When the Philadelphia Eagles signed quarterback Nate Sudfeld last year I was not excited. I spent the better part of his college career at Indiana watching teams throughout the Big Ten completely demolish the Hoosiers — and not just the good Big Ten teams.
Despite a college career that never resulted in even one winning season (and an overall 17-21 record) with Sudfeld as the starter, he had the most potential of all the QBs from the Big Ten among the prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Everyone knew that year that whoever the Eagles took at No. 2 overall would be the team’s franchise next quarterback — all-hail Carson Wentz — but it’s become increasingly obvious that the team is trying to develop a long-term solution at backup QB as well.
Sudfeld didn’t make his way to Philly until 2017, but it seems the coaching staff had their eyes on him during their draft prep the year before.
“Got to know them pretty well in the draft process. Obviously they drafted Carson, but they still texted me and said, ‘Hey good luck, you’re going to have a great career.’ They always kind of seemed to be interested and have my back.”
Nate Sudfeld is expected to be the starter for the team during their first preseason game of 2018 — thanks to injuries to Wentz and Nick Foles — but both head coach Doug Pederson and OC Mike Groh have put a spotlight on getting to see what Sudfeld can do at the helm. He’s gotten a lot of reps so far in training camp with the one’s and could see a similar situation throughout most of the preseason.
(We can’t keep Foles forever, even if that’s super depressing to think about.)
Sudfeld vs. other Big Ten prospects
The 2016 NFL Draft was a bit hit or miss for quarterbacks, but was especially lean at QBs coming out of the Big Ten, despite five being drafted that year — of which only one is still with the team that drafted him and another isn’t on a roster at all heading into the 2018 preseason.
The first Big Ten QB to be taken in the 2016 draft was Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg (No. 51 overall), followed by Michigan State’s Connor Cook (No. 100), Ohio State’s Cardale Jones (No. 139) and Michigan’s Jake Ruddock (No. 191). Just four spots ahead of Ruddock, Indiana’s four-year starter Nate Sudfeld was taken at No. 187 by NFC East foe, Washington.
Take a look at that list of names. It’s a variable who’s who of potential-laden quarterbacks who mostly have no business competing among the Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz’s of the world.
Hackenberg spent two seasons at the bottom of the Jets depth chart before being traded to the Raiders in early-2018. The trip out west didn’t last long, with the QB being waived by the team just one month later — and he hasn’t signed anywhere since.
While everyone was focused on Johnny Manziel being the real-life version of Bo Callahan from Draft Day, I was always convinced that honor should be given to Michigan State QB Connor Cook. He always seemed to have a shit-attitude and his teammates did very little to negate those public opinions.
Cardale Jones had only one full season worth of snaps when he declared for the NFL Draft and despite having a cannon that earned him the moniker “12-gauge” was more of a gamble than a sure-thing. Jake Ruddock had a lot of potential his senior season in Michigan, but got significantly less pre-draft interest than some of the other guys mentioned.
All of this is to say that the Big Ten didn’t really produce any starting-caliber QBs in 2016, but out of all the prospects, Nate Sudfeld had — and still has — the best opportunity to have an extended career in the NFL.
Sudfeld at Indiana
The fact that the Hoosiers’ record was abysmal during Sudfeld’s four seasons (2012-15) has very little to do with the quarterback. Sure, the QB is usually the scapegoat in these kind of situations, but Indiana had significant issues on defense that allowed for very few errors from the offensive side of the ball.
The QB missed a few games in 2012 and again in 2014 due to injuries, but still managed to finish each season at or above 60% completion and totaled 7,879 career passing yards for 61 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
From an advanced stat preview of Indiana vs. Ohio State back in 2014, this might be the best way to describe the oddity that was the IU offense:
Indiana’s offense is weird. The Hoosiers are mediocre-to-terrible in every major offensive statistical category until you scroll down to rushing efficiency (Rushing S&P+) and the offensive line’s ability to run block (Adjusted Line Yards).
Even though Sudfeld’s shoulder injury knocked him out for the second-half of the season in 2014, his stats leading up to being sidelined were not that great. He only had one game with over 300 passing yards and half as many interceptions as he had touchdowns.
His senior campaign, though, was unreal with Sudfeld throwing for over 300 yards in seven different games — including a matchup against Rutgers that results in a career-high 484 yards — and four games over 350 yards.
The real feather in his cap in 2015 was taking Indiana to the postseason for the first time since 2007, and Sudfeld stepping up to get the Hoosiers a bowl win that year.
In Sudfeld’s scouting report by Mark Schofield back in 2016, the IU quarterback’s potential was clear as long as he had some time to develop at the next level.
“Sudfeld is a developmental NFL project. Because of his prototypical size and arm strength, he is more than likely to be in an NFL camp next season. If given the chance to sit and learn for a season or two, he could develop into a long-term 3rd or 2nd string quarterback in the league. In the most ideal of situations, he could be a future starter if everything breaks right for him.”
Fortunately for the QB, this is exactly how things have played out for him heading into his third year in the league.
Sudfeld so far with the Eagles
There aren’t a whole lot of NFL stats for the young QB, who spent his rookie season on Washington’s practice squad, and was the No. 3 guy behind Wentz and Foles last season. Something the coaches were really excited about though, was being able to get the former Hoosier some snaps during Week 17 against the Cowboys.
It was already a throw-away game as the team had set their sights on the playoff run — which led to a Super Bowl win in case you forgot — and Sudfeld finally saw some live snaps. He finished the game completing 19-of-23 attempts (continuing his completion % streak from college) for 134 yards, but gained a little experience and confidence throughout the game.
He might not have gotten in the endzone during his first taste of NFL action, but its something they’ve continued to work on this offseason. From a press conference earlier this week, I wrote about Mike Groh’s comments on Sudfeld:
Groh lauded the young QB’s “natural progression” and is specifically watching for Sudfeld to have command of the huddle and to see an efficient operation out of him in Thursday’s first preseason game.
The 2018 preseason is going to be the best opportunity Sudfeld has to either claim a longterm backup role with the Eagles, or to earn a starting job with another team. But with both Wentz and Foles not rushing to get back on the field ahead of the regular season, it’s the Nate Sudfeld show.
Do you think Nate Sudfeld is QB2 in 2019?
This poll is closed
Yes, but only if Foles is gone
Not a chance