One of the more interesting stories of the 2015 college football season was Oregon Ducks quarterback, Vernon Adam's journey from the FCS level to filling some of the biggest shoes in college football. The name Marcus Mariota may sting an Eagles fan's ears like hearing your ex's name, but Mariota left a gaping hole in Autzen that Vernon Adams was asked to fill. A year after Oregon's quarterback won the Heisman, led Oregon to compete in the National Title and then was taken second over by the Titans (not the Eagles), an FCS transfer put on a Ducks uniform despite a shortened offseason with the team due to some transfer rules. Adams walked into a football culture where Pac 12 contention and National Title chances were yearly expectations.
Adams was no stranger to success, however. His previous college years were spent at FCS Eastern Washington where he was one of the most dominant players at that level of college football. Two years in a row, Adams was the finalist for the Walter Payton Award for the most outstanding player at the FCS level. Over those two seasons, Adams threw for nearly 8500 yards and 90 touchdowns while rushing for 890 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a multidimensional beast.
His career at Oregon got off to a rough start, however. His first couple games, it was evident that he was still adjusting to the offense and the fact that defenses were moving much faster than he was used to. That was compounded by nagging injuries suffered and his first couple weeks in a Duck uniform came off as uninspiring. However, Adams turned it on in the middle of October and began to look like the player who dominated at Eastern Washington the previous years and led the Ducks to six straight wins and Alamo Bowl appearance where the Ducks likely would have won after going up 35-0 in the first half, but Adams got hurt and Oregon allowed for a massive comeback win without Adams there to keep the pedal on the gas.
Needless to say, Adams was able to overcome adversity at the beginning of his Oregon career to finish incredibly strong, but then again, he is no stranger to that. Adams' time at Oregon is a perfect embodiment of the player he is, one thrives in the face of adversity and breakdown to finish a play or a game strong.
The 6-0, 200 pound quarterback will have plenty of questions to answer about his size, but the truth is that outside of some freak injuries at Oregon, Adams was healthy for his entire career at EWU. He also does an excellent job preserving his body when outside of the pocket, rarely putting himself in position to take big hits. Size, to me, is a minor concern for him, but it rarely puts him at a disadvantage.
Have you seen the Matrix? Of course you have. Well, Vernon Adams is a lot like Neo. Even when bullets are flying everywhere, Adams seems cool and collected. He is able to go through his process incredibly quickly and efficiently as a passer regardless of the presence or absence of structure on any given down. He has excellent escapability and constantly is able to extend a play well beyond what most quarterbacks are able to do. However, he is not a reckless player. Even though it may seem as everything is crumbling around him and he is dodging bullets to get the pass off, his decisions seem calculated and his efficiency as a passer reflects his excellent decision making.
People see a guy like Adams play in the way that he does and slap him with a label that he needs chaos in order to thrive, but the truth is that he is an incredibly cerebral passer. In fact, I would go as far to call him the smartest quarterback in this class.
On top of being an excellent decision maker and having awesome poise, Adams is also a very adept passer. His arm does not have elite strength, but he is incredibly accurate and has excellent anticipation on his passes. It is very important for quarterbacks with slightly more average arms to compensate with their instincts and that is something you see Adams do on the regular.
The biggest concern with Adams starts at his base. He is constantly moving in the pocket and can sometimes allow himself to throw from an uneven base. Poor footwork will negatively impact his accuracy, which is such a cornerstone to his game. It is a fixable trait, but something that needs consideration. People may be concerned with the offense that he ran at Oregon, but like Mariota before him, Adams ran the Oregon offense to a level of elite efficiency despite working with much less talent than what Mariota had before him. Adams made plenty of throws that would suggest he can hit "pro windows", but it will just be a matter of learning to test them more consistently. He is willing to be aggressive as a passer, however, so I am not concerned with him ever becoming gun shy at the next level.
Pro Comparison: I see the Russell Wilson comparison getting thrown around a lot and it makes quite a bit of sense to me in some aspects. Both quarterbacks have excellent escapability paired with very calculated approaches to their passing game. However, Wilson is a much more physically gifted player than Adams, possessing much better athletic ability, a stronger build and a bigger arm. Adams is Russell Wilson, stylistically, in Johnny Manziel's body. He is a bit lighter with a weaker arm and less straight line speed, but certainly isn't the reckless player Manziel was at Texas A&M.
I am a huge fan of Adams' skill set and think his style of passing would be perfect for Doug Pederson's offense. His ability to anticipate throws and accurately work the intermediate game while also being able to move an offense with his feet make him seem tailor made for Pederson and the Eagles. I am generally weary of a lot of these quarterbacks in the first round, but Adams might be one of the two or three best passers in this class. If the Eagles wanted to aggressively move on day two for him, I would be all for it.