In my mind, Patrick Mahomes is the best QB prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. It's not close, either.
The Chargers don't need a QB right this minute, but Philip Rivers isn't going to be around forever. I can't see any way that Rivers plays more than 3 more seasons (and it's hopeful to assume that he'll even still be playing at a high level for that long), which means the Chargers ideally need to find his long-term replacement in the next two years.
It's true that the Chargers have more pressing needs than a QB heading into the draft. It's also true that it's impossible to compete in the NFL without a competent QB (just look at the Texans this season). The only reason there would be to stay away from picking a QB early is if you think the Chargers are just a few pieces away from making a Super Bowl run with Rivers at the helm. I’m an optimist - I think the Chargers are definitely a better team than their record suggests - but there's no way that the Chargers are in a good enough position over the next two years to neglect their long-term potential. That'd be the sign of a grossly mismanaged franchise, which is exactly why it'll happen and the Chargers will settle for another Brad Sorensen in the seventh round.
If the Chargers do decide that this is the year they want to bring in their future QB, there's only one candidate on my list to do that job: Patrick Mahomes.
The biggest flaw (by far) with Mahomes is that his mechanics are woeful, and people will point to this play as a good example of why:
The bad Mahomes. Footwork costs 6 pic.twitter.com/hErDbZZw6G— Jupjamie (@jupjamie) February 10, 2017
Mahomes has a man wide open downfield but doesn't set his feet properly, and instead ends up throwing it with a hop off his back foot, missing his receiver for an easy six points.
What's Mahomes thinking there? There’s only one QB in the world who can make a throw like that, and that's Aaron Rodgers.
Actually, there's two. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
I disagree with everyone who says that Mahomes' mechanics need to be fixed. If you take a QB like Mahomes and try to teach him a different way of doing things you completely ruin everything that makes him great, just like you’d ruin Le'Veon Bell as a runner by telling him to stop waiting so long behind the line.
Are Mahomes mechanics perfect? No - the first play shows that. He needs to do certain things more consistently, but it's a matter of 'cleaning up' his mechanics, rather than 'fixing' them. The NFL, at times, has an obsession with 'doing things the right way' - with right meaning the way that it's been done for years. Mahomes' mechanics are unconventional, but that doesn't make them bad.
Wide open, but look at that throw pic.twitter.com/agGHhWms6n— Jupjamie (@jupjamie) February 10, 2017
Sure, his WR is wide open, but just look at the way he throws that ball. Here's a closer look at it:
Does that unorthodox throwing style remind you of anyone?
Philip Rivers is the first example that comes to mind of a QB with unique mechanics. He's also a potential Hall of Famer. Just like you wouldn't try to teach Rivers how to throw the ball your way, you shouldn't try to teach Mahomes how to 'correctly' throw the ball. Instead, you embrace their uniqueness and work on developing their style to get the most out of their game.
(As an aside - is there a better place for Mahomes to land than San Diego? Sitting behind Philip Rivers for a couple of years while learning from an elite QB with 'different' mechanics sounds like the dream situation for Mahomes.)
Throwing 45 yards off his back foot? Absolutely perfect. You can't throw that any better.
In the excellent book 'Take Your Eye Off The Ball' by Pat Kirwan, he makes the point that, as much as a quarterback wants to step into his throw, most of the time that isn't possible. Instead, the QB will have to make do with the situation given to them - a compromised pocket - and have to throw it from all sorts of positions and angles. Dan Marino says that "if I worked out a QB for an NFL team, he'd have to show me 100 throws off his back foot." It's a vital skill - one that's even more important playing behind the Chargers OL, who provide a clean pocket about as often as Mike McCoy provides an interesting press conference - and Mahomes has mastered it.
That's not to say that he can't throw in a clean pocket, though - when Texas Tech provided him one, Mahomes showed everything NFL scouts look for in a prospect.
Mahomes steps up to avoid the pressure, before calmly floating a perfect deep ball 55 yards downfield in the air, only for his WR to duly drop.
When you're evaluating any player, there's a trade-off. You need to find what they can do, and compare it to what they just don't have the ability to do.
Here's the thing. I haven't found much that Patrick Mahomes can't do.
By no means is he a perfect prospect. There are things he doesn't do consistently enough, and he has a tendency to go for the big one more than he should - but these are things that can be - hopefully - coached out of him. Some things you can't coach.
He avoids the pressure, somehow stays on his feet, keeps his eyes downfield and casually launches it for 30 yards. I can think of a few NFL QBs who that reminds me of, and they're all future HoFs.
That pass flies 50 yards in the air and hits the WR perfectly in stride, resulting in a 90 yard TD on the play. That's special.
Not only does Mahomes have an absolute cannon on him, but when he is consistent with his footwork, he can fit passes into incredibly tight windows.
Mahomes drops it right in the breadbasket pic.twitter.com/cQ6YlJUUFs— Jupjamie (@jupjamie) February 10, 2017
Mahomes is also an excellent scrambler. I generally classify QBs into four categories with regards to scrambling:
1). A running QB who prefers to run than throw the ball.
2). A pocket passer who has excellent running ability and can take off when needed.
3). A pocket passer who shouldn't be looking to run unless it's strictly necessary.
4). Do they even have legs? (aka the Philip Rivers category).
You don't want a QB in category 1. If you can't throw the ball well, you're not a quarterback. The other three are all fine. There's nothing wrong with not being able to scramble, but it does open up the playbook as well as help keep plays alive.
Fortunately, Mahomes is category 2. He's a superb athlete - he's not quite at Russell Wilson's level of running, but there's no doubt that he can take off with his legs when the situation requires.
I absolutely love this play. He steps up in the pocket but still keeps his eyes downfield to see if anything develops. Nothing's there, so he bursts forward through the middle of two defenders, and it's only the world's stretchiest jersey that denies him from getting a first down.
Taking a QB at #7 won't be a popular decision with so many current needs on the roster, and I agree that it's the wrong thing to do - unless that QB is Mahomes.
Mahomes is an unbelievable talent. QBs like him don't come around very often. He can make throws that most people can't - and that includes a lot of current NFL QBs. Ideally, he goes into a situation where he can sit behind a starter for a year or two to develop - but develop and refine his own style, rather than be forced into completely changing the way he plays the game.
His floor isn't as low as many people would have you believe. Mahomes isn't a long term project, but rather an NFL ready QB with flaws that need developing, just like every QB prospect not named Andrew Luck.
His ceiling, on the other hand, is absolutely enormous. I could very easily see Mahomes becoming a top 5 NFL QB before too long. This is a prospect who ticks all the boxes and then adds some more that you hadn't even thought about before you saw him do them. I'd be very surprised if Mahomes is the pick at #7, but, in my mind, it would be the right pick.
Patrick Mahomes is special.