Heading into the 2018 college football season, it appeared West Virginia’s Will Grier had a chance to play himself into the top quarterback spot in the 2019 NFL draft. The transfer from Florida had put together a 34-touchdown junior season and was ready to compete for the Heisman.
Of course, at that time nobody saw Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins coming. Both one-year starters put up gaudy numbers with Murray throwing for over 4,000 yards and running for another 1,000 and Haskins registering 50 touchdowns. Murray took home the Heisman and is reportedly set to become the No. 1 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals.
While Grier finished fourth in the Heisman voting and threw for 3,864 yards, 37 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, the buzz surrounding him has gone almost completely quiet.
CBS Sports ranks him as the sixth best QB in the draft and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks left him out of his top-five. Not everyone has forgotten Grier. USA Today listed him fourth behind Murray, Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock. But it appears that he won’t be a first-round pick as some projected prior to his final college season.
On the Purple Podcast on SKOR North, former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels said there are some similarities between Grier and ex Vikings QBs Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater.
“In some ways he sort of reminds me of Case Keenum,” Rosenfels said. “Not a big arm but sort of a gunslinger and is pretty mobile and can move around and make things happen. A lot of times NFL scouts and coaches are looking for the big arm and all those things. For me I always go back to, it’s not arm strength, I want accuracy and decision making. Will Grier is a pretty accurate quarterback and makes pretty good decisions. I do like him as a prospect and maybe a steal in those middle rounds.”
“He made other players around him better,” Rosenfels added. “We talked about that with Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum. They sort of make the offensive line better than they were because they could scramble a little bit and get them out of trouble.”
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah noted some of the same skills in his write-up before the 2018 college season.
“The one word I would use to describe Grier: smooth,” Jeremiah wrote. “He’s an effortless thrower who’s very poised in the pocket. He has outstanding foot quickness in his setup and he’s elusive versus the pass rush. He has shown the ability to subtly side step edge pressure or spin around and escape the pocket. He is also effective creating plays as a runner on both zone reads and scrambles.”
NFL.com’s draft profile noted Grier’s high character — another similarity to Keenum and Bridgewater.
“You really like his character makeup and his confidence and the way he throws the deep ball. What you won’t like is that so many of his throws are tied directly to scheme and pre-snap reads.”
The Bridgewater comparison also matches up on paper. In Teddy’s final season at Louisville his stat line was nearly identical to Grier’s. Bridgewater passed for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions.
While Grier’s arm strength has been questioned — like Keenum and Bridgewater’s were at draft time — Pro Football Focus’s grades show the West Virginia star as one of the most impressive in the draft class. Here are his grades in different areas via PFF’s draft guide:
Grier ranks as the third best QB against the blitz in adjusted completion percentage.
Another comparison made by Jeremiah was Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Jeremiah wrote:
“His skill set reminds me a lot of Andy Dalton when he was coming out of TCU. Both guys are very athletic and creative with the ball in their hands. They don’t wow you with size, but they have every tool necessary to play at a winning level for their team. They can use their legs to get out of trouble and they can also win from the pocket with accurate, on-schedule throws.”
Dalton was a second-round pick and became the Bengals’ long-term starter. While his tenure has been rocky Dalton is 67-50-2 as a starter.
The comparisons of Keenum, Bridgewater and Dalton could intrigue the Minnesota Vikings.
With a serious need on the offensive line and other possible areas like defensive tackle and wide receiver earmarked for the first two rounds, the Vikings likely won’t be interested in dedicating No. 18 or 50 to quarterback. But if Grier falls beyond that, there’s an argument for consideration.
Kirk Cousins is presently the franchise quarterback, but the future at the QB position beyond 2020 is unclear with Cousins’ contract expiring. If the Vikings picked a quarterback this year, they would have a full season to evaluate that player’s chances of taking over should Cousins or the Vikings decide to part ways after 2020. In the case that Cousins signed a long-term extension, the Vikings would have their backup QB on an extremely cheap contract — which is required with their current salary cap situation.
Backup Trevor Siemian landed with the Jets and free agent Sean Mannion visited and left without a contract. At the owner’s meetings, head coach Mike Zimmer left the door open to a possible draft pick to compete with developmental QB Kyle Sloter.
In recent years there have been a number of hits on QBs who slipped in the draft from Bridgewater to Lamar Jackson to Jimmy Garoppolo to Dak Prescott to Russell Wilson to Cousins. Grier’s pedigree and underlying statistics point in his direction as more flashy names dominate the headlines.