Early though it may be, draft season never really ends for me. The 2014 class hasn’t stepped on an NFL field once and already we have to be looking towards the 2015 class, a stellar one by my early measure. As a Rams fan it’s never fun to talk about this subject, but we might need to start thinking about Quarterbacks. Now, I’m a huge Sam Bradford fan and supporter. I think he can still be "the guy" but I also realize that this is his last chance to prove it. If he doesn’t have a winning season in 2014, regardless of how everyone plays around him, it will be time to move on. My parents always said "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst" so here I am, preparing for the worst with my first look at a Quarterback for 2015.
I’m gonna open up here with one simple thing: This team is too good to be drafting in the top 10. So that throws two guys right out the window in terms of QB’s. Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, if they declare for 2015, are consensus 1a and 1b picks. So instead I’ll be looking at others I consider first round talent(or that others recommend to me as first round talent) and doing a simple report on them. With that out of the way, let’s get to our first man.
Name: Chuckie Keeton
College: Utah State
Measurables: 6’2, 200 lbs.
Key stats: 3 year starter entering 4th year, completion percentage has gone up every year
Career stats: 517/777 passing attempts, 5961 yards passing, 7.7 YPA, 56 TD’s, 13 INT’s, 252 Rushing attempts, 1153 rushing yards, 4.6 YPR, 14 rushing TD’s
To do this write up I took a look at his games vs. Utah, Air Force, and USC in 2013, and LA Tech and Toledo in 2012. For 2013, this represents the first, second, and fourth games of the season, and for 2012 they represent the 11th and 13th games of the season respectively. This gives me a good look at the improvements over the offseason, though I would like to see more of his older games. I’m just having trouble finding them.(If you know where to find some 2012 Utah State, let me know. I would be most appreciative)
One of the first things you really notice when watching Chuckie Keeton is the unique blend of spread and pro concepts that make up the Utah State playbook. While they definitely like to spread out their WR’s and create mismatches in the backfield, you’ll also see the occasional 22 set(2 Offensive Backs(FB and HB in this case) and 2 TE’s(usually lined up at the LOS)) with offset I. It creates more interesting games, but more importantly for our purposes, it lets us see more of who Chuckie Keeton is as a football player.
One of the things that really impressed me going from the 2012 tape to 2013 was how Keeton takes command of the line more and more. While he’s no Andrew Luck, you see him call out Protections, identify a blitzing LB, and even occasionally motion guys around in ways the play(seemingly at least) didn’t call for. He might not have complete control of the Aggies offense in 2013, but the very clear increase in responsibility from 2012 to 2013 is a great sign. I look forward to seeing if this is a trend in 2014, when the Aggies open against Tennessee.
A kid at heart
I think the best way I can describe Keeton is this: He’s a kid. He doesn’t look like a kid, and he doesn’t always act like a kid, but those childlike tendencies are still there. And I mean that in a very good way. Chuckie Keeton is not stuck in the rigid mundanity of being a Quarterback. He has not yet been battered, bruised, beaten, and berated into staying inside the confines of an offense. Chuckie Keeton, my friends, is free. For better or for worse, Chuckie Keeton is free.
Making plays with your legs requires a lot of ability, both mentally and physically. Obviously you have to be faster and shiftier than the guys chasing you around, but you also have to have the requisite vision to see the field and opposing defenders. You have to know when is the right time to take off and when the right time to stick in the pocket is. Keeton isn’t perfect at this, but he shows so much promise and so much improvement from 12 to 13 that I can see him becoming a master at it in the future.
Compare the first GIF with the second and you can really start to see what I mean. In the game vs. LA Tech Keeton bails earlier and has more time to work with. Against Air Force, though, he doesn’t move from the pocket until the DE is about to get a sack, deftly avoids him, and quickly finds an open man for a first down. Keep in mind the Air Force game was the second game of the 13 season.
That being said though, Keeton is still a kid at heart in the negative ways too. He’ll sometimes look for things that aren’t there, he’ll get overly excited, he’ll get spooked, and he just doesn’t always show the on field maturity you want in a QB, especially a thin scrambling QB.
This is kind of what I'm talking about right here. Once again we go back to the Air Force game, and you can just see so much wrong here. Let's start from the basics: Keeton doesn't get off his first read until after he scrambles. If he did, he would notice the easy Corner route, as well as an Out route that might get him a first as well. But, whatever, sometimes shit happens right? Well let's keep going.
