An Easy Name to Remember
Minnesota QB, Athan Kaliakmanis, is young and inexperienced. It seems unlikely that he will enter the 2024 draft, because the upcoming season will be his first year as a full time starter and he has multiple years of eligibility remaining. Since his game needs substantial work, he might not even enter the 2025 draft, I could see him waiting until the 2026 draft. There is only a tiny sample size of game tape to watch on him. He made 5 starts in 2022 and there were only 2 games where he attempted at least 20 passes.
Kaliakmanis is raw and inconsistent. He needs more seasoning, experience and coaching to clean up his technique. He also needs to continue to add strength. If he progresses, I think he'll eventually become a good NFL prospect. My NFL comp for him would be Daniel Jones, who was the 6th overall pick in 2019 by the NYG out of Duke. Jones was 6'5'' tall and 221 pounds and ran 4.81 seconds in the 40. He was well groomed by David Cutcliffe. Jones had poor statistics in his redshirt sophomore season, then broke his clavicle his final year in college. Jones never threw for at least 3,000 yards in any season of his career at Duke.
Quite a few experts felt that Jones was a draft reach and wasn't worthy of a 1st round pick. Early in his career, Jones looked shaky. He had nearly as many INTs as TDs his 2nd year in the NFL. He also was held back by some injuries. Jones had a breakout season in 2022, his 4th year in the league and was rewarded with a lucrative contract that pays him a $40 million salary.
I only have an UDFA grade on Kaliakmanis right now, but the key difference between him and some of the other QBs we've looked at is those other guys are older QBs who are closer to their ceiling, while Kaliakmanis is a young player who has just barely scratching the surface of his potential. If Kaliakmanis could take a big leap forward in 2023, he could be a darkhorse candidate to be an early round pick, which might tempt him to become an early entrant and declare for the draft.
Name: Athan Kaliakmanis. Redshirt sophomore.
Size: Listed 6'4'' tall, 210 pounds.
4 star recruit from Illinois. Older brother, Dino, is a WR for the Gophers (the brothers were in the same recruiting class, because Dino was held back a year in school.) Also did basketball and track (hurdles and jumping events.) His family started a pizza restaurant around the time covid started and the kids helped out by working in the restaurant.
Broken collarbone in 2019 ended his season. Rib injury earlier in 2019 season. Covid disrupted his 2020 season, his HS played an abbreviated schedule in the spring of 2021. Redshirted in 2021. Due to a confluence of different events, Kaliakmanis has had limited game action over a 4 year period. I suspect that this is a key reason why he's "behind the developmental curve" as a QB and currently plays more like a HS guy, not like an NFL prospect.
Took over as starter in the middle of 2022 due to an injury to Tanner Morgan.
Ankle injury in 2022 bowl game, sounded like a sprain, because PJ Fleck said after the game that if the injury had happened during the regular season, the QB would only be out a couple of weeks.
2022 (5 starts): 60 out of 111 passing (54.1% completions), 946 yards (8.5 yards per attempt), 3 TDs, 4 INTs, 7 sacks, 1 fumble, 34-140-1 rushing
Capable runner. Solid speed and acceleration relative to his size. He's no Lamar Jackson, but has adequate wiggle in space to make cuts and be elusive for a taller QB. Not afraid of contact, gets upfield and attacks the defense.
Good arm strength. Can drill the ball into cover 2 hole between the CB and the deep S and into zone voids in middle of field. Throws deep passes with high trajectory, dropping them in from a steeper angle, which helps the WR. 45 yard pass easily within range. Can spin it with a tight spiral.
Has an outgoing and vocal personality with leadership skills. Positive attitude and family oriented, a good teammate.
Visibly more muscular in spring of 2023. He said he's put on weight, going from about 200 pounds at the end of the 2022 season to around 220 pounds. He was listed at 190 pounds as a recruit. Can continue to physically mature, but he's clearly been putting in work in the weight room.
Thin and lanky in 2022. Needs to add more muscle and fill out his frame. Insufficient bulk and leg drive on QB sneaks.
Footwork inefficient and undisciplined. Steps are not efficient on basic dropback from shotgun. Very often unnecessarily throws off back foot instead of maintaining stable base. Gets spooked by pressure instead of standing tall and remaining calm. Accuracy declines when pressured. The spacing of his feet needs to be more consistent, sometimes too far apart, other times too close together. Doesn't properly transfer his body weight, causing passes to be underthrown. Leans backwards to put touch on the ball. Happy feet, a tap dancer in the pocket, needs to develop more composure. If QB has to turn his body from one side of the field to the opposite side of the field to make pass, his feet aren't organized, resulting in his body leaning to the side, off balance on follow through.
Clock in his head needs to adjust to speed of college football. Indecisive and holds ball too long, inviting pressure.
Protected by very basic reads in RPO based scheme. Quickly locks in on his target with his eyes and stares down the WR. Helped by good OL, including the center, John Michael Schmitz, who was a 2nd round pick in 2023. Offense revolved around the RB, Mo Ibrahim. Was not responsible for making checks and audibles at the LOS, the QB would look over at the sideline to see if the coach wanted to make a change after the defense lined up. Either QB didn't know how to read progressions or the coaches didn't even give him a progression on some plays, if the primary read wasn't there, there were instances where QB never looked anywhere else, he just threw the ball away.
Has a slightly elongated motion, bringing the ball back away from his torso in his windup. Relies too much on his arm to drive the ball.
Accuracy needs to improve. Doesn't place the ball precisely. Underthrows deep balls.
Ball not tucked high and tight, the point of the ball faces forward when he runs.
Minnesota lost 3 key OL starters and their star RB, but they do bring back talent at TE and WR to help Kaliakmanis. The Gophers play a pretty tough schedule, there are no true cream puff games that are sure victories. Even the mid-major teams they face, Eastern Michigan and Louisiana, are pretty good programs. They also open the season against a conference foe, Nebraska, so they don't get an easy "exhibition game" type opponent to ease into their schedule.
The basic raw tools are there for Kaliakmanis to play in the NFL. He's tall, can run, has good arm strength and has good football intangibles. Right now, he's more of an athlete than a quarterback. The mental part of the game, the polish and details in his technique, consistency in execution, just being able to throw the ball accurately, those things aren't nearly good enough yet to even to be a top QB at the college level.
If the light bulb could come on at some point, however, watch out for this kid. Kaliakmanis has a higher ceiling than many of the other QBs we've ranked for the 2024 draft class. In that sense, he's similar to Tyler Buchner, the former ND QB who transferred to Alabama. Neither Buchner nor Kaliakmanis are anything special entering 2023, but by the end of the 2023 season the landscape could substantially change, so it is worth monitoring how the year unfolds for both of those guys.