In the past few months, much has been made about junior quarterback, Jared Goff. The prolific passer from California has started every single game since his freshman year, passing for over 9700 yards, with 73 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. That is an impressive amount of production and though Cal has gone 18-20 over the games that Goff has started, his numbers invite plenty of intrigue from a league seemingly desperate for more star quarterbacks.
The media coverage surrounding Goff has almost been more interesting than the signal caller himself. Many media outlets anointed him before the season as not only the best passer in the class, but also one of the better passers to come out in recent years. Over the summer, I was incredibly skeptical of Goff because, though he seemed smart and accurate during my viewing of him, his arm strength barely looked like it could work in the NFL. Passes were dying after 20 yards and the ball rarely had great spin on it coming out. However, Goff was also playing very underweight his sophomore year which would impact his arm strength, so I decided to hold off on conclusive judgement of him. Fast forward a bit to now, halfway through the college football season, and I still come away incredibly underwhelmed when I watch Jared Goff.
The first thing that stands out to me is his arm strength, or lack thereof. In general, his passes have very little velocity on them, lacking a tight spiral, and the ball often tends to nosedive short of targets. This is incredibly worrying because it limits what he is physically capable of doing as a passer in the NFL. "But Ben!" You may say. "There are plenty of high level quarterbacks who lack great arm strength." Of course. Some of the leagues elite quarterbacks over the last few seasons like Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to varying degrees, have had massive success on the field despite lacking top level arm strength. Why is that? Well, the reason these quarterbacks are so great is because of their instincts. The ability to anticipate defenses and process information so quickly that they are able to compensate for their lack of physical ability to a get a ball to a spot quickly and instead do so mentally. So the real question is... Does Jared Goff have what it takes above the shoulders to make up for everything lacking below?
The simple answer is no.
Goff is not incapable of processing information as a quarterback, but his ability to do so is not nearly on par with quarterbacks to come out recently with similar arm abilities such as Teddy Bridgewater or even Johnny Manziel. Goff is asked to run a very simple offense at Cal, often throwing short passes in the flats, the shallow middle or hitting open windows down the field. It is important to not take these criticisms seriously in a vacuum though, as I will never discredit a quarterback for hitting open spaces down the field, as Marcus Mariota did countless times at Oregon. However, what I do worry about is what happens when those windows begin to tighten and close. As for Mariota, a quarterback running a more complicated, albeit still "simple" offense, he had very strong games against more athletic defenses such as Ohio State, Washington, UCLA and Stanford, displaying the ability to hit "NFL windows" and function outside the "simplicity" of Oregon's scheme. The story is... different with Jared Goff. In his last games against UCLA, Stanford, Utah and Washington (which would be the most talented defenses he's faced recently), Goff completed under 57% of his passes throwing 8 touchdowns versus 8 interceptions with two of those touchdowns coming in garbage time against UCLA. What consistently happens against these better defenses is that as space shrinks downfield, Goff opts to dink and dunk on defenses rather than threaten downfield. When he is forced to throw downfield against these teams, due to falling very far behind, the results often yielded are negative. He does not have the arm strength to threaten downfield nor does he anticipate or process information well enough to compensate.
On top of those negatives he possesses as a pure passer, he is incredibly inconsistent under pressure, sometimes thriving and sometimes crumbling. While he does have athletic ability to extend plays, it is not dynamic by any means and he inconsistently is able to use his movement skills to positively impact plays, but he is by no means a statue. The final worry comes from his build. While he has tall frame, standing at 6-4, he is incredibly lanky and thinly built. Not a huge concern, but something to take note of.
Goff is at his best when the team can stick with a script and he functions well within a system. He tends to get the ball out quickly and does so with good accuracy. He flashes the ability to make very impressive throws, but those flashes are few and far between. He also does a good job recognizing favorable match ups on the field and utilizing his best weapons to exploit those favorable match ups.
NFL Comparison: Jared Goff reminds me of Houston Texans Quarterback Brian Hoyer. Like Hoyer, Goff does a good job when everything around him is working well and he makes a point of getting the ball to his best target in order to maximize each play. However, like Hoyer, Goff has a weaker arm and lacks the instincts to constantly overcome it and will opt to play conservatively rather than take chances or work outside of the system.
In terms of where I think Goff should be drafted, it should be much later than many are making it out to be. He lacks a dominant trait as a quarterback and his mental abilities as a passer do not nearly come close enough to counterbalance his physical shortcomings. I think much of the hype surround Goff has to do with the lack of first round quarterback prospects in this year's class and he is easy to shine a light onto due to his production. He would fit into what the Eagles want on offense, but like the Eagles current starting quarterback, he lacks the traits necessary to take the unit to the next level. If he were somehow to fall to day two, though I have no positive way of guessing how the league feels about him, he would be a good pick. However, spending a premium pick on a quarterback with a lacking arm, middling athletic ability, only above average football IQ and inconsistent poise seems like an incredible waste of recourses.
If you want to make your own judgement, you can find his cut ups here.