After he scrambles there are a bevy of options open to him. The Corner route man from earlier does the smart thing and starts streaking across the field to come open, and boy does he. You can see the FS shadowing him, but I've seen Keeton make that throw. And he knows he CAN make that throw, you even see him set his feet and try it. The problem is that he doesn't unleash it under the incoming pressure, thinking he has time to move out and try other options. In the NFL that's how you get injured.
However, he does escape. Now he has two WIDE OPEN men who have turned themselves into an improvised Hi-Low route combo, with both of them running in routes towards the sideline. The closer of the two is still a 30 yard throw at this point, but Keeton's made those. We've seen him make those on the run. But it's already too late for him, he's tucked the ball and is convinced he can get a first down. Even though it's 20 yards from where he is. And there are defenders closing in on him. Oi.
I'm not a stickler for "prototypical size". I feel so many people use it as a crutch and try to explain why they like players that don't stand up to harsh scrutiny *coughLoganThomascough*. Chuckie Keeton does not fit into the "prototypical size" argument. He's below the desired height at 6'2, far below the desired weight at 200lbs, and for those who delve a little deeper, he fails the BMI test by....a lot. He's a skinny dude is what I'm trying to say. When he takes hits, he has to feel them. That's one thing that makes this segment more impressive though. He stands tall.
When I say that I mean he exhibits a certain fearlessness in the pocket. It doesn't matter who's bearing down on him, Chuckie Keeton knows he can take the hit and keep going. In his mind if this is a pass he can make, nothing a defender can do to him will matter.
Believe it or not, this isn't even really the best I can give with Keeton standing tall in the pocket. He doesn't take a monstrous hit here, but you can clearly see that could happen if LB was so inclined. Instead, he goes for what he thinks is going to be an easy strip, but a quick delivery negates the easy pressure on Keeton and nabs the Aggies a crucial 1st down.
Intermediate and Deep Accuracy
This is where the fun stuff starts. 10+ out is where Cuckie Keeton really shines in my book. I really could go on and on about how good his placement is, how good his touch is, all sorts of other gushing things. Instead, I'm gonna just show off a couple GIFs, explain it how I see it, and I'll leave it at that.
Shotgun, 11 personnel, D appears to be in Nickel formation with a single high FS, the SS has walked down into the box. This is the kind of look you'll see fairly often in the NFL with teams that trust their FS's(think Seattle). Keeton takes the snap and sees his TE coming open on an In route. However, there's some tremendous interior pressure that he has to escape, so he does and rolls left. After getting out of trouble, he sees his X receiver has blown past his man and the FS and has a shot in the end zone. The throw was a little off balance, but he drops it in a bucket for his man. Unfortunately the Wideout drops the ball and the Aggies settle for a FG.
Shotgun, 20 personnel, twins left. Defense is showing Nickel with two deep Safeties. Keeton takes the snap and quickly sees that this is a Tampa 2 cover by how the LB's move. Specifically, one of them moves back to cover #10 who is running a post route. Keeton fires it out and drops it perfectly between the triangle that was the FS, SS, and LB for an easy 1st down conversion. Only one more of these, I promise.
The third passing play of the game for the Aggies is an absolute beauty, and a perfect start for a record tieing day for Keeton. Shotgun T Formation(a staple of Clemson for those that still pine for Sammy Watkins) and the D is showing almost a 5-2, with 6 men showing rush(the 5 down linemen and the SS). They have two corners playing VERY far off, and a FS who is semi-shallow. In short, they are heavily expecting run here. Keeton takes the snap, does a good play fake to the FB, and LAUNCHES it to #7 running a post route. Keeton loves him some post routes, and this is an easy 40 yard pass(officially 30 on the box score, but he throws from the 40) that Keeton just appears to make all day.
The real crux of my love and arguments for Chuckie Keeton hinges on 2014. Against BYU in 2013, he tore his ACL and missed the rest of a big year for Utah State. For a running QB, an ACL tear can be the kiss of death. What I'm hoping for though, is Keeton takes some time out to really get a good feel for the pocket, learn how to slide in it rather than just scramble around. He also has some other issues to work on, specifically he has a problem throwing high to his WR's. That's where a lot of his misses come from. But honestly, my list of complaints are small. This is a guy I've just become infatuated with, and I'm looking forward to his season opener vs. Tennessee.