I don’t think the Bears can risk using the third pick on a quarterback who needs as much work as Patrick Mahomes. But I also don’t think they can let a quarterback with this much talent get past them in the second.
It’s hard to watch the Texas Tech QB and not be reminded of Brett Favre, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a reincarnation of the old gunslinger.
Everybody talks about the arm and it’s every bit as good as they say. He can toss the ball 50 yards with a flick of the wrist and makes throws that most quarterbacks won’t even consider. (I’d go as far as saying he has the strongest arm in football.)
He’s more than just an arm. He also has adequate accuracy and moves around pretty well. But my favorite Mahomes trait? Instincts.
There are some quarterbacks who just don’t — or can’t — keep their eyes down the field when a play breaks down. Mahomes always seems to find ways to push the ball down the field and pressure the defense. If they mess up, he’ll make them pay. There just aren’t that many guys who can do that, especially at the collegiate level.
The big knock on Mahomes is his fundamentals. I don’t give a shit about that. His arm allows him to make throws without perfect feet. Sure, he’ll miss a throw here or there, but he makes up for that. I’m slightly concerned about how he protects — or doesn’t protect — the ball in traffic. That, combined with his smallish hands could lead to a lot of fumbles in the NFL, but that’s fixable.
I’m also not too concerned about the fact that he played in the Air Raid system. Some have pointed out that no quarterback has come from the Air Raid and went on to succeed in the NFL, but guys like Graham Harrell and Kliff Kingsbury didn’t have anywhere near the talent of Mahomes. While he benefited from a lot of YAC, Mahomes made enough plays outside the system that I’m not worried about it.
To me, the biggest concern about Mahomes is his ability to play within structure.
Mahomes makes some great plays when he’s scrambling around. But those kinds of plays can’t carry an offense. Hell, even Aaron Rodgers couldn’t do it, which we saw in 2015 and early in 2016. The ability to ad-lib is great, but to be a great NFL quarterback, Mahomes has to be able to play disciplined within his team’s scheme.
The legend of Favre has been told over and over, but people often forget how close it came to never happening. If it wasn’t for Mike Holmgren, nobody would even know who Favre is. Holmgren instilled discipline in Favre and got him to play within the structure of the West Coast offense, while still allowing him to be creative.
Mahomes doesn’t turn the ball over as often as Favre did in the NFL, but I suspect a large part of the reason for that was because he was playing against crappy Big 12 defenses. There were a number of times when defenders misplayed the ball in the air or just flat out dropped it. NFL teams are going to take advantage of the opportunities he gives them.
But I don’t know if the answer is as easy as having Mahomes sit and learn. I think all of his flaws have to be fixed by playing, just as Favre had to do. Mahomes needs to be thrown in the deep end and the coach that does it needs to hope he does more good than bad…and that his team’s ownership is patient.
Mahomes is a tricky evaluation because the teams that passed on Brett Favre look almost as dumb as the team that drafted and traded him. But if Favre were never traded to Green Bay, he never would’ve had the career he had. Mahomes is similar in that I really think he needs the right situation. I’m not sure the Bears can offer that.
But if he’s still available when they’re up in the second round, Mahomes just has too much talent to pass up. At that point, they have to trust their coaches and hope for the best. Players like this don’t come around that often.