Paxton Lynch is a known commodity in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz have passed him recently as the 'it' quarterbacks, but according to most Lynch is about as sure of a thing in the first round as you can get.
Where he ends up is a matter for debate, but the question is - can he push the Rams over the hump and get the team to post the first winning record in over a decade?
It's always hard to judge quarterbacks. It's happened first-hand, with Sam Bradford. The 'will-he-won't-he' improve with some who pointed to a pathetic or disadvantageous scheme and others stating that Bradford simply wasn't that good. The same goes for college quarterbacks; it isn't easy to pull their specific play out from the team's overall offense.
It's what I originally did and why I deleted everything I had and started over again.
That's a 65-yard pass in the wind. Next.
Lynch displays impressive touch for someone his size and has shown the ability to drop passes in above the defense when necessary. He's equally impressive doing so on play-action and also while on the move.
Lynch does a great job of throwing a nice, soft touch pass to his tight end. Lynch waits until he is wide open, so there is no need for a hard throw here. While this seems like a gimme, don't overlook the fact that he's throwing this under pressure, while running, using only his arm strength to get it to the receiver - perfectly.
One of the things you will notice though, is that Lynch needs to display a more commanding presence when passing. Lynch needs to find the middle ground between lofting every short pass and dropping lasers on a defense. It's one of those things that comes with time and it's something I think he improved upon as the season progressed. He still has work to do here, but the difference between the Houston game and the Ole Miss game is big.
Many quarterbacks coming out of college, especially those from mid-major and small programs struggle under pressure. It's one of those things that can get better with time - these football teams normally dominate if a player is in discussion as a top pick, after all.
However, there's a certain baseline that some players can't cross no matter what how much experience they have. Lynch has displayed that clutch ability late in games.
This happens in the span of two-and-a-half seconds.
This, simply, is where Lynch thrives. He's a naturally athletic QB, whose ability to run is amplified by his 6'7", 250lb. frame. One of the hardest things with running quarterbacks is the manic nature they sometimes resort to - getting away from the pressure takes over the need to find a man downfield. This is not a problem with Lynch.
Take a look at this play against Houston, where he's able to scramble and pick up a first down on a key third down situation. Instead of taking a coverage sack or tucking the ball and shutting down the option to throw, he starts running, but doesn't fully commit until after he resets and gives himself one more opportunity to throw the ball (which sets up his fake):
The ability to extend the play like this something that makes Lynch so impressive - being able to threaten through the air and the ground at his size isn't something you see from someone his size in the NFL, outside of say, Cam Newton or a young Ben Roethlisberger.
This is the area where Lynch needs to improve the most. I spoke earlier about his need to be a little more aggressive with his short passes - this is something he started to correct as the season went on. The biggest issue you'll see is that he's just sloppy at times throwing the ball. He'll waste motion and rely on his size and arm strength to deliver passes. He'll jaggedly throw the ball while on the run. His footwork can be abysmal at times, causing him to go through inaccurate stretches of play.
Part of this is never going to go away; Lynch is huge, after all. But Lynch specifically targeted criticism of his sloppy footwork during his pro-day and looked much improved. An off-season of effort could do much to erase this negative of his game, but it's still a question mark heading into the NFL season.
I get the polarization of Paxton Lynch. The current Rams regime has put a huge emphasis on potential and athletic talent and it hasn't always paid off. That same ideology applies to Lynch and it certainly could make more than a few fans uneasy. It doesn't help that Memphis ran an extremely 'college' offense that few coordinators in the NFL would ever consider running.
However, Lynch has displayed at some point all of the tools you look for in an elite NFL quarterback. He's got all the physical talent and has shown at times the touch, poise and clutch ability you look for in top quarterbacks around the league. His primary concern is that he needs to continue to develop that - rapidly - to have immediate and continued success in the NFL.
I feel like Lynch will have a similar transition to the NFL as current NFL MVP Cam Newton. Newton relied primarily on his physical talent while adjusting to the NFL to moderate success for a few years. That was until last season, when he improved enough with his technique and acuity that he was able to dominate in the NFL and lead his team the the Superbowl. That isn't a endorsement that Lynch will take the Rams to the promised land - more that Lynch will have a similar 'break-in' period in the NFL.
Nothing is a given, of course, and projecting Lynch's career to a reigning MVP is pretty lofty. But Lynch has that much talent. Your appraisal of him has always been on whether or not you think that will translate to on-the-field success.