Penn State Football

Where does Penn State QB Trace McSorley’s draft stock stand entering NFL Combine?

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley look for an open teammate to make a pass in the fourth quarter of the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 at Camping World Stadium.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley look for an open teammate to make a pass in the fourth quarter of the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 at Camping World Stadium. adrey@centredaily.com

Penn State’s Trace McSorley won more college games than Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray combined. He threw for more career yards than Duke’s Daniel Jones, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson. And he accounted for more touchdowns than Missouri’s Drew Lock, N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson.

All of those quarterbacks listed above made Mel Kiper’s top-10 positional rankings. Except for McSorley.

In the 2019 NFL draft class, there might not be a more accomplished college quarterback than No. 9. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to favorable grades at the next level. To attain those, McSorley needs to keep proving himself. And he’s got an opportunity to do that in Indianapolis.

McSorley is set to compete in the 2019 NFL Combine on Saturday. So are 16 other quarterbacks — those 10 signal-callers held in high regard by Kiper, as well as six others, most notably Washington’s Jake Browning and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald.

While it’s generally considered a weak quarterback class, that’s a crowded group of passers seeking attention, hoping to stand out. And not every one of them will be drafted, either. Thirteen QBs were selected in the 2018 NFL draft. Ten were picked in 2017, 15 in 2016 and only seven in 2015.

So, how does McSorley stack up?

Dan Shonka, the general manager of OurLads.com, pegged McSorley specifically as a sixth- or seventh-rounder with fifth-round upside. Scouts Inc. expert Steve Muench also projects the Penn State record-holder as a Day 3 pick, no matter what happens at the Combine on Saturday.

“He’s not going to be able to launch himself very much,” Muench told the CDT. “The tape is going to be more important for him. Run well; that would be great. He should throw, and hopefully he throws well because it’ll be a controlled atmosphere. Don’t worry about if a guy runs under a ball or not. Just throw to your landmarks, make sure you’re accurate, make sure your footwork is good. If he shows those things, it’ll help him. But how much? I don’t know.”

Still, McSorley has the chance to confirm his strengths and shore up the weaknesses both experts pointed out in his game.

What exactly are those pluses and minuses? Here’s what Muench and Shonka had to say.

Strengths

Muench: “I think he has a quick release. He gets the ball from A to B underneath pretty quickly because when he makes up his mind, he gets it out quickly. ... The main thing I like about him is, from everything I heard, he’s a tremendous leader. The feeling from what I’ve heard is, he’s going to come in, master your offense, master your weekly gameplan, understand where he wants to go with the ball. You see it on tape, when he gets a clean pre-snap read and he can get the ball out underneath, he’s really effective. And those are the things you like, in addition to that mobility.”

Shonka: “I think he’s a great leader. He’s a winner. ... That’s what he brings to a team. It’s kind of like what Kellen Moore did for Boise State, and he’s now the offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys. Just a real smart, heady guy. Knows what to do. He’s limited in his arm strength. But he gets the job done with anticipation.”

Weaknesses

Muench: “I think at times he tries to do too much. He puts too much faith in his arm strength, which is concerning because he just does not have a strong arm. Trace is not a great downfield thrower. He has smaller hands. The ball comes out of his hands funny at times. He’s never going to be a guy who drives the ball. ... You see throws that die. His downfield accuracy isn’t great. ... The size is an issue. When we were down at the Senior Bowl, it’s noticeable. It’s one thing to look at the numbers and be like, ‘Oh, he’s smaller.’ It’s another when you walk on the field and you’re watching him against Daniel Jones. He looks small.”

Shonka: “He’s got escapability, but his height is not going to do him any favors. And his arm strength isn’t going to do him any favors. I just don’t think he can stay in that pocket and see down the field. I mean, he’s played being 6-foot tall, so he knows where to look for his throwing lanes. But when you’re in the NFL, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Outlook

Muench: “I have a hard time believing that Trace McSorley is ever going to be a longtime starter in the NFL. But if you have a young quarterback who’s been a starter for a couple years, and you’re looking to bring in that backup/coach who’ll execute the offense, that’s the kind of team he could end up getting drafted by on Day 3 or sign as a free agent. And those guys can be real assets. Chase Daniel was behind Drew Brees in his prime because they knew he’d be an accurate short-to-intermediate guy. They knew he’d be able to run their offense. They knew he’d be a hard worker. He understood his role, which is really important, too.”

Shonka: “To me, he’s going to be a really good backup. ... He’s just very average athletically for the NFL. But he’s better than some guys that have played. Like the (Joe) Callahan kid that played for Green Bay a few years ago. He’s been bouncing around the league. Maybe that’s ultimately what Trace will do, be kind of a journeyman type of quarterback to be in the backup or third role. He’ll be good for your team, and he’s really smart. I just don’t see him being a starter.”

Whether it’s visiting Saquon Barkley’s hometown or flying out to the Fiesta Bowl, John McGonigal covers everything Penn State football. The Nittany Lions’ news cycle is never-ending, so follow along throughout the year for features, analysis, gifs of The Office and much more.

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