Wed, Oct 10, 2018
By Jim Nagy
Washington State QB
As a scout, one of the most fun things that can happen is having a legitimate prospect unexpectedly pop up in your area. Usually they are late-bloomers or junior college players. And in recent years, there have been some graduate transfers who have breakout years after transferring for one final year at another school.
Washington State QB Gardner Minshew falls under all three of those categories.
For those unfamiliar with Minshew’s nomadic background, here’s the CliffsNotes version. After a brief walk-on stint at Troy, he won a junior college national title at Northwest Mississippi CC in ’15, and then started a handful of games at East Carolina in 2016 and 2017 before finishing up his degree and deciding to transfer out of ECU. Since last spring, he agreed to be the insurance policy at Alabama in case Jalen Hurts decided to transfer, but his path to Tuscaloosa took a sharp northwest turn to Pullman after Cougars Head Coach Mike Leach called and offered him a shot at the starting job. Fast forward past a three-man QB battle in fall camp and now Minshew is the talk of west coast scouting circles.
In last week’s 56-37 win over Oregon State, Minshew connected on 30-of-40 passes for 430 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT, and he was not sacked. Like most scouts, we are late to the game on Minshew, but what we have seen so far has been very intriguing.
First off, you have to love his makeup. I know the crew at “QB Country,” where he trains in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, and those guys cannot say enough good things about his work ethic and coachability. Also, it speaks volumes about his passion for the game that he considered the Alabama transfer mainly because a future graduate assistant job was potentially part of the deal.
Tools-wise, he is listed by the school at 6-2 and 220 pounds and he looks to have a sturdy and durable build on tape. NFL teams still do not have a hand measurement on him, however, based off how he pumps and re-loads the ball on tape, all indications are that his hands are big enough to control the ball.
Athletically, he fits more of the pocket passer mold, but he does show some twitch in his body to dart away from free rushers and extend plays. I also like how his eyes never gave up on a play when he was forced to move.
In last week’s win over the Beavers, there was plenty to like about his Minshew’s game and it starts with his fundamentals. This is a well-schooled QB who is good from the ground up. His upper and lower halves routinely work in tandem and he has natural arm action.
The second thing that stood out was his poise. For someone who has only been in the system a few months, he looked comfortable scanning the entire the field and he did a nice job using his check-downs.
Perhaps the most impressive thing was that there were a few instances where his feet were not right (parallel to LOS) versus the blitz and he still threw the ball accurately. He showed good anticipation throwing receivers out of their breaks and there were a couple of well-placed back-shoulder balls that resulted in big plays down the field.
We will see Minshew and fellow Senior Bowl prospect LT Andre Dillard when they travel to Stanford on Oct. 27.
North Carolina State OLB/ILB
There were other great defensive performances last Saturday, like Kansas DT Daniel Wise’s disruptive (2 sacks, 3.5 TFL) showing in a loss to West Virginia, but Pratt’s sideline-to-sideline effort in a narrow 28-23 win over Boston College earned him our Senior of the Week honors. Pratt filled the stat sheet with 13 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 QBH, and 1 FR against the Golden Eagles.
We did not know much about Pratt heading into the season because he was essentially a rotational player last year for the Wolfpack, but he quickly got our attention when we saw him play live against James Madison in Week 1.
Pratt’s unique playing history and near prototype tools make him a very interesting prospect. He played his first two years as a backup free safety and then transitioned to outside linebacker in ’16 while he was sitting out with a shoulder injury. Since entering college, Pratt has packed on roughly 40 pounds and sources that saw him as a true freshman say he has completely transformed his body. Although we don’t know what he looked like five years ago, we can tell you that he is a chiseled specimen now. If he gets invited to the Senior Bowl, which is a good possibility, Pratt will be one of the guys that is the talk of weigh-ins.
Good scouts are always looking for the positive qualities in a player and Pratt has a long list of valuable traits, both physically and makeup-wise.
· Size: Last spring, he was measured just under 6-3 (6026v) and weighed 241 pounds. While we do not have verified arm length or wingspan measurements on him yet, if we had to estimate based off tape it looks like he could have 34-plus inch arms.
· Range: The linebacker position has evolved over the past decade in the NFL and guys that cannot run or stay on the field all three downs are a dying breed. After watching him play laterally and close to the perimeter a couple times last week, Pratt definitely has the field speed that the NFL demands. There were a couple different rewind-worthy plays where he showed both short closing burst and long makeup speed — not even all fast guys have both.
· Versatility: N.C. State plays him stacked Mike and as an overhang SAM and he has the bulk to play ILB and the length to play OLB at the next level. Against Boston College, he showed the ability to rush off the edge and handle an NFL-caliber tight end (#89 Tommy Sweeny) in man coverage, which are two primary responsibilities at SAM in any scheme. One component of position flexibility that oftentimes gets overlooked is intelligence and, based off all the pre-snap communication and traffic-directing he does, smarts will not be an issue for Pratt.
· Leadership: He is an elected team captain and when we saw him play live he brought juice to the team during pre-game.
My experience in the NFL taught me many lessons when it comes to evaluating players and none is more important than valuing the grittiness of an individual. Players can have all the physical talent in the world, but if they are not hungry or do not know how to overcome adversity then there is a good chance they will not realize their full potential. That said, based off what we’re hearing, NFL teams do not need to worry about Pratt hitting his ceiling. This is a mentally tough and driven individual with starter-level upside as a player.
|Jim Nagy is the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. He spent 18 years in the National Football League. In his time in the NFL, Nagy worked as an area scout in the West, Midwest, and Southeast regions, as well as in a national scouting capacity for four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a part of six Super Bowl teams and four Lombardi Trophy winning clubs (Green Bay Packers XXXI, New England Patriots XXXVIII and XXXIX and Seattle Seahawks XLVIII).|