre Dame.
I think he wouldn’t miss a beat. He’s excellent at fixating his eyes down field even when pressure comes. His ability to escape the pocket just seems like controlled chaos to me. He rarely panics and always seems to have an end destination in mind.
Book became the first QB in Notre Dame history with at least 2,500 passing yards, 500 rushing yards and 30 TD passes in a season. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts was the only other FBS QB to reach those milestones in 2019.
A unique blend of precision through the air and improvisation on the ground, I think a lot of people are sleeping on how good this guy could be in the NFL. A lot of people seem to think he’ll be nothing more than a backup in the NFL. Draft picks are all a roll of the dice, to a certain degree. If I’m gambling, I’m going to go with Ian Book. The kid is a scrappy, scrappy football player who makes incredible plays. You’re going to get him at a very solid value in the middle rounds. He’s definitely worth a shot at that draft position, and he’s one of my favorite quarterbacks in the Senior Bowl.
My final take on him: As you can see from the gushfest above, I’m in love with Ian Book. Get ready for more. He’s tough. He’s smart. He throws a gorgeous spiral. He’s an incredibly gifted improvisational runner, too. The blend of skills that he brings to the table are unique for sure. It’s a super talented quarterback class for 2021, which means there are going to be value picks in the class.
I understand that his games against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game in 2020 and Alabama in the playoff were very average. What can I say but I’m willing to overlook both performances. I know a lot of people will use these games as ammunition to prove that he won’t be good in the NFL. Sometimes in scouting, the best thing a person evaluating a prospect can do is listen to their intuition and block out any sort of outside noise. My intuition on Ian Book is that he’s a winner and a young man with an incredible amount of heart.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas — Franks is easily my least favorite quarterback at the Senior Bowl, and he’s a player that I wouldn’t be remotely interested in on my NFL roster. He was a very average passer of the football at Florida and he’s never been an incredible runner. He just seems very average to me in a lot of areas.
To his credit, I think he’s probably improved in his career, but he would have needed to make a MASSIVE, MASSIVE jump in improvement in a lot of areas for me to be interested in having him on my team. He still had his moments. The highlight of his Florida career was undoubtedly the 63-yard dagger of a Hail Mary to Tyrie Cleveland to beat Tennessee as the clock expired. Florida fans likely don’t remember Franks fondly outside of that moment. He didn’t complete more than 60 percent of his passes in either of his two full seasons with the Florida Gators.
I expected more out of a U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Elite 11 finalist QB coming out of high school.