The very first word that comes to mind with Dwayne Haskins is “distributor.”
Some quarterbacks are dangerous with the ball in their hands (hello Kyler Murray), but that’s not the Buckeyes’ game. He’s a point man that puts his playmakers in situations to succeed.
It may have been the system he played in, but I couldn’t shake the Alex Smith vibes. Haskins is nowhere near the runner Smith was coming out in 2005, but both are at their best when they’re simply making the right reads. Both also depend heavily on their surrounding talent.
In the last few weeks there’s been persistent rumors that some teams prefer Drew Lock to Haskins and that the latter could experience a slide on Draft Day. It comes down to fit, but when you consider the concerns about both, it makes a lot of sense. Many teams see Lock and think he’s just some good coaching away from correcting all that ails him, while Haskins is harder to project.
The big questions you hear about Dwayne Haskins are his upside, vertical passing, and ability to handle pressure. One full season as a starter means there’s limited tape to definitively answer them, but all three are worth investigating further.
Pressure makes diamonds, or it crushes rocks.
The best way to defeat any quarterback is to get in his face. There’s a reason why edge rushers make more on average than any position besides quarterback.
With that said, Haskins’ worst moments come out when he isn’t comfortable in the pocket. While his pre-snap reads and short passing game are huge strengths, he can be slow to read down from a deep throw and become erratic on targets 2+, especially when he’s under duress.
To be fair, Haskins is a really young quarterback, and he shows moments on tape where he’s good at finding his outlets. But it won’t be as easy in the NFL, and he can’t just rely on things like Mesh to bail him out.
He’ll need to get better at finding his backs and hot reads in the face of pressure since he won’t be able to run himself to safety.
Anyone can read the stats, but how good is his arm?
One of the first things Haskins’ defenders will throw out there is that he threw for a Big Ten record 50 touchdowns last year. It’s true, and he also completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards on his way to doing so.
He torched Michigan’s second-ranked defense for 396 yards and six touchdowns, and no interceptions.
As a bad Michigan fan, I can tell you I watched “the Game” as it played out last year. One thing that became painfully apparent was how big a staple crossing routes like Mesh were to the OSU offense.
It shouldn’t have caught anyone by surprise as the concepts show up throughout the 2018 tape. The same play design as the video above was used against Maryland earlier in the season.
This isn’t a knock on Haskins, as he made the plays given to him, but the crossers in Mesh are one of the easier completions a QB can make. Combined with the fact that Ohio State had more talent across its offense than every single opposing D on its schedule, and Haskins’ raw production starts to come under a bit more scrutiny.
Deep accuracy is the biggest concern that emerges from under the microscope. Haskins doesn’t have the same raw arm strength Lock or Murray does. It’s fine as they’re probably two of the three biggest arms in this class, and Haskins does a solid job of getting the ball out with zip when he has the time to set up his throw.
But his bombs have a bad tendency to float or quack if he doesn’t have the time to set up, and his deep accuracy comes and goes.
Haskins didn’t throw it deep downfield that often last year though. He’ll never have the pure cannon guys like Lock posses, but with work on his mechanics there’s reason to believe he could improve here.
“Safe,” but what about the P-word?
One of the things that’s routinely been thrown around about Haskins this draft season is that the OSU quarterback has a high floor. The narrative goes that he isn’t going to be a complete bust and represents a safe choice at the quarterback selection.
One of the reasons this has become accepted as fact is that Haskins’ tape displays many of the things you need to pray that young quarterbacks figure out over the course of their rookie contracts. The Buckeye is already adept at making the correct decisions pre-snap and makes multiple reads to find the open receiver. He needs to get better at it, but he’s miles ahead of most young quarterbacks.
Take Justin Herbert, for instance. He’s still a work in progress at reading through progressions. It’s one of the harder things to anticipate with modern quarterbacks as they make the jump to the NFL because in college they’ll routinely lock onto one target and scramble if it isn’t there.
Haskins doesn’t do that, in part, because he knows his own limitations as a runner. He can still improve in this area, especially his vertical progressions where he sometimes stalls out. He also goes through periods where he forgets his outlet receivers exist, but there are enough signs to believe it will be a strength of his game as he develops.
At the same time, this strength makes it a bit harder to forecast Haskins’ upside. With someone like Drew Lock, it’s easy to imagine what he can do with his current tools if he gets better at tying his legs, eyes and arm together. With Murray, it’s tantalizing to believe what he can do once he masters the “boring” aspects of quarterback play. But what can the 21-year old Haskins become?
I’ve heard Haskins compared to Carson Palmer, Drew Bledsoe, Jacoby Brissett, Jameis Winston, Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Alex Smith, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota so far this spring.
He’s hard to truly pin down because OSU put him in position to light it up but also hid him with its scheme and supporting cast. Jake Fromm is another player I have similar questions for, but because he’ll play three years before going pro, there will be ample opportunity to analyze how he grows, as well as how he reacts to changes in the talent around him.
There’s no such chance with Haskins, and combined with his questionable fit in the Rich Scangarello offense, it leaves me very hesitant to draft him 10th overall.