Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes has seemingly passed his way into this year’s Heisman Trophy conversation. While still a long shot to win the prestigious award, he has started to give NFL scouts something to think about when trying to project him at the next level.
Mahomes has already thrown for 500-plus yards on three separate occasions in 2016 — including a stellar performance against Oklahoma, which included seven touchdowns and tied the NCAA single-game record for passing yards (734).
Mahomes, who was a three-star prospect out of high school, chose Texas Tech over other programs like Rice and Oklahoma State.
During his first college season, Mahomes set a Red Raiders school record by a freshman with 598 yards passing versus Baylor. He was also the first freshman in school history to throw at least four touchdowns in three consecutive games. Mahomes was named an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 as well as the conference’s Offensive Freshman of the Year.
Last season, Mahomes led the Big-12 with 46 total touchdowns, passing yards (4,653), and passing touchdowns (36).
When scouting Mahomes as potential NFL prospect, you have put the gaudy offensive numbers in perspective knowing that he plays in a run and gun spread system that seemingly throws the ball on every down.
Having said that, what you have to like about Mahomes is his quick release, strong arm and athleticism. He can throw the ball from different arm angles and is able to quickly reload and set his feet in a blink of an eye. He demonstrates good pocket presence, too, as Mahomes is able to feel outside pressure and either step up in the pocket or buy additional time with his feet.
When he is dodging defenders in the backfield, he always has his eyes downfield looking to see if a receiver pops open. Mahomes appears to be an accurate thrower on the run, whether he is forced to his right or left side. He has a good feel for the passing game as he is able to lead his receivers nicely, and place the ball in a spot where they can catch it and immediately head upfield to gain additional yards.
What has to concern scouts when it comes to Mahomes is the Red Raiders’ offensive system and the lack of quality NFL quarterbacks it has produced in the past years. While the Texas Tech offense allows its QB to put up impressive numbers, it can also be a detriment to his development.
You can see a number of issues with Mahomes’ mechanics on tape. He throws a number of passes flat-footed and falling backward off his back foot. This leads to accuracy issues where the ball can either bounce in front of the intended target or sail completely over his head.
He does not follow through on his throwing motion, either, which results in some wobbly passes and a number of balls thrown up amongst a crowd. He is not asked to make full field reads; instead, he’s asked to read half the field.
Mahomes also has a tendency to bird dog his primary receiver as he waits for him to get open. He takes a majority of snaps from the shotgun formation and has not been asked to huddle up and recite offensive play calls to his teammates.
It will be interesting to see if Mahomes, only a junior, will decide to capitalize on his collegiate success and declare early for the 2017 draft. While he is not the ideal quarterback prospect, as he will need time to acclimate to the pro game, he does possess talent along with some traits teams look for. His ability to get rid of the football quickly, his arm strength and overall feel as a passer are definitely positives.
At this point in his career, Mahomes appears to be more of a developmental prospect who’s most likely a Day 3 draft pick for a team willing to sit him for a couple years, similar to the way the New York Jets have handled former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty.
What has to be answered when it comes to Mahomes is, How much time will he need in order to develop into a quality NFL type quarterback, and which team is willing to put in the time and effort into fostering his talents?