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Is The Pocket QB Sexy Again?

Dual-threat QBs are exciting. They usually have cannons due to their elite overall athleticism, which allows them to choose between a 15-yard gain on the ground or a 45-yard completion across their bodies as they roll out of the pocket. Guys like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson can do things like this. But I’ll tell you what; a good ol’ fashioned pocket QB can be pretty entertaining.

Dudes like this haven’t been sexy for years, though. They just don’t have as much in their arsenal as those who are more athletically-gifted, which limits the creativity of offensive coordinators. It also doesn’t help how well the aforementioned QBs have done, especially when you compare them to Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mitchell Trubisky, etc. who have scuffled in the NFL. Is the pocket QB completely out of style?

Not so fast! (no pun intended)

New Flag-Bearers

Joe Burrow broke records last season for the LSU Tigers on his way to the Heisman Trophy, a National Championship, and becoming the top selection in the NFL Draft. More importantly, however, he did it mostly from the pocket.

The interesting thing about Burrow’s unprecedented success in Baton Rouge was the offense he did it within: the spread. LSU finally joined the rest of college football in the 21st century last season, turning to the spread to help kickstart a consistently lackluster offense. What followed was arguably the greatest offensive season in college football history, and they did it without a dual-threat QB.

Interesting.

See, the spread has not always functioned well with pocket passers. Most iterations of this system feature a quarterback who can scramble and make plays out of the pocket. Think of Urban Meyer’s QBs, who have had tremendous success running this offense. Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, etc. All of those guys could move around, and did. A QB who’s stuck in the pocket was usually an albatross for this type of scheme that thrives on speed and quickness in space.

Until he wasn’t.

Joe Burrow helped change how offensive minds utilize their tools within the spread. Just one year removed from his triumphant exit from college football, and Joey B’s influence is plainly obvious, as the two Heisman front-runners are QBs with similar skillsets.

They are Florida’s Kyle Trask and Alabama’s Mac Jones.

Kyle Trask

From Phelan Ebenhack, AP

What a story Kyle Trask has been. From a lightly-recruited high schooler that didn’t even start past his freshman season, to a man obliterating the passing records at the University of Florida, Trask’s story is a Hollywood-screenplay waiting to be written.

He also happens to be a pure pocket passer who succeeds based off his supreme accuracy and anticipation. Trask’s arm is decent, but he’s not on Mahomes’s level. That’s also not a problem, though, as Dan Mullen’s fast, intricate offense features options for him at every level of the defense. Trask makes the Gator offense fun to watch.

Yes, a pocket QB can still be exciting.

Mac Jones

From rolltide.com

Mac Jones and Kyle Trask appear to be neck-and-neck for the Heisman as we near their meeting in the SEC Championship. Jones has a little more arm strength than Trask, but is also limited when it comes to his legs. And yet, the Crimson Tide are lighting up scoreboards.

Jones, like Trask, was a three-star recruit that didn’t seem destined for greatness. Even after he ascended to the starting QB spot with ‘Bama in 2019, he drew the “game manager” moniker, which is usually a thinly-veiled insult. Perhaps he took it personally, as he has been chucking it down the field with the best of them this season, while also completing a whopping 75.7% of his passes.

The SEC title game should be a lot of fun.

What does the NFL think?

Unfortunately for Jones and Trask, the pros still prefer their QBs a little more versatile than Mac Jones and Kyle Trask. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will probably be the first two QBs off the board on draft day. After that, though? Don’t be surprised if a team takes a good long look at these guys near the end of the 1st or early 2nd round.

The pocket QB is staging a comeback, make no mistake. There’s some ground to cover, however, as the newest batch of pocket passers must rectify the sins of their recent ancestors.